West Stockbridge — When I started dancing in 1963, I was interested in developing strong technique through the study of ballet, modern and jazz.
However, at the same time I found myself more interested in the challenge to accept new ideas about movement and new ways of constructing dance than dances made in traditional forms.
When I began producing and presenting dance, I had to balance my sense of adventure. When I came to Jacob’s Pillow in 1989, hip-hop, ballroom, tap and a myriad of ethically-based styles were not considered “concert dance.” When presenting I had to consider the audience. Was I going to provoke them or give them what they loved…and in what proportion? I was paid to have an opinion and that opinion had to pay off at the box office. Well, my responsibilities have changed, as has dance. More dance is being made and broader definitions accepted.
But many of you still struggle, as you watch, thinking you do not, or cannot, understand what you see. The fall back often is: “I just don’t like it!” But perhaps, just perhaps, that can change.
I would like you to join me in a new adventure, watching with an open mind and heart. Yes, you know enough about dance to do this. Listen to Twyla Tharp: “People often say to me ‘I don’t know anything about dance.’ I say ‘Stop.’ You got up this morning, and you’re walking. You are an expert.” To that I would like to add any movement of any limb is a dance.
I hope thinking about dance in new ways, will allow us to dispense with definitions and predispositions and enjoy the experience of dance in our lives and onstage.
Some suggestions for today:
If coming to an unfamiliar form for the first time…treat it like a first date… be brave…come with an open mind.
Dance is a felt experience. Your body can respond without interference of your intellect.
Select one or two movements you can do at home. Something simple like the shape and flow of an arm being raised, notice the shape of the hands… or take a very familiar move of your own and do it extremely, extremely slowly.
Speaking of hand gestures, I just saw Juan Siddi Flamenco Santa Fe at Jacob’s Pillow.
Rich with arm movements and hand gestures... try a few. The company puts a spin on this genre taking a very contemporary approach to group work.
The performance retains the essence of Flamenco: astonishing footwork, gorgeous costumes, complex rhythmic patterns in song, dance and instrumentals. The performers are well trained and committed to the work although, for my taste, lacking a bit of the passion and spirited soulfulness I associate with this dance form. But to be clear, the audience loved it!
Enough from me. I would like to hear from you. But please share your experiences by adding your comments below.