This is a place for sharing my thoughts, writings and poetry about dance, my life, what it is to be human, and how the body is our constant companion. Some writing is from just as the pandemic hit. Since the dance program at the the community college where I was teaching has closed as a consequence, I am now in a new space in my life and reflecting on the shifting landscape of dance and dance education from a different vantage point.
What Will Become of Dance?
My heart is breaking. For the artists out of work and the dancers in training. For the educators who are doing their best to adapt and the audiences who cannot see them. For all the people involved in funding presenting and promoting the work. But most of all for my field, for Dance.
The heart of dance does not live in performance, it is shared there. The beating heart of dance-making and dance-training lives in the studio.
Dance is about gathering together, moving together, creating together. People and their bodies are the raw materials. Touching, sweating, lifting, carrying, lunging, leaping, pausing and balancing are the vocabulary of our vocation.
Dance is of the body, our shared human bodies which are now isolated and feared, a very real source of danger.
It is not a question of adapting, we are (pun intended) the most flexible people I know. The removed experience of teaching virtually can be done well but it is and will always be a facsimile of the intention, a richer shared experience, in person, together. Site specific dances, solos and streaming are wonderful opportunities to explore but represent a limited part of the discipline of choreography. Dance on Film and Video are also important contemporary contributions, which blossomed from, but were never intended to replace, in person creative and rehearsal process.
We are nonessential in the bifurcated world view of either/or. Dance is still the lowest paid and least supported of all the arts. We are the low hanging fruit of budget cuts. Unlike some fields, dance cannot completely transform into something else without losing the essential nature of what it is.
Dance will not disappear, but without care and attention, the robust educational, artistic and entertainment industries that were inter-related and mutually beneficial for participant and recipient alike will become marginalized and diminished in importance, relevance, essentialness.
Dancers have to weather this time until we can return, not to normal but to essential time in the studio, together.
This is not the time to cut dance programs, funding or contracts. This is the time to protect the soul food that is dance. It is perishable.
There is a reckoning now with how to approach dance-making and dance education. So much time and energy was invested into learning about and working with virtual formats as well as the creation of dance film and video projects.
Incredible work has come from the necessity of the pandemic restrictions.
I know I became a better teacher by being forced to evaluate what I thought already made me a good educator. We all learned to make due and even how to thrive. Many of us expanded our network and made new online connections which have continued to be a gift of expanded community.
But not all of us are truly comfortable there.
I need to be in a room with people. I need to hear them breath and laugh and grunt and feel their sweat as they unpack the riddle of a lift. I need to feel the rise in their body as they suspend beyond what was asked so we all enter that same moment, suspended together between moments.
I need the freedom to make contact, with the earth, with the air, with each other. I need to trust we will figure it out together in real time and space.
And when it is over, the moment will be too, but at least we danced it together.
Circling Back Around
My life has been a series of movements.
Rising, falling, turning, reaching, arcing, diving, spiraling,
always curving movements.
An expression of my history which continues to circle back around, in a search of community.
Motown music fueled New York’s inner city in a cascade of street dances which spilled up onto the sidewalks and stoops.
Tirelessly I practiced the smooth curves of the Four Corners, an effort which won me a coveted place as the only White girl in the Soulettes. The real prize, belonging.
A rising tide began to swell, erasing lines of separation once clearly drawn in the sand, then surging in a wave I rode all the way to the San Francisco Bay.
There the undulating landscape nourished a cultural convergence, embodied in the serpentine movements of Middle Eastern dance and its veils of swirling color.
In this place of her birth I discovered Isadora Duncan,
With sculptural movements and bare feet she dared to challenge the lines of ballet and the pointes of its shoes.
Her undertow pulled me to Paris and into the current of my career which eventually swirled back to New York.
Contract and release, spiral, suspend, fall and rebound became my new companions, in a perpetual pas de deux between torso and gravity.
Earthy and contained like the mountain caves of Spain, I found myself captured in the coiled spring that is Flamenco,
Relentless rhythms, punctuated with pregnant pauses.
Lines will never describe the earth, or my hips, or your smile,
They do not welcome or embrace.
Lines can never circle back around.