Monday, February 14, 2011

Dancing for Joy and Transformation through Music

“There are perhaps grown people who have forgotten the language of the soul. But children understand. It is only necessary to say to them: ‘Listen to the music with your soul. Now, while you are listening, do you not feel an inner self awakening deep within you—that it is by its strength that your head is lifted, your arms are raised, that you are walking slowly toward the light?’ This awakening is the first step in dancing, as I understand it” (Duncan, The Art of the Dance).

When I watch my young dancers at the Girls’ School of Austin transform through movement and music, I understand what Duncan means. These dancers have an impulse to action, to movement, to expression.  They are unselfconsciously responsive to music—their footwork reflects rhythmic changes, their bodies slow down or speed up, they gesture broadly or find stillness and repose. My task as their teacher is not to teach them how to move, but to provide room and opportunity for them to dance with full-bodied expression through space. I offer them different musical rhythms and encourage them to notice how their bodies are responding—I offer shape and refinement to their natural impulse for gestural expression.

The result is a joyous transformation through music and movement that is a delight to experience, and we so enjoyed sharing with the grandparents who came to celebrate Community Day in honor of Valentine’s Day.  The program we danced consisted of two structured improvisations, enabling the dancers to explore freedom of expression, and two Duncan choreographies, the “Prelude,” and the “Tanagra Figures.” We sandwiched the learned choreographies in between the more free-form dances to encourage the girls to dance the learned movements with a sense of improvisational spontaneity.

Last week, I also had the opportunity to experience the masterful playing of pianist Emanuel Ax.  The all-Schubert program he gave last Thursday night at the Bates Recital Hall was breathtaking—or breath-giving, for he was very much in dialogue with his instrument. He played conversationally—there was a rhythm between listening and expressing, and his gentle touch provided the conduit through which the conversation flowed. I’ve never seen or heard anyone play piano with the quality of gentleness he embodied, and his ease enabled the more dynamic moments to explode without a forced willfulness.  Needless to say, I was dancing on the inside—and I must have been one of many, as the concert hall was packed. I can only imagine what it would be like to actually get to dance to his live playing. One can dream, right?

I highly value the opportunity to dance with live music, and am excited for my upcoming collaborations with Divergence Vocal Theater, so I can continue to explore the dialogue between dancers and musicians.  I am also excited to get my young dancers in a studio space, and I’ve officially booked at least one week of summer dance camp at Galaxy Dance Studios in Austin. Registration details will be up on my MB Arts website soon. In the meantime, feel free to contact me with any questions.