Monday, April 4, 2011

Tunics in Washington, DC

Sharing a common language, a common vocabulary of expression, is such a special aspect of being a Duncan dancer. Last week I traveled to Washington, DC, for a round of spring board meetings for the Noyes Rhythm Foundation, and had the good fortune to dance with a few local Duncanites as well.

Dancing at Isadora's Legacy studio
As I’ve mentioned before, this first year of board service for the Noyes Rhythm Foundation has been such an incredible experience. Not only am I becoming more steeped in nonprofit policy and administration, but I am also working with an incredible group of brave and generous women. We are visioning for the future of the Noyes work in a way that makes me very excited to see what the next years will bring. If you are a tunic-draped barefoot dancer, consider gifting yourself a week of movement in the woods, with beautiful live music and lots of space to breath. I’m very much looking forward to gracing the boards of the pavalon this summer (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, the pavalon is the Noyes outdoor dance studio—an open air studio with a vaulted ceiling and no center beams, a pavilion named as a gesture to the Parthenon in ancient Greece).

Dancing at Isadora's Legacy
In addition to our pre-board meeting, Noyes Rhythm movement sessions, I also donned my tunic for Duncan dancing with two local DC area dancers. Roberta Hoffman, director of Isadora’s Legacy: The Center for the Preservation of Modern Dance, has been dancing the Duncan work for many years. She generously invited me to her studio, where we improvised playfully, and I danced some of my Schubert waltzes. Roberta also screened video for me of her dancing several Duncan repertory pieces and of interviews she conducted with 2nd-generation Duncan dancer Hortense Kooluris. She told me wonderful stories about the thriving community of Duncan dancers who gathered when Lori Belilove first opened her New York studio. I am still trying to find a way to get an adult class going here in Austin—Austin dancers, if you have never had a Duncan class, you really don’t know what you are missing!

"Waterstudy" at Isadora's Legacy
On the note of Duncan dance in Texas, it was so great to have class with Cynthia Word (who is a native Texan). Miscalculating the walk (read “hike”) from the DC metro to the studio (DC metro is great, but it is not NY), I arrived at class a few minutes late. Thankfully, the dancers were still warming up, exploring a spiraling pattern on the floor.  We moved from floorwork, to traveling barre phrases, to locomotion (skip turns and signal turns!) to an image-driven improvisation. What joy to step (even late) into a class with dancers you have never met before, and share a common language of breath and movement! As we closed class with the “Tanagra Figures,” I felt deeply appreciative of the opportunity to carve familiar pathways through space with a new group of dancers.

Duncan lived her life as a global citizen—it fits that, in a contemporary era, her dance movement, even if practiced by a relative few, spans countries, as well as continents. One unique element of Duncan’s work is the relational quality of the gesture. Duncan crafted dialogue through movement, and I’m honored to be part of the gestural conversation.