Thursday, June 9, 2011

Modern Dance Intensive - Day Four. We try a little tenderness.

I LOVED today's classes. I taught this morning for two hours in exchange (in the Karmic sense) for four hours of learning. If I gave half as much as I received, it would be a miracle. Because today we were in the masterful hands of the elegant, delightful and generous John Giffen.

John received a BFA from Juilliard and a Master of Arts in dance from The Ohio State University. He has danced with Les Grands Ballets Canadians in Montreal and the Wuppertal Dance Theater directed by Pina Bausch. He has toured with Agnes de Mille’s Heritage Dance Theater and was dance captain for the Broadway revival of Brigadoon. Giffin has received numerous grants and awards for his work.

So in the first class, he taught us the "circle" choreography from Bausch's seminal Rite of Spring. (video of the real deal below.)

It was so amazing to learn some of these sequences but even more exciting to step back and watch the class move in such beautiful, grounded harmony.

In the next class, he shared some exercises from Pina Bausch's Dance Theater Performance compositional techniques. Our theme was TENDERNESS.

Our job was to individually determine five gestures of tenderness (two were eliminated for pedestrian reasons - the straight up hug and intimate face holding.) But everything else was fair game. We composed our gestures and remembered the sequence and then we partnered up and began to work with our tenderness gestures compositionally. One of us might share the gesture with our partner but the partner was to either be neutral to and/or reject our tender gesture.

In other exercises, we gestured simultaneously, first slowly then quickly and we also stood across the room from each other, playing with movement and gesture. We did group work and individual work. Finally, we worked with our partner to create a short piece using our tender gesture work as a base.

It was beautiful to watch and the main thing that struck me is that when the pace quickens, tender gestures start to feel decidedly less tender. When someone doesn't have the time to register and receive a tender touch, or is so eager to get their own emotion across, it all starts to get jumbled up and confusing and even hostile.

So in addition to learning some lovely choreography today, I got to somatically understand that if I move too fast with my kindness and love, it won't be received as I intend it. And if I don't take time to understand the gestures of tenderness coming my way, if I don't take time to receive and process them, it will be unsatisfying for everyone involved.

Thank you, John. This was a delightful day. Much to think about.

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