By Emmaly Wiederholt and Maggie Stack
Stance On Dance: Hello! Thanks for taking the time to share with us a little bit about your dance life.
Hella Cool Awesome Dancer: Duh! Dance is all about sharing! I share my bad ass body with the audience. I share my bad ass moves with YouTube. And I share my bad ass dancer thoughts with Stance On Dance, my favorite dance website. YOLO!
SOD: So when did you start dancing? Did you train hard?
HCAD: Yeah, I was pretty young when I started dancing. I mean, I always kind of stuck out as the best so I didn’t need as much training, and I can naturally do the middle splits and eight pirouettes, but things like getting my hair to stay perfectly or not sweating as much have taken a lot of work! It’s one thing to be a bomb dancer, and it’s another thing to look good doing it!
SOD: What’s your favorite moment when you perform?
HCAD: When I have a solo and I know all those bitches behind me wish they could do what I’m about to do.
SOD: Would you say your closest friends are dancers?
HCAD: For sure! They’re my besties! I mean, sometimes they get jealous of my naturally athletic swimsuit model figure, and sure, sometimes I mention how they got cut in the first round of the last audition we went to, but underneath it all we’re BFFs for life!
SOD: What’s your signature move?
HCAD: Most definitely the one where I do three turns into a penchée arabesque split and then go into a round off.
SOD: Sounds impressive! Do you ever practice it on your bad side?
HCAD: Ummmm bad side? If you mean with the left leg, then no. I don’t want to look bad. If you mean there’s a bad side of my face, FYI my skin’s equally flawless on both sides.
SOD: What are your future ambitions?
HCAD: I think it would be cool to win So You Think You Can Dance or something. Spend some time on TV, ya know? Then I’d like to develop a perfume called “Swan’s Grace.” Then I’d like to just do some artsy shit, ya know? Like improvise by a tree or feel like my body is floating in chocolate. It would be cool to get in touch with my inner artist and show my fans that I have feelings inside my really awesome body.
SOD: Well thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Before you go, any advice for up-and-coming dancers?
HCAD: Never let anyone tell you that you suck, unless you really do. Also, just dance for the love of dance. And believe me you’ll love it a lot more when you can finally get your fat leg above your head! Finally, follow your heart. If your heart tells you that you look bad in that leotard, you probably should have gone with a baggy t-shirt with the neck cut out.
By Emmaly Wiederholt
“There are three big reasons why people dance: for fun, for culture, and for art. People dance for fun when they are with their friends and they hear a song they like. People dance for culture with their community or tribe. I bet you have some cultural dances you could share with me. I do a kind of dance called ballet, and it is a kind of dance people do for art.”
Forgive my simplistic breakdown of dance, but this is how I chose to introduce my dance lesson to the students of Tarkwa Islamic Basic School in the small village of Gomoa Tarkwa in Central Ghana this past June. I found myself in the position of teaching a dance lesson to these Ghanaian students through an organization called Opportunity Education Foundation, which supplies resources and supplementary materials to some of the poorest schools in developing countries across Africa and Asia. My mom, a retired teacher, had gotten involved in the organization a few years prior, and after hearing about her experience in Uganda the previous summer, I vowed to join her this summer for a week of spending time in schools in Ghana.
My mom and I spent our first few days with the children singing songs, reading books, facilitating art projects, and contrasting American culture with Ghanaian culture. But on Wednesday of my week in the schools, I decided to try my hand teaching a short lesson about that which I know best: dance. Or more specifically, ballet. I suspected these schoolchildren had never and might never see or learn about ballet, with its Russian – European lineage and its appeal to the higher social strata. Regardless of its decidedly white rich heritage, I didn’t see why schoolchildren in rural Ghana might not enjoy or appreciate ballet.
“Ballet is an art dance. We do certain movements with our arms and legs like turning and jumping. People practice ballet for many years, starting when they are young children like you. And you know what? Sometimes ballet dancers who are women will dance on the tops of their toes using funny shoes!” At this point I whipped out an old pair of pointe shoes and demonstrated a relevé on the concrete classroom floor. The students and teachers gasped. It felt a bit like a cheap circus trick, perhaps even cheaper for the fact I haven’t seriously danced on pointe in years, but I had their attention.
At this point in my presentation I did an impromptu ballet performance (NOT on pointe). Nothing fancy, a light allegro-like combination. Some jumps, some turns, some leg extensions, though nothing too high as I was constricted by my conservative dress, and I wasn’t really interested in showing the acrobatic side of ballet anyway. I just wanted to give them a taste of its movement quality. As I danced I spoke, “You can go slow or fast. You can turn. You can jump. You can sweep across the floor, or you can balance.” They applauded eagerly.
“Now I’d like for you to show me some of your cultural dances.” Depending on the class, and I did this with the fourth through eighth graders, a boy or girl might get up and show me several seconds of a tribal dance. They have many tribal dances, and on the last day I was lucky enough to witness a school performance of one of these dances. In my lesson though I wanted to emphasize that I didn’t have a monopoly on dance, despite my years of training and performing professionally. All people have dances, and it is one of the failings of my American culture that people routinely say “I don’t know how to dance,” or worse, “I don’t dance.” These children had dances all their own. I taught them some ballet port de bras, and in turn they taught me some of their steps and gestures.
At the end, and perhaps most fun for them, I taught them the Macarena, the chicken dance, and the hokey pokey. I wanted to emphasize that dance, first and foremost, is something to relish in. It’s fun. And fun they had; the students could not stop giggling and cheering for the life of them. Teachers joined in too, as the spirit was contagious. We didn’t use recorded music; clapping and singing proved more than adequate musical accompaniment. By the end of my lesson I had a veritable dance party going on in each classroom.
At recess the students played a game I often partook in where we formed a circle. One student ran the circumference of the circle while everyone else chanted and clapped. That student came to someone in the circle and danced with that person. Everyone sang, “Shaky shaky shake your body” and then a new student ran round the circle, finding a new person in turn to dance with. This game was played with boys and girls alike of all ages. Some of the students were certainly shyer than others, but all took turns shaking their body. The game was cute, fun, and open for all to join.
I don’t think this game would go so well in a schoolyard in the United States. There is a pervasive sentiment that boys don’t dance, can’t dance, shouldn’t dance, and that it’s wussy to dance. Girls, on the other hand, suffer from stereotypes about being lithe fluttering fairy ballerinas or are taught to be sexy from an early age and are often as far from good-naturedly shaking their bodies as boys. Perhaps I’m making a gross exaggeration. Regardless, what those Ghana children showed me, despite their school’s poverty, lack of resources, running water, or electricity, was that they had an inherent kinesthetic love of movement that was ingrained in them culturally from an early age. Boys and girls alike followed me around for days chanting “Hey Macarena” or asking to learn a new ballet step. What took me years to realize, that dance is something to rejoice in and share, not something to look good doing, these Ghanaian children already knew.
I don’t know what impact, if any, the time a professional American dancer came to a school in Gomoa Tarkwa, Central Ghana, and taught the students about ballet will have on those student’s lives. But for me, at least, the exchange was fundamentally profound. It established that dance must be shared and taught in a way that nourishes revelry and joy over desire for perfection, regardless of whatever premier training program upcoming ballerinas may find themselves in. It reaffirmed my strong belief that everyone can dance, should dance, should not be able to help but dance, come good music and good friends, regardless of stereotypes about who dances and who’s good at dancing. Lastly, it reinforced that dance does matter, regardless of its ability (or lack thereof) to lift people out of poverty. All we truly have in this life are our bodies. Wealth, privilege, opportunities – all of these are conditional on having a body. And if all we really have is a body that can groove, sweat, sway, strut, laugh, feel silly, feel tired, feel powerful, cavort, and boogie, well then we’d better get dancing.
Many thanks to the students and faculty of Tarkwa Islamic Basic School for welcoming me into their classrooms, and thanks as well to Opportunity Education Foundation for making it possible!
Pictured is the Tarkwa Islamic Basic School fifth grade class learning ballet port de bras. Photos and video courtesy Emmaly Wiederholt.
By Liz Brent
Awhile back in Augusta Moore’s Feldenkrais class, she had us envision our chakras from root to crown. While following this instruction, I suddenly had a spark of an idea to create a series of drawings showing chakras inside people doing their everyday, ordinary thing.
I held back on drawing this series for a long time because I felt like I didn’t know enough about chakras. And I’m still a total novice on the concept of chakras; I don’t claim to be able to see them or understand them perfectly, but the idea has helped me understand my body and my energy flow better. And when I told her about the idea, Augusta told me to just go for it: draw this series by following my intuition and imagination.
Now you may be thinking, “That’s very nice, but this is Stance On Dance, shouldn’t this be a drawing of a dancer?”
And I’m with you! I wondered too why I was inclined to draw a barista first instead of a dancer. Well, I’m a dancer and for a year and a half, I also worked as a barista. While my life’s path has not led me to either dancing professionally or continuing being a barista, my experience with both feels present. Learning the discipline of dance changed my life and affects me today physically, mentally, and emotionally. Similarly, the experience working as a barista left an impression on me.
The idea for this series came from Feldenkrais, a class that bridges dance and everyday life. Somatic training is for anyone. And as an artist particularly inclined to drawing the active human body, I often worry that I am drawing ideal bodies and not real bodies. Maybe I drew a barista first as an experiment in drawing a person creating extraordinary latte art, but in a job that many people consider ordinary.
My underlying inkling is this: people do what they consider their ordinary thing, but how can anything be ordinary, when we consider the extraordinary universe of our bodies? What we do every day with our bodies affects us deeply and stays with us for a long time.
Anyway, don’t worry, I’ll keep going with this series and there will be dancers in it.
Visit lizbrentdances.com for more!
By Kat Cole
Under an overcast sunrise, a stampede of people charge up a hill. The grass is wet, possibly from a nighttime shower, and the mud sucks and spits as each bare foot hurdles from step to step. With a steady sound of elbows, shoulders and toes hitting the earth, bodies fling to the mud like salmon hurling upstream. Relinquishing to gravity’s pull, they softly roll downhill, their summer dresses and white suit shirts sopping up the green trail of their descent.
The first thirty-three seconds of Pascal Magnin’s “Queens for a Day” have the kind of fervent energy and visual intrigue that could make any dance film fancier’s heart skip a beat. A few years ago, as a film dilettante watching this during my first foray into dance for camera, Milan’s work was an unintended muse. There was something about the concoction of dance and film that was exciting for me. The camera’s ability to frame my perception of movement and transport me to the Alps of Switzerland was intoxicating.
While the genre itself is not new (one could go back as far as Annabelle Moore’s 1895 “Serpentine Dance”), dance film as a medium is gaining increased recognition as an innovative and accessible forum for dance. Take the San Francisco Dance Film Festival, or ODC Theater’s annual Pilot series, which recently hosted residencies for dance filmmakers in mentorship with acclaimed Los Angeles dance filmmaker Carrie Ann Shim Sham, not to mention Jim James, lead singer of My Morning Jacket, who worked with San Francisco choreographers and dancers for his minotaur-seducing music video, “A New Life.” Nationally, University of Utah recently rolled out a Graduate Screendance Certificate, while dozens of dance film festivals are popping up around the world — all highlighting the growing demand for and practice of crafting dance for camera.
Transformation happens twice in the making of a dance film: once during the choreographing of the dance and again during the editing of the film. In my collaborations creating dances for camera with Eric Garcia, the lens creatively disrupts our normal choreographic process. It introduces another dancer in the work. We must constantly conjure shots, angles and close-ups as detailed and with as much intention as we would craft any choreographic bodily movement. The camera also works as an objective third eye, providing us with a certain distance necessary to evaluate and experiment with the piece even after it’s filmed. This editing process provides us with the freedom to alter the composition in various ways–change the order of shots, remove material, experiment with visual effects—which adds an additional layer of storytelling to the final work.
Then there’s the accessibility of film, which can be a huge advantage to any artist. In this techno-savvy age, the ability for a film to go viral via video sharing websites like YouTube and Vimeo can generate both a global audience for the viewing of work as well as a global community of artists working around the craft. Our films have enabled us to push contemporary dance into new conversations, especially ones that involved other artists like painters, documentarians and musicians in a way that we usually can’t onstage due to limited resources. And yes, resources are definitely a point of consideration; touring internationally with a cast of fifteen can be exponentially more difficult financially than sharing a dance film internationally with fifteen performers in it. Through curating a film festival and being part of other festivals, I’ve felt the vibrancy of this genre from Istanbul to São Carlos, and I revel in the immediacy with which this genre can instigate trans-continental conversations among budding and established artists, dance audiences and non-dance audiences, alike.
My ventures into dance filmmaking continue to be a fresh way for me to view and review dance, and disrupt the proscenium format I’ve grown accustomed to in the theater. Minutia can be glorified and enlarged on the screen, dancers can jump in and out of sight without diving into the wings, and public spaces can be transformed into palettes for art that can then be preserved digitally. The magic of film translates into new territories for dance-making.
Kat Cole and Eric Garcia, artistic directors of detour dance, are launching the first Tiny Dance Film Festival this July 26-27, 2013 at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center. It will feature contemporary and experimental films from across the globe. For more information visit www.detourdance.com/TDFF.
By Jake Padilla
“Wig in a Box” from the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, measure 31
This months selection is a very special one to me. I just finished performing in this musical 101 times since December. The repetition came with a whole spectrum of purposes, surprises and emotions.
This measure was possibly my most anticipated measure and I approached it with refreshed energy time and time again. I think the song is very fitting as well: as this song suggests, after experiencing the same things over and over you have to get up and do it again.
Jake and Ryan love watching dance. They can’t get enough. Every month they plan their calendar around their favorite upcoming shows. But in order to ease the tension and get into the mood, they also bring a cocktail catered to that specific performance. So what’s in July’s flask?
SFCD Summer Dance Series
Project Thrust’s “Kingdom” muses on miscommunication, the isolated worlds we build around ourselves and the illusions that fuel our perception of self.
Drink Selection: Project Thrust always features a Tom Waits song, which basically makes whiskey a must. Have enough whisky though, and you’ll go from King-dom to King-dumb. Thus, we give you “The King-Dumb.” Straight whiskey on the rocks please.
Mon, Jul 1 & 29, 8pm, $20
Z Space, 450 Florida St, SF
SFCD Summer Dance Series
Sharp and Fine’s “Love Songs” is a collaboration with opera singer Ina Rae. “Sonority Rules,” by choreographer Christian Burns and musician Donald White, investigates underlying connections between sound and movement.
Drink Selection: Sonar? I’m no dolphin! Oh wait that word is sonority, not sonar. Well since dolphins are frisky love-making little critters, we’ll tie it all together. Yup folks, it’s our first time going dry, but what else could possibly be in a “Dolphin” but water? (Feel free to serve that water on the rocks with a lemon garnish!)
Tue, Jul 2 & 30, 8pm, $20
Z Space, 450 Florida St, SF
Rasika Kumar Sheopory
“Courage” is a solo about a devadasi (a temple dancer) who refuses to abandon her art, the woman who ignited a national movement with a simple act of defiance in the wake of a devastating tsunami.
Drink Selection: We’re making a “Still Standing.” (All puns intended.) Tequila, lime, agave, blue curacao, and triple sec. Put a blood orange and salt on the rim of your flask.
Fri-Sat, Jul 12-13, 8pm, $10-20
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St, SF
Staged in and around Fort Mason and inspired by Fort Mason’s past and present, “Harboring” moves through images of travel, memory, the fluidity of the ocean, rope craft, and the maritime industry.
Drink Selection: “Harnessing the Hurricane.” Hold on tight! Rum, passion fruit, lime juice. Stir to create a hurricane in your flask.
Thu-Fri, Jul 18-19, 8:30pm; Sat, Jul 20, 2pm & 8:30pm; Sun, Jul 21, 8:30, $20-100
Fort Mason Center Festival Pavilion, 2 Marina Blvd, SF
Samantha Giron Dance Project
“The Dirt on Dorian Gray” examines Peter Pan Syndrome: perhaps we are lazy or broken. Perhaps we are idealistic or promiscuous. Perhaps we are indulgent. Perhaps we will regret it someday.
Drink Selection: “Perhaps Your Portrait Looks Like Shit!” Mix whatever you want with Grey Goose.
Fri-Sun, Jul 19-21, 8pm, $15-20
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St, SF
Amy Seiwert’s Imagery
In “SKETCH 3: Expectations,” choreographers Marc Brew, Val Caniparoli, and Amy Seiwert will create a new work on the theme of challenging expectations.
Drink Selection: “Don’t Drink When You’re Expecting.” Take a sugar cube. Light it on fire. Drop it in absinthe. BAM! (Again, if you really are pregnant, sit this one out.)
Thu-Sat, Jul 25-27, 8pm; Sun, Jul 28, 7pm, $25-30
ODC Theater, 3153 17th St, SF
“Dr. Zebrovski’s HOUR OF POWER” is a comedy that explores the intersection of commercialism and the occult while expanding the brand and revealing the hidden past of the world’s #1 dance psychic, Dr. Zebrovski.
Drink Selection: Simple: “Power Hour.” Every minute of this show, take a shot of your favorite beer. The show will get funnier and funnier, we promise.
Fri-Sun, Jul 26-28, 8pm, $15-25
CounterPULSE, 1310 Mission St, SF
“Tiny Dance Film Festival” is an annual festival based in San Francisco that celebrates dances made for the screen. TDFF features short dance films created by both emerging and established filmmakers and choreographers from across the globe.
Drink Selection: You know what else is tiny and needs a celebration….? For this piece we will be making a “My Ego-Testicle.” Melt brown sugar in butter. Pour at the bottom of your flask and layer with bourbon and pear cider.
Fri-Sat, July 26-27, 8pm, $10-25
Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 9th St, SF
Chris Black & Megan Finlay
In the 2nd Annual Studio 210 Residency, Chris Black’s “Duets for Girls” transcends stereotypes of female duet choreography by capturing athleticism and passion. Megan Finlay creates a physical acrobatic show based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Drink Selection: Duets for girls, huh? I guess we have to take this to a new level. Jake’s making a “Scissor Sisters.” Pomegranate juice, lime, triple sec, and vodka. Ryan’s making a Bloody Mary on the rocks, “Period.” Perhaps a tad inappropriate, but we couldn’t help ourselves.
Fri-Sat, Jul 26-27, 8pm, $10-25
Studio 210, 3435 Cesar Chavez, SF
SFCD Summer Dance Series
Bobbi Jene Smith’s “Arrowed” is a representation of an ongoing interview between two people, a mirror of what we are told and what we tell.
Drink Selection: Who naturally comes to mind when speaking of arrows? The name of this drink is “Legolas,” someone we’ve always wished we look like when we look in the mirror. Gin, lemon, sugar. It’s a Lemon Drop with a twist, baby.
Wed, Jul 31, 8pm, $20
Z Space, 450 Florida St, SF