Early last fall, as I was driving to the MotuSpace for class and rehearsal, I saw a man that caught my attention. His head was hung low and to the side; he walked very heavily, as though you could literally see him carrying the weight of his entire life and he gave up trying to resist it. His posture made me feel so sad because I thought to myself that I know how he feels. We all have moments where we feel defeated and this man’s posture and walking was a physical manifestation of that. I immediately thought to myself that I should use this for a piece.
A few months went by and I had almost forgotten about this idea, until I had some inspiration from an amazing woman, Jane Dudley (1912-2001). While preparing to talk about The New Dance Group in my Dance History class last semester, I found a renewed inspiration in their mission and particularly from an interview with Jane, who was a member of the company, in a documentary about her piece “Harmonica Breakdown”. It is posted in two parts on YouTube
If you are not familiar with The New Dance Group, they were a dance company in New York from 1932 through the 1960’s. They strongly believed that dance could create social change. They were a collective and their main rule for choreographers was simply that their work mean something to them. So many amazing pieces of choreography came from The New Dance Group and to reflect on what they did is truly inspiring and humbling. They understood the power that dance could have and felt they had a responsibility to use it to its fullest capacity.
Jane gave me a kick in the pants from beyond the grave to start creating this piece. In my class, watching Jane talk about her piece in the documentary (that I have studied and seen many times) it was as though I was hearing those words and seeing that piece again for the first time.
The image of the defeated man is something that moved me and inspired me to create, and thanks to the invaluable contributions of The New Dance Group, I am taking that inspiration to create a solo that will hopefully speak to the audience, to be premiered at our March concert, Paired Down. I could never hope to hold a candle to anything created by Jane or anyone in The New Dance Group, nor have the same social impact. What I can do is continue to strive to use dance to communicate and create art. If I am successful, I will make at least one person feel that sorrow I saw in that man walking down the street, and know they are not alone in their own feelings of sadness and defeat.
Thank you Jane, I hope to make you proud!