One of the things I love about Modern Dance is how much it’s taught me about bodies. I know dance has earned itself a reputation for driving dancers to practice unhealthy eating and to have unhealthy self images, but I do think that Modern in particular allows for and embraces a lot more variety in who we can be and still be a dancer.  For starters, the emphasis on inversions (think cool handstand/cartwheel, variations and then go from there) and partnering (lifting one another), has created a need for much more upper body strength regardless of gender.  Even more so, Modern’s wide range of aesthetic and styles, creates room for movers who embody a variety of qualities.

It’s amazing really, how different we all are, and yet we can achieve some uniformity in our movement and quality. Recently, I have been resetting an old group piece on the same set of dancers with one exception.  The piece was intended for a diverse cast at a range of heights, and though at first glance the new dancer is roughly the same as the original cast member, her body proportions are different enough that some shapes have had to be altered a bit.  To the untrained eye the differences are imperceptible, but it very simply shows what individuals we all are.

I’ve noticed this in classes too, both as a teacher and as a student. Some of us have more flexible spines, or limbs. Some of us have long femurs or short fore arms. It all comes into play when you try to teach choreography. The things that feel good and natural on one body don’t always translate to others, and it’s not just a matter of practice. Sometimes it is a matter of biology and the laws of physics.

Here is a picture of one of the shapes we’ve had to alter. Depicted here is the original cast. See if you can spot the difference on April 20th at Ruckus.

michelle pairingsruckus

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