Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances again for the first time since the Boston terrorist attack last year.
When the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, Adrianne Haslet-Davis lost the lower half of her left leg in the explosion. She’s a ballroom dance teacher, and she assumed she would never dance again. With most prosthetics, she wouldn’t.
But Hugh Herr, of the MIT Media Lab, wanted to find a way to help her. He created a bionic limb specifically for dancers, studying the way they move and adapting the limb to fit their motion. (He explains how he did it here.)
At TED2014, Adrianne danced for the first time since the attack, wearing the bionic limb that Hugh created for her.
Hugh says, “It was 3.5 seconds between the bomb blasts in the Boston terrorist attack. In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor. In 200 days, we put her back. We will not be intimidated, brought down, diminished, conquered or stopped by acts of violence.”
Amen to that, Hugh.
I’m gonna cry this makes me happy THIS MAKES ME SO FREAKING HAPPY
she lost part of her leg and she is STILL dancing and somebody decided they wanted to make that a thing that is possible for dancers in that situation and I love humanity sometimes I really do, this is beautiful
“It’s not well appreciated, but over half of the world’s population suffers from some form of cognitive, emotional, sensory or motor condition, and because of poor technology, too often, conditions result in disability and a poorer quality of life. Basic levels of physiological function should be a part of our human rights. Every person should have the right to live life without disability if they so choose — the right to live life without severe depression; the right to see a loved one in the case of seeing impaired; or the right to walk or to dance, in the case of limb paralysis or limb amputation. As a society, we can achieve these human rights if we accept the proposition that humans are not disabled. A person can never be broken. Our built environment, our technologies, are broken and disabled. We the people need not accept our limitations, but can transcend disability through technological innovation. Indeed, through fundamental advances in bionics in this century, we will set the technological foundation for an enhanced human experience, and we will end disability.”
“Bionics is not only about making people stronger and faster. Our expression, our humanity can be embedded into electromechanics.”
“It was 3.5 seconds between the bomb blasts in the Boston terrorist attack. In 3.5 seconds, the criminals and cowards took Adrianne off the dance floor. In 200 days, we put her back. We will not be intimidated, brought down, diminished, conquered or stopped by acts of violence.”
Sara Mearns, Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet (via danceindawnlight)
hell to the yes.
This is the Memorial to the Missing and contains over 50,000,000 pennies to represent the lives of each American child abandoned to abortion by a society and a culture that has embraced their destruction. We must prevent the need to add to this memorial. Take a stand. Get involved.
”How we treat the least of us defines us.”
"should I use this $500k to help struggling parents and pregnant people or should I put it in a glass box"
Right… But imagine how many pennies you would have if there were one for every child born from an unwanted pregnancy, from a rape victim, with a fatal diagnosis that will cause them to suffer for the duration of what little life they do have. Imagine how many pennies for every child born to a parent that cannot support them. Not even how many pennies. How many GLASS HOUSES would you need? You’d need those pennies to pay for THEM to survive.
This is the motto of Headlong Performance Institute through Headlong Dance Theatre. This was also the motto of the advanced dance composition course at my college.
(For an amazing read if you love choreography and the creative process: http://theartofmakingdances.tumblr.com/post/82657099534/headlong-performance-institute-what-its-all-about )
Some choreographers start with the music, others think of their theme and then do research, while some find a few pieces of movement vocabulary, and then the rest falls into place. I for one, have always been inspired by music. I hear a piece of music, and I immediately see dance (or not, if it’s terrible music. I.E. #Selfie). It makes long car rides endlessly entertaining, because it’s like I have a free dance concert in my head. So once I find my song inspiration, the structure and some key movement ideas evolve simultaneously. Then I research, before finally solidifying the movement vocabulary and structure for the piece.
So what am I getting at?
Well…. When I started choreographing my sophomore year of college, I caught the bug…. the bug that made me feel the need to churn out a new work every subsequent semester. I loved it, I wanted to learn more, I wanted to improve, I wanted to present my work on the big stage. (Note: the italics are my secret guilty desires…)
What ended up happening was just that… I got into a groove. I did get better each time around, because I learned, I took feedback, took the classes, and thought harder about what I was making.
I made a couple of truly great pieces that I’m still proud of… though with some moves that have been recycled into every modern dance ever invented. (Sometimes that’s inevitable. Hence the recently gone viral video: How to Contemporary Dance.)
However, I eventually fell into a rut. I wasn’t coming up with creative ideas anymore. I had choreographer’s block (like writer’s block…) Sometimes I think it was because the program was too mentally rigorous and demanding on my creative mind. Being in a composition class and choreographing an original work for a concert at the same time is exhausting. In comp, you are asked to churn out new projects every week. That means making a new dance and coming up with new ideas for all 15 weeks of the semester on top of developing the ideas for your work further than the projects for class. How does one person continue to spew out so much creativity?? (Not to mention balancing that with your other 6 classes and second major…)
At some point, I just wanted to “make a pretty dance for the sake of dancing”… which can be aesthetically pleasing to watch if done right, but ultimately tiresome for the audience because they get lost and stop caring. The best pieces make you think and teach you something. “What are you teaching your audience?” my composition professors would ask.
The best pieces make you as an audience member feel smart, because you understand. The title clues you in to the theme, or a movement metaphor jumps out at you and sparks a whole chain of ideas of what the dance might be about.
Ruts and Grooves, Ruts and Grooves. Both my favorite and least favorite chapter of Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit.
So I found myself really stuck in a rut the fall of my senior year… I just couldn’t think of the “perfect idea”, and I HAD to choreograph.
…No, this wasn’t my psychological need anymore. I was in advanced dance composition, and you were required to choreograph for a concert (namely the mainstage student dance concert… the one on the big stage.)
It was the night before my proposal, where I would show a minute of movement vocabulary to three faculty members. I had already submitted my stale idea that was “safe”, but not creative enough. Not for Moving Stories (the big concert).
I got through it.. the whole process (though it was a bit of a stressful mess for everyone involved). But it was on the big stage, and I was darn proud of it.
But as time passed by, I grew less proud. Not because of the dancers (who were fabulous), but because it didn’t mean anything. My theme was the fight or flight response, but that became too loose, and it was more of a dance for the sake of dancing like I had wanted originally. People got a bit of my theme from it, which I can attribute to some of the movement vocabulary and the structure.. but it was a bit long, and a bit too broad of a theme. I don’t think I was ever able to answer the question of what I was teaching my audience. It was an energetic, visually cool piece that people enjoyed but didn’t understand.
And so, I was disappointed. It wasn’t real enough.
Then it was my final semester, and I wanted to choreograph again, because who knew when I would get another chance. Again, I didn’t put enough thought into my piece, and came up with my idea the night before the proposal. I even had to change my safety idea that I had already sent in to the faculty, in fact. The piece was funny (as intended), but again didn’t have enough substance. It wasn’t real enough.
Now that I’ve entered the “real world”, where the pressure (and opportunity) to choreograph what I want is gone (for right now at least)… I am filled with ideas. Thankfully, I will have the opportunity to choreograph original works this summer… for the first time in over a year.. and I have 4 works I must prepare. The problem is, I have too many ideas already and it’s not even May.
And I’m not even talking ideas. I have the works. I did research, I found music, I went through 16 stages of back and forth doubt about whether my ideas were stupid or brilliant. I edited and cut the music already (WHO THE HELL AM I?) I have movement vocabulary and structures.
…I’ve NEVER been so prepared. I think the time off has served me quite well. Sometimes creativity cannot be conjured at will. It needs time to ruminate, time to grow into something REAL.
First make it REAL, then make it DANCE.
…I just love that.
The HPI approach boils down to those two sentences.
Make something real. Then make it good.
In a lifetime of seeing dance and performance, I can say: it’s the first step that’s usually missing. I see (and sometimes even enjoy) a lot of well-polished pieces with no authentic origin. Pieces that are imitating other pieces, pieces that proceed thoughtlessly from, “It would be so cool if we……”
So before you polish it, before you make it cool, you have to make something real.
1) Something you are genuinely curious about. (Different from Something I Like.)
2) Something that can be performed, that exists in action. Talking about my concern for a political issue while dancing around is not action; that’s sprinkling a little meaning on top of some movement.
Curiosity is the start, because as we say in HPI:
Make a piece of art when you don’t have (or even need) clear conclusions. You are provoked and curious. You are awake. You bring to your rehearsals the same qualities a good audience brings to a show: attentiveness, openness, playfulness, and comfort with complexity and absurdity.
This is the hardest task in training to be an artist. There are many places and people that will teach you how to step two: making it good. But not nearly enough opportunity to nakedly and fearlessly discover what you are truly curious about, what your voice is.
I watched Cafe Muller by Pina Bausch and sketched a few stills from it. o.o Such pretty choreography aaaaah~ If you like interpretive dance, go watch her stuff. ^^
I think Pina’s feminism is more about bringing the issues associated with gender to the forefront and shedding light on them, rather than opposing them and “changing them significantly”. She makes dances based on real life after all, and do the roles of men and women still have a ways to go in terms of equality? Absolutely. I think some of her works are defiantly feminist, but I think a great majority of her works are more humanist, and represent the struggle to achieve gender identity and equality.
*stepping off my opinion soapbox now.*
Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Jesse Parent - “To the Boys Who May One Day Date My Daughter”
"If you break her heart, I will hear it snap with the ear I pressed against her mother’s belly."
From the Coaches Slam at CUPSI 2014. This performance has the longest sustained break for applause we’ve ever seen a poet have to take.
I had high hopes when I walked into a Gaga/Dancers class this week. I had heard wonderful things about this class, and was so excited to try it.
Gaga classes last for one hour and are taught by dancers who have worked closely with Ohad Naharin in the Batsheva Ensemble or Batsheva Dance Company. Teachers guide the participants using a series of evocative instructions that build one on top of the other. Rather than copying a particular movement, each participant in the class actively explores these instructions, discovering how he or she can interpret the information and perform the task at hand. Gaga classes offer a creative framework for participants to connect to their bodies and imaginations, increase their physical awareness, improve their flexibility and stamina, and experience the pleasure of movement in a welcoming, accepting atmosphere.
I LOVE improvisation, so I was all about this class from its description.
After doing some research, I found a website that listed these “instructions” for class.
Never stop: The class is one session, no pauses or exercises, but a continuity of instructions one on top of the other. Each instruction does not cancel the previous one but is added to it, layer upon layer. Therefore, it is important not to stop in the middle of the session. If you get tired or want to work at another pace, you can always lower the volume, work 30% or 20%, float, or rest, but without losing sensations that were already awakened. Do not return to the state your body was in before we started.
Listening to the body: It is important that you take the instructions gently into your body while being aware to its sensations, abilities, and limitations. Do not seek excessive effort on your first time – seek the quality of the movement, the sensation to which we are aiming, but with less intensity in the work.
Awareness: Be aware. Get inspired by the teacher and by other people in the room. Be aware of people around you, the space that they need, and the interaction if any.
Silence: During the session we do not speak unless instructed to use our voice or words. If you have any questions, you are welcome to bring them up at the end of the session.
Classes start on time: Attending the first minutes of the class is very important so you will be able to produce more from the session and take care of your body. It is advised to arrive 15 minutes early, turn your phone off, find yourself a place in the studio, relax, and start.
No entry for latecomers: If you are late, give up. Go do something else that is pleasant. Come tomorrow.
We work barefoot, without shoes.
We will be happy to hear how you felt during your first session and later as well.
Wonderful! I’m ready. (In hindsight, I probably wasn’t ready for a variety of reasons, but also because I’ve been battling chronic neck pain for over a month (waiting for appointment with an ortho), and I’m extremely conscious of my movement so as not to aggravate my condition further… preventing me from completely losing myself in anything…)
I walk in to a enormous, gorgeous studio that is also used as a performance space complete with stage lights, legs, and wings. I am 5 minutes early, so I quietly find an empty area of floor space and lay on my back.
The first thing I notice are the bright fluorescent lights that are assaulting my eyes as I gaze up.
I shut my eyes.
They still burn holes in my retinas.
After a few minutes, I gaze over at the clock. It’s 5 minutes after the hour. "So much for starting on time…" I catch myself thinking. I quickly try to let go of my negative thought, and remain optimistic.
A young woman wearing animal print pants with the crotch that ends by the knees walks in and puts on some “music.”
I say “music” because I can more accurately describe the noises coming from the sound system as ambient garbage attempting to assault my ears. It sounded like someone was playing bad 80s music, remixed, three rooms away, overlaid with slow dub step beats and ambient “nature” sounds.
Thankfully, she turned the music down so low that I could almost tune it out…. but not quite…
…Only to draw my attention to the real city ambiance outside. Blaring horns, traffic, air vents shuddering, laughter from the stairwell, elevator chiming, sirens, shouts.
The fluorescent lights are still bright and harsh.
Then she starts with the “instructions” that would build upon each other for the duration of the class in her calm, lilting voice. So calm, in fact, that I could barely understand her. “Is she slurring? Are my ears not working? What does she mean about this finding circles bit? I missed that.”
Oh. My. God. I cannot get into this.
Between the monotonous lilt of her voice, the ambient garbage music and city noise assaulting my ears, and the fluorescent lights assaulting my eyes, I did not feel safe to let go in that environment. I observed the other students in the class. They were so obviously into it.
Maybe it’s because I come from a rural area and I cannot tune out these stimuli. Maybe people actually like ambient garbage “music” here.
I don’t understand these NYC dancers in the pants with the crotch at the knees. They look sort of cool, but also ridiculous. Mostly I’m annoyed because no matter how many pairs of those pants I try on I look like I’m drowning in them. Short legs. Whatever.
UHG Nina, STOP getting distracted and focus on whatever what’s-her-name-in-the-low-hanging-pants is saying.
“Feel the water cresting up to your temples, and find a quiver that begins in your pelvis…. the water is coming to a boil, and you’re spaghetti. Let your spaghetti begin to cook…”
The dancer next to me looks like she is having a violent seizure. Her spaghetti is not boiling, it is spasmodically sizzling and one of her long limbs just knocked into me.
Suddenly I felt like Diana Morales because I was feeling absolutely NOTHING from this class.
“Jesus! there’s still 20 minutes left! Should I leave? No. That’s so rude, and against the ‘rules’.”
"But it was free*. You’ve paid NOTHING to be here."
"BUT I HATE IT. I FEEL NOTHING."
I turn my attention back to the teacher, hoping to find some inspiration, only to see that she’s so into her own movement, her eyes are closed (as most of the other students)! I’m sorry, but I cannot take anyone seriously right now. Should a teacher really be so self-indulgent that she can’t see what their students in the class are feeling? Everything in me screams ‘NO.’
I need music that will evoke movement. I need soft, comforting lighting. I need more direct instructions. This is not working for me. Everything hurts my neck. I’m frustrated.
Finally the class is ending, and I am so keyed up with frustration at the horrible music and lighting and senseless “instructions”. She thanks us and ends class (5 minutes early)
“So much for class ending on time.”
Mostly everyone remains in the room, laying on the floor in savasana, reflecting and recovering.
I, on the other hand, am the first one out the door. Breaking the “ambience” and letting the door shut loudly behind me.
I even go so far as to stand in the lobby downstairs for 5 full minutes, listening to a gaggle of children singing “Let It Go” at the top of their lungs, because ANYTHING is better than what I just endured.
Maybe it was the environment. Maybe just an inexperienced teacher. Maybe I was too worried about my neck. Maybe it just wasn’t my day. Maybe I just didn’t like it.
I accept that. It is clear from my observations of the other students in the class that they enjoyed it or at least got more out of it than I did.
I hope that one day I can try a different Gaga class and enjoy it.
…Perhaps not for a while though.
Have you felt this way before??
"That was amazing. You were like a musical!"
"That was a beautiful tribute to J. Well done."
It may not seem like much, but this was high praise indeed.
…Let’s rewind a bit.
Today I flew solo, and it was exhilarating.
At one of my jobs as a teaching assistant at a certain dance group in the city, I’ve been learning TONS of incredible skills when it comes to teaching creative dance. While I unfortunately do not currently have the opportunity to lead teach creative dance classes on a regular basis outside of my job in the city, I try to incorporate the skills I am learning into my other technique classes.
One of these skills is called the Brain Dance. The Brain Dance was developed by Ann Green Gilbert, leading expert in Creative Dance and author of “Creative Dance For All Ages”, “Teaching the Three Rs Through Movement”, ”Brain-Compatible Dance Education”, “Teaching Creative Dance” (DVD) and “BrainDance” (DVD),”. The teacher I TA for, studied directly under her and I believe was one of her collaborators in the formation of the technique.
The concept of the Brain Dance is simple. “It is comprised of eight developmental movement patterns that healthy human beings naturally move through in the first year of life. As babies, we did these movements on our tummies, sides, and back on the floor. However, cycling through these patterns at any age, daily or weekly while sitting or standing, has been found to be beneficial in reorganizing our central nervous system. Repeating these patterns over time may help us fill in any missing gaps in our neurological system due to birth trauma, illness, environment, head injury or not enough floor time as a baby.” - Ann Green Gilbert. For more information on how the Brain Dance works and its benefits, visit http://creativedance.org/about/braindance/
Here is where it becomes wonderfully complex. It can be used for all ages, so the number of things you can do for each movement pattern are nearly infinite. Here’s the order of the patterns for the Brain Dance:
While dancers of all ages can and should use the Brain Dance, it’s especially effective for beginning dancers, because it also helps with body and spatial awareness.
Now back to my story.
Earlier in the week, my boss contacted me to tell me that she had unfortunately sustained an injury that would prevent her from teaching this week. She got a substitute to cover the classes for which I assist her, but she wanted me to lead the brain dance. “Ok…” I said slowly, thinking, “I’ve been here since September, and I first learned the Brain Dance nearly a year ago when she came to guest teach my dance pedagogy course at college. I can do this.”
So when I arrived the sub, a gorgeous Italian dancer who was a member of the company (of which the children’s dance school operates under) from 1988 - 2001, excitedly asked me to lead the Brain Dance, because she had never seen it and was interested to learn.
I laughed nervously as my internal dialogue was on a constant loop of “Breath… Tactile… Core/Distal… Head/Tail… Body/Side… Cross-Lateral… Vestibular…”
The children burst into the room excitedly and I immediately grabbed their attention through nothing less than theatrics and acrobatics.
”Bubblegum bubblegum in a dish, how many times do my dancers wish?”
We blew up our imaginary bubbles full of air. Kids were right on task. I connected with my breath and started to relax, smiling.
"Hickory dickory dock, the mouse brushed up the clock, the clock struck two, the mouse said, ‘Achoo!’, the mouse brushed down, hickory dickory dock."
The children giggled as they knew exactly what came next. My skin tingled and I began to feel confident.
”Twinkle Twinkle Little STAR! How I wonder what you ARE!”
The children shoot their limbs out on each accent, and shout the ending word of the line. I’ve got their attention completely now.
“We curve our back over and bounce like a ball, we lift our back up and sit up so tall, put our hands behind us, look back at the wall, take hold of our feet, and curl up so small! We balance and balance and then we fall! and that is all!”
We finish the exercise in a curved shape, each child interpreting the shape their own way. The substitute looks on with intrigue at how abstractly these children are thinking. I smile with satisfaction. The brain dance is working.
“One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, shut the door.”
We open and close one side at a time, keeping the limbs and back perfectly straight. Not even one child falters.
Now the difficult part. On our bellies, we follow a series of commands that requires us to remember with our bodies and minds without a visual cue to rely on. They nailed it.
Then the fun comes. “Weeeeeeee twist and we twist in the washing machine, we spin and we spin till we’re all clean! We twist and we twist in the washing machine, we spin and we spin till we’re all clean!”
They spin until they’re good and dizzy, and then we balance in different positions. Perfect.
A few more little things, I finish, and I hand over the reins to the sub.
She stares at me. The pianist grins and give me a silent thumbs up. I enter a zone when I teach and shut out any superfluous stimuli in the environment. I become a performer in a way, because I have to keep the kids engaged by varying the pitch of my voice, the rhythm of my speech, and exaggerating my movements. Therefore, I had no idea how these two women were perceiving my valiant efforts to teach this accurately and as consistently as the regular teacher!
The pianist leans over to me and says, “That was a beautiful tribute to J. (regular teacher)” It was then that I realized that I am a part of something so much bigger than nursery rhymes and a dance warm up. I am responsible for the education of children’s minds and bodies. I am now part of a legacy. I have a responsibility to the Brain Dance that can never be taken away from me, and it is my duty to pass it on in the purest form that I have learned. Today, I did that successfully for the first time.
I’ll admit it, I was proud.
"That was like a musical!" The sub whispered to me. I chuckled, surprised, and smiled gratefully. Once again, my musical theatre knowledge has snuck up on me and done me a favor.
Experts told this artist her dream was impossible. It’s a good thing she didn’t listen.
fuck yeah !
I love this.
I hate reading about doctors who tell their sick patients or patients with physical restrictions they “can’t” do things. The body is an amazing thing, and faced with adversity, has the ability to adapt. So doctors, change your perceptions of art, of sports, of abilities, because you can still dance in a wheelchair, win a foot race without legs, and play music when you’re deaf. Maybe not in the way you think, but you CAN. People aren’t always “disabled”, they can be “differently abled”, meaning they can still do anything they put their mind to. The body is more amazing than you give it credit for, and so is the mind, and working together, mind and body can do nearly anything.
Expand your own perceptions.
Bianca Phipps - “Almosts” (CUPSI 2014)
"Words can only help you if you speak them. I never told you that I loved you. You never told me you were dying."
Performing for the University of Northern Colorado at the 2014 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational.
This is so poignant it hurts.