Switzerland made me appreciate my primary dance training without ever having much thought of the black leotard, white socks, and pink full-leather soled ballet slippers I wore for my primary ballet exams with the Royal Academy of Dancing. Although this past summer, Pina Bausch’s show brought back the memory of picture day, this time I was brought back to the actual steps and little details. The syllabus has changed tremendously since the birdcage dance and even the character shoes are different. But watching my friend’s daughter use a soccer net as a ballet barre and running through the grade three syllabus, she was just examined on, I was transported to the basic ballet steps that I learned at her age. I got a free show and a plethora of memories! It was delightful and of course her favorite were the big moving jumps and the dances where she told stories. It was wonderful to watch! She even worked on the perfect bun on my own hair, not at all bad I’d say!
I met her mom at the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in 2013 and she stayed with me for the following year’s training. In 2013, after many many years of no ballet exams, here I was being tested on material that I had once learned but from a different perspective and source. It was frightening to go alone in front of ballet greats crossing my fingers that I would pass. See not everyone does! I managed however to pass the Pre-Primary-Level 3 in 2013 and Levels 4-5 in 2014. This summer I would have attended Levels 6-7 and Partnering but I decided instead to come to Europe for 95days and immerse myself in the European dance scene. And I was able to make Switzerland one of my stops because I met my friend at the intensive and she’s from Switzerland! It’s amazing to me how dancers from across the world can meet one day and manage to spend the next two summers together again. This is one of the best parts of our profession!
On this stop I visited Musingen, Bern, and Thun and was able to take a few dips in the Aare River. The water was cool and the current strong, but you barely had to do anything other than float if you were travelling downstream.
Of course the trip was not without dancing. I took a 5 day workshop with Mario Camacho, former Martha Graham dancer and now professor at Codarts University for the Arts in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It was fantastic! I have never studied Graham from someone who had the opportunity to work with her directly and it was amazing how the technique could be delivered in simple yet poignant metaphors. Accessing my pelvis was easier than it had ever been and understanding the proper way of pleading… was as if I could always perform this motion without any pain in my neck. The stories of how Martha Graham came up with the pleading motion from La Pieta, Italian for pity or mercy, were so visceral, that it was beyond anatomical understanding. Instead an emotional intuition took over and the movement created itself. His hands on approach and care for each student in the studio was appreciated because it felt as though he really cared about what he was teaching and cared that the students understood the movement and the intention. He was an excellent teacher and I would happily go back to any of his classes!
The painting below exhibits La Pieta by Michalangelo. Although I’m not sure which specific painting Martha Graham got her inspiration from, I think it is a good example of the pleading position and the intention behind the exercise.
That’s one of the things that I’ve noticed since dancing in Europe this past summer. There is perhaps a bit more emphasis on the emotional intention of the movement rather than anatomy that we are often exposed to in the United States. I’m of the opinion that both are important but I also believe that too much of one is not a good thing. So it’s important for dancers to seek out both intention and anatomy to create artists and longevity.