When I was twenty years-old, I auditioned for Hubbard Street Dance Company . I was majoring in dance at the University of Alabama and three other of my Alabama dance major friends traveled to Dallas together to audition for Hubbard Street at the Booker T. Washington High School. I remember being so nervous; stretching and warming up feeling optimistic that I would get my big break! Once the audition began they split the hundred or more dancers into groups of three to do a basic ballet step: tombe pas de bourree glissade assemble. They then picked a select few to stay from that and told the rest of us, thank you very much. That was it!My mom and I had seen Hubbard Street at Texas Woman's University in '94. I will never forget the dancer moving slowly like liquid gold to Willie Nelson's Georgia on my Mind. I was hooked; this was and always will be my favorite dance company. I saw them again in Dallas after the audition and then more recently on Friday night at the Winspear Opera House.
It would have been a dream come true to have danced for Hubbard Street. They are free-flowing, contemporary, jazzy, strong, athletic, modern, balletic, and full of life. My classically modern body was made to dance for them. Oh Hubbard Street, if only you would take on a thirty-four year old mother of two into your wonderful company! I'm not twenty anymore but I'm still hungry with a passion to dance. What's unfair about aging to a dancer is that with additional life experience dancers are more capable of demonstrating feeling and emotion than younger dancers who haven't either seen with or into as many tearful or disappointment laden eyes.
My friend Margot and I sat in the Winspear Opera House on Friday to watch three unique pieces by three different choreographers. Each piece was like a new language (that's what dance is, the simplest form of language). The first piece, Tabula Rasa (meaning blank slate) had a sense of calm. The second piece, Physikal Linguistiks, fused hip-hop with ballet. The last piece, Untouched, had a Spanish feel and was moving (literally).There were movements like the ocean when the dancers seemed like calming waves; it was like a built in intermission for the soul. There were also strong poses, matrix moves, and playful manipulation. Hubbard Street won't let you check out mentally! They make you gasp, laugh, breathe...I love the unexpected! Dancers came out into the audience and for a moment you couldn't tell if they meant to. One dancer pretended to be an usher and the spotlight kept following her. I also love the added element of sound from the body: a slap of the hand, breath, even talking to the audience all make dance human and relatable.
Something I love that Hubbard Street does is their work with children in public schools. Creative movement is a necessity I think! It teaches children that they can have their own unique way of moving through life. I feel that teaching Pilates to kids does this too. With both dance and Pilates children can build confidence in their body and learn control and coordination while waking up the mind. There are so many children who are kinesthetic learners; when Hubbard Street Dance Company introduces creative movement to children, they open up a huge window for creative learning and the expansion of individual pride.
In a few weeks, thanks to the Greater Denton Arts Council, our school (as well as several in the surrounding area) will be invited to see the Denton Ballet Academy's performance of the Nutcracker. In preparation for the field trip and to enhance student appreciation for a story we read about dance, I decided to dance for second grade in my pointe shoes and tutu. I wanted them to see close up and appreciate that ballerinas are athletes. It was also important to me to make ballet cool, especially for the boys!
Anything in the arts has a stereotype. It makes me sad that children get tuned into that so early. A child's view of the arts is so pure; they see more than we do because they haven't been tainted with negative opinions. What I love about all of the arts is that everyone will see something different. Children's pure eyes pull out more than we do. My friend mentioned, I tried to "get it" but I'm not sure I did. As long as it makes you think long after you see it, it's a great work! Sometimes seeing a piece that is foreign to the eyes takes some getting used to.
My parents gave me the gift of culture exposure early on. They sent me to Europe after high school and then in college to Harvard Summer Dance Program. My friend Ginger and I were thrilled to have Harvard credit on our transcripts! This exposure made me who I am today; it opened my eyes to a life outside my home that was rich with the arts.
The rich aura provided by appreciation of the arts can be icing on the cake of life. Life is simply better with it. It can't be complete without it. Martha Graham's words are to me a special resonation of the way I feel about the relationship between the art form of dance and life.
I am a dancer. I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living.... In each it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one's being, a satisfaction of spirit. One becomes in some area an athlete of God. ~Martha Graham
For you and your little dancers I highly recommend the following movies and sites:
Cupcakes and Conversation Shares interviews with dancers around the world.
Ballerina Project Beautiful photographs of ballerinas set in New York City.
Angelina Ballerina my daughter loves the books, show, and this site!
The Nutcracker movie that releases this week!
The Red Shoes movie is a ballet classic; I cannot tell you how many times I have watched it (this would make an excellent stocking stuffer)!