Discover a new balance with techniques that are both rigorous and freeing.
WE LAY ON our backs on the wood floor, moving our arms and legs the way you would make an angel in the snow, but this was the most specific angel I had ever made.
I listened to teacher Bryon Carr, at eXit SPACE School of Dance in Green Lake, and tried to follow his instructions: pointing my toes, lowering my leg and rolling to one side, arcing my back and trying to balance.
I soon discovered modern dance is all about balance, whether on your feet or on the floor.
eXit SPACE School of Dance
I learned there are many schools of modern or contemporary dance. Carr said the simplest way to think of it is that ballet focuses on balancing on your center, while modern is balancing off your center. Also, modern dance will take you to the floor, and is overall more grounding.
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No wonder I liked it.
After our work on the floor, Carr moved us to our feet for spinal warm-ups, moving our heads side-to-side and rolling up and down our spine. Carr instructed us to pull our ribs to our spine while our chest stayed lifted. Modern dance might look fluid and unstructured, but the form remains precise.
We added leg forms, some of which felt like classical ballet. We did tendus, a ballet technique of sliding a pointed foot forward and back in. After tendus forward, to the side and to the back, Carr set us free to complete the phrase, then to leap and face a new part of the room, and repeat. Sometimes we faced other students; sometimes we faced no one. We also practiced other techniques, such as rebounding one leg to the chest at a time.
We also danced off-center, lifting one leg at a time side-to-side while also keeping our chests lifted in the sway. I liked the side-to-side sway, though it was hard to keep my form throughout, and my arms — which swooped around — never quite knew where to go.
We did more choreography that incorporated the side-to-side movement and balancing on one leg, keeping count as we added more steps. While I often have a limit for retaining choreography, my brain found this slightly easier to remember.
We took a break from choreography to move across the floor. We went across in groups sideways, doing plies and relevés. My legs, which were already warm, felt the burn of balancing and deep squats. We also did big chassés, leaping across the room. These were fun and energizing. Carr said these were old school, and effective.
For the final chunk of the 90-minute class, we did a more complicated dance to “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons. I loved the elements of this final dance, which incorporated small wrist movements, big twists and graceful arms, balances side-to-side and facing different directions. My favorite move was a dramatic plié with our arms to the sky, face-up; balancing on one leg at a time; then rolling down to the floor and onto one hip, one leg extended, toes pointed.
After learning the choreography, we did the dance in the middle of the room in small groups. By the final run-through, I still remembered what I was supposed to be doing. Yes!
I found modern-dance technique rigorous and yet freeing. It was fun to move around the room while maintaining form. If you haven’t taken it on, consider it — you will get strong, open your body, and challenge your body and mind.