Teaching young people how to dance is one of the many gifts from above that I treasure most. This past Saturday I taught ModBallet (combo of Modern and Ballet) to two super bright fierce little beings on zoom. Their eagerness and ebullience are uplifting and energizing.
I act as a witness and guide for the session while the Modrinas demonstrate steps and postures from memory. They seem to like repetition challenges and performing for one another. My Modrinas demo ease, confidence, and playfulness inside our precious time together online. Despite the lesson being almost over, I try to cram in a review of how to chaîne turn. The lesson ends.
In this digital teaching environment, we mirror each other and transfer our good energies across the internet waves. All the while, I make sure that they are having fun learning to define their space as well as become adept with ModBallet dance history and vocabulary. Empty egg cartons become handy props to practice step of the cat (pas de chats) and big leaps (grand jetés). A wave of a scarf helps paint the space with color and move in a 3 dimensional way. We transform a stuffy (stuffed animal) into a dance partner in an imaginary world of princesses, dragons, tacos, witches, superheroes and things.
The science of staying in the dance while social distancing is strange and disquieting no doubt but there are pluses. So many fellow dance educators are adapting to this format and giving ideas with their online instruction. Their resilience charges me to keep showing up for the things we love to do and be: teach dance and share the dance! As a parent, I yearn for human connection and quality mentorship for my child. I hope that what I offer is a good substitute for the real thing for now.
Given a few weeks of teaching for myself during this pandemic, my thoughts have shifted about taking and teaching class online. I am energized to continue to show up and instill a sense of responsibility for upholding the practice and performance of dance. Here’s to safe digital unbiased dance education transmitted with love.
Choreographer, Performer & Teaching Artist
Sylvidancemaker@gmail.com, (202) 487-0097
Educate youth artists in study of performance and choreography. Employ dynamic range of styles and theatrical ability training at local studios and theaters. Engage with professionals across disciplines to produce accessible dance in the DC metropolitan area.
Bachelors in Performance & Choreography, OSU 1998-2002 Soul Infiltration Senior Project: 2 week study in Santiago de Cuba with Cutumba
Far Lambe Cultural Research Trip to Senegal led by Griot Medoune Yacine Gueye 2012, 2 week study of dance and drumming in particular Sabar
Dance ICONS Choreographic Cohort Member 2019-2021, 9 month study of the history, art and practice of choreography
Found this creation called Blush from a few years ago. Makes me think about the people in the room who were there for me. People who I’ve watched develop their own distinct movement based communities.
This improvisational solo was created and performed when I was narrowly falling out of relationships in my dance collective, love life and spiritual life.
In short, there are people who became my family that imprinted beautiful memories that still make me blush. I see their faces come to my brain. Simple moments of laughter and curiosity shared. Usually, there are several tiny moments or actions in each day that remind me of a conversation or special thing about a person.
Who are those persons for you? What makes you blush?
I am choreographing a piece inspired by Winnie the Pooh and friends and their undiagnosed disabilities. This idea has been tossing around in my head the for last couple years. Grateful to my funders for this year of study which include my cousin Christopher Mitchell. I am glad to be a member of the ICONS 2020 Cohort and attendee of Dance Loft on14. I am working to create a children’s piece of an adult nature. With my cast: Rachael Alexandra, Covenant Babatunde, Grace Cannon, May Kesler, Kate Kight, Rachel Lawal, Turner Hitt, Leila Stehlik-Barry, and Taariq Muhammad to discuss mental health as it relates to The Hundred Acre Wood and it’s inhabitants. Resources include The Te of Piglet, The Tao of Pooh and other Pooh Classics and Disney machinations.
About a month into the rehearsal process, I can say that taking this deep dive is one the best things for my work I’ve done in a long time. Feeling pumped about my cast.
Dance ICONS Cohort will present two evening concerts for the public. Aiming to design a matinee tailored to families with young children and invite fellow theater buffs, dance nerds to participate in the process, completion and evaluation of this Pooh work currently titled ‘Out to Lunch’ or ‘Rebound’.
Inside the cohort we try to inspire dialogue and provocation. We nourish our curiosity about the field and put into practice new methods as authored by ‘The Greats’ and ‘The Next Gen’.
How to maintain a level of play and wonder in work.
Consider this a time to write and document process of living.
Knowing we will have lots of young movers and shakers in the audience, what kind of impression do we want to leave about these furry friends.
How do we acknowledge how precious animals are to our existence?
I am midway through the 9 month Icons Choreography Program with Vlad Angelov. This fall we have studied the history of choreography up to Contemporary Dance-Theater. Vlad has challenged our cohort to be provocateurs, problem solvers and authors of our own stories.
We whipped up phrases weekly to explore construction and deconstruction tasks. Through the improv fest we soaked up Juliana Ponguta’s spice-of-life Contact Improv, the Forsyth system for organizing dance movement as reimagined by Vlad Angelov and finally were able to sample Nancy Stark Smith’s Underscore broken down by Ken Manheimer. ASL translators were present to translate for large contingent of deaf dancers present that day.
From exploring my astrological sign, genetic modification to prop play we definitely have been actively creating during these months which has felt great. Wonder how to unfold the creation of a new work? Me too!
I am challenged to ink my thoughts and pencil my drawings. Need to look at other disciplines to find parallels and note the latest in dance technology and use of props or visuals within a choreographic work.
Reflected on a “bad dance” made during a workshop with a group from students and dance teachers at American University taught be Larry Lavender. In this experiment, Lavender pointed our “bad dances” were actually not that bad. Lavender’s workshop helped me consider my biases. How do I distinguish the needs and skill set of the choreographer apart from the lens of the dancer/performer. Is it necessary or even possible to remove my own perception of the work?
My passion for watching, writing and discussing dance performance is one I share with many people but mainly my mother, Dr. Luella Christopher and our friend Dr. George Jackson. I have been going to the Kennedy Center since I was barely able to see over the standing room ledge. I teach 18mos-adults and love diving in to a dancer’s vocabulary and imagination. I enjoy diversifying our notion of dance.
It is amazing how a singular base phrase can be enough to create an entire dance. Now to see if I’m up to the task.