Five Talented Dancers + an Empty Warehouse + the Countryside + a Video Camera x the Human Condition = Gravity of Center, a choreographed site specific conversation between 3 men and 2 women. It’s impossible to explore this kind of movement in a traditional studio or theatre space. Remove dance from a constrained space, no matter how well-designed the set, and “stage” it in nontraditional indoor and outdoor spaces and the movement conversation changes, expands and challenges the viewer.
When I started dancing at 6, the only styles really discussed with any seriousness were Ballet and Modern, and Modern took a distant (very distant) second place. Sure, there was a smattering of talk about the rich tradition of Flamenco and certain other exotic dance forms from distant countries, but it took a while before an acknowledged homage was paid to the thrilling choreography born on Broadway. West Side Story was the magical blending of drama, dance and music, all put together to explore…ah, Yes…the human condition – love/hate, male/female, us/them, the individual and the pack.
As with any art form, we had to learn steps, notes…structure…before venturing out into the territory of disciplined self-expression. Sometimes our teacher would let us just move, however which way we wanted. But it was always in a studio, a huge university gymnasium in fact, a space that always felt constraining, as though there was a predetermined way one had to move in such a traditional space on a hardwood floor. And we were very much affected by what we saw being performed around us. Modern, to me, was as experimental as it got, but still it didn’t quite break away from the accepted notions and ideas of dance the way Jazz had broken away to become its own thing in music decades before.
There was a kind of accepted movement that had taken root in my head that I couldn’t cut myself free from, which had everything to do with what we had been taught was “beautiful” or “graceful.” But when I closed my eyes, movement was never constrained. It was wild and free and weird sometimes, and it didn’t necessarily make sense and it didn’t necessarily follow the “rules” of traditional dance notation. But I was neither skilled nor confident enough to explore it, and so for a very long time the internal dance freedom I would feel when I closed my eyes remained in my head, to be explored and imagined privately.
Now dance choreography is anything but constrained. And a camera can follow it anywhere. And the conversation between dancers can be seen everywhere. It used to be very expensive to see a dance concert. I would beg my mother to take me and I had to settle for photographs of dancers in magazines. I was starved for a kind of dance that didn’t take place in a studio.
Now I can sit on a Saturday morning and discover fabulous expressions of conversation in movement on the internet. Like Gravity of Center, which popped up on Vimeo.
Okay, so it takes more than a few minutes to watch it. But it’s worth it. Whether you like dance or not, watch it anyway…because it’s really about something else entirely.
There is a “price” we each have to pay for freedom…but it is the place we must all go…with ourselves and one another….