The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education with Emphasis on Dance and Drama

The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education with Emphasis on Dance and Drama

The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education with Emphasis on Dance and Drama

The Body Can Speak: Essays on Creative Movement Education with Emphasis on Dance and Drama

Synopsis

The contributors to this book attest that movement is our first language. The book gives a voice to teachers, authors, dancers, directors, actors and choreographers who share their experiences while they address creative-movement education.

Excerpt

“Ballet is the art of position,” Erick Hawkins once said, by way of insisting on what he saw as a fundamental distinction between rival forms, whereas “dance, ” by which he meant the network of movement styles, choreographic traditions, and teaching methods most of us think of as modern dance, “is the art of transition.” An erstwhile balletomane, I deepened my appreciation of the aesthetics of “the art of transition” during my years of association with Annelise Mertz at Washington University in St. Louis, 1982—87. On the occasion created by this collection of essays by her fellow artists, colleagues, and former students—a sampling of ideas suggestive but far from exhaustive of the work of a lifetime—I want to preface what follows with a brief consideration of the implications of the word transition. The dictionary says that it is cognate to transit and that it means, narrowly, a passage from one place to another or, more broadly, a movement, development, or evolution from one form, state, stage, or style to another. But that is only a beginning.

For the past forty years, Mertz has resided primarily in the state of Missouri, but she is always in a state of transition. (In German, one can say “always already, ” and that would be apposite in conveying temperamental predisposition as well as continuing activity.) Whether she has been moving between classroom and stage, between choreographic styles, between the university and the community, or between the music of William Walton and of Scott Joplin, she has always already performed her transitions kinesthetically. The kinesthetic is composed of two equal and interrelated parts, body and soul. Physically, Mertz is never still. Spiritually, she is never satisfied.

In any effort to convey in words what movement can mean or how it can mean, flesh and spirit, body and mind, psyche and soma naturally come up together in the same breath, so to speak. The phrase that might serve as the motto of Mertz's career as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer—“the body can speak”—also provides an appropriate inspiration for the essays collected here. But no one should suppose that the uneducated body is naturally eloquent. There are at least two ways in which it can fall short of truly articulate speech.

On the one hand, the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is tongue-tied. Contributor Murray Louis, a frequent guest of the Washington University Edison Theater and Dance Department and a charming ironist in the master class, was fond of asking students during warm ups: “Did you take your turn-

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