News: The Natural Approach
“I’m always rallying for less homework and more art,” says Lori Belilove, artistic director of the Isadora Duncan Dance Foundation. For the past several years, Belilove has put that mantra into motion with a group of dancers she fondly refers to as the Beliloveables (a play on Isadora Duncan’s dancers, the Isadorables). Belilove’s life’s work has been to keep alive the spirit and free-flowing nature of the Isadora Duncan dance technique—which emphasizes the human form, improvisation and emotion—and these students are prime examples of her success.
The Beliloveables are homeschooled and their parents belong to the New York City Home Educators Alliance (NYCHEA). The relationship began when one of the now-Beliloveable mothers contacted Belilove in 2007 to inquire about starting a Duncan class for homeschoolers. She and her daughter had seen Belilove’s company perform and thought that the Duncan style and technique would resonate with families in the NYCHEA community.
“There’s this wonderful symbiosis with this homeschooler community here in New York City where these young ladies are able to do more cultural activities than if they were going to school,” Belilove says. “I think that when they come from such a background where the teaching style is filled with questions and explorations and possibility, it helps to bring the Isadora Duncan work back to life.”
Last year, the Beliloveables premiered onstage along with Belilove’s professional company at Judson Memorial Church. In April, the company hosted a gala fundraiser for training workshops for the Beliloveables at New York City Center. This summer they plan to perform at Dance Theater Workshop during the World Dance Alliance, as well as at the Alice Austen House on Staten Island.
Barbara Cohen’s daughters Emma, 14, and Lucy, 11, are 2 of the 10 Beliloveables. The benefits that her daughters get from training with Belilove versus other dance schools are twofold. “First is the essence of the Duncan style and technique. The natural movement doesn’t take the child’s body where it shouldn’t be,” Cohen says. The other difference is the way Belilove trains a dancer. “I see her deep trust in the girls to get where they need to be, each one at her own pace. The ages of the Beliloveables range from 9 to 16. That’s a big range, developmentally,” she says. “I love that Lori’s teaching is so distant from a one-size-fits-all approach. I think this speaks to my homeschooling sensibility—the idea that every flower blossoms in its own time and rushing that unfolding is never a good or healthy idea.”
Belilove finds that these students are incredibly receptive to the technique. “The homeschoolers are not filled with the same ‘don’ts’ that come with life in school,” she says. “They’re much more emotionally mature. They tend to be freer spirits. Their relation to the dance is one of pure joy.” DT
Click here for video excerpts from The Red Thread, performed by Lori Bellilove & The Isadora Duncan Dance Company.
Emily Macel is writing a book on Erick Hawkins. She lives in Washington, DC.
Photo by Mark Sadan, courtesy of Lori Bellilove. Belliloveables (L-R in the circle) Morgana Cragnotti, Rachel Herzog, Emma Cohen, Samantha Jo Vicens, Chanda Cragnotti and Lucy Cohen.