The Innovators

I’m always fascinated when people step outside their comfort zones. That’s at least part of the reason I was so taken with choreographer Jody Sperling’s adventure to the Arctic Ocean. Talk about plunging into the unknown! And when she told me how that experience has changed the mission of her company, Time Lapse Dance, to integrate both movement and climate science education, it gave me goose bumps.

Next month she will premiere a new work about the Arctic (see “On Thin Ice”). Her project demonstrates art’s potential to draw attention to social concerns. “What happens in the Arctic has immediate consequences for us wherever we are on the planet,” she told me. “I want to use this program to not just create a work that’s hopefully moving and inspiring and visually fulfilling, but that also will help people understand about climate change.”

Some of us do our exploring in a frontier less wild than the Arctic, but still considerably woolly—that of social media. In “You Could Be YouTube Famous,” three choreographers and guest teachers talk about their online stardom and how it has translated to career success in the real world.

Jody Sperling dancing on the ice, observed from the deck of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy

And what would an issue about dance innovation be without a history lesson on the magical whimsy of Alwin Nikolais? This month’s “Technique” is related, featuring the wonderful Alberto Del Saz, who keeps the Nikolais work alive.

Of course, most dancers don’t need to leave the studio to understand the need for daily exploration. If you do anything often enough, it can become rote. So here’s to those who inspire the quest for meaning in each tendu and plié of technique class. Rock on, dear dance teachers. You are the ultimate dance innovators!




Photos (from top) by Matthew Murphy; by Pierre Coupel, courtesy of Time Lapse Dance

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