We're Dancers, Not Crazy. We Swear.

I was on the train home from work last night, nose buried in my book, when something made me look up. Nothing alarming, possibly just a clang or a loud sneeze. But then I spotted her: A young, notable choreographer, sitting across from me on the subway. (You can find out who it was, here, and read about her latest work with students.) She wasn't reading or playing solitaire on her phone; just sitting quietly with her hands dancing about in light gestures. By the complexity of movement and repetition, it became pretty clear she was working out a new phrase. She was also deep in thought; she looked as though not only was she trying to remember the sequence, but also thinking about what it would look like from the outside and how it would fit in within a larger whole. It was fascinating, to say the least.

 

And though her arm movements were contained enough to fit within the spatial allotment of a subway seat, people noticed. It was rush hour, after all. I started looking at the onlookers' faces. Most looked confused, with a hint of wary. Was she on drugs? Was she nuts? What on Earth was this woman doing with her hands on the subway in the middle of rush hour? I wanted to yell, "She's working! Leave her alone! She's not crazy!" But instead, I kept watching this beautiful hand dance until we both exited the train.

 

As choreographers, dancers and teachers, maybe we're all a little nuts. I often work out my class combinations on the train, and I've choreographed most of my recital pieces in my living room. But since I'm usually the dancer, I've never given a thought to what it looks like from the perspective of normal people. Have you? Where's the strangest place that you've choreographed? Standing in line at the grocery store? Pharmacy? At the pool?

 

 

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"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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Robbie Sweeny, courtesy Funsch

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Originally from central New York State, Funsch spent 20 years performing in the Bay Area, where she also started her own company, Funsch Dance Experience. "My choreographic work from that time is in the dance-theater experiential, fantasy realm of performance," she says. "I also started blending genres and a lot of urban styles found their way into my choreography."

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Courtesy Meg Brooker

As the presidential election approaches, it's a particularly meaningful time to remember that we are celebrating the centennial of the 19th Amendment, when women earned the right to vote after a decades-long battle.

Movement was more than a metaphor for the fight for women's suffrage—dancers played a real role, most notably Florence Fleming Noyes, who performed her riveting solo Dance of Freedom in 1914 to embody the struggle for women's rights.

This fall, Middle Tennessee State University director of dance Meg Brooker is reconstructing Dance of Freedom on 11 of her students. A Noyes Rhythm teacher and an Isadora Duncan scholar, Brooker is passionate about bringing historic dance practices into a contemporary context.

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