Yoga Pioneer B.K.S. Iyengar Passes Away

 

You’d be hard-pressed to find a dancer who hasn’t taken yoga to supplement her training. Many don’t realize, however, that B.K.S. Iyengar is to thank for the Eastern practice’s proliferation in the U.S. The legendary yoga guru died this morning at 95 in Pune, India.

Iyengar began practicing yoga to restore his poor health as a child and went on to develop his own system, notable for its use of props and for breaking down asanas (poses) into digestible steps. He first brought yoga to the U.S. in 1956, and by the early '60s the practice was already growing immensely in popularity. He founded yoga institutes on six continents, including one in Pune. There are now more than 100 Iyengar yoga institutes around the world. His best-selling book, Light on Yoga (1966), has been translated into 17 languages. He practiced asanas well into his 90s. Read more about Iyengar and his influence on the dance world here.

Photo by Raya UD, courtesy of Iyengar Yoga Association of Greater New York

Technique
Nan Melville, courtesy Genn

Not so long ago, it seemed that ballet dancers were always encouraged to pull up away from the floor. Ideas evolved, and more recently it has become common to hear teachers saying "Push down to go up," and variations on that concept.

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"Often when we tell dancers to go down, they physically push down, or think they have to plié more," she says. These are misconceptions that keep dancers from, among other things, jumping to their full potential.

To help dancers learn to efficiently use what she calls "Mother Marley," Genn has developed these clever techniques and teaching tools.

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Alwin Courcy, courtesy Ballet des Amériques

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Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

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"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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