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  • entertainersdream
    The lilting music begins, and two by two, the dancers begin to Waltz. All heights, weights, nationalities and different abilities fill this cavernous studio
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2006
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      The lilting music begins, and two by two, the dancers begin to
      Waltz. All heights, weights, nationalities and different abilities
      fill this cavernous studio with movement. They Waltz, Lindy Hop,
      Polka and Tango together as the music shifts and changes. Some
      effortlessly leading and following, others stopping to confer with
      their partners on a new variation, all are focused on the task at
      hand. The music stops. They switch to new partners as the parade of
      dance styles continues: Foxtrot, Cross-step Waltz, Swing,
      Hustle . . . The teacher, gently calls out occasional instructions
      and guidance to the room filled with swirling figures.

      Many of the more advanced dances that these students learn are
      complex and quickly taught. The footwork is changeable, rapidly
      executed and often contains patterns not immediately apparent. The
      positions of the partner's bodies change frequently and rapidly, and
      must be lead and followed with dexterity. The number of Engineering
      majors per class increases with the level of difficulty of the
      material, as does the speed of presentation of the steps.

      There is less time allotted to acquire the moves, less repetition, a
      greater deal of assumed knowledge, and a greater amount of self-
      correction required in process. It demands a higher standard of
      physical ability than the earlier levels. All of this naturally
      requires a strong Kinesthetic ability or awareness.

      My interest in the writings prompted me to look for a link between
      Logical/Mathematical, and Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligences (as
      defined by Gardner) in this population. I later added Spatial
      intelligence to this list. Gardner defines as core characteristics
      of Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence as the ability to control one's
      bodily motions and to manipulate objects skillfully. (1) (He considers
      one's own body to be an object). He does not differentiate between the
      fine motor activities needed for the placement of tiny objects in
      electronic instruments, or the full-body movements required by the
      dancer.

      In the case of Engineering, the ability to manipulate objects becomes
      especially important. In Chapter 9 of Frames of Mind, Gardner
      discusses the high incidence of inventors and engineers, particularly
      engineers who learn and create by manipulating objects, who
      demonstrate a high degree of Bodily/Kinesthetic intelligence. (2) This
      intelligence is the dancer's ability to "see-and-do": to be able to
      transform a dynamic visual image into physical action, and to hear a
      direction and translate that into movement.

      For these students to have been accepted into the School of
      Engineering implies strong Logical/Mathematical skills, which
      according to Gardner is the ability to translate concrete objects
      into symbols and manipulate them mentally, to be able to visualize
      without a concrete model, and the ability to create and relate
      abstract thoughts. (3) Additionally, in the case of Engineering, a
      strong Spatial intelligence is needed. Spatial characteristics are
      "the capacities to perceive the visual world accurately, to perform
      transformation and modifications upon one's initial perceptions, and
      to be able to re-create aspects of one's visual experience, even in
      the absence of relevant physical stimuli." (4) One can produce new
      forms in the mind's eye, or mentally manipulate those forms that have
      been provided.

      Judith Jamison has been one to make here creativity a reality. She
      was born the younger of two children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
      Jamison studied piano and violin as a child. Tall by the age of six,
      Jamison was enrolled in dance classes by her parents in an effort to
      complement her exceptional height with grace. She received most of
      her early dance training in classical ballet with master teachers
      Marion Cuyjet, Delores Brown, and John Jones at the Judimar School
      of Dance.

      Jamison decided on a career in dance only after three semesters of
      coursework in psychology at Fisk University, and she completed her
      education at the Philadelphia Dance Academy. In 1964 she was spotted
      by choreographer Agnes de Mille and invited to appear in de Mille's
      "The Four Marys" at the New York-based American Ballet Theatre.
      Jamison moved to New York in 1965 and that same year joined the Alvin
      Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT).

      Judith Jamison performed with AAADT on tours of Europe and Africa in
      1966. When financial pressures forced Ailey to briefly disband his
      company later that year, Jamison joined the Harkness Ballet for
      several months and then returned to the re-formed AAADT in 1967. She
      quickly became a principal dancer with that company, dancing a
      variety of roles that showcased her pliant technique, stunning
      beauty, and exceptional stature of five feet, ten inches. Jamison
      excelled as the goddess Erzulie in Geoffrey Holder's "The Prodigal
      Prince" (1967), as the Mother in a revised version of Ailey's
      "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" (1968), and as the Sun in the 1968 AAADT
      revival of Lucas Hoving's "Icarus."

      These larger-than-life roles fit neatly with Jamison's regal bearing
      and highly responsive emotional center, and critics praised her finely
      drawn dance interpretations that were imbued with power and grace.
      Jamison's and Ailey's collaboration deepened, and she created a
      brilliant solo in his "Masekela Language" (1969). Set to music of
      South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Jamison portrayed a frustrated
      and solitary woman dancing in a seedy saloon. Her electrifying
      performances of Ailey's 15-minute solo "Cry" (1971) propelled her to
      an international stardom unprecedented among modern dance artists.
      Dedicated by Ailey "to all black women everywhere -- especially our
      mothers," the three sections of "Cry" successfully captured a broad
      range of movements, emotions, and images associated with black
      womanhood as mother, sister, lover, goddess, supplicant, confessor,
      and dancer.

      In 1976 Jamison danced with ballet star Mikhail Baryshnikov in
      Ailey's "Pas de Duke" set to music by Duke Ellington. This duet
      emphasized the classical line behind Jamison's compelling modern
      dance technique and garnered her scores of new fans. Jamison's
      celebrity advanced, and she appeared as a guest artist with the San
      Francisco Ballet, the Swedish Royal Ballet, the Cullberg Ballet, and
      the Vienna State Ballet. In 1977 she created the role of Potiphar's
      Wife in John Neumeier's "Josephslegende" for the Vienna State Opera,
      and in 1978 she appeared in Maurice BĂ©jart's updated version of "Le
      Spectre de la Rose" with the Ballet of the Twentieth Century.

      Several choreographers sought to work with Jamison as a solo artist,
      and important collaborations included John Parks' "Nubian Lady"
      (1972), John Butler's "Facets" (1976), and Ulysses Dove's "Inside"
      (1980).

      In 1980 Jamison left the Ailey company to star in the Broadway
      musical "Sophisticated Ladies," set to the music of Duke Ellington.
      She later turned her formidable talent to choreography, where her work
      has been marked by a detached sensuality and intensive responses to
      rhythm.

      Jamison founded her own dance company, the Jamison Project, "to
      explore the opportunities of getting a group of dancers together,
      for both my choreography [and] to commission works from others."
      Alvin Ailey's failing health caused Jamison to rejoin the AAADT as
      artistic associate for the 1988-1989 season. In December 1989 Ailey
      died, and Jamison was named artistic director of the company. She
      has continued to choreograph, and her ballets include "Divining"
      1984), "Forgotten Time" (1989), and "Hymn" (1993), all performed by he
      AAADT.

      Jamison has received numerous awards and honors, including a
      Presidential Appointment to the National Council of the Arts, the 1972
      DANCE MAGAZINE Award, and the Candace Award from the National
      Coalition of One Hundred Black Women. Her greatest achievement as a
      dancer was an inspiring ability to seem supremely human and emotive
      within an elastic and powerful dance technique.


      DRAMMA MOMMA
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