Tag Archives: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Your Body: Magic Touch

Former Pennsylvania Ballet Principal Dancer Martha Chamberlain with Principal Dancer Zachary Hench in Who Cares?, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo: Alexander Iziliaev.

Update:  Both Patrick  Simoniello and Martha Chamberlain have retired.  Chamberlain has continued her interest in costume design and also teaches.  My fascination with the power of touch is as strong as ever.  The wonders of both the strongest forms, like Rolfing and the lightest forms, like lymph and Feldenkrais’ Functional Integration,  hold the most interest.

Reprinted from Dance Magazine.

During a rehearsal of a lightning-fast section in Gerald Arpino’s Birthday Variation, Joffrey dancer Patrick Simoniello pulled his adductor muscle in his left leg. After a neuromuscular massage, which uses trigger-point therapy to ease up seized muscles, Simoniello found he could dance that night. A short, specific massage immediately after the injury was just the thing he needed to get back on his feet. “I thought it was amazing stuff,” remembers Simoniello, who has since trained as a massage therapist.

Massage has been well documented as a healing agent, but getting the type and timing right makes all the difference. Short and vigorous types like the neuromuscular kind get you ready to move. Slower, deeper ones are ideal for down time, not for when you have to perform or learn new work, because the massage can create  changes in muscle length.

However, deep work can help the body recover in a range of ways. During his stint with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago from 2002–2006, Simoniello found a weekly massage essential in helping his body repair and prepare for the next week’s demands. “I was dancing work by Ohad Naharin, William Forsythe, and Jirí Kylián while on tour,” says Simoniello. “That takes a toll. If I missed a week’s massage, it became much harder to get back on track.”

There are several types of massage that can be particularly helpful to dancers:

• Swedish/traditional uses light to medium pressure. It’s excellent for general restoration and stress-reduction.

• Sports massage is a deep-tissue form that is more vigorous than Swedish and works on muscle and fascia (the outer layer of muscles and organs). It’s not recommended prior to intense activity.

• Neuromuscular uses sustained static pressure on trigger points to relieve pain and increase range of motion. It can release muscle spasms.

 Lymph massage offers a light touch at skin level and helps flush the lymph system of waste products from injury. It aids with swelling and inflammation.

• Myofascial Release and Structural Integration each address both muscle and fascial tissue. Structural Integration involves 10 consecutive sessions, and is best performed when dancers are off since the body needs time to adjust.

Many companies’ massage schedules reflect performance and rehearsal schedules. At Pennsylvania Ballet, physical therapist Julie Green schedules the massage therapist for Fridays so dancers can let the massage settle in their bodies for a day or two before taking class or rehearsing. “I always ask a dancer what’s on their plate that day,” says Green. “When you make a muscle longer, it can temporarily weaken it and make it cramp. I want to know if dancers will be jumping a lot. If so, then I stay away from the power muscles.”

PAB principal Martha Chamberlain adjusts the timing of her appointments to her performances. “I never want my feet or calves worked on before a show,” she says. “Beside the fact the oil makes my feet slip in my shoes, if you get worked on and run into a rehearsal, it can throw things out of whack.”

Many dancers note that iliotibial (IT) bands are an exception. These connect the pelvis to the knee, so a tight IT band can actually pull the knee cap out of alignment. “My IT bands are a different story,” Chamberlain says. “You can pound on those anytime.” Many dancers use foam rollers to loosen up between classes or rehearsals. “IT are more like ligaments than muscle tissue,” says Green. “Because they don’t have the contractile properties of a muscle, it’s usually fine to massage them before dancing.”

There are times to be cautious about massage. If you suspect a fracture, or if you have an open wound, deep work can exacerbate it. “If you are injured, get a diagnosis first,” says Green. “If you have an infection, a massage could spread it.” Though lymph massage, Green notes, can flush the tissues and relieve swelling.

Massage can also help in ways that go beyond a dancer’s mobility. Simoniello noticed he had more confidence performing after he added massage to his health regime. “Dance is not solely an art of physicality,” he says. “Mind and spirit are involved as well.  Massage provides a non-judgmental place for treatment, allowing us not only to physically heal, but to take a breath and and care for ourselves.”

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The Great Outdoors of Dance: My time at Jacob’s Pillow

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Photo by Ingmar Jernberg

Erik Johansson and Ellah Nagil of The Goteborg Ballet in “OreloB of 3xBolero”

Every Wednesday during the season at exactly 1:15 pm the bells ring on the grounds of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts.

It’s not just any bell, but a call to signify that dancers are in the house and a week’s worth of motion is about to begin. Ella Baff, executive director, is there to greet any number of dance legends who happen to be performing that week, introduce the outstanding staff, the fearless interns and the scholars in residence, which for the past two weeks, has included me.

Last week, The Göteborg Ballet along with Australian innovator (and Houston favorite) Lucy Guerin were in attendance, along with Chet Walker and hisJazz/ Musical Theatre Dance students. This week it’s Hubbard Street Dance ChicagoThe Vanaver Caravan and the artists of the Choreographers Lab.  Also included in the mix were CultureMap president Nic Phillips, who designed the lighting for Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s two world premieres, along with Houston choreographer andUniversity of Houston faculty member Becky Valls , who is joining the Choreographers Lab.

What fun to have a tiny Texas invasion.

Thanks to Nancy Henderek at  Dance Salad Festival, I had seen The Göteborg Ballet a few years back in Houston. A clever program titled 3xBolero sent three choreographers riffing off Maurice Ravel’s famous one movement orchestral work, Bolero. Johan Inger’s Walking Mad fused narrative, inventive movement and one limber timber folding fence to expand upon Ravel’s notion of crescendo. Kenneth Kvarnstrom’s OreloB(Bolero spelled backwards) echoed Ravel’s intensity and relentless engine.

Alexander Ekman’s Episode 17 played with the composer’s cumulative structure with wit and sass. I am not sure I will ever listen to Bolero the same way again. Somewhere, Ravel is reveling.

Guerin’s Structure and Sadness references the 1970 collapse of the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne, Australia. Enlisting movement based on the forces of push, pull, compression, suspension, torsion and collapse, her dancers double as engineers as they build one incredible structure on stage.

As with all of Guerin’s work, ideas are abstracted, yet fragments of a narrative illuminate her kinetic landscape. In light of recent infrastructure failures such as the BP Gulf Coast oil spill and other disasters, Structure and Sadness feels unusually timely. More importantly, Guerin’s poignant work stands as a testament of the depth by which artists transform tragedy, crafting beauty from the dust of despair.

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Suchu Dance at Jacob’s Pillow

Photo by John Ferguson

Dancing outside is such a profound experience I wonder why it isn’t part of our dance going habits more often. At the Pillow, watching dance against the dramatic backdrop of the Berkshire mountains and lush forests happens at 6:15 every Wednesday through Saturday on the Inside/Out Stage.

Last week, I caught Jennifer Nugent of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in I’d Go Out With You. Nugent moves with same agile fluidly as the breeze moving across the stage. As the week went on, I took in performances by Amy Marshall Dance Company, students from the Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program and  Zach Morris and Tom Pearson ofThird Rail Projects. The Pillow has embarked on an ambitious Save the Stage campaign.

By next summer, a new stage will be in place. I can’t fuss enough about the sheer splendor of witnessing great dance in the great outdoors. It’s such a reminder of how deeply dance tethers to the natural world. After Morris and Pearson’s dancers scampered about the rocks in time with the music, I watched a gaggle of wiggly children rush into the space recently blessed by dance.

Leave it to joy seeking little ones to know sacred ground when they see it.

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Photo by Christopher Duggan; Lighting design by Nicholas Phillips

Jessica Tong of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Blanco

This week I’m immersed in Hubbard Street’s rich offerings, which include Ohad Naharin’s Tabula Rasa, Cerrudo’s Blanco and Deep Down Dos, and Aszure Barton’s Untouched. I had the privilege of watching Phillips in action, as both of Cerrudo’s dances virtually partner with light. On Friday night, I’ll check out the global mix masters of  The Vanaver Caravan.

Not everything is in motion here at the Pillow. An exhibit of Pilates at the Pillow includes images, footage and writings about Joseph Pilates’ time here. A 1956 Dance Magazine story by Doris Hering, caught my eye. As the frequent scribe of Dance Magazine’s Your Body column, it was fun to see the column in its earlier incarnation. Mostly, we think of dance as something that can’t be captured.

True, unless Lois Greenfield happens to be holding the camera. Lois Greenfield: Imagined Moments features an extraordinary collection of her work over the past few decades. Dance, free of choreographic constraints and created specifically for the camera, comes to life on the walls of Blake’s Barn.

It’s hard to walk around on these hallowed dance grounds and not think about all the icons who traveled these very paths. Images of founder Ted Shawn and his men dancers, along with other dance luminaries, grace the grounds. The site is a National Historic Landmark. It was even a stop on the underground railway.

Pillow history surrounds the visitor, yet the Festival is very much about what’s happening right this minute in dance. The programing is a mix of international, national and up and coming troupes, most of which are on my must-see list. I am more than halfway through my goal of watching the entire 2010 season on DVD in the Archives. Wish me luck with that.

I told many of you I would be staying in a rustic cabin with no A/C with furry wildlife about. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I stayed in a mountain home with a deck overlooking a meadow and the Berkshires. Oh well.

On Saturday, I will be in the presence of dancing hippos in Mindy Aloff’s Pillow Talk on her recent book, Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation. That may be the sum total of my wildlife experience. But I am proud to announce that I’m completely up on my Massachusetts black bear etiquette.

The Pillow is also about people. Can I help it if I hark from the best arts tribe ever? Houstonian J.R. Glover, Director of Education, filled me on the many diverse programs that happen over the summer and the outreach activities to the Berkshire community. I caught up with Caleb Teicher, a student in the Jazz/Musical Theatre Dance program, who I had interviewed years ago. It was a great joy to see what a fine dancer he has become.

I understand a tiny bit more about dance video and photography after spending time with Nel Shelby and Christopher Duggan. Veteran scholars Maura Keefe and Debra Cash made delightful colleagues. Archivist Norton Owen is a pillow treasure chest of knowledge. And, of course, it’s been terrific to hang out with the Houston contingent.

With two pre-show talks, an afternoon Pillow Talk with Hubbard Street’s director Glenn Edgerton and a post-show Q & A yet to do, it’s a dance-jammed day.

I have more to tell you, but need to dash now as my Pillow-palooza is still very much in motion.

Reprinted from Culturemap.

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