I had planned to do my usual workout on Saturday morning, which I am beginning to find boring due to how often I perform it. However, I heard about Open Dance Day through friends and an e-mail that I didn’t delete before reading, and I thought it sounded like a welcome change of pace for my morning routine. For someone who has little dancing experience, the thought of attending a dance class was slightly daunting. However, the day was advertised as an open, friendly environment for all dance levels, and that sounded inviting enough to me!
The class was an hour and a half long, and began with hip-hop, followed by improvisation, then modern, and finally, body massages. Jorge Piccole ’18 and Bry Newton ’16 lead the hip-hop segment of the class, teaching us steps across the floor before stringing them together in the routine. The routine was very upbeat, full of power and aggression, and very fun to move to. While the class certainly enjoyed learning the steps and the combination, the best part was the encouragement we received to add our own groove and be ourselves. Piccole and Newton emphasized the importance of feeling good and adding a piece of ourselves in the dance, and I found that keeping this in mind and incorporating it into the dance raised my confidence and happiness throughout the class.
After practicing the hip-hop combination a few times, Laura Pietropaoli ’17 took the floor and introduced the class to some improvisational dance. We formed groups of two, and while one partner provided direction, the other moved. For example, if one partner said, “dance like a leaf,” the other would move however they feel a leaf would move. The moves were completely up to the discretion of the dancer. I have never thought – or moved – in this way, and I absolutely loved it. The second type of exercise we did was of a similar nature, but instead one partner instructed the other which body part to lead with. If I told my partner, “right pinky finger,” she would lead with her right pinky, and let the movement flow through her body. The improv dancing was probably my favorite, due to the amount of freedom and the new way of thinking I experienced. It was scary, exhilarating, and interesting to improvise dancing, and I really would like to try it again.
Mary Anne Bodnar ’16 was kind enough to teach us a part of her preliminary research for her year-long modern dance thesis that she performed over Parents Weekend. “My thesis is a dance piece that explores the relationship between stand-up comedy and postmodern dance. What I showed was preliminary solo research using sound bytes from Aziz Ansari’s Netflix special ‘Live at Madison Square Garden’ and from ‘Women Who Kill,’ also a Netflix special. It will become a larger group work during the remainder of this year.”
We learned a segment of her dance that goes along to an Aziz Ansari stand-up about the troubles and anxieties that go hand in hand with pursuing someone romantically. The dance flowed very nicely, and really utilized the entirety of the stage and the body. “The choreography is intelligent, humorous, and immensely purposeful. It was elating to experience something I had just witnessed on stage in my own body, even if I didn’t have the modern dance training to satisfy its complexity,” Caleb Perlman ’19 said. We had improvised dancing to go along with a feeling, phrase, or idea, and here Bodnar had developed movements that she felt fit to what Ansari was saying. Yet, like Ansari’s words, the movements were not separate. Everything flowed so well. This also made me realize that I neither fully understood the depth and feeling of Ansari’s stand-up, nor the relationship between movements and stand-up like I thought I did. Actually doing it myself was a very different experience. I felt what Ansari was saying much more than I thought when I was simply listening to it.
The day ended with partner body-massages, which the class seemed to really enjoy. They dropped some barriers and felt very good on sore parts of the body. It was a great way to end an inclusive, educational, and enjoyable Open Dance Day. If you wish to attend one in the future, don’t worry! “Saturday was our first attempt at this event, and it definitely exceeded our expectations. We look forward to hosting more as the semester progresses,” Pietropaoli said.