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Charise M. Hoge
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Thanks for letting me know, Kathleen. At times I felt I was going out on a limb (no pun intended, but there's that language of the body creeping in), so it's good to hear how much you enjoyed these posts. Best, Charise
Dance is ephemeral while poetry has a chance to live on the page. But there are aspects of dance that I’d like to see happen in poetry––like gliding in and out of the wings of the stage, changing levels, and partnering. (My partner here is Edward Franklin, from a Michelle Ava AVAdance production, photo by Beatriz Paez.) Collaborative poetry, such as some of the prompts of “Next Line, Please”, lends itself to a written type of partnering. Someone may be able to point out poetry that exits the page and returns with a different dynamic shape, or, at least, has that effect. Currently I’m experimenting with the idea of creating “moving poems”, where I am my poem moving. It all started with a sixteen-count phrase improvised during practice for a collaborative choreography project. The prompt for movement had to do with an inner darkness coming to light. There was little time to think about my response, but in hindsight, that sixteen-count phrase correlated to a four line poem I’d already written. The two coalesced in an understanding of a parallel expression––and, in fact, both the poem and the performance debuted in July 2017, via publication and show, respectively. Why not combine these modes of expression simultaneously? Let the dancer dancing be the poet speaking her poem. Or rather, let the dancer speaking her poem be the poet dancing. There’s that lovely blur again, how we began this conversation about dance and poetry on Monday, January 15. There’s no end to that conversation, but to bring it to a close for now, here are three requests: 1. Can we bask in a blurring of lines to refine our sharp divisions and definitions? This is the edge that creativity brings us to. 2. There are many voices both in dance and poetry that deserve attention. My top five favorite companies in contemporary dance are: Ohad Naharin, Inbal Pinto, Pina Bausch, Mark Morris, and Alvin Ailey. This is a must-see list. But there are lesser known companies and choreographers to discover––just like the writing scene. You can't find all you may want to read from a bookstore or library. There's so much more that hasn't made it there. Go to other venues, poetry readings, online forums. Likewise, see what is going on in your local dance community and the performing arts. 3. Go ahead, find your own groove to move––however you interpret that! Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
“It’s a good thing to turn your mind upside down now and then, like an hour-glass, to let the particles run the other way”––Christopher Morley Similes are the stuff of…yoga. In a given yoga class, you can liken to a tree, an eagle, a fish. How about a rabbit that will thread a needle? What of a cobra who springs from a child? This isn’t the domain of Lewis Carroll. These are all transitions. Without transition there would be no change. So this is how I see yoga: as a way of learning how to tolerate change. No matter how welcome, any change moves us out of a comfortable status quo. Of the unlikely places I have led a weekly yoga class, the most memorable is the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, for their staff. With my social work mentality, I viewed this endeavor as a community outreach program, where the organization benefits because the employees benefit. By their own account, participants who gave up their lunch break once a week for yoga found it easier to concentrate on their work afterward. How to impart what occurred there, an hour a week, in a classroom on the lower level of the Museum, is the stuff of…similes. My witnesses, my quoted sources, in order as they appear in the following paragraph are: William Wordsworth, W.S. Merwin, Emily Dickinson, and T.S. Eliot. All yogis, no doubt. We become receptive as water, not only the gentleness of its fluidity, but also like a wave's crash that breaks the surface of the harshness of the world––that is “too much with us; late and soon”––coming up for air––“does your air remember you o breath of morning”––that breathes into us, composes us into spirals like a nautilus, the unwinding of those chambers reminded of a further reach, we stand––“and then, if we are true to plan, our statures touch the skies”––by balancing, we seem to fly, like a wiser Icarus who learns the trick of a modicum of fire, we warm to a warrior stride, ultimately surrendering our defense, to the earth we bow and then align in humble repose––“at the still point of the turning world”. This description is not something I would ever put on a resume. But it’s true. “Writing is like trying to ride a horse which is constantly changing beneath you, Proteus changing while you hang on to him. You have to hang on for dear life, but not hang on so hard that he can't change and finally tell you the truth.”––Peter Elbow Continue reading
Posted Jan 18, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
We are civilized, and we take our seats––a lot. Many of us are compensating for all this sitting by working out. We task our bodies to exercise, all in the quest for balance and fitness. It’s a noble quest, yet…what is our relationship with our embodied selves? I had the great fortune to study SynergyDance, also known as “Dance as a Healing Art” with founder Charmaine Lee, after a stint overseas where I had taken leave of my senses––no, my roots in dance, to be a social worker. Charmaine’s Class "Do you want to be mechanical, or move with spirit?" she shouted across the DC studio all the way from South Africa where outspoken against the machinery of Apartheid too soon too loud once exiled she chooses this motherland of dance. In her classes, the interplay of yoga and cultural dance with the five elements of earth, air, fire, water, and ether (potential) allowed for new pathways to distribute vital energy. This was not about being a better dancer or more fit, but being open, fluid, and challenged to move in ways contrary to habit. People were having a fabulous time, and I had never seen so much joy in one room from people of all strata of society––writers, mothers, drummers, chefs, flight attendants, therapists, business owners––dancing. And this was not the sixties. It was the nineties, in the capital of the U.S., the seat of government. Back to “seat”, have your shoulders been hunched for a while? Has your breath been shallow? Please take a moment to lean back and stretch your arms (which also expands your chest), circle your wrists, shake your hands, tilt your head to one side and the other, tune in to sensation. We become numb in our relationship to the body for the sake of functioning, to be efficient as well as productive. But we aren’t machines. Watching Aboriginal dance in Australia (during my travels in 2014) is a vivid reminder. You don’t have to be in the studio or gym to pay attention to what is happening in your body and to resource your self. Your well-being is, well, being. The tendency is to compartmentalize: to take care of ourselves at certain times in certain settings, and at other times to be neglectful. We are at risk of losing our sensual, essential human nature––which is what connects us as a species. Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Well said! Yes, spectators have a mirror experience of the dancer they are watching (sometimes referred to as kinesthetic empathy) in their own bodies. Same must be true for the audience of a poem. Nureyev or Baryshnikov––what an impossible choice!
People have signature moves, which collapses the argument that you can’t or don’t dance. There’s a proscenium that is not a dance floor––it’s wherever you exist in space, with weight, timing and energy. Rudolph Laban codified these four aspects of human movement in his theory of Effort/Shape: use of space is indirect or direct, sense of weight is strong or light, timing is quick or sustained, flow is free or bound. During my dance therapy graduate studies at NYU, we hit the pavement in Greenwich Village to watch people walk and do ordinary things––through the lens of Laban’s theory. Later, we would apply this lens to special populations in places like Bellevue Hospital, Bronx Psychiatric Center, and the Lighthouse for the Blind. Charles Simic observes like a dance therapist in this poem (from Classic Ballroom Dances published by George Braziller): Classic Ballroom Dances Grandmothers who wring the necks Of chickens; old nuns With names like Theresa, Marianne, Who pull schoolboys by the ear; The intricate steps of pickpockets Working the crowd of the curious At the scene of an accident; the slow shuffle Of the evangelist with a sandwich board; The hesitation of the early-morning customer Peeking through the window grille Of a pawnshop; the weave of a little kid Who is walking to school with eyes closed; And the ancient lovers, cheek to cheek, On the dance floor of the Union Hall, Where they also hold charity raffles On rainy Monday nights of an eternal November. Coincidentally, the poem’s first verb “wring” is one of Laban’s eight “Efforts”, characterized by indirect, sustained, strong and bound movement. Germane as it is to human action, it can also be laden with emotion. In a written scenario, it gives a visceral response. And what about the Flamenco version of “wring” in this photo of my friend Gabriela Granados, director of American Bolero Dance Company­­? Look through the technique and virtuosity of the art form––the expressivity that is dance has subtle beginnings, inherent to being human. Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
My pleasure!
It's a haunting melody. And seeing these movements out of the context of the classical music (and story) they're usually paired with is so interesting––it works.
How does a poet know how to phrase writing? How does a dancer know how to phrase movement? In a turning point of enjambment the phrase hangs in mid-air…this sounds like dance, and this is poetry. The poetic term enjambment comes from the French “jambe” for “leg”. Lines have legs. They reach and extend. If you’re beginning to experience a blurring of poetry and dance, this is my intention. The vocabulary of both includes: line, phrase, rhythm, sequence, punctuation, spacing, form, narrative, and so on. There’s the blank page and the empty stage. The oft quoted “dance is poetry in motion” could be inverted as “poetry is dance motioned into word”. As for those opening questions, they aren’t exactly rhetorical but they are akin to trying to solve a mystery. The best answer I can give is: attention to timing and artistry of creating suspense. Other poets have taught me, by their example, the brilliance of a line without an end stop, a comma or period. And choreographers have demonstrated during rehearsals, calling out, “no stopping, don’t let it stop”. The feeling of sustainment as a dancer is sublime––it’s like the breath that hovers around a dangling phrase of a poem, until continuation allows the exhalation of completion. When you watch the great ballet dancer Nureyev on archival footage (I did see him once live, near the end of his career), you will see that his phrasing is relaxed within the demands of his craft, and full of surprise. Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Jan 14, 2018