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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Last Dance

     Last night, May 5, I attended a “dismantling” party at 1940 Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis.  A crowd of over 100 people, made up of modern dancers, choreographers, musicians, and dance supporters, joined together to celebrate Heidi Hauser Jasmin and her husband Paul Jasmin, who have operated the Nancy Hauser Dance Dance Company and School in this space for 26 years.  The three-story building, which was being leased to several non-profit organizations, is currently in the process of being dismantled and repurposed.  Rumors have it that the street level space, formerly occupied by Burch Pharmacy, will become a steak house.  The intended purpose of the second and third levels of the building is not yet clear. 
     What is clear is that the ample studio space was a place for creative work by many artists for over a quarter of a century.  Last night, the third floor was alive with dancers and musicians who collaborated on one final improvisation that lasted four hours.  Heidi’s brothers, Michael and Tony Hauser, played guitar in the reception area while jazz band Aurora Club jammed in the main studio.  Energizing the space were dance artists of all ages who glided barefoot across these worn wooden planks for the last time.
     I dedicate the following poems to this glorious studio and to the people who inhabited it.  From them I learned the language of dance.

Begin Like This

Performed at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco in 2000
You cannot dialogue about dance.
Not in tone-on-tone rooms
not within undersized budgets
not on four-color glossy paper
not around pinstripe suits
not under the table
not over coffee hot, martinis
dry or wringing wet.

You cannot dialogue about dance.
You will twist your tongue parch
your throat trying.  So dare you
not speak about lifts and turns;
swings and grand plies’; about rotated
spirals; full-body vibrations;
half curves and glides; leaps and slides

Because you cannot dialogue about dance.
Instead we must be primal instinct, molecules
of e-motion, a flesh-and-blood symphony, body
instruments that bang and twang, staccato
and sustain.  Allegro moderato, adagio largo,
bouree’ and presto, andante expressivo. 

You cannot dialogue about dance.
Jazz it up with harmonic scales, diminished
fifths, three chords, dis-chords, re-chords.
Breathe.  Fast like a starling in mid-flight,
slow as a monk mediating on Monk.  Breathe,
sassy and brassy as a strumpet or saxophone.
Like Duncan, like Wigman, like Hauser, like
Graham, Ailey and Tharp: one dance, one breath,
changing times, strident rhythms.

You cannot dialogue about dance.
Find a space; ride a rhythm, start a phrase.
Begin like this: solo, duet, trio, quartet.
Count like this: four for nothing 4-3-2-1.
One and two and three and four PAUSE 5-6-7-8.  Again.
One and two and three and four PAUSE 5-6-7-8.

Move your groove, slide your glide, extend your suspend,
bump your jump, swim your spin, burn your turn,
reverb your curve, rift your lift, libate your vibrate,
gyro your spiral, melee your plie’, swing your thing ‘cause... 

You cannot dialogue about dance.

 Sandra Bestland  ©1996

The Soloist
Sestina for Dance                                                                              

She stretches her lithe muscles backstage.
The lights dim, signaling show time
and cueing the audience to silence.  Music
is scored as she marks the darkened space:
she is keen to solo across the wooden floor.
Heart and hand, life and limb, she is here to dance.

Isadora cast off corset and button-top shoes for Dance.
She unfettered herself, tress and soul, for the stage.
Her body was pigment and paintbrush, the floor
her canvas, Life her palette.  Hers was a time
of suffrage and prohibition, war and peace.  The space
she traveled was altered by body music,

shocking all.  Isadora Duncan moved to rebel music
painting a self-portrait, a language without words.  Dancer
singular, she freed herself to move in space,
untying the whalebone, unbinding her solar plexus.  Stage
struck, she was fresh, she was flirty, she was timeless.
In her footsteps, the Soloist moves across the floor.

Proscenium lights up and scrim lowered to the floor,
the Soloist suspends, spins, and shakes to the music.
She undulates, capitulates, modulates in 4/4 time
to rhythms that merge and converge in a dance
birthed an eon ago.  The animated stage
resonates with past performance in this space:

many have sweat and wept in this space,
have strewn sinew and soul across the floor.
Floating and falling, leaping and lunging onstage,
dance is an allegory of body music. 
Her dance
is the dialect of a soul that never marks time.

No smooth waltzer, she solos funk time,
with no partner, subject, object or verb.  Her space
is built from Grace, a place where she dances
energized e-motion.  She uses the floor
to defy gravity, to buoy her body in music.
This she does for art.  This she does alone onstage.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who used the floor
to move mystic through space, to groove to body music.
She spoke modern dance.  She soloed center stage.

Sandra Bestland © 2007