The Freedom To Move
SpectorDance presents a week-long celebration of a new kind of dance.
Thursday, May 23, 2002
Photo by Randy Tunnell; Charles Anderson, who danced with the New York City Ballet before launching the Moving Arts Dance Company in San Francisco, is guest choreographer for Monterey Dance Week 2002.
The building isn''t anything special from the outside. The sun shines down on a structure that, other than the high windows, could easily be mistaken for a warehouse. The parking lot isn''t full. It would be easy to miss if it weren''t the only building on its street that could, conceivably, be a dance studio.
Inside, it becomes clear that Fran Spector Atkins has a vision for her dance school. SpectorDance/Marina opened January 20, setting out to bring something new to the Monterey Peninsula dance scene.
Combining dance with literature, multimedia, and drama, Spector Atkins intends to help bolster self-esteem in youth and enrich the community. She sees dance as a way of reaching out to people and making them think-maybe of changing the world. She''s been a professional dancer and teacher for 30 years, after receiving her Masters in Fine Arts from Mills College. She did post grad work at the Laban Centre of Movement Analysis in London, and has had her own schools in Manhattan''s SoHo district and in Cleveland, Ohio. Spector Atkins has been on the faculty of CSUMB since 1996, and has produced seven works in that time.
Spector Atkins shows her stuff this year with the second annual Monterey Dance Week 2002.
This year''s featured guest, Charles Anderson, is formerly of the New York City Ballet, and currently is the artistic director of the Moving Arts Dance Company in San Francisco. The festival includes two performances choreographed by Anderson: Moving Arts Company dancers will perform Hush, with music by Bobby McFerrin and Yo Yo Ma, and dancers from SpectorDance will perform a piece called Early Evening Bacchanal, with music by Rossini.
Master classes, offered as part of the festival from May 26 through June 1, will be presented by a number of teachers representing varied dance styles, including Laurence Pech, director of Laurence Pech Dance company (formerly of the San Francisco Ballet); UCSC professor Mel Wong (who performed with the Merce Cunningham troupe); Ronnie Reddick, a Bay Area hip hop dancer; and Charles Anderson himself.
Just inside the door of the studio, the place feels almost holy. Light streams through those high windows, giving the people and things in the room a luminous quality. When the room is empty, it echoes, one can imagine, with the action that takes place here. When the room is full of dancers, though, is when the magic really happens. At a rehearsal for the upcoming Monterey Dance Week, dancers move in a large-scale piece that is quick-paced and mischievous. The dancers move with the expected grace and precision; the footwork is fast and intense; the emphasis seems to be on strength and power rather than on pristine beauty. The girls dancing this piece look healthy and strong, unlike the stereotype of the starving ballerina. Instead, the girls seem comfortable in their bodies.
SpectorDance engenders this sort of confidence, as does the guest direction of Charles Anderson. He also goes against type; not the stern, domineering sort the phrase "ballet choreographer" calls to mind.
Anderson is in his mid-thirties, and reflects a youthful freshness and flexibility of style. His manner of instruction is inspired; he seems to be able to get into the minds of his students as he somewhat humorously tells a group of girls who aren''t keeping up: "You''ve learned all of it badly instead of some of it well."
Anderson can even copy the dancers'' mistakes. The girls'' eyes may roll a bit, but one can see them getting the point, and they respond with fresh attack and the perceivable will to please. His choreography is fresh and interesting to watch, and the dancers seem thrilled to be carrying it out.
Another exciting feature of this year''s festival is the Emerging Choreographers Showcase, "a special showing of innovative works by new talent" designed to show off the work of lesser-known choreographers. This promises to be a favorite part of Dance Week.
The style of ballet featured in Early Evening Bacchanal is, to say the least, atypical of what one might expect of ballet. Spector Atkins describes the style as being influenced by Russian styles and the work of George Balanchine-a faster paced, much more high-intensity dance that still manages to be elegant.
"We need things larger than ourselves to give our lives a kind of direction," says Spector Atkins. "There''s too much noise in the world. People don''t have a chance to go inside themselves-dance allows one to be in touch with the higher self."
Girls accustomed to ballet school auditions that resemble cattle calls, where they are examined closely and told to lose ten pounds, find a wholly different vibe at SpectorDance. The importance here is of individual strength lending itself to a group synergy-watching the 25 dancers, some as young as elementary-school age, come together to present a coherent and elegant piece; the cookie-cutter ideal of the joyless ballerina is again broken. This group is made strong by its diversity, not its uniformity.
One is reminded, then, that dance at its most pure is a form of communication, a process of action and reaction feeding into one another to create a smooth and dynamic message. They get their point across.
Monterey Dance Week takes place from May 26 through June 1 at the SpectorDance Studio and Performance Space, 3343 Paul Davis Drive, Marina. Call 384-1050 or visit www.spectordance.org.