This season, as you do your Christmas shopping or brainstorm gift ideas for your loved ones, take a moment to realize that, as a dancer, you already have a gift to share. It’s not a tangible object or something materialized. You can’t wrap it up and put a bow on top either. But it does bring people so much joy. It is the “gift of dance”. And you, the dancer or teacher or choreographer, the bearer of this gift, are able to share so much beauty and celebration with the world.
Here, Dance Informa speaks with several dance figures on what the “gift of dance” means for them, and how we can all share our gifts and joy of dance, especially when days can sometimes seem bleak. You, too, can help bring some merriment to others this season!
What does the ‘gift of dance’ mean to you?
Joseph Kudra, BODYTRAFFIC dancer
“The ‘gift of dance’ for me is very hard to put into words. It is a feeling. I began dancing at the age of nine after seeing a performance of the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago’s Nutcracker. I was overcome with a feeling of joy as I watched all the children onstage during the party scene, and I wanted to feel what they were all feeling. Dance, for me, has always been driven by my emotions. If I ever was feeling any sense of stress, dance would bring joy and calm to me. Now as I grow older, that ‘feeling’ has many definitions, but, simply put, the ‘gift of dance’ is that overwhelming feeling of joy and peace. It may last the duration of a performance or even just 30 seconds, but it is a feeling that I crave. Recently, I have discovered that just being myself has allowed me to share the gift of dance with others, just as the children in The Nutcracker unknowingly shared their gift of dance with me.”
Carrie Ellmore-Tallitsch, principal dancer with Martha Graham Dance Company
“The gift of dance has allowed me to gain the experience and knowledge of my teachers and their teachers. Through this practice, I have been able to attain my own voice and artistic outlet in this world. Sharing this with others is the ultimate sharing of self to others. I share the gift of dance through teaching, creating dances and performing.”
Brandon Cournay, rehearsal director/dancer with KEIGWIN + COMPANY
“Dance has been the focus of my whole life, which makes the gift of dance very personal to me. I share the gift of dance by interacting with others. I take great pride in passing on the information former teachers and mentors have bestowed onto me, as well as investigating new ways of sharing the joy of dance, whether it be through teaching, rehearsing or collaborating.”
Vanessa Salgado, CONTINUUM Contemporary/Ballet dancer and creator of Crafterina®
“The art of dance has the ability to lift spirits, inspire and is moving proof it is possible to bring imagination to life. It is a gift with priceless value. I feel so lucky to have been introduced to dance at such an early age. So many joys – practicing in beautiful studios to live music, experiencing the feeling of performing in front of a live audience, making lifelong friends – the arts continue to enrich my life! Understanding the value of dance education, a few years ago I had a light bulb moment. I decided to combine my background in performance and teaching to illustrate a series of dance education tools for families. The result of that idea is Crafterina, a multi-faceted learning experience in dance. Designed to spark the imagination and inspire movement, Crafterina is a resource for families to better understand the value and joys of learning in the arts with their young dancer.”
Helen Simoneau, artistic director and choreographer of Helen Simoneau Danse
“The gift of dance to me is to share a real time present moment with your audience. To be vulnerable enough to impart a genuine experience, which in turn encourages the witness to be present in their own body. It’s an intangible sensation that is hard to describe but is felt and, when it happens, is really powerful.”
David Fernandez, choreographer and ballet teacher based in New York City
“I received the gift of dance from people who gave me the opportunity to dance. Like my first ballet teacher who gave me a scholarship to dance! Or when I did an audition and got the job. It felt like a gift every time. A similar thing happens when a dancer agrees to dance for me. It’s a gift that they give me their time and support. As a dancer, I always felt that by performing my best I can give some kind of gift to the audience. As a choreographer, all I want to do is give the audience a great moment. As a teacher, I love to give the joy of dance to my students. Yes, we work hard on the technical stuff, but, most importantly, we have fun. So the gift of dance, for me, is in many things. You just have to be open to enjoy dance and share your passion with everyone.”
How can we all share our gifts this holiday season?
“I strongly feel that gifts are innate in all of us, and by simply being true to your emotions, you are sharing your gifts with others. We can all share by being genuine and really looking at the person we want to give to and ask, ‘What do they need, and how can I give it?’, and, in the most simple of ways, give to that person. Gifts are great, and I love presents, but some of the best gifts I have been given I cannot even begin to put into words.”
“It’s a lot more meaningful to give the gift of a shared experience. Take someone out to see a performance with you! Introduce them to an artist you are excited to see.”
“Throw a holiday dance party! Everyone can celebrate the season by busting a move on the dance floor.”
“For dancers, I have this idea: Give a dancer a 10-ballet class card. Give a dancer three pairs of pointe shoes of their preference. Give a dancer a gift card from Yumiko. Give a dancer tickets to a dance show of their preference. Give a dancer a full scholarship. Give a dancer a partial scholarship – they will take it. Give a dancer bobby pins. Give a dancer hair bands. Give a choreographer a donation to the next project that he/she doesn’t even know he’s going to do, but your donation could spark an idea. Choreograph a piece, film it, and dedicate it to your parents and family members.”
“Perhaps teaching a workshop or class, or encouraging others to express themselves through movement – professional or non-professional – can give the gift of accomplishment and confidence.”
“Holiday traditions are joyful signatures of families. They provide a common experience rooted in positivity that have the ability to inspire and recharge our lives. This holiday season, I would encourage adding dance to the festivities. Whether it is leading a dance lesson, sharing videos of a recent dance performance, or making choreography with your cousins, this addition can spark happiness, increase interaction, and will make the merriment even livelier! If dancing is not your familiy’s forte, consider incorporating other forms of art into the mix. Play music, make holiday crafts, or cook meals together. By creating art this holiday season, you share not only who you are but in turn automatically invite others to embrace the same – and that is truly a gift!”
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Laura Morton. Photography by Richard Calmes.