On Friday, June 12, 2020, Richard Bryant, Exec Director of the Musco Center for the Arts at Chapman University so aptly introduced the first in a series of online conversations entitled “Ever A Dancer” a wonderful look at the artists and stories presented “@ The Musco’s Online Series.”
In Bryant’s impassioned intro, he often recognized the strength and grace that is a dancer. However, when asked …dancers often reply, “No, I used to be a dancer.” However Bryant’s retort…”Once a dancer, always a dancer. Dance is unique. It requires no words … it’s universal, and often reveals the feelings and issues of our time.” This intro and an hour and 15 minutes of revelation was not only historically compelling with personal stories and videos, but communicated the passion and dedication the guests have for their art as they unfolded their individual experiences.
To begin the evening, the wonderfully articulate and knowledgeable Musco Moderator, Napoleon Gladney, whose intelligent questions helped to dig deeply into the lives and memories of the two guest artists. Dancer/Teacher, Sean Greene, Bella Lewitzky’s company member from 1968 -1987, has performed, taught and inspired dancers worldwide. Liz Maxwell, Associate Professor specializing in teaching somatic disciplines, modern dance techniques, dance history, and choreography has extensive knowledge and connections to our great Modern Choreographers of the 20th Century.
Greene’s insights into Lewitzky’s deeply held beliefs and sense of ethics, profoundly connected him to her work and life which she passed down to her dancers by example. Greene brought up an incident where the dancers worked so hard to deliver the piece she thought she wanted. After performing the piece, she congratulated the dancers on doing a wonderful job. However, she hated the piece itself…and they never performed it again.
Gladney then asked the provocative question: Were there any people or moments that pushed you as a creator?
Maxwell brought up a piece by Donald Byrd about bullying, which made her experience deeply personal experiences with the company’s constant harassment, yelling and hurtling insults at her while dancing. She recalled it was strange to be a victim of the piece and the soloist at the same time. She said that it affects her even today.
Gladney then brought up the difference between political dance then and now and asked what the differences were.
Greene said it was like apples and oranges…he is keenly aware of the dynamic changes and reactions today and has never seen this kind of swell of reaction. He brought up earlier experiences in the South as a young boy; and Bella’s decision not to bring an all white company to Africa to perform without any black performers. Greene passionately brought forward his experiences that were indwelled in his mind forever. Dance is poetry and it “Moves me.” It’s individual, honest, visionary. In viewing it, there’s no need to hold signs up. Artists show in a poetic way. In Lewitzky’s PIETA, when the piece was done, the audience was so stunned it made no sound for what seemed like a long time, it was so moving.
It is clear that dance reaches deeply into the soul. The depth of experience that was shared on Friday is valuable not only for dancers and students, but lay folk. This type of programming is so vital. It’s important exposure and insightful for all to enjoy and be moved. Make sure to watch this informative presentation on YouTube: HERE. Watch for the next “Ever A Dancer” at Musco Center for the Arts. It’s worth a regular watch. It is interesting and insightful programming, done with care and passion for dance. As Napoleon Gladney reminded us, remember, “You are Ever A Dancer.”
Written by Joanne DiVito for LADC, June 15, 2020.
Featured image: Liz Maxwell – Screen shot from Ever A Dancer @ The Musco – Courtesy of Musco Center for the Arts