Shooting fireworks out of our sternums

Longing. Yearning. Delight. Sadness. All emotions that a dancer has to convey. It is not easy to concentrate on dancing and acting at the same time, to not make that concentrating-on-the-next-move face, but professionals have to. Whether it is improvising if a prop is in your way (as Steven McMahon had to do in a rehearsal for George and Betty’s House, part of Family Matters), or showing excitement or conflict or whatever emotion the piece calls for at that moment, a dancer must be on it. It is not something you often think about with ballet dancers, but if you ever attend a Ballet Memphis show you have seen it in play.

Dorothy Gunther Pugh used to teach us to “shoot fireworks out of our sternums” as we danced. She didn’t mean to arch your back or stick your chest out, but she spoke of another almost indefinable quality of the body in ballet. A gracefulness, an engaged face, a body and spirit completely in the moment. Fireworks are what it takes.

Posted by Joan Biddle at 10:05 AM
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