Dance: A Universal Language

Dance has been one of my interests for many years, developing as a result of my experience in the field of Ballroom dancing. When I discovered that I would attend a dance performance at the New York City Center, I grew excited to have the chance to encounter a variety of dances from all over the world. Since I never heard of Fall for Dance before, I wondered which styles of dance I would be exposed to at the theatre, whether I would see traditional ones for a certain culture, examples from Latin Ballroom, or pieces of ballet/modern. Once I entered what seemed to be a compact auditorium (probably in comparison to the recently attended grand Metropolitan Opera House), I discovered that I would watch an Indian dance named Shivashtakam (An Ode to Shiva), a ballet piece called Solo, a modern number titled Locomotor, and lastly a jazz/tap routine called Myelination. After witnessing the beauty created in all four ensembles, I discovered that I enjoyed Solo and Myelination the most, the first for its ability to connect multiple dancers into a whole and the latter for its work in creating an upbeat state to finish the night on a cheerful note.

The Solo and Myelination performances generated different moods for the audience as a result of the separate rhythms they followed and the distinct emotions presented through body movements. Solo, the second dance of the evening, was a piece choreographed by Helgi Tomasson and Hans van Manen that essentially featured three male ballet dancers appearing on stage one at a time, possibly explaining why the dance was titled Solo. The dancers exhibited gentle, fluid movements that were presented in harmony with Johann Sebastian Bach’s Violin Suite No.1. While watching the swift, yet calming, performance, I found it interesting how each dancer was seen individually, yet a common thread was present among them due to the continuous music that played in the background. Additionally, each dancer displayed his individuality by presenting several novel improvisations while also maintaining many common elements of a typical ballet. For example, all three performed variations of three-hundred sixty degree ballet turns, but one dancer added his own touch when he simulated a Ballroom-style twist by moving forward at a brisk pace while keeping his legs together as one whole and another created a semicircle shape above the podium by moving his hands across the stage to help him form an upright position and then uncurling backwards. Although this section was shorter than the others viewed that evening, I appreciated that, within a small amount of time, I was able to sense the stories the dancers were aiming to tell from the emotions they presented through their body movements, such as the ones described. Once this piece was coming to an end, the three members began to dance together in synchrony, highlighting that they were always a part of one ensemble yet had many personal characteristics that made them unique. The performance of Myelination, though, did not focus on body fluidity as much as done in Solo. Presented as the final dance of the evening, the Myelination routine was choreographed by Michelle Dorrance and involved a large group of both male and female tap dancers. As I later discovered, the name of this piece was distinctive to this style of dance since myelination in science refers to a faster transmission of nerve impulses due to the formation of a myelin sheath around a nerve. Similarly, the faster the dancers were able to move their feet, the more frequently their tap shoes hit the stage and thus a quicker beat was heard. Therefore, unlike the gentle music heard in Solo, Myelination involved a radiating rhythm from the tap dancing, whether performed individually or by the entire group of performers involved in this routine. Consequently, I was incessantly engaged in Myelination and was amazed by the ability of the dancers to create a cheerful environment using their swift, talented feet. I appreciated that this production number lasted for a long period of time because I desired to hear more rhythm combinations from the tap dancers to detect the multiple patterns produced. The placement of this piece as the last one for the night left the audience members engaged and filled with great energy.

After attending Fall for Dance at the New York City Center, I further comprehended how each style of dance varies from one another but, at the same time, is connected by one element: the unification of people from multiple backgrounds. Regardless of the origin of the dancers or the nationalities of the audience members, each spectator was able to understand the stories presented by the dancers because they were shared through one language- dance. As displayed by Solo and Myelination, each type of dance differs by body movements and accompanying music displayed, but, together, these variations create the beauty of the art of dance.

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