If you happened to be in the western part of Amsterdam last week, you may have seen a group of sweaty dancers gathered on some church steps, downing bananas and quinoa salads from Albert Heijn while showing off elbow bruises and nursing neck-aches with tiger balm. I was one of them.
Welcome to Chasse Studios and the Henny Jurriëns Stichting Program of 2016.
I decided to enroll in this program practically on a whim when I found it through the wonderful Dancing Opportunities website (dancers- if you don’t know it you should), and it was probably one of the best whim-based decisions I have made.
I was initially concerned that dancing for 7 hours a day, 5 days straight would kill me and how could I possibly make it through the whole week? On the contrary, I am still currently riding the wave of energy that flooded up through me throughout each day spent in the studio and I’m left aching for more.
Each morning began with a contemporary class followed by a workshop both taught by Louise Michel Jackson, focusing on Sidi Larbi/Eastman repertoire and techniques. Now let me confess something here- I have never been very acrobatic. I dance, do yoga, run, and am generally physical, but I could not for the life of me do a headstand, any kind of flip, cartwheel or crazy jump-roll thingy. The thought tends to make my stomach instantly drop to my knees and shake there.
This class, however, was different. Everything we did was approached with gentle and compassionate pushes; nothing was forced or shoved. Space was given to listen to your body, building and controlling the strength within. Louise’s focus on the contrast between the very physical and micro-gestural movement stretched us to the extremes of our bodily capacities and in turn, I began to conquer my fear and actually did my first headstand ever. For those of you doing headstands and inversions for years like it’s nothing I know that may not sound so exciting, but it’s been something I’ve been working on for a long time. I was practically convinced I would never do it and that my body just doesn’t go upside-down like others. Finally though, the breakthrough came with a quiet determination and that little voice in my head that said to me “You are doing this today. Period.” That feeling of your mind and body coming together, agreeing on something, and overcoming an obstacle is one of the major reasons I continue to dance. I don’t dance to be the best gymnast ever, but to solve these riddles and puzzles and push the limits within myself and the human body in general. I dance for teachers like Louise who give you that extra oomph that you need to get over a hump.
Does that sound cathartic? This was only the first part of each day. After a 30-minute lunch break on the studio steps (which was by the way a beautiful church converted recently into Chasse Studios) it was time to re-center and mentally prepare for Gaga class with Keren Rosenburg. Guys, another confession. I was a Gaga virgin before this. The funny thing is, the style and intention felt oddly familiar to me. Being prompted by images, metaphors and inner sensations is something I’ve been doing a while with theater, yoga and meditation. However, even though my mind felt prepared for this course, my body had no idea what was coming. The build-up of energy and awareness throughout one week of this course was incredible. Not only could I feel my own capacity expanding, but it was amazing to see the change in group dynamic as well. Our collective energy escalated until the last day we had nothing left to do but explode into a spontaneous final dance rave. Dance catharsis at it’s finest.
When people talk about information overload they usually mean a saturated brain, but in this case my body left Amsterdam feeling saturated with physical information. Ticks and swirls and rumbles and bubbles are still itching around inside my muscles and bones. What to do with this energy? Well that is exactly a dancer’s work.
Part 2 on Amsterdam coming soon! What I did when I wasn't dancing...