Dance Generators at Ruth's Table: Much more than a story about dance

I'd like to share my experience dancing at the Dance Generators workshop on Saturday, October 6th.

We met in the Ruth's Table gallery space – young, old, disabled, novice dancers, professional dancers – all of us getting to know one another through the power of art and through the medium of dance.

 

1. The Instructor

First, about our instructor, Natalie Greene, dancer, choreographer, Director of Dance Generators Program, an inter-generational dance company based at University of San Francisco that has made Ruth's Table its home away from home.

Natalie's approach to teaching combines warm-up movements to relax the body, humor to lighten the atmosphere, and improvisation and  storytelling to choreograph dances. Her loose, welcoming style creates a playful place where people of all abilities feel safe trying new things around new people.

Natalie is part of a team of caring, creative instructors teaching at Ruth's Table. These instructors create a safe, non-judgmental environment, one that inspires everyone to make art, -- whether with their bodies, their hands or their voices.

 

2. The Subject

Even in dance, having a subject unifies the group. It creates a thread for what otherwise might appear as disparate movements. Natalie chose water for ours. She told her own story about growing up in Arizona, about how precious water is in a desert, and about the delight of a summer thunderstorm's rain. Following Natalie's lead, we then went around the circle sharing our own stories about water.

Sharon shared the feeling of stepping into a warm bath; Yope recalled a moment from childhood when he wanted to save bees from drowning in puddles in his backyard-- how the desire to save them overrode his fear of getting stung; Penny told a story of growing up in the country and pumping water from a well for her family, then walking back and forth – from house to well, and well to house – with a heavy, brimming bucket; but perhaps the most touching story came from Elizabeth, she recounted the last time she swam in a pool without crutches and the sense of freedom that water gave her legs.

We converted each story into movements. Then after each story, we practiced the movement as a group, adding it on to the movements of the preceding story, and as we continued around the room, the movements, the stories and sounds, worked their way into a sequence – a dance, but also an exercise on retention.

 

3. The Result

Along the way, as stories were shared, miraculous things happened – Roxanne divulged she’d been a dancer long ago and in perfect step started dancing the hula. Joan, the woman who had suffered many strokes, began moving her hips; her stare relaxed, and she trusted her partner Eric to lead her through the steps.

Everyone took turns dancing with Elizabeth. At one point, with the biggest smile across her face, she stood up from her wheelchair, and with the help of her crutches, she moved with each one of partners freely throughout the gallery.

Looking around the room, I could see that all our bodies and faces were open and energized. We wouldn't have met any other circumstances than under Ruth's Table's roof. And together, we created a beautiful dance that at its core serves as an example of the very best Ruth's Table has to offer.

 

--Lola Fraknoi

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