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Dancers: Sometimes puzzling onstage, but graceful in life

By on March 1, 2018 in Arts with 0 Comments

“People are seeing dance as more accessible,” said Andrea.

By Susan Lagsdin

“So, do you notice how people move — out on the street, all around you?”

Dancer and dance instructor Andrea Locke fielded this question with a positive, “Oh yes!”

Her special interest in kinesthetics, the science of body movement, makes her a keen observer of those behaviors that might make our chiropractors wince. (Upon request she even corrected, with gentle tone and gentler touch, a few elements of this interviewer’s standing posture).

She can also readily tell when someone is using their core efficiently, moving their body mass with the correct muscles. “I saw Star Wars the other night,” she said, “And as soon as I saw Rey lift up that staff-thing, I said ‘that’s a ballet dancer.’ A little martial arts, maybe, but definitely a background in ballet.”

Her body-knowledge — when she’s mindful of it, she admits — also colors her own posture and actions. “I can tell when I’ve carried my kids around, with my back bowed — or when I’ve sat too long at the computer… everything’s out of line.” She does know how to ease the pinch.

Because Andrea teaches seven evening classes at Fabulous Feet dance studio every week, she’s in a perfect position to help young dancers, and one small class of adults, use their bodies well.

She said, “At this studio we all have different backgrounds and bring a slightly different way of thinking, of describing things, to the accepted progression of skills — that’s why it’s probably a good idea in any art or sport to mix it up a little, try different coaches with different approaches.”

Two students at Fabulous Feet dance a piece choreographed by Andrea Locke at the Spring 2017 showcase.

Her personal emphasis within the ballet curriculum is on safety and longevity.

She gave an example. “On a leg lift, I’ll see a girl using her big outer quads, thigh muscles, when that actually can cause tension and restrict movement. I’ll ask her instead to utilize her glutes and hips in a kind of rotation to do the heavy lifting and just use the quads for support…” Her brief demonstration looked effortless and smooth.

And that’s as it should be.

Andrea took classical ballet lessons for years in the Tri Cities, but like many little girls-turned-teens who’ve studied and performed in that time-honed tradition, she discovered a whole new dance emphasis when she went to college.

Her University of Idaho dance program concentrated on contemporary dance — new moves, new aesthetic, new artistic vocabulary. After grad school she was proficient in both genres and in 2011 brought vigorous and varied experience, and a teaching degree, to Wenatchee.

Her thrice-weekly dance classes, her job as a medical assistant in women’s health, her two children ages 2 and 5 and her husband Mike’s busy schedule as the Performing Art Center’s tech director give Andrea little time for the pleasures of on-stage dance performance.

“But,” she said, “I was in Le Cage Aux Folles last summer — it was a lot of fun! And the last Follies, and Holiday Spice…” She said she’d love to dance more, but stage opportunities are almost non-existent.

That led to an observation that any city this size can ably foster adult actors, writers, musicians and visual artists (with groups like Music Theatre of Wenatchee, Write On The River, The Wenatchee Symphony and Two Rivers Gallery, for instance) but very few have adult dance companies. Typically, concentrated dance instruction and dance performance seem to stop short after high school.

Andrea mused, “I think there’s a very deeply ingrained cultural view that dancing, especially ballet, is kind of elitist … the tutu, the pointe shoes, Swan Lake — they evoke a certain archaic image. But at least ballet tells a story.

“As for ‘modern dance,’ well, that’s often perceived as dark, odd, maybe too intellectual or abstract, too uncomfortable in its themes.”

But times are changing, she said. “Gradually those old attitudes are opening up — people are seeing dance as more accessible, and realize that even when it carries a message, it can be fun, whimsical.”

She’s also realistic about the performing arts. “Frankly, it costs a lot of money to run any performance company, even with volunteers: flooring, lights, sets, costumes, publicity, royalties… and people need to buy tickets for it to exist. Audiences understand plays; they are sometimes puzzled by dance. It’s not a familiar language.”

Even knowing the difficulties, she said someday she would like to start a small community dance company — adults only — for instruction and performance. “But I’d keep my day job,” she said.” I love my work.”

Helping women with their personal health, teaching dancers to be safe as well as proficient, maybe dancing again under the lights — Andrea anticipates some good years coming up.

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