The Power of Connecting Through Dancing

Helping nondancers tap into their bodies’ expressive powers has inspired choreographer Delisa Myles, who recently took a leave of absence from teaching at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona, to choreograph for and work with new dancers. “It seems that through moving, people develop relationships on a different level,” says Myles. “There is a greater ability to connect . . . in ways that are real and not conditioned.”

John Waddell called me to ask if I would choreograph a dance for him and his wife, Ruth. The Waddells, who are in their 70s, met when they were students at the Art Institute of Chicago. They are both accomplished sculptors and painters with ceaselessly curious imaginations. For three months we met weekly in my studio in Jerome, Arizona, for guided improvisation sessions.

In one of our first sessions, I told them to hold eye contact for 15 minutes. They could move or be still, come close together or drift apart. The dance that transpired from this experience showed me a fractal of their relationship. The cycles of their 50 years together came into focus: infatuation, playfulness, seduction, sorrow, uneasiness, doubt, and the aching joy of seeing one another as if for the first time. At the end of the 15 minutes, tears were streaming down Ruth’s face while she was still holding John’s teary-eyed gaze. Afterward, when I asked them what they experienced, they could find no words, only more tears, and that was answer enough.

At another session, John was reminded of a time when their son was 3 and making a painting. This little boy looked at his brush and asked, “I wonder how the brush knows what to do?” The dancing, John said, was bringing him back to the awe of creation.

John and Ruth Waddell performed New Leaf at Parmingus Studio in Jerome in 1999, on their 50th anniversary.

From Contact Quarterly (Winter-Spring 2000). Subscriptions: $14/yr. (2 issues) from Box 603, Northampton, MA 01061.

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