A Reunion With the Spirits of Dance

Sara in blue; Heidrun and Roberta in foreground

‘It’s a special experience when mature dancers and teachers can continue to be inspired,’ commented Roberta Bristol after the Santa Cruz Dance Salon’s three hour improvisation class with Sara Wilbourne at Body and Soul Studio, Sunday, May 1. We were, for the most part, a mature bunch both in our age set and in our dance experiences. Sara, a leader in Santa Cruz dance and theater arts, created an atmosphere in which we could share our kinesthetic selves with one another through dance.

(Unfortunately, I was a bit under-the-weather on Sunday and so I watched, observed, witnessed and videotaped the group.)


Sara insisted we begin moving immediately: no chatting, checking-in, or making announcements. Instead, we should direct our attentions to our bodies. Throughout the afternoon, Sara provided cues guiding us to consider various ways of moving. To begin, the dancers were asked to move continuously as if rolling down an incline, without stops, without punctuation, feeling your way slowly into your kinesthetic sense. In the dimly lit room with no music, the atmosphere was contemplative and the qualities of the motion reflected that.


Sara moved us from our introspection to feeling beyond our skin by reaching more fully into space, by intensifying the movements, and then by moving into and occupying more space.

The occasional introduction of music also changed the dynamics of the movements.


We were directed then to move with partners, preferably someone you have never danced with before. These exercises developed into more intimate encounters with one another as the afternoon progressed. To begin with, each partnership elected one “leader” and one “follower,” although these terms are not precise. The leader initiates movements; the follower is an observer who can mirror the leader’s movements, or kinetically comment on it, frame it, create space for it, enhance it. They trade roles; they partner with someone from across the room.


Once again, the introduction of music, in this case very rhythmical music, utterly changed the dynamics of the room. The rhythm drove the dancers to more spirited actions: hopping, flinging, traveling. I love the way Helen and Jillian in this video began to move when rhythm was introduced.

Finally, we connect tactily, with one partner brushing, pushing, touching the other to indicate where movement should be initiated or suggesting a different dynamic. This lead to ever more interesting explorations of interpersonal connection and influence.

Sara told us that this was a relatively advanced and condensed improv class, but she felt comfortable increasing the level of instruction because have high levels of experience. We are all life-long dancers who have already lived long lives.

Spirits of Dance

There is, indeed, something uniquely wonderful about being mature dancers dancing together at our Salons. Collectively, we generate a feeling of communitas that comes from shared experiences as dancers and the marvelous sense of comfort that women project together. From the start the Salon has felt to me like a coming home, a reunion with the spirit of dance itself as she reveals herself through our dances.

*The Santa Cruz Dance Salon was formed in 2009 as an opportunity for the Santa Cruz dance leaders and teachers to meet and to share their work and wisdom with one another. We are modern, belly, hula, flamenco and samba dancers; we are performers and teachers and long-time aficionados. It has been my privilege and delight to act as our scribe. You can find more reports of our activities by going HERE.

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