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Sarah Lyman Charles Andrew Kulp Memorial Scholarship

After seeing Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet perform works by Ohad Naharin, Sarah was invigorated to attend San Francisco Dance Conservatory where she was further introduced to his choreography and style. Sarah, an honest dancer and performer, incorporates everything she sees in life into her dancing. She explains, “Dancers are not untouchable. I want to be able for the audience to relate.” Sarah aspires to dance professionally with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. To relax Sarah doodles and draws, filling up legal pads with anything.

With the aid of the Charles Andrew Kulp Memorial Scholarship I was granted the opportunity to attend the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance Summer Intensive. Out of the three sessions offered, I chose the third. The third session was different from the rest in the way that Batsheva Dance Company member, Bobbi Smith, was in residency setting works by Ohad Nahrin, the director of Batsheva as well as teaching daily classes in “gaga.” For those who do not know what gaga is, Ohad Naharin explains:

“Gaga's the name of the movement that the company is now trained in daily. With gaga we discover our movement patterns, and we become attuned to our weaknesses and to the places of atrophy in our bodies. We become more efficient in our movement and it allows us to go beyond familiar movements. We connect to our joy of dance and to our explosive power. The dancers become really great interpreters and also inventors of movement.”

I explain: “Gaga is a form of improvisation that allows dancers to find their movement identity. Exploration allows your imagination to control your body. Gaga coaxes the creative creature inside us all out of its home.”
Going into the intensive, I had pretty specific goals :
•    Adapt more quickly to new choreographers.
•    Become a more thoughtful dancer, a smarter dancer.
•    Learn to de-compartmentalize my knowledge of different techniques, but rather let           them influence each other. 
•    Gain awareness of my body in space.
I achieved these goals and more.

In all classes, dancers were not expected to simply follow, but to challenge new ideas that were introduced. While working with choreographers, we were encouraged not to question the teacher or fellow students, but to ask the question through the movement in ourselves. Usually an answer was found, and the more we explored, the better the answers became.

Through gaga I moved in ways that were alien to my body, opening my brain to a sea of new movement I could have never imagined in my wildest dreams. I learned to turn my effort into pleasure. I stopped caring about what was “right.” I moved faster than I thought possible, and slower than I thought possible, which thus turned my personal meaning of the word “impossible” completely upside down. I moved as if someone else was moving me, and then I moved myself. I became aware of places in my body I had never felt before, not only feeling them but bringing movement to these places. I was underneath a freezing shower, and then the next second a pool of honey. Gaga took my imagination to another level, one again I thought was “impossible.”

Ballet classes were never ordinary. I recall class once when we went around the room one by one and were told to be monsters. Ugly, nasty, snotty, loud, gruesome monsters. And then told to capture the monster, and apply it to ballet technique. That was the day I realized I was never going to dance the same ever again.

Working with Bobbi Smith in learning Ohad Naharin’s choreography was incredible. It “felt naturally strange in a good way.” as I wrote in my journal. I had the delight of learning “Echad” AKA “the chair dance” which was actually the dance that inspired me to find a way to experience gaga. Bobbi was an inspiration and will forever be my role model.

After leaving the program, I have noticed tremendous change in not only my dancing, but the way I think. Now, I have so many ideas and images I can refer back to when taking class or learning new choreography. I believe I am now able to bring something different to the ensemble environment of a company through my imagination. In the future, this will make me a likely candidate when auditioning. I have learned that the strongest and hardest muscle to control is the brain. Through the concept of mind over body, I am able to focus more intently in class and in rehearsal. With extreme focus, I continue to improve by never allowing by mind to become passive. When I am feeling uninspired I revert back to gaga and am refreshed. Most of all, I have learned that no matter how stupid a task seems, or no matter how much I may hate a dance, I am 100% committed and present within it.

Nothing has compared to my experience at San Francisco Conservatory of Dance this summer. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I am so appreciative of the Dance Council for providing aid and support. I hope to return to the program again next summer.

Sincerely, Sarah Lyman