Anabella Lenzu teaches Barre-a-Terre at Peridance on Wednesday at 1:00 and Sunday at 4:30. To class Ms. Lenzu brings her strong, diverse background of performing,choreographing, and teaching. Anabella Lenzu/DanceDrama and the founder of L’Atelier Centro Creativo de Danza, a dance school in Argentina .
Read on to discover the powerful meaning behind her class and company!
What prompted you to begin studying dance? Did you know you always wanted to become a professional, or did this emerge?
I always knew that dance is what I wanted to do for a living. Ever since the age of four, I wanted to dance. My mom put me into a school that only taught Flamenco, in my hometown, Bahia Blanca, Argentina. Soon after, I began studying ballet and continued until the age of 18, when I became a certified ballet teacher. My dream became a realization when I opened my dance school in Argentina in 1994. Previously, I had danced with other Ballet and Flamenco companies, but from this point on I directed my own company which started touring and performing. I haven’t stopped dancing, choreographing and teaching since.
You currently teach Barre A Terre at Peridance. What led you to train in body conditioning as well as dancing?
Body conditioning and dance were never two separate things for me, they were always integrated and this is the way I teach my barre a terre. During my training as a young dancer, I had to study and learn a vocabulary of movement with precision. I see barre a terre as an opportunity to explore the anatomy of movement further; to find out what muscles you’re working and what is the job of each particular muscle or muscle group. You have to know your body. You can’t play the piano without knowing what the notes are. When I moved to New York in 2005, I felt that my students needed a special class where they could not only work their muscles and bones, but find a place to channel their energy as artists. I feel that sometimes dancers in regular class don’t have time to think about the fundamentals because they are thinking about the result, and not about the process. I’m teaching where and how the energy is flowing through the different parts of the body, the integration of mind-body, the emotional interconnection and the exploration of their personal Kinesphere. These are the basics for any kind of dance style or technique the human body is One. My barre a terre class is a time and a space where students can really focus and appreciate the integration of all these.
In addition to being on faculty at Peridance, you founded L’Atelier Centro Creativo de Danza in 1994, a dance school in Argentina. Currently, you serve as Artistic Director of Anabella Lenzu / DanceDrama, a dance theater company based in New York. Both promote dance where expression melds with the mind. What led you to focus on this socially and politically conscious art? Where do you gather many of your inspirations?
Through working with a variety of artists and living in Argentina, Italy and the US, I began to understand dance as an integral part of our society. I became interested in using dance to improve our human condition by making the audience feel, think and emote. I developed a mission to introduce people to dance-theatre and engage in a cultural, educational and artistic exchange, especially between the New York community and other cultures, specifically Argentina, Italy and Chile. Francoise Delsarte, Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman, Doris Humphrey, Jose Limon, Martha Graham, Anna Sokolow, Maurice Bejart and my husband Todd Carroll are sources for my continual inspiration. I like character driven drama, and break apart quotidian social gesture, so I strive to create a vocabulary of movement utilizing each.
As far as “socially and politically conscious art” this stems from what I’ve seen and experience in my life. Themes range from 1) The relationship between the individual and society: communication, identity, memory and spirituality. 2) The relationship between people and environment. 3) Women’s concerns and beliefs. 4) The struggle for a woman’s identity and role in society. 5) The nobility of the body as a temple for our mind, soul and heart.
Your company has a repertory encompassing several different styles ranging from ethnographic folk traditions, to theatre, to ballet to modern. How do you bring such different forms together? How does your diverse performing background influence your own repertory?
The different cultures I have lived in are the fire that purifies my choreographic ideas. My current work is not a patchwork quilt of easily discernable styles. Rather, it is a new movement vocabulary that integrates the entirety of my dance background (ballet, modern, folk dance, theater) with current ideas dealing with people and how they relate to their environment/society
Since training in and teaching Barre-a-Terre how has this changed your own dancing and choreographing?
It has made me much more aware, detailed and specific when I am teaching choreography to my company dancers.
With dancers constantly expected to push physical limits, how does this affect approach to cross-training? Do you find that the current exercises will remain essentials, or will the technique have to alter to accommodate the new physical demands? Since starting, have you seen any changes, in the format of class?
Teaching in New York is a unique experience because students come and go and there isn’t often a group of dancers consistently taking class over a long period of time. The students come from a wide variety of dance backgrounds and are training in many different techniques. The exercises I use in my class are designed to acquaint the dancer with his or her musculature and how they’re using that for expression. I constantly find myself repeating “It doesn’t matter what technique you are dancing….Vagonova, Cecchetti, Horton, Graham, Cunningham … (demonstrating arms in second position)…this is your second…maybe it shifts stylistically from one technique to the next ….higher…lower… but your arms are always connected with the scapula, and the back is always supported by the latissimus dorsi. There is only one human body.
The diversity of New York is fascinating because there is an opportunity to teach and communicate with people from all over the world, coming from different cultures and artistic backgrounds. I am constantly learning from my students, even after 20 years of teaching! The relationship with my dancers and students is by nature profound. I search for each dancer’s individual voice, bringing out their potential & creativity. I love to work in an atmosphere of creativity, respect, responsibility, honesty, independence and freedom. In my classes, I feel lucky to work with people that have a deep necessity to express themselves and explore the language of dance as an instrument- and, in teaching barre a terre and ballet it’s my job to give them the tools so that they can fully explore the possibilities of their instrument.
Any updates you would like the Peridance community to know?
I’m working on a full evening length show with my company Anabella Lenzu/DanceDrama entitled, “The Grass is Always Greener…”, which is a piece that explores themes of immigration, roots, and memory that will be premiered in October, 2010 at the Merce Cunningham Studios. Also, I am organizing a Tango Tour to Buenos Aires, Argentina December 28th and January 3rd of this year. It’s a chance to experience the birthplace of Tango, dance in exotic Milongas, and see the sights in Buenos Aires, the “Paris of South America”.
Experience Barre-A-Terre and discover the difference!