Helen Nolan teaches a contemporary fusion Dance workshop April 4th @UMA!
Sunday, April 4th @ 2:30pm
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Helen has been training in street styles such as hip hop foundations, house, locking and popping since she was in grade school in Boulder, Colorado. Later on she began to branch out to incorporate contemporary dance styles in her training. Since then, she has refined her own style through experimentation in choreographing, enjoying and exploring the interplay between the various styles she has under her belt. Helen has danced and toured with, in addition to choreographed for, LA based dance company Academy of Villains Contemporary and has sat as artistic director and danced for Colorado based company Side By Side Dance Co. founded by Larkin Poynton and Sarah Touslee.
In her workshop on April 4th “Contemporary Fusion”, Helen will present a version of what a fusion between contemporary movement and hip hop movement could be. She will introduce participants to her personal methods of movement generation within this blend of styles. Participants will also begin to explore and discover within their own bodies what movement possibilities are opened up when we experiment with this kind of fusion.
Get to know a little more about Helen and what to expect from her upcoming workshop below!
Could you talk about your relationship with choreographing movement?
An early inspiration for me was being interested in seeing how contemporary choreographers formulated their dances for the stage as opposed to for a cypher or street gathering. Different stories and emotions can be told by utilizing these tools in choreography. I like to take elements from both [contemporary dance and hip hop forms] and have them ping pong back and forth from each other. That will definitely happen in this class.
My love for choreographing really started in CO when I was dancing with a company called Side By Side Dance Co founded by Larkin Poynton and Sarah Touslee. They were 2 humongous inspirations for me in terms of pushing my preconceived boundaries of what making dances that aren’t clear cut hip hop dances but still uphold its principles can look like. What if we use hip hop vocabulary but perform to a different type of music? What if we use hip hop vocabulary and other movement strategically to tell a story in a dance? I’d also like to say my relationship to choreography really grew out of being a part of a supportive community who was excited to make stuff with me. It takes a village!
Today I use choreography as a tool for reflection and recontextualizing the world around me. I’m interested in using the practices of dancing, making, and watching choreography to question and make sense of things that sometimes aren’t so apparent in everyday life! I’m always working to expand my movement vocabulary to have more things to pull from.
How do you discover the movement that you decide to set in your choreography?
We’ll touch a little on that in class! Some of the improv work we do will be movement creation using one version of a process that I use sometimes. I come to choreography in a lot of different ways. I like to put myself through prompts or games to try to find different ways of combining movements together vs. listening to a song and trying to make a move that matches that part of the song. I try using limitations or choreography maps or other types of fun prompts to help spice things up and allow different results to come than I might have gotten if I just tried to pull moves out of my brain cold. After the initial exploration the next stage is usually revision and articulation of the nitty gritty details like musicality and texture.
What is your goal for this workshop?
My goal is not for everyone to look exactly like me at the end of the class. My goal is for the choreography and improvisation scores to be a guide into your own individual exploration and experimentation practice in your mind and body.
Sign up for Helen's workshop through our homepage!
Learning about learning: A Love Letter to UMA and to Imperfection
UMA Homie Heather (who made the dope "Seduce Yourself" poster featured below and is just generally a badass at making things, dancing, teaching Spanish and so much more) shared a reflection on learning, vulnerability and embracing imperfection that centers around her experience at UMA. Heather is a shining example of a community member that goes after their goals while also uplifting and supporting the rest of the community. We're so lucky to have people like Heather in our midst!
(Shout out to UMA fam Julia D. on the left in the pic with the puppets!)
Learning about learning: A Love Letter to UMA and to Imperfection
My first experience at UMA involved me standing in the back corner of the studio watching my body move in the mirror. Spastic, erratic, and stiff. It was a house class, and I was mortified. I had a small crisis, contained to the few speckled white floor tiles where I stood. I was quick to make jokes about how terrible and how sweaty I was, to beat others to the chase. I muttered them to the people beside me any chance I got. This has been my M.O. over the years—self deprecating armor. In a way the armor works. It also prevents me from trying anything wholeheartedly. I suffered through to the end of class, relieved to be able to get out of there.
It went on like that for a few classes. One mortifying experience after another. One more hour of watching my body do something very different from what I was asking it to. At some point I stopped cracking jokes about how bad I was, mostly because no one seemed to care much. Honestly no one was really looking at me in class at all. Sometimes I’d get to class early and eat a snack that I’d bought in the deli downstairs and I’d watch people practice. The people practicers ranged from being brand new to the teachers whose artistry was, and still is, otherworldly to me. Over time I let myself genuinely try in class. And I started to get the hang of some movements. That felt good. Then I got the hang of a few more. Each time I learned something I had more evidence that getting it was possible, because I had gotten things before. It went on like that in a loop: movement, progress, confidence and so on.
As my vocabulary grew, I started to be able to decode the movement of dancers that hung around that I admired. I started to see their movements in their smallest units, little steps strung together and made personal by the way their particular bodies tended to move. Before this I just thought that dance was magic, and it is, but not the kind that I thought. Not the kind that you are born with —or not —but the kind that you go building. Developing over the course of many hours of linking small learned things together, of messing around with friends, of practicing in the lobby before class while shy new dancers eat snacks nearby and try to play it cool like they aren’t watching you intently.
About a year into going to UMA regularly, they hosted a series called “Working on It”. A cabaret of sorts in which people showed pieces they were working on that were at varying stages of development. Again, demystifying the creative process. Watching these shifted something in me, allowing me to see people’s unfinished works. And again, witnessing people that I had come to know in class letting themselves be seen as they were.
Somewhere in the intersection of these experiences I learned something other than movement. Or rather, movement became the vehicle through which I could practice vulnerability in a concrete way: over and over in a room full of sweaty people. People say things all the time like “believe in yourself” or “be more confident.” And I always agree, but never knew how. Understanding this process has opened up a whole creative world for me. I’ve been able to teach myself things with a new fluency, and a new joy.
It was on the train home from a Working on It that I decided to make my own puppet show. Because, why not me? And a year later I did — an imperfect, falling apart, beautiful, DIY, earnest, clumsy puppet show in my living room. The cast was populated by people that I know through UMA. Friends from UMA filled the audience. Here, another stepping stone in that movement- progress- confidence cycle. This summer, I will be publishing a book of short stories. This, yet again, terrifies me, but the terror is now something I’m better acquainted with. When I was writing out my thank you’s at the end of the book I felt compelled to include everyone at UMA, for teaching me how to stick with myself through all of my imperfection. For screaming “YOU BETTER GET IT” at full volume every time I got up the nerve to close my eyes and jump into the middle of a cypher.
whole Body: Moving from the floor up