Finding the Fusion
By Robin Gilbert, principal dancer with BALAM Dance Theatre
At a recent rehearsal for our upcoming performance at Lehman College’s Lovinger Theatre, BALAM’s Artistic Director Carlos Fittante, Dianna Warren (one of the company’s new dancers) and I found ourselves talking about the challenge of incorporating the Balinese dance style into our Western, ballet trained bodies.
This process is ongoing and requires curiosity, effort and a personal insight. Carlos and I are well trained in the Balinese style, yet we still are figuring out some of the subtleties of Nani Devi’s movements in the company’s Balinese dance class. Luckily, we have acquired both a physical and cultural understanding of Balinese dance, which allows us to integrate and play with it freely in the fusion work.
Dianna, who has no prior Balinese dance training, is learning this style, while simultaneously discovering and defining her role as the Golden Deer in BALAM’s “Ramayana” story ballet. She is also trying not to aggravate past injuries. Not an easy task!
Dancers love movement and we take pride in mastering whatever a choreographer may ask of us. With the sophisticated, subtle movements of Balinese dance, I learned a long time ago, rather than try to grasp everything all at once, be patient and honor the process. Each time, I try to focus on doing even just one movement with more awareness and understanding. This feels less overwhelming and allows the dancer to experience the movement on a deeper, more satisfying level. The challenge in BALAM’s fusion aesthetic is always there, but so is the opportunity to discover one’s personal moment of movement magic!
Balinese Dance Lessons in Full Swing by Robin Gilbert, principal dancer and ballerina with BALAM Dance Theatre
The rehearsals for this season have begun, and we have three wonderful new dancers, Dianna Warren, Atsushi Yahagi, and Olsi Gjeci joining us. Because of the uniqueness of BALAM’s fusion, combining Balinese dance, music and theatre with Western movement, a lot must be learned and absorbed, both physically and mentally.
Photo: Nani Devi by Julie Lemberger
This can be thrilling and a little overwhelming at times. It’s crucial for all of us to learn the Balinese movement, which is quite different from what most of the Western dancers have done. The use of the eyes, head, arms, bending of the knees and the quivering of the fingers are all part of what makes Balinese dance so captivating.
The company is very fortunate right now to have our Resident Guest Artist, Nani Devi, teaching us Balinese dance lessons. We literally have the beauty of Bali right in front of us sharing her expertise!
Although I have danced with BALAM for years, I am very enamored with this dance style. It is really fun to see the new dancers discovering it. So stay tuned, as I will keep you updated and posted with photos and videos from our lessons and rehearsals, all leading up to our April 28 performance!