Icarus. Photo Credit: Steven Speliotis

BALAM Mission Statement - Enchanting Contemporary Dance

 

Balinese American Dance Theatre, also known as BALAM Dance Theatre, or BALAM was founded in 1979 by choreographer and dance educator Islene Pinder to bring the detailed skills of Balinese dance to New York City. Presently, BALAM's mission is to 

(Photo of Islene Pinder, taken by Julie Lemberger)


• create original work inspired by diverse cultural dances and historical periods,
• entertain and educate the community through its activities,
• enrich the aesthetics of contemporary dance through the inclusion of movement skills and aesthetics rooted in traditional and historical styles, 
• serve as a cultural resource for educators, artists, and community organizations,
• serve communities of diverse socio-economic backgrounds at the grass-roots level by offering affordable, well-researched, customized, professional quality performances, lessons, and lectures,
• foster cross-cultural understanding and appreciation, qualities essential for building a more just and civilized society.

Presently BALAM’s repertoire highlights Contemporary, Balinese, Ballet, Baroque, Spanish Escuela Bolera, Salsa, Japanese Noh, and Martial Arts techniques. Transporting and inspiring, the company’s unique blend of innovative choreography, opulent costumes, striking masks, eclectic music, and fantasy characters enacting mythic tales in a contemporary context, has broad audience appeal and is suitable for people of all ages and backgrounds.

Dancing Buddhas, the process

 

BALAM recently finished its part in
Dancing Buddha, an improvised dance-meditation looking at the Buddha’s journey, conceived by yogini and meditation teacher ShelleyCummins Shehab. This imaginative and fun project offers an opportunity to creatively express through movement a progression of mental states attributed to the Buddha’s process of awakening.

Now you may think, “oh my how ambitious”. But, thanks to the use of movement scores, a dance concept founded in the Post-Modern Dance period of the 60s, the experience is made easy. Here is all you need to know to try this fun, freeing, and rewarding solo dance project at home.

Movement Scores help the dancer tap into their movement creativity by providing guidelines that present directives, tasks, inspiring words, and images to initiate movement, rather than requiring a person to execute learned steps. For example, a movement score is,

using different zones of the body, explore how your body transitions from slow to quick movement and vice-versa. Do this for two-minutes. Another movement score could be,

pick a favorite piece of music and dance to have fun for the duration of the song.

Now that the idea of using a movement score is clearer, we can look at the movement scores Shelley created representing the 5-Stages of Buddha’s journey.

Score 1: The Dream - Lying down and sitting up, explore the idea of dreaming.

Score 2: Sitting with All Life – While seated, reflect upon being awake.

Score 3: The Stance Coming to Life – Explore standing as you contemplate the notion of witnessing or coming to life.

Score 4: The Beginner Curiously Exploring – Ambulating, feel the sensations of curiosity and wanting to join in the stream of life.

Score 5: All Together Caring. Dance and imagine you are co-creating reality.

Calendar

2021 Calendar

Interview with Robin Gilbert. Enjoy this 15-minute reflection by BALAM principal ballerina Robin Gilbert about Founding Director Islene Pinder on Robin's signiifcant role in the company.

• Four Corantos, an exploration presented virtually on the Baroque Courante dance form with Lisa Terry of Parthenia playing 17th century English Corantos by John Jenkins and original Baroque choreogrpahy by Carlos Fittante.

Hola Diversity Spotlight with enterianer and YouTube persoanlity Inma Heredia. January is LGBTQ month and features an interview with Carlos Fittante.

• Self-Care & Wellness Tips by Barbara Romero found BALAM's free monthly e-newsletter. 

Monthly Dance Adventure is a series of five virtual specialty dance lessons offered by the Marblehead School of Ballet, taught by BALAM on the second Monday of every month, January – May 2021 through. All levels are welcomed, and no previous dance experience is required. $20 per class. Pre-registration required.

Balinese Dance - Monday, January 18, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Pendet. Greet the New Year by learning the Balinese Pendet or Welcome Dance. 

Spanish Baroque Dance - Monday, February 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Folia. Celebrate romance by learning excerpts from the Folia, an elegant Spanish Baroque dance choreographed in 1701 and performed with a fan.

Cuban/Spanish Flamenco Dance – Monday, March 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Habanera: La Paloma. Learn some fundamental Flamenco footwork to the 19th century Latin-Caribbean song/dance, La Paloma.

Commedia dell’Arte Dance- Monday, April 12, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Harlequin’s Chaconne. Dance as the charming Harlequin character in a masked Baroque Commedia dell’Arte role choreographed in 1720.

French Baroque Noble Dance - Monday, May 10, 6:30-7:30 p.m. Chaconne de Phaeton. Learn an excerpt from the French Baroque dance masterpiece, Chaconne de Phaeton, choreographed in 1701. Baroque dance is the predecessor of classical ballet and shares many of the latter’s elegant qualities and refined skills.

2020 Calendar. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our public activities have been canceled or adapted to an online format.
Tues., Feb. 11 - Baroque Masterclass 
Hunter College

Sun., March 15, 6 pm.
Oh What a Night - German, French, Spanish, and Peruivian Baroque music and dance
Four and Twenty Strings
The Ethical Humanist Society
38 Old Country Road
Garden City, NY 11530


Thurs., April 9 - Balinese dance masterclass. NYU Gallatin School of Individual Study DONE VIRTUALLY

Sat., April 25. Details to be announced.
Toshinori Hamada's tribute for jazz musician Lew Tabackin
NYC 
CANCELED
Sat., May 16. NJ Dance Festival. Details to be announced.
Jersey City, NJ
(Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger) 
CANCELED

Thurs., May 21, 1:15-2:00 pm FREE.
GEMS Midtown Concerts-Passage in a Baroque Labrynth
Chapel of St. Bartholomew’s Church, 325 Park Avenue at East 50th Street, New York, NY  (Photo Credit: Paul Ross) 
CANCELED

Sun., June 14. Baroque American Colonial Dance (details forthcoming). CANCELED
Live In-Person Event
Fri., Oct. 9. Ida y Vuelta, 12-1:30. FREE
Poe Park Pavillion, Grand Concourse between E. 192 St. and, E Kingsbridge Rd, The Bronx, NY 10458
This performance is sponsored by the Bronx Council on the Arts and the NYC Parks Dept.

Sat., Oct. 24
, All Aboard: 
An afternoon of Modern Dance and Local History4:30-5:15 pm. $15 
presented by the Putnam County Dance Project at the Philipstown Depot Theatre, 10 Garrison's Landing, Garrison, NY 10524
BALAM premieres A Call to Dance Hornpipe, as well presents its Salsa dance duet Fantasia de Amor choreographed by Carlos Konig
Photo: Marie Carstens in a work by Isadora Duncan


Oct.-Nov.
Dancing Buddhas, a video movement improvisation inspired by the Buddha's journey. FREE
Conceived and designed by Shelley Cummins Shehab.




Virtual Lessons
• Fri., Nov. 9, A Virtual Baroque Dance Lecture-Performance
The New School, NYC
• Wed., Nov. 18, A Virtual Baroque Dance Lecture-Performance
NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
• Wed., Nov. 18Baroque Dance: The Sarabande. 2-3:15 p.m. EST. $25 (Scholarships Available)
Voices of Music, a virtual Baroque dance class and part of a series of five different virtual lectures and presentations

Streaming Performances

Thurs., Dec. 17 at 12 p.m. Jyo En. FREE

Jyo En is a compelling drama with music inspired by Yukio Mishima’s Thirst for Love, created by BALAM’s Toshinori Hamada and playwright/theatre director Lee Douglas streamed as part of the 10th Anniversary MuSE Festival. (The video footage of Jyo En was recorded at The Secret Theatre on November, 2019.)





Sat., Dec. 19 at 7:30 & Sun., Dec. 20 at 2:00. Celebrate: We Dance, a Holiday Cabaret. FREE

Presented by Mosaic Dance Theatre, featuring BALAM’s Holiday Arlequino.










Harlequin with a jug by Johan Kaendler (1738)

BALAM's Artists


 Nani Devi, BALAM Dance Theatre's Resident Balinese Artist, teaches and performs several Indosnesian dances from the Indonesian islands of Bali, Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Sulawesi.  Born in Tabanan, Bali, Indonesia, she began dancing at the early age and was noticed for her naturaln government to perform in the palaces of Bali for visiting heads of state, she has performed in Russia, Japan, China, Thailand, the Philippines, and the United States, among  grace and sweet expression. Selceted by the Indonesiaothers. Her Balinese dance roles include the Legong, Oleg Tambulilingan, Margapati, and Terunajaya.



Toshinori Hamada, BALAM principal dancer and Japanese dance and theatre expert, originated the role of Rahwana, the demon king in BALAM’s Ramayana, and choreographed Sunda Upasunda, which toured Bali with the Semara Ratih gamelan. Schooled in Buddhism as a boy in a monastery in Japan, his love for traditional Japanese culture led him to study and perform as a Kabuki actor, and later Noh Theatre under the direction of Master Junosuke Watanabe. He also holds a black belt in Kyokushin Karate. In NYC, he studied Martha Graham Contemporary Dance technique and has performed extensively as a modern dancer throughout the United States. An independent film maker, he received several awards for his productions Dream on Flatbed and My Master, and presently writes and composes original Japanese/American musical dramas, such as Wind Chime, created as a tribute to the 2011 Fukashima Nuclear Disaster.

Robin Gilbert-Campos, BALAM Dance Theatre’s principal ballerina, is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and is a graduate from the renowned North Carolina School of the Arts. A complete dance-artist, Robin brings strong ballet and point technique, musicality, dramatic ability, and performing charisma to all her performing work. Some of her Balinese-fusion dance principal roles include Sita from The Abduction of Sita; Tigerlily in Tigerlily and the Dragonfly, and Eve in Eden’s Mandala. She also performs as a Baroque dance guest artist working with Apollo's Fire, Haymarket Opera, La Fiocco, and the Hartford Symphony, to mention a few. Other performing credits include Ballet Verite, Michelle Brangwen Dance Ensemble, Periapsis Music and Dance, Benjamin Briones Ballet, Atlantic Contemporary Dance Theatre, New American Ballet Ensemble, Connecticut Ballet and Anglo-American Ballet. She has also danced in Musical Theatre, Industrial shows, Opera, commercials, and videos, and has worked with numerous choreographers including Peter Pucci, Ann Reinking, Lila York and Arthur Faria. In her non-dance life Robin is a drummer and vocalist for the Long Island based band The Generators as well as the duo Pagman & Robin.

Barbara Romero, BALAM Dance Theatre Spanish dance expert, specializes in Spanish dance, especially the Escuela Bolera School, while having background and experience in other forms. She began her Spanish dance studies with Ramon Ramos de Vigil and Jose Molina but considers Mariano Parra and Jerane Michel her most influential teachers. Ms. Romero has also studied in the US and Spain with others such as Luis Montero, Orlando Romero, Estrella Morena, Paco Romero, Maria Magdalena, and Fernando Romero. Her dance studies began with ballet and character at the ABT school, and modern with Dorothy Vislocky and Billy Siegenfield. Ms. Romero is a licensed massage therapist and a certified yoga teacher. 



Yumiko Niimi, Dancer, made her debut with BALAM Dance Theatre in the title role of Sita in 2015, as well as performing as the Golden Deer. She has been featured in the ballet pas de deux from the Romantic ballet Giselle in company’s Out & About community service touring program and more recently in the salsa dance duet, Fantasia de Amor. She has worked as a principal dancer and performer in several operas and Broadway musicals including, Washington National Opera’s production of Norma, The King and I at the MUNY theatre, A Chorus Line, Evita, New York Theatre Ballet, Japanese Folk-Dance Inc.



Inma Heredia, BALAM Dance Theatre’s resident actor and host, brings vitality and joie de vivre to each of her appearances. A native of Seville, Spain, Inma has been showcased in a variety of entertainment settings ranging from acting and comedy to dance.  She has performed in shows, plays, movies, and ceremonies around the world as an actor, singer, flamenco dancer, comedienne, master-of-ceremonies, and voiceover artist. Recognized as the first – and only – flamenco comedienne in the world, she created her one woman show, Divas de España and received the "Latinos Unidos" Press Award. Other New York City credits include Dulcinea in The Adventures of Don Quixote at the Hudson Guild Theatre, the Statue of Liberty in the musical, Dan versus the Statue of Liberty, Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, and as the host in the New York hit, Latinas Don't P.M.S, which premiered at the world-famous Apollo Theatre. She has been a guest performer at the United Nations, Central Park, and numerous Off-Broadway theatres. 

Carlos Fittante, Artstic Director, Baroque and Balinese dance specialist, has received critical praise from the New York Times, Village Voice, and Dance Magazine for his performances and choreography. Some highlights from his diverse performing career include the Metropolitan Opera, New York Theatre Ballet, Semara Ratih Gamelan, Joan Miller and Dance Players, Danzas Españolas, and several prominent Baroque ensembles including Apollo’s Fire, Juilliard 415, and the Boston Early Music Festival. A graduate of the School of American Ballet, he has a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College: City University of New York, where he teaches Ballet and Introduction to Dance. 


(Photo Credits top to bottom: Julie Lemberger, Dave Tierney, Neil Sapienza, Maria Gueros, Yumiko Niimi, Michael Morris, Kathy Whitman)

2019 Calendar of Events

Calendar in Chronological Order

Thursday, January 10. 1:15-2:00 p.m. FREE
Period Works by and about Women presented by GEMS Midtown Concerts
The Chapel St. Bartholomews Church, 50th St and Park Avenue, NYC
Lisa Terry-viola da gamba,
Maureen Murchie-Baroque violin,
Adam Cockerham-theorbo,
Inma Heredia-actor, and
Carlos Fittante-Baroque choreographer/dancer

Friday and Saturday, January 18 and 19 at  8 p.m. Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. Tickets: $35-$68
Bach & Beyond presented by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra
Belding Theater at The Bushnell, 166 Capitol Ave, Hartford, CT 06106
Lisa Rautenberg conductor and associate concertmaster, Leonid Sigal conductor and concertmaster
Enjoy an eclectic program of period and popular music featuring the Baroque choreography La Follia with Robin Gilbert and Carlos Fittante, guest Baroque dancers

Wednesday, February 6, 7:05-8:05 p.m. Baroque Dance Masterclass
EYEONTHEARTS, graduate students dance history course, Hunter College, taught by Celia Ipiotis

Sunday, February 17, 3 p.m. St Luke's in the Field Music Concert 
Directed by Leah Nelson, Carlos Fittante plays castanets

Thursday, February 21, 4-6 p.m. Balinese Dance Performance and Masterclass
World Dance, NYU's Gallatin School of Independent Study taught by Kathy Posin

Wednesday, February 27, 10:00-1:00 p.m. Baroque and Spanish Escuela Bolera Masterclass
Dance History course at Hunter College taught by Lori Brungard

Saturday and Sunday, March 30 and 31 at 7:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Sarabande. Presented at All Saints Church, Princeton, NJ and Trinity Episcopal Church, Solebury, PA, respectively, by La Fiocco. BALAM's Robin Gilbert and Carlos Fittante, guest Baroque dancers

Monday-Wednesday, April 22-24. Guest Teaching and a Lecture-Performance Oswego State University of New York.
BALAM conducts masterclasses in Somatics, Maskwork, Spanish Escuela Bolera, Baroque and Balinese dance, culminating with a lecture on Balinese culture and a performance of Terunajaya.

Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. Dances of Love, East and West. FREE
Fort Lee Public Library, Fort Lee, NJ. 320 Main Street, Fort Lee, NJ 07024. (201)-592-3615

BEMF Chamber Opera Series: VERSAILLES: Portrait of a Royal Domain
Saturday, June 15, 2019 at 8 p.m. New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall Boston, MA. Friday, June 21, 2019, at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 22, 2019, at 3 p.m. Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA. 
Sunday, June 23, 2019 at 4pm, Venetian Theater, Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
Carlos Fittante, Baroque choreographer and dancer

Shakespeare Downtown presents HamletThursdays-Sundays, June 13-16 and 20-23 at 6:30 p.m. FREE at the Castle Clinton National Monument located in The Battery in Lower Manhattan, NYC, featuring a pantomime choreographed by BALAM for The Dumb Show within the play.

Friday-Saturday, September 6-7 at 7:30. Temujin: The Silk Road. $20
A Luna Negra Production
WOW Cafe Theatre, 59-61 East 4th Street (between Bowery and 2nd Ave.), doorbell 6, 4th Floor. New York, NY 10003. 917-725-1482

Monday-Wednesday, October 7-9. BALAM offers a Baliense dance residency at the University of Vermont featuring lecture, masterclass, and performance in Balinese dance offered to the courses World Dance and Sex, Gender, and Social Dance.

Sunday, November 3. 3-4 p.m. $20, $15 (students and seniors)
Fiesta: A Celebration of Dance and Music 
Marblehead School of Ballet
115 Pleasant Street, Marblehead, MA 01945
Featuring: Inma Heredia, Robin Gilbert, Ryan Closs, and Carlos Fittante

• Toccata Arpegiata (1604) by Johann Kaspberger with Ryan Closs on theorbo,
• Eden’s Mandala, a fusion masked duet of Balinese, Baroque, and ballet dance, 
• Que Viva España, a popular traditional Spanish song sung in English and Spanish, and
• Codex Martinez Compañon Trujillo, Peru (1785) / Peruvian Colonial Dances

Saturday, November 9, 10-12:30. FREE
Baroque Dance Masterclass
Princeton University

Friday, November 22, 7:30 p.m., FREE
Early Music Princeton with Carlos Fittante and Caitlin Klinger, guest Baroque dancers
Corelli Sonata 10 in F  Major: Preludio, Alemanda, Sarabanda, Gavotta, Giga
Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall. Princeton University

Dec 2019, Karenki Celebration by Invitation, FREE
Rudolf Steiner Bookstore & Anthroposophy Center,  138 West 15th St, NYC
Toshinori Hamada's Karenki Celebration with guest artists Jazz Floutist Lew Tabackin, Noh actor Takashi Kawase, and Baroque dance by Carlos Fittante in Yume Komachi with Sumie Keneko on koto. 

Friday-Sunday, December 13-15. 7:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. $15-$45
The Christmas Show
St. George Theatre
35 Hyatt Street
Staten Island, NY 10301
Box Office: 718.442.2900
Email: info@sgtr.org


A Reflection on Islene Pinder's Fascination with Neutral Tension Flow by Ling Ong. March 13, 2019

BALAM is in the Merriam-Webster; it is our company name, but the dictionary says it is the Mayan deity of agriculture who has a long head, a nocturnal supernatural who whistles as he walks on air.  For us though, BALAM is the Balinese American Dance Theatre and represents a blend of Balinese and American aesthetics.  We are also inspired by the European Baroque, Spanish, Japanese Noh, and those dance traditions are very likely to appear in our performances.  We are drawn to diverse movement-techniques, and we do not recoil from the European thought-patterns so deeply ingrained in our bodies such that an easy walk across the floor turns into a long and winding assessment of Effort-Shape, positioning in space-near and far; the Balinese taksu that is a spiritual stage-presence; the problem of reconciling the energy of balletic, athletic partnering with the Balinese dancing face of discreet smiles and flickering eyes.

The work of movement analysts and therapists, who were actively promoting the principles of Rudolf Laban and embellishing upon his methods of analysis and notation, profoundly influenced BALAM’s founder, Islene Pinder.   She truly enjoyed their pointillist reduction as a method of self-comprehension, whether in the everyday or theatrical context.  Converting their weighty analysis into her own appreciation of each dancer’s Effort-Shape patterns and idiosyncratic style, Islene practiced “on the body” choreography as the pathway for Balinese movements to come to the professional modern-dancer. 

Of all the Laban-influenced concepts Islene loved discussing, Neutral Flow seemed the most important to her.  It is best understood as existing in between Free and Bound Flow on the Tension Flow Scale.  She saw how slight moments of Neutral Tension Flow in the Balinese dancer’s movements were contrasting and thus accentuating the movements gravitating between Bound Tension Flow and Free Tension Flow.  She associated Tension Flows with elasticity and the regulation of continuity and discontinuity in movement.  So she was fascinated by how the child, learning to master his/her small body in the world, inevitably is resolving “the great internal affair of the temperament and feelings, matters of safety versus danger, feeling tones and needs”; and the child’s personal patterns of resolution would come forth as “rhythms of Tension Flow (which) would become appropriate to specific tasks and become functional” such that we shall see “rhythms of excitation, gratification, and relaxation” as the “child achieves mastery over initiation, continuity and stoppage.”  For Islene, Laban’s Effort was clearly impossible without the underlying rhythms of Tension Flow which “reflect our bodily needs and…are guided by our wishes”, and once those rhythms become “preferred patterns of tension-flow”, they become “the substrate of a person’s temperament”.  In her personal notes, Islene kept a yellowed, typed cribsheet of these important statements; these pearls of wisdom influenced the way she interacted with students and professional dancers.

Neutral Tension Flow was a concept originally developed by Dr. Judith Kestenberg (http://www.kestenbergmovementprofile.org/home.htm).  Dr. Kestenberg formulated the Kestenberg Movement Profile as a method for analyzing and notating the interactions of mother and child, those non-verbal expressions beginning in the womb.  Muscle lacking tension and being in a state of de- animation was an essential factor for describing the inter-personal dynamics of the unborn child’s and the mother’s physicalities.
I like to think that Islene may have associated Neutral Flow with floating in water or the fact that once upon a time, in the 1960s or 1970s, she was in a New York University workshop that involved standing still on demi-pointe for long periods of time, say up to 45 minutes or so.  Islene laughed over the memory of her reflex reaction—hopping around like a kangaroo—when the instructor told the students to let go.  Was he the legendary Alan Wayne attempting to induce the sensation of Neutral Flow through prolonged static posture?  There is the Alan Wayne Technique that trains the body to move with subtle expressions by totally exhausting the larger muscular parts; but having never experienced this technique, I wonder how it recruits all the soft tissues—muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia—whether in tandem or altogether in unison.

There is the biomechanical fact that a kangaroo can bounce with minimal muscular effort in its lower legs when the soft tissues are acting like springs receiving/releasing kinetic energy.   We can relish the divine playfulness as we follow that kangaroo bouncing down a laboratory treadmill; it is needing less and less oxygen as it gains speed, rebounding into longer hops.  We can only wonder if the kangaroo’s lower legs ever have moments of Neutral Flow and if such moments drag upon velocity because the scientists recorded a higher rate of oxygen consumption when the kangaroo was ambling along upon 4 limbs and a tail.  [Dawson, T.J., and Taylor, C.R. (1973) Energetic cost of locomotion in kangaroos. Nature, Lond. 246:313-314.]
Carlos Fittante has had tinier releases of Neutral Flow performing European Baroque dance.  In his opinion, aristocratic courtiers would have resorted to Neutral Flow as they stood for hours (chairs were the privilege of the royal family), backs against the wall and supported by stiff corsets (worn by women and elderly men), dozing off as they waited for an audience with the king.  His picture of subliminal, fatigued anticipation is actually based upon historical documentation of court protocol, so we may reasonably suppose a great deal of genteel de-animation, tempered by courtly self-control, transformed into moments of stillness as self-preparation.

I saw the white-gloved hands of Carlos, who danced a Baroque chaconne to music composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully--a favorite of France’s Sun King, Louis XIV.  His white-gloved hands were larger than life as they vividly put into motion the Baroque sentiments eloquently interpreted by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.  I saw momentary points of Neutral Flow contrasting and thus emphasizing whorls, flicks, commands and rhetorical flourishes of hands and wrists, all necessary to offset the heaviness of the court costume and tall, plumed headdress.

Another way to apprehend Neutral Flow would be the ending of an Iyengar Yoga class--Ṥavasᾱsana, the corpse pose, which according to B.K.S. Iyengar, is the most difficult pose to master but can be the most refreshing of all.  In his book, Light on Prᾱnᾱyᾱma, Mr. Iyengar provided immensely detailed instructions, with photographs of himself, so that we have landmarks and signposts to practice Ṥavasᾱsana as the culmination of vigorous asanas.  Because it involves so little Effort, and replicates Neutral Flow, Ṥavasᾱsana has allowed me to experience the ebb and flow of tension and where it is concentrated; it seems similar to the aristocratic, resting composure that Carlos engages in during his moments of stillness, anticipating an audience with the Sun King.

Whenever I feel the tension dissipating, nearly gone, I enter the subjunctive state of trailing away and returning elliptically inside a poem by the American poet and dance critic, Edwin Denby.  I glide into Denby’s impressions of New York City commotion and panoramas as the familiar timing of falling asleep, upstairs perhaps.  How pleasant to lie back and mentally snap my fingers at the great pronouncement--I think, I am—to Denby’s poem “Standing on the Streetcorner”, a very hushed and private paean by someone who just realized the connection between himself and humanity is only one more dynamic confluence of shifting, urban perspectives.

Any movement analysis includes that statement—I think, therefore I am—originally argued by the French Baroque mathematician and philosopher René Descartes in his eloquent essay “Of the Principles of Human Knowledge”.  Yet we must carefully consider Mr. Iyengar’s proposition in his book, The Tree of Yoga, that the dance is directed to the world outside one’s inner being while yoga’s “tremendous” implications lie within one’s inner being.  It is true that the asanas do not propel our bodies across the dance floor; they are a confluence of small movements by body parts fitted together into spiritually determined shapes which test our understanding of where we are in life.  It is almost the same thing every time we stand at the barre and go through our warm-up routines; we are asking ourselves if it is the mind controlling the body, if they are two distinct things, if it is the body shaping the mind.

Carlos reminds me that we can simply rely upon our dancing, our years of experiencing kinesthestic connectivity, then tap into the psychological effect it has wrought upon our bodies—serenity and connectivity; simply performing the movements tells us how much more delving into the physical sensations and analyzing is needed to attain the artistic quality we desire; performing the movements also reminds us of the goodly sum of lessons learned through observation, practice, and immersion in the dramatic role.  In other words, we should use our malleable minds to support our dancing bodies.  We should inhale acquiescence to exhale the performing art.  We should, as Carlos has learned in aristocratic fencing classes, find the proper mindset for the physical art.

As we enjoy the alchemy of combining different worlds, different heritages and civilizations, the convergence of the East and the West, we are calmed by the tempering effect of Neutral Flow upon the magnificently conscious drive to create.  BALAM likes Promethean power coming forth from our innermost being, but there is this other problem--dancing the role of Lord Hanuman who is the mischievous problem-solver in the Ramayana epic and the inspiration for the Balinese Kecak dance…He who is as swift as the wind and the human mind, He who subjugates Himself to Lord Rama…Geeta Iyengar reminds us to think of Lord Hanuman as one who has mastered perception and bodily senses, to remember how His name invokes the Protector Lord Vishnu (ha) and the Destroyer Lord Shiva (nu) and the Creator Lord Brahma (ma).  Prashant Iyengar cites Patanjali as he reminds us to aspire to perform the asana with decreasing prayatna (effort) and increasing saithilya (effortlessness), to fully sense ourselves going into the asana, staying within it, and coming out of the asana. [Yoga Rahasya, vol. 11, no. 2, 2004]

I would also think of it this way—sleep and inactivity allow for a blurring of movement boundaries.  The subliminal is our staging ground.   Then when we push off from the self-readying stillness, we start sharpening the boundary edges between the inner being and the world outside.  By dancing through whatever boundary edges--between ourselves and our present worlds or between our inner beings and our distant muses--we acquire a body-consciousness, a sensation of being different from that slight moment ago (or that one we just shed after an eternity of self-improvement).  For Carlos, Neutral Flow is the dancer’s gateway for emerging, coming into being.  Certainly, we will inhale stillness to exhale our movements whenever we rely on Neutral Flow to provide for resting, for self-composure, for letting the artistry come of itself and into its own. 

This photograph is part of Andreas Rentsch’s portfolio of subliminal motion captured on Polaroid film.  His stunning array of portfolios is best seen on http://rentschphoto.com/about/ where they are complemented by his life story.  Andreas has been exhibited or collected by Belgium’s Musée de la Photographie in Charleroi , Switzerland’s Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston TX, Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk VA, the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington NY.  A native of Switzerland, he now resides in the USA and has taught photography at Stony Brook University, St. John’s University, the International Center of Photography and Lycoming College.

Remembering Founding Director Islene Pinder (1929-2012)

Trailblazing Balinese dance pioneer, Islene Pinder, founding director of BALAM Dance Theatre (BALAM), a Lehman College-City of New York University dance professor from 1968 to 1998, became interested in Balinese dance and culture upon seeing a touring troupe of Balinese dancers and musicians perform in New York City.


Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger

           
In 1974, she embarked upon the first of many trips to Bali, Indonesia before running water, electricity and paved roads were introduced throughout the  island.  In Bali, she studied with prominent master dance teachers Bapak Kakul and I. Made Jimat from Batuan, Tutur from Petulu Ubud and A. A. Gde Breset from Mas Ubud, Agung Rai and others.  She excelled in the challenging male dance roles of Baris (warrior), as well as the masked roles of the demonic trickster, Jauk, and the elegant Dalem (king) characters.

During a sabbatical in 1976, she lived in Bali and undertook an extensive study of the culture.  While on this life changing visit, she became the adoptive godmother to Balinese child dancer, A. A. Gde Anom Putra (Anom), now the artistic director of the acclaimed gamelan ensemble Sanggar Semara Ratih of Ubud, Bali.

Joining Dance and Movement Research

At Lehman College, she developed Pinder fundamentals, a systematic instructional method created to teach and present Balinese dance to Western students.  She received numerous research awards from the PSC-CUNY Research Award Program for her groundbreaking study, Movement Patterns Seen in Balinese Mothers and Babies and Balinese Dance, using the Kestenberg Movement Profile (KMP), a psycho-analytical system of movement analysis. Other KMP investigation conducted by Islene included an examination of the the Balinese iconic dance, Baris, and an analysis of the fundamental qualities of Baroque dance.

Balinese Life, Dance Filmmaker

For 37 years, Pinder documented on film and video some of Bali’s greatest dancers and captured many of the culture’s daily rituals and important festivals.  Pinder’s movement analyst eye drew her to many unique, meaningful moments as a cultural anthropologist, rooted in a body-movement perspective.  Her own physical understanding of Balinese dance gave her deep insight and she compiled a comprehensive library of Balinese life and dance, culminating in the 45-minute video documentary, Isle of Bali, created specifically for educational purposes to teach students and people of all ages in school and college classrooms, lecture halls, libraries, museums, and community centers in the West.

BALAM Dance Theatre Founded

Pinder founded the non-profit dance company BALAM Dance Theatre in 1979 with the explicit goals of bringing the beauty and detailed skills of Balinese dance to the greater New York community and exploring the fusion of Balinese and contemporary dance styles.  Under her leadership, the company performed in Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, and the United States.

As the founding director of BALAM from its inception until her death, the company collaborated with the Sanggar Semara Ratih many times, touring throughout the remote villages of Bali, as well as participating in the Second International Dance Festival at Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia (STSI): College of the Performing Arts in Denpasar, Bali.  On BALAM’s Bali Tour 2010, Pinder returned to the stage in the comedic masked fantasy, Harlequin’s Charade, dancing excerpts that referenced her favorite traditional Balinese dance roles, Baris and Jauk.

Some of her enduring choreographic works include Night Shadow-A Balinese Dream, Vision of Sound, Bird Jauk, Gods Through a Temple, Memory, Fragrance and Pity.  Her eclectic vision received critical praise from the media with notable reviews in the New York Times, Dance Magazine, Village Voice, Bronx Times and many others.

A mentor for many generations of dancers  and artists, Pinder trained BALAM’s co-artistic director, choreographer and dancer Carlos Fittante.  Together they created BALAM’s signature work, Ramayana-Abduction of Sita, thrilling audiences with its fusion of Balinese, ballet, karate, Baroque and modern dance styles.  The Governor and people of Bali and the Indonesian Consulate of New York have highly commended this cross-cultural interpretation of a beloved Hindu myth.

Love of Dance Begins Early

Born Islene Gassman in Hoboken, New Jersey, Pinder lived a life of dance, study and creativity.  A dancer, choreographer and researcher of Balinese dance and culture, she received a master of arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in physical education from New York University.  Other credentials garnered include certification in Effort-Shape, a system of movement pattern analysis, and intensive studies with Dr. Judith Kestenberg, the originator of the Kestenberg Movement Profile.             A dance lover from childhood, her dance studies included Martha Graham technique, ballet and Luigi Jazz in New York, where she studied with dance luminaries, such as Martha Graham, Louis Horst, Charles Weidman, Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm, José Limon, Walter Nicks and Luigi.  She worked briefly as a performance-synchronized swimmer in an aquatics show and a print model in Florida.