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Letting Imagination Fly: Dancer Garcia Morales Visits MHC

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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

November 9, 2001

Letting Imagination Fly: Dancer Garcia Morales Visits MHC

A full year before the Mount Holyoke community could enjoy a performance of Latin American indigenous contemporary dance by a company called Nikamba ("to move"), dance students of Professor Jim Coleman enjoyed a sneak preview.

Nikamba's director, José Isabel Garcia Morales of Tabasco, Mexico, a guest of Visiting Assistant Professor of Theatre Arts Leandro Soto, visited Coleman's class two weeks ago. Garcia Morales was a student of Soto's in an interdisciplinary program in Tabasco that encouraged participants to develop their abilities in the visual arts, dance, theater, and music. The program derived its curriculum from native culture and contemporary international culture. "I consider him a great result of that school," said Soto. "He uses Native American sources, movement, and philosophy as inspiration, then combines those native roots and contemporary dance to create his own avant-garde work."


PHOTOS BY ANDREA BURNS

MHC students participated in improvisational dance with José Isabel Garcia Morales of Tabasco, Mexico. He visited Professor Jim Coleman’s class two weeks ago.

Coleman describes Garcia Morales's style in similar terms, calling it "a unique style, an interesting mix of contemporary modern dance, with hints of ballet and indigenous Indian forms." Added Coleman, "I really appreciate exposing our students to a new point of view, a new vocabulary, and new images." Garcia Morales also exposed the MHC students to a philosophy of physical and spiritual unity in dance. "Dancing helps you have a better life," he said. "It nourishes your feelings and emotions, helps you communicate better, and instructs you in life and human development."

Of Garcia Morales's class Terre Parker '02 said, "I really liked the way he integrated spirit and movement. I enjoyed spending a lot of time stretching and getting in tune with myself, and I enjoyed his open improvisation; it wasn't structured and intellectual." One of six students asked to improvise "Planets," Parker, a dance, spirituality, and community major, followed Garcia Morales's instruction not to think, but to let the body and imagination move freely.

"I asked myself, ‘What do planets do?' And I let my body take over," she said.
Two other improvisations, "Nature" and "Communication," were tucked between a long period of slow stretching movements and a lesson in fast, rhythmic stomping, which Garcia Morales called "a visual connection between earth and sky." Aside from that difficult footwork, Krista Johnson '03 found the moves to be similar to those she knows, only "pieced together differently" and "very relaxing." Class ended with a circle of conversation, an opportunity for students to talk about the improvisations and their classmates' moves. The reflection time is as important in dance as disciplined physical work, said Garcia Morales.

Negotiations are under way to bring Garcia Morales to campus in October 2002 with Nikamba. Through his company's performance, Garcia Morales depicts the tales, myths, and legends of his indigenous Chontal community in Tabasco, "letting imagination fly in the ancient tales of gods and goblins in order to harmonize the past and the present."

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Copyright © 2001 Mount Holyoke College. This page created by Office of Communications and maintained by Don St. John. Last modified on November 9, 2001.

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