One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in the process of training dancers for isadoraNOW is teaching male dancers the Duncan technique. Isadora created a technique based on her own, feminine body and her dancers were all women. It is important to me to have men in isadoraNOW not only because of the strength and diversity that they bring, but also because I believe that we will not accomplish our mission of keeping Isadora Duncan’s work relevant if we do not develop her dance form into a technique that all dancers can perform.
In rehearsal last night we began to discuss how male versus female dancers perform Ballet technique. They can perform the same movements, however, there are specific stylistic and even technical differences in the ways the different sexes execute the movements. We need to develop the same for Isadora’s technique. The male dancer’s center of gravity is higher and their arms tend to be more muscular. Focusing on those two differences, we began exploring one of Isadora’s most common movements, what we call Earth, Self, Sky. In this movement, the female dancer stands with weight on one leg, the other slightly bent, heals and knees together, feet slightly turned out. She reaches to the ground with her torso and arms, rolls up through her back and brings her hands through her center, then lifts her solar plexus to the sky and straightens her arms upward. Opening her arms horizontally to the floor and on a slight diagonal, she then softens her chest ever so slightly and presses her hands up, flips them over and softening her chest further, lowers her arms down to her sides.
As I work with men on this step, I’ve observed that in order to keep them looking like strong, masculine figures, we need to make several changes. For this, I’ve followed Isadora’s guidance and looked to ancient and renaissance art for clues. With a wider pelvis, his stance looks weak if a man stands with his heals together and one leg bent. Therefore, he must stand with his legs apart, slightly turned out, weight still on one leg, the other slightly bent and leaning in toward the first (picture the stance of Michaelangelo’s David). He should not reach his arms entirely to the ground, but rather indicate the earth without completely bending at his pelvis, causing his backside to stick out. As he pulls up through his center and lifts his chest to the sky, he should not totally straighten his arms (avoiding the hyper-extended curve that women aspire to reach). As he opens his arms, they should go directly to his sides, rather than on a diagonal. As they reach the horizontal line, he should not completely straighten them as a woman would, but rather keep a strong, slight curve as though he is holding a great sphere (imagine Atlas and the strength necessary to hold the weight of the entire world). Rather than dipping his chest, causing his arms to flip and lower, he should simply flip his arms from the shoulders and lower them along with his chest.