This video is made as a tribute to Flora Cushman the legendary choreographer and teacher who recently passed away. I video taped it in silence and was astonished to see how well the music I added afterwards fit the movements. This is a testament to Flora Cushman’s sense of musicality embedded in her movements like silent songs. I have started to train again using her method that I remember from 33 years ago which is the last time I danced. You can follow my progress here as I attempt at 58 years of age to recreate a 12 minute solo dance she choreographed for me. Flora, this song is for you! Link to the remembrance page for Flora Cushman: http://www.rjweaver.net/JCCons/Flora.htm
This is day 5.
Flora Cushman the Great Unsung Hero of Israeli Dance PART 1
I first met Flora Cushman when she came as a guest teacher to my school Mudra in Brussels during a cold a dreary December of 1977. Mudra was a total dance and theater school founded by Maurice Bejart artistic director of the company, “Dance of the 21st Century.” She was a legendary teacher studied with Martha Graham, brought up in a musical environment. Flora also played piano for Martha Grahams classes. She moved to England at the invitation of Robert Cohan where she trained the London Contemporary dancers. She then moved to Israel where she trained the Kibbutz Company, and taught across Israel and established her own company The Jerusalem Dance Workshop”. She choreographed a solo dance for me called “Resilience” a study of human development and our resilience of spirit. A juxtaposition of extreme relaxation and extreme tension. This is my first attempt at remembering it. It is a perfect example of the resilience of spirit exemplified by the Ancient Hellenic Spirit and the primary ingredient in the recipe for their success.
Eventually in the early 80s she accepted the position of Artistic director of the total theater school Mudra, and continued to choreograph and teach across Europe before settling in Germany. Where she passed away on April 12 2014 in Cologne Germany.
Ignited the spark
She ignited a spark in me, that burned bright and streaked across my physical consciousness like a comet across the night sky. It has taken me almost 40 years to appreciate the depth and breadth of her influence on me. The way of an artist is muddled with a host of experiences and people, as we strive to realize our desires and make our dreams a reality. This is especially true for a dancer who is always seeking, reaching for the next inspiration or way forward. The way of the dancer is unlike any other artistic pursuit. It requires a total participation and all out commitment of every tiny nook and cranny of the physical body, emotions, thoughts and memories in order to give life to movement and motion that has meaning. It is the only art form that requires the totality of your physical being to be involved directly in the artistic act.
In dance there is no isolation and training of one body part, or one of our senses over another, it is a complete and total commitment of all the senses and all the physicality of the whole body, soul, and mind into one action one movement one motion. A dancer must stand alone emotionally naked in front of his audience; no props or instruments to distract the audience from a direct communion with the art and the artist. The deeper the dancer becomes one with the dance the deeper the bond created between the audience and the artist as they are initiated into an experience of commonality of purpose. This is the rarest of dance experiences; I was fortunate to be witness to one such performance and it changed my life and my destiny as I could have never imagined. It inspired me to become a dancer against all odds and I did. It has brought me here today and I offer my experience and my story for those who have an innate feeling for something greater than they can imagine. Imagination is limited and pales in relation to what is possible when the artistic feeling is aroused embraced. Once the artistic feeling is awakened everything changes in ways that you can never imagine or even fantasize. Imagination and fantasy is limited in this way and could actually many times stop or delay an artistic development. If you get to where you imagined it may be a reason to stop striving. Too many artists treat Art as a job, career, or a business and forget its main purpose.
Flora Cushman represented my second awakening. Up until I met her I had achieved a great deal with little attention to training. I regarded training as a practicing of steps and preparing the body to do execute them on stage. Since I started dance late in life at the age of 18 it was even more of a challenge to focus on technical proficiency. So I put up with my teachers demands and corrections diligently and with passion because I had my eye on the prize of performing on a stage. I was extremely passionate but lacked the inspiration for training. The class was a place of torture and pain which I embraced because I treated it as a chance to perform, it was my stage.
What I learned from Flora Cushman is the dance class is a place of deep all encompassing physical training it is a place to prepare and not a place to perform for an audience. She saw right through my vain attempts to hide my lack of dance technique and cover it with bravado and emotional content. Where my body could not reach my emotional content would reign supreme. She brought me down to earth and inspired me to focus on the technique because that is the basis for the movement and not to rely just on my “performing” or “magnetic presence” to get by. She was not the first to point this out but she was the only one that made me listen. And listen I did. She was on a 30 day visit as a guest teacher from Jerusalem where she taught and had her own dance company. I quit the school and followed her to Israel to study with her and be part of her company, “The Jerusalem Dance Workshop”. I studied with her and performed in “Jerusalem Dance Workshop” for 3 years.
We had a special bond; the bond of not being Jewish in the land of Israel. We both experienced the same repetitive conversation often when we would meet someone in Israel. What is your name? Athanasius, Are you Jewish? No. What are you doing here? They were not all racist or bigots, very few of them actually were. Every country has their racist element and Israel is no exception. They were simply astounded that someone would come to live in Israel who was not born there or was not Jewish. Why bother? Most young Israelis were looking to leave. I get the same reaction here in Greece these days. Many Greeks cannot understand why I left Canada and decided to come back to Greece either. Most young people are looking to leave Greece as well. Perhaps I am counter intuitive. I found the perfect answer to the question what are you doing here? Now I say: “I always wanted to be a firefighter running into places where people are trying to run out from.”
Flora Cushman passed away recently and it jogged my memory of her unique training method and style. I have been working on devising a method of training the body based on the 5th and 6th century BC of Hellenic culture. It has been tough because I am so out of shape and have not had any training in dance or otherwise in 32 years. When I started doing Floras’ warm up once again I realized that her method was the key to what I was looking for. In the last 2 weeks and after 32 years I began to train with her technique once again. Recently I have been following the diet and nutrition philosophy of the pre-socratic Hellenic culture, lost some weight and began to video tape my progress recreating the beginning warm up of her classes.
I do not appreciate the before and after pictures method as a way to inspiration. It is a marketing trick that appeals to the lazy and the lowest common denominator, not inspiring to me at all so I will not show it to you. Besides it doesn’t look good… the pics below were extracted from video of Flora choreographed the dance “Resilience” on me in 1980 it is a 12 minute solo. I am trying to see if I can still do it.
“Play, Seek, Challenge, Observe, Practice” the secret of Ancient Hellenic culture.. After 3 weeks of training with Floras’ warm up only for about 5 to 30 minutes per day, here are some select pics.
Right Under your Nose
What you need is always right under your nose if you seek it with an open heart and an all encompassing desire. It could not have happened any sooner than now for me. At the ripe old age of my 58th year, I could not have imagined I would once again train to dance but I never stopped thinking about it. The mind cannot grasp the real live potentialities that lie beneath the surface of fantasy and imagination.
Recipes For The Revival Of The Hellenic Spirit
My book “Recipes for the Revival of the Hellenic Spirit” purpose is to clear the cobwebs surrounding the true nature and practical value of the Hellenic spirit. Connecting with the Hellenic spirit will untame your creativity and unleash your capabilities to their full potential.
Rising above superstition and fear, “Recipes for the Revival of the Hellenic Spirit” is a guide to personal happiness, physical health, and intellectual freedom. A road map for reclaiming our fullest potential as a species.
One city one world one human at a time”
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