In Amenia, A Community Grows by Leaps and Bounds
To start a dance revolution, the first thing to do is ditch the choreographer. That’s what the wildly creative Pilobolus Dance Theater did when it was founded by a ragtag group of Dartmouth students and their dance teacher in 1971. Ever since, the watchword of the troupe has been collaboration. Dancers intertwine their bodies to create athletic performances that surprise and delight. One moment they’re clasping hands and ankles to roll across the floor like human tires; the next they’ve clustered into the shape of multi-headed hydra. Cooperation has rarely looked so exciting—or so strange.
This spring and summer, Amenia-area residents will benefit from the Pilobolus spirit of creative collaboration in more ways than one. On March 2, Amenia Yoga Center owner Rouben Madikians hosted a two-hour public workshop with Master Pilobolus Teacher Emily Kent at the Amenia Town Hall gymnasium. Proceeds will go toward Madikians’ second goal: raising scholarships to send 10 to 15 local high school students to a week-long Pilobolus workshop in Washington Depot, Conn. this July.
The inspiration for these events lies in Madikians’ transformative experience at a Pilobolus workshop in Washington Depot, CT, last summer. In the mornings, Pilobolus dancers teach students the legendary troupe’s methods, running exercises that emphasize problem-solving and improvisation. Participants devote the afternoons to choreographing original, collaborative dances of their own. “I learned so much about creating,” Madikians says, “and so much about communicating with another person, both verbally and non-verbally.”
The more he thought about the workshop, the more he realized how meaningful it could be for Amenia’s teens. “Both Dover and Webutuck schools have been faced with budget cuts, and art is often the first thing that goes,” Madikians says. “At the workshop, students learned about themselves and their strengths, and how to be within a team for the teams’ sake—versus always having to achieve something.”
Pilobolus’s Emily Kent explains that the summer workshops help teenagers gain confidence and team-building skills. “Young adults can be filled with self-doubt,” she says. “We impress upon each young person that his or her unique voice is integral to the process of creating collaboratively. We create movement from the student’s own movement vocabulary and ideas, as opposed to teaching everyone some pre-existing choreography. So in that way, the students can gain confidence from ownership of the work they create.”
But the perks of Pilobolus-style community aren’t just for teenagers. The March workshop was open to all people age 14 and up. And at just $15, it was in keeping with Madikians’ mission to make the camaraderie-building event accessible to everyone.
Dover and Webetuck students hoping to participate in the week-long July workshop should be sure to attended. After class, Madikians and Kent revealed the essay questions for student scholarship applications, due by the end of March. (Students who were unable to attend can email Rouben at Rouben@ameniayoga.com for the essay topics.) Pilobolus dancers will read the essays and select the scholarship winners.
Just as Madikians hoped, the Amenia community is already joining forces to vault students into Pilobolus’s multiplicity of open arms. Scholarship donations from Millbrook Bank, Harney & Sons tea, and individual supporters are pouring in. Amenia grocery store Freshtown has set donation cans out by the registers. And at Serevan restaurant, owned by Rouben’s brother Serge Madikians, staff members are putting aside a little money from their tips each night, hoping to sponsor a teen. Serge says he’ll either match the donations they raise or sponsor another student on his own.
“I get goosebumps,” Madikians says. “This is what life is really all about. We’re all independent, but the community is phenomenally powerful.” When people come together to achieve a common goal, they can create something bigger than themselves. You could say it’s almost like dancing. —Sarah Todd
Move, Evolve, Thrive: A Pilobolus Dance Theater Workshop
Saturday, March 2, 3 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Amenia Town Hall
4988 Route 22
Amenia, NY 12501
Pilobolus Summer Workshops for Kids and Adults
July 8 - August 2
Washington Club Hall on the Green in Washington, CT
Fee: $55.00, to enroll download the registration form online and mail in or contact Emily Kent at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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