Yesterday, I had the privilege of taking a class with Eric Fenn, choreographer of the innovative "urban contemporary" dance troupe Loose Change. Combining house, popping, waving, and breaking with modern dance, martial arts and ocassionally, swing, Loose Change has been a pioneer in the dance fusion movement for 20 years. I've long been a fan of their work, and they are one of the things I have most been looking forward to experiencing in the Bay Area.
So it was with some anticipation and nervousness that I went to their open dance class that happens every Tuesday at City Dance in San Francisco. I didn't know whether to expect a "professional dancer" style workshop, a bunch of drills and choreo designed for the dance troupe, or an advanced contemporary dance class.
I could see just walking into the studio that it was not going to be so intense, because there were not one, but two dogs that two different dancers brought to the class. In the room were a nice mix of a dozen or so older and younger dancers doing their stretches and warmups, which made this aged dancer feel better.
Eric Fenn arrived a few minutes late, wearing flowy, earthtone pants and top, and immediately started us into a warmup. He had us moving across the floor, doing what felt to me like very African-based movement — very grounded, rounded, and open. It felt good, and I was sweating after a few minutes.
We did some stretches and fairly easy combos. And then we got into the choreo that they've been working on for a couple of sessions. Some of the movement was familiar — waving, locking, twisto-flex — and a lot was not — rolling on the ground (of course), spinning on my butt, arm flailing. I definitely found it challenging, but not impossible.
I left the class feeling energized and pushed in new directions.
This "urban contemporary" is definitely a step beyond what I am used to from my hip-hop and lindy background. In some ways it feels like a natural evolution of my own dancing. But in others it pushes against what I know and like — the aggressive attack of b-boying, the angular and sharp hits of popping, the propulsive energy of hip-hop and swing music. Instead everything to me feels much more fluid, integrated, and calm. Dare I say, it's a lot more Quaker.
I'll definitely be back soon.