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Once upon a time, a not-very-long time ago, if you were a grown-up who wanted to take a dance class in Tulsa, you had a child-sized handful of options, most of which were … ballet. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

But verily: the times, they are a-changin’.

Jen Alden in Portico Dans Theatre's aerial class

As of right now, I count about half a dozen different non-ballet classes for adults happening each and every week. Many of those are available thanks to Portico Dans Theatre, which holds a contemporary dance class and two separate aerial dance classes (beginner and intermediate) per week. Portico co-director Jen Alden teaches the contemporary class, while the aerial classes are led by Portico members Sam Mellor and Maria Tate Reed. (Visit the Portico website, in the link above, for details.)

Having taken or observed a few of these Portico classes, I can say for certain that they are a) a very fun workout and b) a chance to push oneself, physically and mentally, past one’s point of comfort. They move fast, so if you’re new to dance or just coming back to it after some time away, be prepared to catch up quickly. Even if you’re lost for a minute, you’ll have a blast — it’s good energy in these rooms, with teachers who love what they do. You’ll also find a studio full of happy grown-ups, whom Portico gives the opportunity to train and perform all over the city.

There’s another exciting educational development happening at Tulsa Modern Movement (TuMM). Last fall, the company’s Wednesday class was devoted to Graham technique, which TuMM co-artistic director Arien Christopher has studied extensively in New York City. This spring, on Wednesday evenings from 6:30-7:30, co-artistic director Nina Madsen will bring release technique, which she studied with B.J. Sullivan at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, to Tulsa for the first time. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for anyone to learn an immense amount about movement functionality, moving from beginner to intermediate level over the next five months. (Details are at TuMM’s Facebook page.)

Never heard of release technique? It’s a relatively new one, and Nina emphasizes that unlike Graham or other techniques, it’s “not a codified system.” “There’s no one founder, and practitioners may make use of a variety of tools within the general framework of ‘release.’ In that sense, it’s very postmodern,” she says, though in most instances the links to practices like Laban Movement Analysis (another very helpful link here) and body-mind centering (pioneered by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen) will be evident.

Nina’s class description puts it like this: “This release-based modern dance class is inspired by a combination of release technique (including B.J. Sullivan’s safety release), Laban Movement Analysis, Bartenieff Fundamentals, and other Somatic Practices. We explore the body’s natural relationship to the floor throughout the first half of the class and gradually transition into standing, fluidly moving with the forces of gravity and the body’s natural tendencies. The class emphasizes dynamic connectivity and awareness of the body to achieve maximum physical freedom of expression through movement. Ending combinations focus on fusing the inner and outer worlds of the mover and the somatic realization of meaning through movement. This class is open to the public and all are welcome.”

Just for fun, here’s video from an advanced safety-release-based class taught by Alice Lee Holland in western Australia in 2011. Don’t even tell me you don’t want to learn to move like this. 🙂

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