Dance to Remember

Photo by Lynn Lane

Teresa Chapman makes large, expansive dances. She eats up space by reaching off-center and fully commits her body with breath. In her upcoming show Balance, she investigates the sensations of being off-balance and, also, regaining equilibrium. And her company, Chapman Dance, will do all of this with three senior citizens from the Fonteno Senior Education Center where Chapman has been facilitating balance workshops.

“Their enthusiasm is wonderful,” Chapman declares. It is clear that working with these seniors has brought her a lot of joy. The workshops have explored how creative movement can enhance physical stability for seniors. “We focus on balance and awareness,” she explains. Chapman has been working with the senior population since her days with Liz Lerman’s Dance Exchange. (Liz Lerman, dance maker and MacArthur Genius, famously incorporated older adults into the dance ensemble.) Later Chapman began working in universities and she brought her students into retirement communities. “The senior population is growing faster than any other group. I am aware of their need for connection.”

Photo by Lynn Lane

“My dad had a couple of strokes, I’m fascinated by the way he works physically.” Since the strokes, her father has had to create new neuropathways so that he can safely and efficiently walk. It takes a lot of diligence to do the work to rehabilitate.  “So from a personal perspective, what I couldn’t do for my father, I hope I can do for other people.”

Balance is made up of three pieces that each explore a different part of balance. One is about finding spiritual balance. Chapman premiered this portion at the CAMH surrounded by Jae Ko’s Flow, a sculpture made from thousands of yards of white paper. Flow was inspired by the movement of glaciers. The dancers cut and whipped through space inside of the more slowly-moving (but not really moving) paper sculpture.

The second section is about emotional balance. Chapman elected to be led by a poem called The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowsky. “There is this small gleam of hope,” she says, “with an underlying tone of co-dependency.” Chapman uses the words of the poem at first, then layers the poem with music, and then plays just the music as a way to allow our memory to fill in the missing poem.

“I have been using memory as a tool to structure and inspire the choreography,” Chapman elaborates. The three stages of the memory process are Encoding, the initial learning of material, Storage, the ability to maintain information over times, and Retrieval, the ability to access that information. Chapman has used this memory process to develop the choreography over time. The movement vocabulary has come from a personal place. She asked her dancers, “when have you felt unbalanced in your life?” Chapman used these responses as a genesis for the movement creation. She has even played with how all five senses can trigger memory.

Photo by Lynn Lane

The third piece of the show is about physical balance, and being off-balance. “I like making movement. I like to make big movement. And almost all of those big movements came from a smaller gesture.” Teresa Chapman is a very kinetic dance maker, and that big movement starts as small, intimate gesture. She takes a highly personal movement and abstracts and enlarges it with momentum and line.

Costumes for Balance have been created by the tireless and sought after Ashley Horn. Music varies from Tom Waits, to the Beetles, to Chet Baker– familiar music which Chapman hopes will trigger the audience’s memories. Chapman has also selected music from Icelandic composers, most notably Olaf Arnalds.  Performers include Jacquelyne Boe, Roberta Paixao Cortes, Kristen Frankiewicz, Kelsey Gibbs, Alexandre Soares, and Brit Wallis with several guests from Fonteno Senior Education Center.

For this very personal show, Chapman asks audiences to come with “an open mind, and open heart.” The performance will be at the MATCH on June 2 and 3, 2017 at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased at


About the Author

Lydia Hance is a choreographer, filmmaker, collaborator, and educator. Lydia Hance is the Founder and Artistic Director of Frame Dance Productions, a contemporary dance company making collaborative works for the screen and stage.

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