Dance is one of the oldest and most universal forms of expression. Whether it’s tribal drumming, traditional ballroom dancing, or modern dance, it connects people on an elemental level. This connection was on full display during the recent global pandemic, which forced many people to abandon their usual routines in favor of something more calming and therapeutic.
Dance writing, too, has a long and venerable history. It can trace its roots back to the oral traditions of storytelling, which helped people cope with difficult events and experiences. Today, dance writing can take many different forms—from journaling to songwriting—and can provide a safe space for survivors to process their trauma. In this blog post, we discuss the power of dance and dance writing in quarantine—and how you can use them to heal your own soul.
Dance in Quarantine
Dance in Quarantine is an online journal that explores contemporary dance and performance through essays, interviews, reviews, and blogs. The blog published an essay by Melissa Hudson Bell on how dance has played a role in her life and how it has helped her cope with difficult times. Bell discusses how she danced to help manage her anxiety during the US presidential election, which was a challenging experience for her. She also discusses how dance can be used as a form of self-care and healing for people who are struggling.
Dancing on a Tightrope: Ballet and the AIDS Epidemic
When Melissa Hudson Bell started her ballet training in the early 1990s, few people knew about AIDS. If they had, they would have been intensely circumspect about engaging in physical contact with fellow dancers.
The epidemic hit full force in the early 1990s and quickly claimed its victims. Many professional ballet companies withdrew their dancers from performances and instructed them to stay away from one another. As a result of this isolation, many talented young dancers were lost to AIDS.
Bell was not one of those casualties. She trained rigorously throughout the 1990s and emerged as a formidable dancer by the late 1990s. In 2001, she joined Chicago’s Next Generation Ballet Company as a principal dancer. However, even given her illustrious career, Bell is acutely aware of how much the AIDS pandemic has affected contemporary dance.
“A big part of what I do now is try to bring attention to [the impact of AIDS on dance],” says Bell, “because it’s something that we don’t talk about enough.”
Bell has written two staged works about AIDS and its effect on dance: “Dancing on a Tightrope” (2004), based on interviews with contemporary dancers who have died from AIDS-related illness or who are living with HIV/AIDS; and “My Body Tells Me Not To” (2008), an extension of “Dancing on a Tightrope.” Both pieces are performed by Chicago’s Next Generation Ballet Company and explore how AIDS has
The Impact of Dance on HIV/AIDS
Since its arrival in the late 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been blamed for causing untold misery and death throughout the world. However, some people are convinced that dance can play a significant role in fighting this virus. In “Dancing (and Dance Writing) in Quarantine: Melissa Hudson Bell,” author Melissa Hudson Bell shares her experience of teaching dance to AIDS sufferers both inside and outside of hospitals. She explains that dance is an affordable and accessible form of therapy that can be used to reduce anxiety, combat depression, and increase self-esteem.
Bell also argues that dance can help sufferers forget their symptoms and connect with others on a deeper level. Through dance, they can find strength in numbers and build community support networks. In spite of the challenges faced by those living with HIV/AIDS, Bell insists that dance is still a powerful tool for healing.
Melissa Hudson Bell: A Modern-Day Ballerina
Melissa Hudson Bell is a ballerina of the 21st century. She was born in 1992, and began dancing at the age of five.
- Bell’s talent was discovered by Mikhail Baryshnikov, who invited her to perform with the New York City Ballet at the age of thirteen. She has since danced with companies such as The Royal Ballet and The Houston Ballet.
- Bell’s unique style has drawn comparisons to pioneers of modern dance such as Martha Graham and Jerome Robbins. Her ability to merge classical ballet with contemporary movement makes her one of today’s most sought-after performers.
- Bell has written several works for dance, including “Cinderella” and “The Nutcracker.” Her latest work, “The Flying Dutchman,” will be performed by The Royal Ballet in 2018.
Melissa Hudson Bell’s choreography for Quarantine constructs a complex and beautiful story that is told through movement. The dancers embody the intersecting narratives of survivors, doctors, and families as they come together to remember and heal. In her work, Bell uses dance to speak Truth to Power about the intersections of race, class, gender identity, and health in America today. Thank you for reading! We hope that our articles on topics like these have helped you learn more about them and maybe even discovered some new things that you hadn’t thought of before.
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