forms in FLUX
A study on the movement of body forms and clothing
Photographed by Kristen Chiu and Nicole Chan
Dancer: Natalie Black
Senior at Marymount Manhattan College in the dept of dance
When and why did you start dancing?
I started dancing when I was 3 but probably seriously dancing when I was 12. My mom used to say when I was little that I like to hold onto things and stand on the very tips of my toes so she put me in ballet. I always loved it, so I just continued. I used to be hardcore ballet, like only ballet, wanted to be a ballerina, but now I’m like everything but ballet. It feels weird in my body, I feel kind of silly doing it honestly. I think it’s an amazing workout, especially the barre, but personally just for me and what I need—
Did it feel too restricting?
Well yeah, definitely to a point. I think that what happened is when I evolved kind of as a person, I was like ‘Oh my god! This is crazy!’ I don’t know ballet is just weird in lots of ways. I mean... it’s wonderful. Like if I didn’t have ballet growing up, I don’t know where I would be. I just loved it. It was like everything to me.I think it just came to a point where I wanted to move… more, and bigger, and on my own.
Socially was dancing only ballet weird?
It was definitely weird, like definitely some—not isolation, but because we don’t dance ballet at school it was like something I did outside of school. I would go right after school at 4 o’clock until 10pm everyday and on weekends Saturdays and Sundays because I wanted to be a professional ballerina and it just takes that much. So in some ways I was always that girl that was like ‘no I can’t, you know can’t go, I can’t do these things’ like I never did any—I was not wild in high school because I was always at ballet. I came to college and I started doing modern dance which was so different to me because I had only really ever studied ballet. Actually, I didn’t really love modern either. I just kind of was on a personal journey, I think figuring things out and it was probably about a year ago--and of course going to Europe when I studied abroad that helped a lot too—I was really exposed to European style dancing and more contemporary forms that somehow I identified with more. So I just fell in love with it and I guess my niche now is more improv, and I guess what we would consider more contemporary and abstract dance.
Was it hard to let go of ballet?
Yeah, it’s still weird to me. This has been the longest—I haven’t danced ballet since July and that’s been the longest time in my life that I have not gone dancing, but I don’t know, I think you kind of know when you need to let something go and I think I’m at that point and I feel a lot happier doing what I’m doing now. It’s just very personal, I guess you find out things about yourself through the way you move because I guess it’s physiological and I just didn’t want to be ‘here’ all the time. And it makes sense because that’s like life you know. It’s not always [like this]
And some people can block it out and do ‘this’ for years—
Totally, forever, and then some people need to get down and dirty on the floor. It makes sense.
What role does costume play in portraying dance, how is dress connected to performance?
Definitely as an improviser having different fabrics giving direction and suggesting things is a really useful tool with how I like to move. I also think in general costume adds such different elements in mood and dynamics. I think it adds a huge layer to whatever it is you are exploring.
In what ways do costume and clothing enhance or inhibit your expression in art?
I think often costume and costume designers work really closely with dancers in dance performance settings to enhance whatever the choreographers are trying to get out of the piece. Although I think sometimes it can be inhibiting if something is restricting a movement or the face can sometimes be lost in costume with whatever the dance is trying to say.
Is there a difference between clothing and costume for you?
That’s a good question. Maybe for me because I’m more interested in pedestrian dance. So for me everyone can dance so having a dance costume is not a 100% a necessary thing. I also think that with costume design a lot of thought goes into that and can really enhance its
movement in ways that street clothes can’t. But I think that it’s very dependent on the intention of the piece and the intention of the dancer.