Modern Dance for Modern Times

Dancer and choreographer Sophie Stotsky knew one thing by the age of five: grandma was cool.

Sophie's grandma, a dancer of Anna Sokolow (one of the first early modern dance choreographers and a student of Martha Graham, the “founder” of American Modern Dance), taught Sophie the concepts of basic modern dance in her living room. Then, the two would preform their dance for Sophie's family. A two woman show sparked a love within a little girl. Dance followed Sophie into every stage of her life and only continues to grow with her today.

A Washington DC native, Sophie was the co-head of her high school student-run dance organization. There, she crafted her own dances and participated as a dancer in the work of her peers. Simultaneously, she and her fellow dancers learned from renowned choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess, whose work Sophie continues to draw inspiration from. In college Sophie majored in Dance and Psychology at Wesleyan University. Following graduation she took her dancing feet and dreams to New York, where she took on a year-long internship as a production apprentice at New York Live Arts. Working at New York Live Arts gave Sophie another year of education. There, she watched every pieces multiple times over and committed herself to total immersion. She interacted with the artists. She read every program like a book. She listened to every talk-back. She even met some of the people she read about in college.

This life-time of dance and art education, of choosing to learn, grow, and soak in information, prepped Sophie for the leap into the role of professional choreographer. For Sophie, the time we currently live in is “a unique and pivotal moment in terms of how we view the human body”. The way we relate to gender, to mind-body dualism, to ourselves and our universe, is changing. Sophie creates dances precisely because she wants to speak directly to this shift, to express it physically and emotionally. She wants to tackle these modern-day issues.

And what better medium than modern dance? Modern dance to speak of modern times. Sophie draws a lot of inspiration for this modern flare from Brooklyn based choreographer Elizabeth Streb. Streb is famous for a “brutally physical, difficult technique” referred to as “SALM” in which her dancers slam against themselves, floors, walls, trampolines, and thick panes of glass. From early on, Sophie says, she was “obsessed” with Streb's aesthetics of “brutality, toughness, strength and power”. Yet, where Steb's dancers come off as somewhat super human, Sophie seeks to use the “attempting of extraordinary” physical feats to showcase the complete humanness of her dancers, again speaking to the modern body in a modern world experience.

In fact, highlighting our humanness is what Sophie seeks to do. She works with the ideas of exertion, exhaustion, effort and error. As having been a witness to her dances, I can say all of this is true. Her dancers move as if tangled in the forces of gravity, as if wrestling with the every day bits of life, as if with the dance itself. Their bodies move from the floor, to standing, and all the way back again, a cycle of up and down, in and out, push and pull. It's beauty and grotesqueness. It's the reflection of our world and our selves in it, in modern dance.

To learn more about Sophie Stotsky and her dance company, check out her website, www.tykedance.com, or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TYKEDANCE.

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