If you ask Andrea Olsen, dance has a role far beyond the stage or the studio.
"Since I teach in both environment and dance at Middlebury, I’m very interested in the way that place affects your movement and also how dance fits into the larger cultural matrix of the age," says the longtime dancer and Middlebury College professor. "My own personal feeling is that dance is essential to understanding human beings at this time on the planet, rather than being something extra or nonessential."
Olsen recently published a third book, The Place of Dance: A Somatic Guide to Dancing and Dance Making
(Wesleyan University Press),
coauthored by movement artist Caryn McHose. This weekend, the college hosts several events to mark the occasion.
A free dance performance featuring work by 11 artists interviewed or otherwise featured in the book is on Sunday, April 6, at 2 p.m.; Olsen and McHose teach a "Finding Your Feet" workshop on Saturday, April 5, 2-4 p.m.; and a corresponding photography exhibit goes on display at Middlebury's Davis Library.
"My fear is that because there's 'dance' in the title, people who don't feel they are dancers would feel it's not for them," Olsen admits.
That would be to miss the point entirely.
The Place of Dance
is a 31-chapter book of stories, informational text, 30 interviews with movement artists and 125 dance photographs. The chapters are meant to mirror the (approximately) 31 days of a month. As with her two previous books, Bodystories: A Guide to Experiential Anatomy
and Body and Earth: An Experiential Guide
, Olsen's latest includes dance-making exercises and writing prompts. The book can be read passively, but it invites participation, as well — each chapter cues a new movement and writing exercise.
"The three books are all in the same format," Olsen notes. "I consider them a triad, starting with an exploration of experiential anatomy; then [one's] connection to the environment; and then, with [The Place of Dance
], a connection to creative work."
If a reader moves through The Place of Dance
experientially, reading one chapter per day for a month, Olsen hopes that person would have gained "a little more clarity about the body, perhaps a dance or an investigation in movement, and a nice full writing journal."
"The book is for dancers, but it’s also for the general public," she adds. "It spans a terrain that includes both someone seriously invested in dance as art, and someone interested in inhabiting their body with more awareness."