Vines. The hum of arthropods and hushed drip of raindrops. A cocoon awakened, small movements, rhythmic at first, then not. The creature,
enigmatic, pivotal, central to the spectacle. And the artist, watching from the side, smiling at creation.
The opening door triggers the nine of us on stage to sit up straighter. Our legs are spread as wide as we can get them, the goal being a 180-
degree angle. We are pointing and flexing our feet as part of a warm-up exercise. As usual, our efforts are not good enough.
"Point your toes. We have HOW long until the concert?"
If she were dirty and smelled, she might pass for a bag lady with all that she is carrying. She is wearing a one-piece pajama suit, similar to cartoon-
covered children's zip-up sleepwear, and a multi-colored ski hat in which a medieval jester would be comfortable. Marilyn's suit is solid gray,
coordinating with her gray fuzzy boot-like slippers. Her blond, shoulder-length hair hangs loose. She walks down the aisle of the auditorium that
serves as our theatre, already giving crits.
"And flex, and point, and flex, and point and la di da di da di da. Now press forward. Sit up straight, chest up." She raises her head and chest,
flinging her hair back, inhaling deeply and slightly arching her back, an exaggeration of the movement that she wants us to perform. We follow
her orders groaning under our breath. Reaching the stage, she plops down her purse, a pile of books and videos, and a bag of chocolate-chip
"I brought snacks," she announces, smiling.
"Yea," cheers Alan, our Jim Carey look-alike freshman. He excitedly claps his hands in a small, rapid, and jerky fashion.
"Push yourself forward, Alan. Don't work in your comfort range."
Snacks are a sign that it's going to be an especially late night of contortionism, sweat, and artistry.
Marilyn Kay Byers has been the artistic director of the Johns Hopkins University Modern Dance Company since its birth. Valerie Pietryzk, one of
Marilyn's former dance students and then a student at Hopkins, asked Marilyn to help the newly formed company with artistic direction. Eighteen
years later, Valerie has graduated and moved on, but Marilyn hasn't. Living near D.C. and teaching all day at Suitland High School, two counties
away, Marilyn still treks to Hopkins every Tuesday night (and much more often in the spring, close to concert time) to give class and run rehearsal
for inspired students.
Most of us are moaning and uncomfortably and ungracefully bringing our legs back to a more natural position. Marilyn looks toward the girl in the
front middle. "Cindy, have we done up-down-circle-around?" she asks.
"Good. Now, do it twice while I go downstairs."
We roll backwards, lying flat. We begin kicking and stretching our spandex-covered legs in synch to Cindy's song-like voice: "Up, down, and circle
around, and flex, and point, and flex, and point, pull it toward you, and let it go. Other side. Up, down..."
Cindy, the dedicated president of the Modern Dance Company, is preparing for her fourth and final concert. She remembers meeting Marilyn for
the first time at the beginning of her freshman year: "I thought she was pretty weird, the way she jumps from one thing to another, but I liked
how she related to the old members. She was very close with the seniors." Four years later, Cindy herself is a happy senior working closely with
Marilyn on a solo.
Marilyn returns from downstairs, peanut M&Ms already opened in one hand and a blue can of Pepsi in the other.
"Hopkins M&Ms are going to kill me," she says. "I'm always doing good on my diet until I get here."
She climbs the five steps on the side of the stage, each step slower than the last, making the ascension look extremely painful. She comes to
downstage center and sets up a chair. She sits, crossing her legs, leaning back, and munching her M&Ms one by one.
She looks at me. "Damn California people, always in a different space and time. Can you please do something even slightly resembling the
pattern?" I have somehow gotten ahead of the others and am kicking the wrong leg to a faster tempo.
She tells us to sit in second, the same uncomfortable position we were in when she arrived. Since she is always happy to leave us contorted, she
starts a story.
"So Lara just got back form Aruba and she had a terrible time. Ha. But she has a tan that makes us all sick." Marilyn smiles and laughs, popping
another M&M into her mouth. Lara is her daughter, a lawyer who occasionally comes to teach us her own choreography.
"I want to give you all a good stretch tonight," Marilyn says.
We quietly laugh at her generosity. Her usual tactic of distracting us with irrelevant stories while leaving us in a painful position is not working.
Feeling the burn, I think about my thighs, not Lara.
"My Suitland kids had a quiz today," Marilyn starts. "I wonder how all you Hopkins bears would do. Now let me see." She smiles cunningly, thinking
up trick questions. "What are five words to describe modern dance?"
Marilyn moves her head back and forth, stopping to make eye contact with each of us. She thinks she has tricked us. "Come on, five words."
"Contemporary," I say.
"Ah. Good, yes, okay, modern dance is contemporary, and it deals with contemporary issues. Four more." She holds up her pointer finger.
"Non-conformist," says Allison, a petite blond girl to my right.
"Good answer. Not bad. This is why you all go to Hopkins. Cindy? You have been here HOW long? Give me a word to describe modern dance."
"Artistic," interrupts Alan.
"No," scolds Marilyn.
"Why not? How come she can use 'contemporary' then?"
"Because that's just not good enough for you." Marilyn smiles.
"Not ego-centric," Alan tries again.
"Well, that's two words-" She is cut off by Cindy who finally has an idea.
"Uh, no shoes."
"Yes, yes, modern dance is performed barefoot. Not bad."
Barefoot. Having danced 30 hours last week (according to Nadine; I lost count after 15), we are not only burnt out, but bruised, torn, ripped,
swollen, and cranky. Marilyn, in her gray fuzzy slippers, is only slightly sympathetic. Last Tuesday when I got a splinter a centimeter in length in
my toe (a danger of not dancing on a professional floor), Marilyn told the Hopkins Emergency Response team to "hurry up, take it out, and dress
it up" so I could keep dancing. Then she gave them our rehearsal schedule and told them to put tweezers in their first aid bags and be prepared
After dancing on a dirty floor, our blisters sting and our calluses look white and chalky. Marilyn tells us to put on Band-Aids on our feet and then
wrap tape over the Band-Aids to hold them in place. Cindy's feet are covered with Simba, the Lion King. I have decorated myself with Taz and
Murray Louis, one of the two men whom Marilyn considers her "primary mentors," appears in a photograph in his book On Dance with a wet cloth
stuck to his forehead. He is standing on one foot in a multi-colored unitard, revealing the bottom of his other foot. He points to the ripped skinless
part. Not surprisingly, the pattern of missing skin on his foot looks a lot like what we are all experiencing.
Marilyn finishes her quiz by telling us her answer. "Modern dance is contemporary and non-conformist, it's natural, and it's controversial. Now use
this when you describe modern dance to people and convince them to come to the show. Modern dance is also democratic. Women can pick up
men. Men can be in pretty dances if they have the technical skills to do so." Marilyn looks at Alan as she says this. Over the last few weeks, Alan
has voiced disgruntlement about being pulled out of some of this year's "prettier" choreography.
One reason Marilyn has fit in so well for so long as artistic director is that she, like many of the members, started dance late. She encourages both
students coming to dance for the first time and whose who have danced their whole lives, giving individual attention and choreography based on
personal abilities and backgrounds. "I love showing people they can dance."
She didn't study dance seriously until college. Her father was a preacher who thought that dance was sinful. He took her out of a "Good Ship
Lollypop" dance when she was in third grade. Her mother occasionally sneaked her into dance class. Choreographing for her high school
cheerleading squad, she began to toy with the idea of dance education as a career. After Marilyn performed a barefoot, free-flowing Isadora
Duncan-like dance (though she had no idea who Isadora was- the first modern dancer) on the football field when she was Queen at the County
Fair, her friend honestly informed her that she [Marilyn] "didn't know how to dance." Then her friend hid from her for a week. Instead of giving up
her dream, Marilyn accepted her friend's criticism and drove to the University of Maryland, College Park by herself, at age 17, to talk to the dance
program coordinator. Although the coordinator told her it would be hard to achieve a performing career starting so late, she still encouraged her
to pursue a job in the profession. Marilyn decided to focus on dance education. She wanted to develop public school dance programs so that all
students would have a chance to experience the magic that she experienced late. She went on to develop programs for Howard County public
schools and for Prince George's County magnet schools for the arts.
Marilyn stands up, initiating the transition from warm-ups to class. She faces us. "Now we are going to do something for the back," she says.
"Stand parallel." We take a comfortable stance, legs spread shoulder-distance apart and toes facing the front. "Roll down, and one." Snap, snap.
"And two." Snap, snap. "And three." Marilyn snaps her fingers, defining the tempo to which she wants us to move. We roll down slowly, curving
our backs and reaching down to touch our toes. "Now plié." We bend our knees, still bent over. "And bounce, bounce." We bounce, still hunched
over. "Roll up, two, three, four." We come up to standing. "Okay, now we are going to take this twice in parallel and then twice turned out." The
last with our heels together and toes pointed out, a position suited for ducks and serious dancers.
She leans over a bulky, silver boombox, hoping to induce it to play music for the exercise. She keeps both legs straight as she leans, revealing a
stretch that she often claims to have lost. She squints at the buttons on the player, which seems to stare back at her.
"Dar gone fufu thing," Marilyn mumbles. Marilyn vs. the radio, another round. We watch closely but offer no assistance. Abruptly, she picks up
the remote. The radio remains quiet. She jumps backward, holding the remote as if she were fencing. She hits a button.
"Ah haw!" Her first attack. She looks proud, victorious. But the radio doesn't respond.
"You have the remote turned the wrong way, Marilyn," someone informs her.
Giving up, she hands it to Cindy. One more win for the radio.
"Dar gone fufu thing," she says, a little louder this time.
Marilyn has a lack of affinity for anything even slightly technical. As Alan pointed out at one rehearsal "Marilyn doesn't know how to use her
answering machine. She's afraid of it." This makes it difficult for us to inform her of our many last-minute room changes. Thus, our forlorn
choreographer is often seen wandering campus searching for her lost dance company.
Because we have to share the campus's resources with 250 other student groups, we have rehearsed over the sounds of a percussion band in
the ROTC building, around pillars on carpet in the McCoy dormitory multi-purpose room, and in the tutorial project's multi-colored elementary-
styled classroom. Last year, we even rehearsed in the Gilman coffee bar after hours. The custodians helped us move the tables and then sat
down to watch and offer crits. Tonight our homeless company has Shriver, the stage on which we will be performing. Marilyn intends to use every
moment of the sacred time we get on the stage to start placing her pieces. Placing is the tedious process by which she sets the exact spots on
stage where she wants each dancer to begin and end each move. Since a common characteristic of Marilyn's choreography is non-uniformity, with
each dancer performing a different movement at any given time, placing one dance can take hours.
When dance class is over, no one gets to go home. Instead, we make the silent transition into the rehearsal section of the evening. Marilyn
reminds us again about our commitment and tells us we better work out our schedules since she "owns our souls" until the show. "There are only
two reasons to miss class," she says matter-of-factly. "One, if you are in the hospital or dying, and two, if your mother is in the hospital or dying."
This year the JHU Company will perform nine pieces, seven of which are Marilyn Byers creations. The other two are student choreographed under
her direction, subject to her criticism. One of the two pieces is Alan's. The other is by Ashley, a member of Dance Dimension, Marilyn's pre-
professional company, resident at the Slayton House in Columbia, Maryland.
Of the seven pieces that are hers, Marilyn only considers two of them "substantial." The rest are just "dar gone fufu" dances which she spent less
time developing, or which she choreographed because we asked for more "pretty" dances and fewer of her characteristic "controversial" ones.
While balletic kicks, turns, arabesques, and jumps characterize her "pretty" dances, her substantial pieces involve contortions, falls, and
movements meant to be ugly, heart wrenching, and provocative. These dances are designed for mature dancers and a mature audience.
Historically, modern choreographers and dancers have been both criticized and praised for their eccentricities. In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote that
modern artists had "diseased minds." In The Dance Handbook, Allen Robertson and Donald Hutera describe Isadora Duncan: "Performing barefoot
and in a loose-flowing tunic, she gave her audiences a highly individual and subjective vision of dance. Some thought that Isadora was a goddess,
others merely saw her as a crackpot. History confirms her as a mixture of the two; legend reveals her distinctive quality as charisma." Although
she does not define herself as a follower of Isadora or of any other stylist, Marilyn demonstrates charisma and enthusiasm in her often disturbing
choreography. Her credentials and recognition define her as an artist, not a crackpot.
Over the last 26 years, Marilyn has choreographed well over 200 performed works. She is recognized inside and outside of Maryland and the
United States for her artistry and involvement in dance education. In 1987, she was named one of seven Kennedy Center Teacher Fellows, and
the center awarded her a Medal and Award of Excellence for being an artist and teacher. She was honored at the Art Dialogue Australia
bicentennial celebration that year. The Kennedy Center funded the project in which Marilyn auditioned, chose, and taught Australian dancers
"Gold," her piece about the discovery of gold, "something that both Australia and the United States had in common." In 1985 and again in 1988,
she took students to the three-week International Peace Festival in Sophia, Bulgaria. The festival, focusing on "unity, creativity, and beauty,"
involved 120 countries, each of which sent ten "cultural ambassadors" to share dance, music, poetry, literature, drama, and puppetry. Marilyn
and her Dance Dimension dancers were among the ten from the United States. Her dancers performed at one of the cultural palaces in Bulgaria
for 4,000 people, including the heads of various countries and the head of the United Nations. "It was like the Olympics," she says.
In 1993, Governor William Donald Schaefer of Maryland named Marilyn and her dancers "cultural ambassadors" for the state of Maryland. Since
then, Dance Dimension has performed at arts festivals in Tres Cantos, Spain and Cergy-Pontoise, France as part of Columbia's Sisters Cities
Marilyn's students have won awards in the National Arts Recognition and Talent Search (the arts counterpart to the National Merit Scholarship in
academics) and earned many dance-related scholarships. Although she is a devout contemporary choreographer who believes that jazz dance is
not good for anything except "musicals and stripping," a few of her former students have found careers in musical theatre, appearing in A Chorus
Line and Les Miserables. She has also had a student recruited by Mikhail Baryshnikov to dance in the American Ballet Theatre.
"Since we have the good space," Marilyn says. "We need to run 'Heresy.'"
Heresy. Trauma. Suppression. Oppression. Pain. Shunning. Disappointment. Courage. Feminism. Themes of Marilyn's piece that we refer to as
"Heresy" in rehearsal. "Heresy" uses symbolic movement and universal gestures designed to ignite an emotional response in the audience. "You
always want to put a controversial piece before intermission so people will talk about it," she says.
Last year, we only performed one section of the "Heresy" suite. The section titled "Blame It on Eve" is performed in black vintage dresses that she
found in thrift stores. She says that she chose the old-fashioned black dresses to give the impression that dancers were witches or martyrs. Last
year’s version of "Blame It on Eve" opened with a dancer shouting out scriptures over the cultish chants of monks. She yelled, "And the Lord God
said unto the woman. What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me and I did eat. And the Lord said I shall
increase thy sorrows and thy conception. Thou shall answer unto thou husband and he shall rule over thee." The rest of us grabbed our heads in
pain and torment, striking sharp poses in a spotlight on stage left. Her voice echoed as we shuffled off the stage in different directions.
The rest of "Blame It on Eve" includes slashing motions to the neck, frantic attempts to wipe off the body, silent screams, and a disturbing
abortion sequence that involves curving the back and creating a round shape with the arms embracing an imaginary pregnant stomach. The arms
are brought together in a violent and intense crossing and slicing motion over the abdomen. The dancers become women rebelling against the
oppression of men and society, regaining control of their lives and bodies. Parents have taken their children out of the audience when Marilyn has
presented this piece. One of her dancers quit, saying that Marilyn is "evil."
Marilyn says that when developing gestures, she "allows the unconscious to be in charge, because the meaning has to be real and honest." She
says that her pieces are never really finished. Instead, they keep evolving. Often she will find new music or another related idea, and redo a
piece or section of a piece years after the original production. She calls the time between creative spurts an "incubation period." This is exactly
what happened with "Heresy." This year, she expanded her theme further, renaming the suite "Prayer for Unfettered Souls" and adding the two
distinct sections which now precede the "Blame It on Eve" sequence.
"Now before we run it, I want to talk to you about the piece, so come here."
We sit around her chair like little kids awaiting story-time at the library. Since she hasn't ordered us to stretch, we take the opportunity to lie on
the floor or sit back and eat the cookies she brought.
"The dance is about agony of indecision, to go with the Establishment or not," Marilyn begins. "Alan represents the Establishment and it's even
worse that just the Establishment because he is a man. Nadine breaks away from the Establishment. She is the first to speak heresies. She tries
to influence the others to speak out as well. You have to think of a moment in your life when you had to either go with the Establishment or not
and then try to tap into that feeling when you perform this, even if the moment is as simple as rebelling against your parents. SPEAKING OUT."
Marilyn moves her hand out in front of her as if she is pushing someone, one of the repeated motifs in the dance. "Being oppressed." She brings
her other arm under and then over the extended arm and folds at the waist. "SPEAKING OUT." She puts her hand over her heart and starts, "I
pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America. And to the Republic." She puts her hand down and calmly says, "Being oppressed."
"The second part of the dance is about being different," Marilyn says. "The classic image is Joan of Arc. I was reading a book about the children of
Israel. There were really 13 children of Israel, not 12, but Israel was divided into only 12 parts because one of the children was a girl. Women
have been oppressed throughout history."
Having absorbed her pep talk, we take our positions for part one, "Lamentation for Heretics." We sit with out shins tucked under us, our knees
facing upstage, stage left. We lie down as if we are facing Mecca, engaged in an Islamic prayer. This part of the suite is performed in long white
robes. Alan, the religious leader, dressed in black, makes his way through the formation, chanting in Latin. As he passes we rise slowly, sitting up
straight. The music starts, a similar chant but with a deafening hum and drum beat in the background. Boom. Boom. Alan raises his fist to his
forehead and then opens his hand. Boom. Boom. We follow, raising our fists to our heads and then opening our hands.
"You have to feel each other's kinetic energy," Marilyn yells over the chants.
Boom. Boom. Alan looks solemn and serious. He performs the movement a second time. I laugh.
The music stops. "This part is a LITANY," Marilyn yells. "It HAS to be exact. We'll try again."
"Thanks a lot, Anita," Cindy says, laughing.
"While we are here, Marion move upstage and Sherry move stage left," says Marilyn. "Now, everyone, remember these positions."
We go back to the Islamic prayer position. I'm not going to look at Alan's face this time.
The second section is a solo performed by Nadine. Having been rejected by the collective, she rubs her face to comfort herself and then appeals
to us again. We reject her, simply and symbolically, by turning around. The third part of the suite is the revised "Blame it on Eve" sequence, minus
the Scripture reading. "'Heresy' is not linear," says Marilyn. "It's three separate complex ideas: the litany, being different, and the blaming of
Much of Marilyn's work has been inspired by her mentors, Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis, whose professional company, Nikolais/Murray Louis
Dance, resides at the Joyce Theatre in New York. Marilyn met "Nik" and Murray while completing master's work at American University. She
participated in the Nikolais/Louis Dance Lab. Their focus on the "art of motion" and contemporary abstract dance appealed to her. Marilyn smiles,
enthusiastic to talk about them. She explains that they use concepts from physics such as centripetal force- the force drawing spinning objects
toward the center of the rotation- in their creations of dance.
The inside cover of Marilyn's copy of Inside Dance, Murray’s first book, contains a dedication referring to his emphasis on the circle: "Marilyn dear-
love- circles and high levels- Murray Louis." Nikolais signed, "to Marilyn Love 'Nik' Alwin Nikolais."
Among the many lines she has underlined in the text is: "I begin a dance with a general premise, and then take off. When I reach an impasse, I
stop, re-affirm my premise, and go back to where I deviated from it and continue again. I welcome these deviations because they are often the
seeds of future dances." Marilyn implements this in her creation and revision of her pieces. She sometimes purposely gives imprecise directions
before telling us to run a particular sequence. "Sometimes when I'm vague the dancers interpret things differently. Sometimes what they do
inspires me to change something in the dance or use a certain movement in another dance," she says.
Much of Murray/Nik dance focuses on the premise that "man is not the center," the dehumanization of man. In "Mantis," a part of his piece
"Imago," Nikolais enlarges the human body using costumes. He extends the range of movement of his dancers by equipping them with leg-length,
inelastic sleeves. The "hands" of the extended arms look like suction cups. The dancers are meant to not look human and are meant to explore
beyond a human range of motion.
Marilyn borrows the notion that "man is not center" in her piece "Rainforest," which she is presenting as this year's finale. She began
choreographing this dance because she had a passion for the rainforest and environmental issues. Although we are only performing "Rainforest"
in two parts, the dance in its entirety, in Marilyn's mind, consists of four distinct sections.
Part one, "Interdependence," has two central images. An animate organism in the center of the stage and a cocoon in stage right.
Dressed in matching purple and blue tie-died unitards, Nadine and Alan perform a contemporary pas de deux in the center. Nadine hangs on Alan,
upside down. Her legs are bent at the knees on Alan's shoulders and her feet are wrapped around his head. He moves his arms up and down, to
reveal that Nadine is holding herself up. Nadine raises her arms while Alan lowers his. Their arms come together to form a circle, then pull apart
creating parallel lines. Nadine then flips over Alan's back. Her legs wrap around his waist. Her torso is turned away from his. He holds her calves.
They form one parasite with one set of legs--Alan's-- and two heads facing in opposite directions. He starts walking, circling the stage, his
parasitic other half hanging from him.
When Nadine is finally standing, she and Alan press together like Siamese twins conjoined at the head. "This is a moment!" Marilyn screams in
rehearsal. "Make it a moment." Alan starts rubbing up on Nadine's neck.
"Ahh. It looks like he's going to have sex with her neck," Cindy says from the wing, looking disgusted.
"Alan, I didn't mean that kind of moment," Marilyn says, laughing.
In stage right, Marion and Sherry, inside cheesecloth, share the role of a creature emerging from its larvae. Sherry lies on her stomach. Marion
lies on top of her. Their bodies form an X. The cheesecloth they share is already snagged and pulled halfway off of Marion.
Marilyn doesn't look happy. "You are one creature dividing into two, MITOSIS," she yells. "I don't want to see hands. APENDAGES. ANTENAE.
FLIPPERS. WHATEVER. NO HANDS. Change your dimensions and speed." Marion flaps her hands rapidly keeping her fingers together. Sherry
moves slower. "Yes, better," Marilyn says.
In accord with Murray/Nik theory, a large part of the rainforest piece depends on the dancers' abilities to not look like people. "You must get rid of
everything that looks human. It's interesting because once you can do that, you will start to see what being human really is," Marilyn says.
In part two, "Coexistence," Jessica sits on the floor, her legs spread open. She points and flexes her feet like in the warm-up exercise. Nadine
leans on her from behind, squatting so that her head is just above Jessica's. Cindy stands behind Nadine, and Alan is behind Cindy, poking his
head above hers. Their heads appear stacked, forming a column down the middle of a pyramidal formation. They raise their arms like children
playing airplane games. The single creature's eight arms then begin moving up and down in opposite directions, coming together and then moving
apart, giving the impression of a multi-armed Hindu god. All four sets of eyes blink at the same time. Then wide-eyed, their heads make random,
sharp movements in every direction, as if they are searching for something.
When Marilyn choreographs, she is complete. She times everything down to eye movements. "The audience has to feel it and experience what
you are doing," she says. "Now is the time to get beyond the technique to the art of it."
She then orders the creature to "exfoliate." The dancers come into a line, then begin falling to the ground and standing up in a pattern resembling
that of the pistons in an engine. Alan stands in the traditional toes-to-heel, crossed-leg ballet fifth position.
"No. No. Trees can't be in fifth position Alan," Marilyn says.
"Why not? Fifth position isn't human," Alan points out.
People enter, coexisting with the creatures of the rainforest. Allison and I, the natives, enter. We draw our arms back as if drawing a bow and
arrow. By now the four people who had formed the central creature are flat on their backs: They are now plants. They sit up, feet and arms in
the air. I grab Alan's hands, as if I am picking fruit from a tree. As I take his fruit, he shrivels. I move to Nadine, doing the same. She rolls back
down, shriveling up. Allison follows me, picking fruit from Cindy and Jessica.
Originally, Marilyn told Allison and I to choreograph what we do next. We developed an interactive, pantomimic pattern. I cut imaginary papaya,
and gave it to Allison who stirred it in an imaginary pot. It was too pantomimic for Marilyn. Our choreography was what Marilyn considers trite.
She gave Allison a set pattern semi-resembling cutting up food. She told me to just improvise and play in the vines, the tie-dyed hangings
suspended from the ceiling.
"'Rainforest is a progression of many people creating their own movement. It's individual and special. It's something that can't be reduced to a
computer," Marilyn says. She is saving part three, in which humans destroy the rainforest, for next year. She says that she has staged this part
before. Dancers then came out carrying phonebooks and bags of trash. Although she has yet to choreograph part four, the idea exists in her
mind. "I see a dark, segmented image. I want to use lights and unitards to show cracks in the Earth and erosion, a parched Earth."
When Marilyn constructs a dance such as "Heresy" or "Rainforest," she considers herself filling the role of a "socially conscious shaman and
storyteller that takes us to higher consciousness and a preacher of values through the arts."
"One of the beautiful things about dance is that it gives teenagers and college kids a voice," says Marilyn. "My students become a part of the
choreography. I especially enjoy working with Hopkins students because I have fun pulling the gold out of them. They show a fabulous
excitement of discovery and incorporate an intellectual side. If they are not experienced dancers, I try to show them that they are experienced
movers. We've all been moving since we were in our mother's womb."
Exhausted, at midnight, she frees us, sending us off to move in the non-dance world until the next rehearsal.
|Of Cocoons And Choreography
By Antia Alves Pena, JHU Class of '01