Cheryl Wallace

Basically Dance

It's regrettable to start the New Year with some bad news. On Jan. 6, esteemed choreographer, teacher and performer CHERYL WALLACE passed away. Her presence will be sorely missed in the area's modern dance community and beyond. Wallace loved to teach and strove to get people from all walks of life dancing, teaching classes inside and outside traditional dance venues. Contemporary Dance Theater Director Jefferson James recollects, "She was a rebel but in a very gentle way — she brought out the humanity of a subject and of performers." As a regular student in Wallace's modern dance classes at CDT, I recall her stressing that movement should come from a visceral place — often specifically noted — but still express emotion. Movement should happen in a natural, unforced way. You had to be open to being present in your body, to let it happen. She also used wonderful imagery — arms as tree branches, extending from the trunk of your body. Rachel James, a choreographer, dancer and a longtime Wallace student, shares similar memories. "I distinctly remember her saying 'Think about your Eustachian tubes, Rachel,' when trying to help me with my alignment." Whatever it meant to her — it worked! "She never had any interest in simple exterior form. She was always talking about where the impulse, the initiation, the motion came from, somewhere deep in the body, but also the soul." ...

The relentlessly genre-defying PERFORMANCE TIME AND ARTS SERIES kicks off its season this weekend (8 p.m., January 27-28, College Hill Town Hall) with a mix of new cutting-edge material. Fittingly, this show will be presented in honor of Cheryl Wallace, who was slated to debut a new solo work before her health's sharp downturn. In this installment, check out several promising dance duets, including one from PTA favorite Rachel James with Ruusu Sunila. The passionate pair work strongly as individuals and as partners in improvisation and trust. Set to tunes by Tom Waits and David Krakauer — with what James calls "circus qualities," I expect this one will be fun. James declares it's got chutzpah. The show must go on.


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