Dear friends and colleagues,

In cleaning up my website I did a little late night surfing and and came upon this in late January of 2011.

We all are so interwoven and one can never know how our intentions and words play out for other people. It was a pleasure to come upon the website of this young and articulate artist, Christopher McDaniel. I had the fortune to give a class in Jacob’s Pillow in 2009 and had a wonderful and diverse group of talented young dancers to work with. One of them was Christopher Charles McDaniel. At that time he danced with DTH and he has just recently joined Los Angeles Ballet.

He was very generous in describing how our class played out for him and has given me his kind permission to put this excerpt and his observations and responses onto the site.

Christopher Charles McDaniel: Dancers are the Athletes of God-Writers are the Engineers of the Soul

The Other Side of the Pillow…….

Jacob’s Pillow or “The Pillow” as it’s called is known world wide as the “Mecca” of dance. Founded by Ted Shawn, The Pillow has grown to be THE place to go for performances  from top of the line international and local dance artists and companies. Not only does The Pillow have an amazingly heterogeneous festival, it has a crafty and astute school.

The School at Jacob’s Pillow, offers “intensives” in various dance forms. Students can attend intensives for dance disciplines ranging from classical ballet to Tap Dance, Theatre Dance, and Contemporary dance [just to name a few]. In the summer of 2009 after an amazing first season dancing with the Dance Theatre of Harlem Ensemble (DTH), I was offered an opportunity to attend the 2 week ballet intensive at the Pillow. Obviously I took it!

When I got to the Pillow I realized that I would be dancing with amazing young dancers from ALL over the world. Dancers in the program hailed from different parts of the United States, Canada,  Denmark, Brazil, Columbia, and Paraguay. This excited me, because I would be able to learn from them, and be inspired by the different techniques and  training everyone had.

Working with the faculty was incredible! We studied with Ana-Marie Holmes, Adam Sklute (Artistic Director of Ballet West in Utah), Kee-Juan Han, and Stephanie Saland. We worked with genius choreographer Viktor Plotinkov on a brand new work, that we premiered in the Gala opening the Festival that year!

After a few days I started to feel like I was being overwhelmed, trying to impress the faculty, and the other dancers. I went into the program, knowing I was representing something larger than myself (DTH) and didn’t wanna disappoint. But an arresting experience came, and showed me just how I could finish the program with strength. That experience came in Stephanie Saland’s  master class.  Here is my diary entry from right after the class. . . . . .

“So I just left THE most interesting class I have ever had in my life! Stephanie Saland who is a former NYCB dancer came to the pillow to teach a two hour master class! She began the class with a “disclaimer” that we weren’t getting a normal traditional ballet class. She began to explain that her influence for class comes from many different forms of dance, and yoga. Throughout the class you could feel the relaxation and creativity moving in her head. She taught a class that was in agreement with idea that one doesn’t always have to be perfect! The class allowed me to release, and let go of tension that I developed from trying so hard to be good enough. Her class was extreme and over the top and I adored every second of it! If I were able to move that way more often, ballet would become more and more of an addiction for me! Being here at the pillow; where gorgeous is an understatement, allowed the class to become even more of a release. It made me long to become one with nature and dance like I was in a field where the open space was unlimited and I could fly.”

Stephanie’s class changed the way I danced. After that class I made a sincere vow to myself that when I danced, I was dancing for Me. I promised myself that from that day forward, dancing would be my way of communicating with God and communicating with my inner-self. I promised to be kind to my body, and only do what I was able to, and not push it too far. Because of those promises I move forward in this career, with gratitude to Ms. Saland, an ever burning love for the art form.