Who: Joseph Mills
City: Wilton Manors
Quote: "Moving properly is everything….in dance and in life."
“I admit it.
I watch people.
I am a dance nerd which also means I am a body nerd which makes me a people watching nerd. I study how people carry themselves. Is their gait smooth? What about their posture? Does their head align with their shoulders? Does their movement flow or is it hesitant? Are they flexible?
Doing this is just part of my DNA. For the past 40-some years, I have been a professional dancer working with dance companies as well as creating my own dance projects. I’ve danced in hundreds of shows, I still dance, I still choreograph and I am a college professor swathed in both the history and the philosophies of dance.
To be a dancer as my life’s work has been more than a career, it has been a privilege and an education. Right now I am teaching Appreciation of Dance at FAU. This video intensive class works fine on zoom but dims the luster of me seeing the facial expressions and body language of my students.
Dance is about more than dancing. It is both a way of looking at humanity and serves as a starting point for talking about race and culture. To understand dance is to understand its roots. For example, let’s start with African culture and aesthetics. We would not have the lindy-hop, rock and roll or hip-hop without African influence because it contributes to the foundation of dance today.
South Florida is a fine example for dance appreciation because of our large Haitian and African-American population. Through dance, they get to know their own culture better and all of us get to know them better. It’s the same with other cultures and their dances.
For most of my life, I have danced professionally with multiple modern dance companies. Performing dancers are a small community. We either know each other or have heard of each other.
As a principal dancer and choreographic assistant with the Erick Hawkins Dance Company (Martha Graham’s husband) and MOMIX, I have seen the world as a performing dancer.
MOMIX dance company emerged from PILOBOLUS, a company that features acrobatic use of the body for dance and creating illusions. During my doctoral program at Temple University, I did my dissertation on PILOBOLUS. One goal of illusion dancing is for the dancers to magically appear to defy and play with gravity. The best way for me to explain it is for you to see me doing it here: https://bit.ly/3sp59Dz . You may have seen this kind of work in the Hanes Underwear and Target commercials, in the 67th Golden Globe awards and as part of PBS Dance in America.
Before moving to South Florida, I was a tenured dance professor at Northwestern University and also the director of the dance program there. At Sarah Lawrence College, I taught in the graduate dance movement therapy program. This was not a dance program but rather an exploration of healthy movement patterns and how to apply those patterns to real life. Students had to first look at their own daily life. Do they work with old people? With babies? Are they on their feet all day? How do they sit? Must they bend? How does their body remember its default position? Are their shoulders rounded? Dance movement helps them work better with the people in their lives. This was separate from the dance program. This is not dancing, it’s understanding movement and you don’t have to be a dancer to do that.
When I teach movement, I am really at the core of who I am. I focus on healthy movement. I don’t necessarily challenge students on how high they can get their leg but I do encourage them to know their range of motion and what their skeleton will do. I might challenge them to do a higher leg but not beyond its natural capability. As with any student, I challenge their balance and correct their posture. I want to see them build muscle around good alignment. My goal as a trainer is to help people enrich their life to move better, not just look better.
I have trained basketball and football players to master quick weight shifts and increase their flexibility. I have also worked with people over 65 on evening their stride. I study their supporting leg and show them how it affects their head and neck movement.
How you hold yourself is more important than how much weight is on the pulldown bar. Alignment is everything and when that is correct then more weight can be added. If you add weight to bad alignment, you could face lower back problems, and rounding of the spine along with neck and shoulder problems. I want clients to understand how the body works and that every exercise is also a core exercise. Core support is crucial because it makes your body more functional.
I love to watch dance although it often frustrates me to see overextending and disregard for the natural body movement. Sure, I love illusion and all the tricks in dance but I value the subtle maturity of Tai Chi movements.
Even now, all of this still excites me. I know that there are projects out there looking for me; they may be dance, they may be choreography, it may be a consultation or perhaps something I create myself.
Dance is not “Dance Moms” and “Dancing with the Stars.” The field is so much broader than that.
Dance is a way to look at the body and through that, look at the world.”
“I am Anita Mitchell and I collect people stories, much the same way people collect shoes or baseball cards or Lladro porcelain figurines. During my 26 years at WSVN7, I had the front-row seat to people stories and it was there I learned about the extraordinariness of the ordinary.