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Paul Langland Dance

BODY OF WORK The Life and Teachings of Allan Wayne

An interview with Paul Langland by Brendan McCall

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It truly depends upon the student, and where they are with their lives and work. However, I do want to say that I appreciate emotional focus in dance training. It deepens the work. Also, this emotional aspect of Allan Wayne Work contibuted to why I was hired to teach dance to drama students at ETW.

Brendan: I understand that Allan's classes were generally small, and that each student would have an individualized series of exercises. The classes you and Tamar teach are generally larger, and the format of the training seems to have a rare ensemble, "shared" experience with the material. What is the reason behind this difference?

Paul: I don't remember a class of Allan's where there were more than eight students. In a class that size, one student could get into a back undulation, then make an insightful connection of how they could integrate that use through the legs, and personally find a beneficial movement connection. Someone else in class could start from the same base exercise of the back, and find a breath connection - releasing the shoulders and face, for instance. And on and on. Allan would go from person to person, checking in with everyone individually. He would give us breath and alignment feedback along with hands-on massage work, while others continued their own train of movement.

Brendan: It sounds like it demanded a lot of energy and concentration from Allan.

Yes it did. After periods of challenging physical work - we might spend over an hour on just the back, for instance - the whole class sometimes fell asleep from deep release and fatigue, including Allan! I remember one time waking up first, looking around at the sea of sleeping bodies, Allan in his easy chair, snoozing away. It was delicious.
Allan's classes were almost like having an individual session with a bunch of people around, if you can imagine Bioenergetics in toe-shoes! (laughs) The classes I teach are more within a recognizably "dance class" framework, while keeping an emphasis on the personal vision of each student. Toe-shoes are welcome, but no one has brought them in yet (smiles).
Brendon: As a student or teacher, has the emotional aspect of this work ever gotten out of hand?

Paul: Almost. Once in Allan's class a student got extremely angry.
Exploring for a long time a basic pattern that he had started her on, she found for herself a place where it triggered a rageful memory having to do with her father. Allan said, "Go ahead, hit something! Just hit something! Hit it hard!" She started hitting a mattress, weeping and yelling.
Allan encouraged her to continue her rage and mattress-pounding; the other students and I continued working. Then, Allen came over to me and whispered, "Gosh, Paul, you think she's all right?" For a moment I wondered. But his experience and intuition always helped students through moments like this. Under her rage were tears, and Allan made her feel safe to continue that emotional journey. I was also left with compassion for the vulnerability of teachers.
It's important to note that psychotherapy is an appropriate place to address personal content. If personal content comes up which goes beyond the scope of the class, I would always refer that student to the appropriate professoinal, although this has rarely happened.
I think that part of the process of life and learning is discovering that any emotion which one might have is OK to have. I observed a clear bridge between raw emotion and the creative life in Allan's work.

Brendan: Do you feel there are parts of Allan Wayne Work that are incomplete or lacking?

I have to admit that after teaching his work for 18 years, sometimes I'm not sure where what comes out of me came from originally. I've been very affected by Steve Paxton, Meredith Monk, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, Marjorie Barstow, Blanche Evan, Emilie Da'Oud, Mary Overlie...They have affected my work greatly in different ways at different times. One example of differences in style is how the complete ease and clarity of Alexander Technique seems to help in concert with the highly physical side of Allan Wayne Work. I've informally incorporated aspects of Alexander Technique into my teaching. The same holds true for principles of Contact Improvisation and Body-Mind Centering.
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