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By Rosalynde LeBlanc
Rosalynde LeBlanc is the kind of modern dancer who keeps audiences on the edge of their seats. Her bold movement and daring leaps make her a force to be reckoned with. She has brought her strong presence to Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (1993–99) and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project (1999–2002). Working as a freelance artist since 2002, LeBlanc has danced with Larry Keigwin, Liz Gerring, Colleen Thomas, and others. She is currently a member of the new group OtherShore and can also be seen on DVD in the film Romance and Cigarettes. A faculty member at Long Island University, LeBlanc also helps restage pieces by Bill T. Jones at colleges around the country. Her writings on her emotional experiences as a dancer have been published in Dance Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children under the age of 3.
I don’t immediately think “I love dance” when someone asks why I dance, just as most people don’t wake up every day proclaiming that they love being alive. Dance, like life, encompasses a range of emotions—exhilaration and frustration, hope and heartbreak, and, like a whispered pulse underneath every triumph and tragedy, love. It takes some singularly magnificent moment (like finding yourself with arms outstretched in the shallows of a crystal-clear lake while butterflies land on your palms) to inspire the sincere proclamation, “I love being alive!” Likewise, after 15 years as a professional, dance is just as prosaic for me. Most days of classes and rehearsals come and go without anything particularly remarkable. So in order to hear that faint pulse, in order to be reminded that I may just dance because I love it, I need the dancer’s equivalent of a kiss from a monarch.
I was a naturally reserved child, one of those toddlers who was hiding behind her mother’s skirt rather than dancing around the house as soon as she could walk. But there was one early love that ended up attracting me to the dance world: music.
My love of music initially led me toward the grade-school band. I enjoyed participating in something so much larger than myself as I listened to my thin flute parts fade in and out of a sound that inevitably dwarfed me. But I remember desperately wanting to embody the music. I envied our conductor, being able to stand in front of this tremendous sound and move her arms furiously, as if the drums were in her elbows and the trumpets were in her hands. Sitting in a chair blowing into my flute didn’t satisfy the need to become a part of the music as much as it seemed conducting would. But by the time I was in high school I had found much more satisfaction in moving my body, wholly, gratuitously, to the music.
That expressive and shy child, the one who wanted both to play her flute passionately and to disappear in layers of sound, lingers in my dancing to this day. I love that my ego can hide behind these two fixed and familiar behemoths—the choreography and the music. And, just as I did as a child, I can choose when I want to step out and reveal myself fully or simply impress my image through the fabric.
Ironically, in my postmodern dance career, I have more often danced in silence or to atonal, non-melodic soundscapes than traditional music. But the times when I do feel like I am standing in a crystal-clear lake with arms flung open and ready to scream with joy are the times when a rolling melody, or an earth-throbbing rhythm, seems to be tethered to my skin. I am moving the music as much as the music is moving me. The dances, and in some cases the performances, that have provoked that profound union between body and sound have a singular place in my heart. More than pleasant experiences, they are momentary glimpses of divinity, in which any doubts about whether I love to dance are immediately eclipsed.
Photo by David Bazemore, Courtesy LeBlanc