Jodi Melnick on Her Lifelong Love of Dance
I am deeply, madly, in love with movement.
It is one of the great loves of my life, it is my heart.
The very unromantic reason why I dance is because it is my vocation, my entire adult life’s work, it is what I do. But back to the heart…
Since my beginning, my beginning, beginning, I had (and still do) two modes: constant motion and stillness/staring/observing. Skipping, flying, rolling, running, climbing, dancing down supermarket aisles, cartwheeling…that led very quickly to aerial cartwheeling, and front and back flipping was a perfect fit for my childhood as a competitive gymnast. Those big, moving expressions elided into a greater love for dance, tap, jazz, and to my infatuation with gesture. I’m from Brooklyn, grew up in Long Island, and my dad would take me to New York City Center to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I’d watch the dancing scenes from West Side Story and Singin’ in the Rain over and over again, and choreograph my way in and out of the town pool. In college, I was again constantly falling in love with movement—Limón, Cunningham, Graham, then improvisational forms and, boom, I was hooked.
Dancing can be supremely solitary, especially when you love to be alone for hours in a studio, loneliness being a downfall. But with that comes autonomy, individuality and how I learned about myself. It’s strange to spend one’s life dedicated to creating experiences that vanish as soon as they are constructed—but those experiences forever stay with the body.
Dance brings me pleasure, friendship, expands the shimmering relationship between people and collaborators that has shaped my life. It is expressive of the exact time we are in, full of endless potential, trust and teaches me about continual change. It is freedom, it is community, not to be taken for granted. Dance has been generous; more importantly, it has given me a way in which to be generous—teaching, sharing experiences with my students, continues to push my own dancing and choreographic voice.
The dance community is intense and specific. It is how I have socialized myself in the world and learned the most about myself and how I am best productive and honest.
Dance is the experience of adrenaline and melancholy, wildness and restraint, what is beautiful or terrifying, articulate speechlessness. It is constant, vigorous motion that keeps on going.
I like how dance acts as an intensely active process while watching, making and doing, involving a stream of inferences, hypotheses, predictions and anticipations, and changes on a dime according to one’s stream of consciousness.
Dance is where I locate continuum.
Dance is abundant in form, like water.
A stream, river, pool, coming out of a faucet, falling from the sky, the power of a wave, it is forever changing.
Dance is freedom to be led by my instincts, doesn’t have to be logical; movement can be compared to the infinite sensations I am feeling, a cacophony of ideas, all of them coming from movement.
This dancing life is how I feel rich and embrace optimism.
It is the hardest thing I will ever do.
I’m waiting to wake up and not want to be a dancer. It hasn’t happened yet.