How Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Rena Butler Uses Dance to Define Herself & Inspire Others
When I was just a little peanut, my siblings and I used to find scrap paper and use them as tickets to our makeshift dance performances at family gatherings. They were more like circus shows, really, where my brother was the ringmaster, and my sisters and I were animals; we dove through imaginary flaming hoops and showcased our best tightrope acts with the suspense of plummeting into an endless pit of sorrows. This was my first introduction to the beauty of movement as a way of communicating.
Photo by Lindsay Linton
My parents threw us into an array of activities, from swim team and water polo to basketball and Girl Scouts—anything to keep us on our feet, off the streets and defying the odds of black children growing up in the U.S. Although I had an athletic side, it was very clear that my siblings took more easily to sports than I did.
I found my expression differently: coming home from school after a hard day, blasting Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope album on repeat, and swirling and gyrating along that tightrope with commitment and power.
Photo by Todd Rosenberg
As I grew older, my hardships became more challenging than being picked last for softball in gym class. I felt I had to work twice as hard in my neighborhood because of the color of my skin, and I saw how the world began to shape me. I realized that I could use this medium of dance as a way to define myself and to inspire others. I wanted to share more of what was inside of me that wasn't apparent to the naked eye: the wildness, the heartache, the freedom.
It is very seldom that we have the opportunity to share what's inside the book, and often end up being judged by our covers. When you first see me, you notice that I am a woman, a black woman. But when I start to move, I am much more: I'm vulnerable yet strong, intense, intelligent and intuitive, animalistic, invested and passionate, broken yet bold. I dance so you can see me, and perhaps even see yourself.
If "Fosse/Verdon" whet your appetite for the impeccable Gwen Verdon, then Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon is the three-course meal you've been craving. The new documentary—available now on Amazon for rental or purchase—dives into the life of the Tony-winning performer and silver-screen star lauded for her charismatic dancing.
Though she's perhaps most well-known today as Bob Fosse's wife and muse, that's not even half of her story. For starters, she'd already won four Tonys before they wed, making her far more famous in the public eye than he was at that point in his career. That's just one of many surprising details we learned during last night's U.S. premiere of Merely Marvelous. Believe us: You're gonna love her even more once you get to know her. Here are eight lesser-known tidbits to get you started.
Every dancer knows that how you fuel your body affects how you feel in the studio. Of course, while breakfast is no more magical than any other meal (despite the enduring myth that it's the most important one of the day), showing up to class hangry is a recipe for unproductive studio time.
So what do your favorite dancers eat in the morning to set themselves up for a busy rehearsal or performance day?
When it comes to dance in the U.S., companies in the South often find themselves overlooked—sometimes even by the presenters in their own backyard. That's where South Arts comes in. This year, the regional nonprofit launched Momentum, an initiative that will provide professional development, mentorship, touring grants and residencies to five Southern dance companies.
You ever just wish that Kenneth MacMillan's iconic production of Romeo and Juliet could have a beautiful love child with the 1968 film starring Olivia Hussey? (No, not Baz Luhrmann's version. We are purists here.)
Wish granted: Today, the trailer for a new film called Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words was released, featuring MacMillan's choreography and with what looks like all the cinematic glamour we could ever dream of: