Technique My Way: Laurel Tentindo

Tentindo in Trisha Brown’s Raft Piece. Photo by Carrie J. Brown, Courtesy Trisha Brown Company.

 

 

Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Laurel Tentindo is a study in fluid energy. In a recent rehearsal for Brown’s Set and Reset, the lean redhead sliced across space with blade hands rebounding against the air, the aftershock reverberating up her pliable spine. Even standing still, she appears to move in minuscule vibrations. Turns out, this is no mistake. “I don’t think of the body as bones and blood,” she says. “I think we’re strange water, fluid, fascia balloons moving in space. If we can always find spaciousness in our tissues, from the top of our spine to our heels, we have more freedom to move.” DM chatted with Tentindo, who has been with TBDC since 2007, to find out how she maintains the healthy mind-body balance that informs her dancing and well-being.


Spiraling Into Motion

Growing up in Essex Junction, Vermont, Tentindo studied ballet and non-traditional theater. Instructors from Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal who taught at a local studio, The Movement Center, gave her the unadorned classicism that, along with improvisational skills learned in drama classes, serves as the basis for her technique.


While Tentindo appreciated this early ballet training, the expectations it created were extreme. “The box was too narrow,” she says, “so much so that I developed an eating disorder. I felt sad, spiritually.” When she found contemporary dance, late in high school and then at Sarah Lawrence College, “I felt free. My aesthetic changed. I realized I love the practice, the ritual, the spiritual component of dance more than formal rules. I got to heal.”


Then Tentindo encountered what became a cornerstone of her training and health maintenance, Skinner Releasing Technique. During college, she took Skinner classes each summer in Seattle; she later studied for five years to become an instructor. “Skinner Releasing integrates technical practice with the imagination,” she says. “Hands-on work and imagery of the spine and skull allow you to free the limbs. The tone of the class is safe and supportive and the word ‘allow’ is primary.”


Every morning, Tentindo applies these principles as she takes time to “check in with my energy and spirals,” she says, referring to spiraling the muscles around the spine in opposite directions. “Perhaps I’ll stretch in my bed or on the floor, completing the simple spiral of shifting my bent knees to one side and looking to the other side. I might also put my legs up on the wall, letting the femur drop back, and feel the weight in my body as I breathe. Then, if I’m heading to the studio, I tailor my warm-up to what I’ve found in that initial investigation. I begin by slowly breathing and softening in different areas to practice releasing.” From there, Tentindo might do a modified version of the “spiral series” that she learned from anatomy and kinesiology expert Irene Dowd. “The basis is flexing and extending the major muscles while spiraling.” Then, either standing or lying down, she works in “continuous, multi-directional alignment, traveling through space,” which might manifest in arm swings, tendus, or dégagés.

Beyond Release

Dancing for Trisha Brown isn’t all about letting go. “Even though we do so much release work, you can’t flop around. You’ll hurt yourself,” Tentindo says. “You need to engage and draw in the abdomen, back, and sides to protect your body.”

 

Throughout rehearsal, Tentindo often checks in with her feet because “that’s where the weight should be.” At times, she concentrates on switching “into a tai chi state,” she says. “When I’m first seeing a phrase, I’ve learned to mark, using initiation points but not ripping into it immediately. Knowing how to modulate the volume on your output as you go through rehearsal, softening sometimes and popping at others, is so important for longevity.” She completes her routine on rehearsal days by icing andelevating her legs.


On days without dance, Tentindo keeps her body awake by simply “moving through space,” she says, whether biking, swimming, or walking in the park. “Dancing in Trisha Brown gives you the gift that you’re always in your body, always aware, even if not onstage.”

Tasty Nutrition

Of her teenage eating disorder, Tentindo says, “I was eating, but in a way that I was always losing weight. It was destructive as it happened when I was still growing. I reached a point when I couldn’t sustain those eating patterns.” Recognizing her problem, she consulted a college advisor, who directed her to a support group. “The group allowed me to realize the emotions that were creating the disorder, and I learned how to taste and enjoy eating.”


Now, Tentindo approaches nutrition in the same holistic way she dances. “I choose delicious, nourishing foods so that when I eat it’s fully satiating,” she says. “I also find that the food you cook, or that someone you love cooks for you, is best.” While Tentindo doesn’t rule out many options (“Sometimes you need dessert and sometimes you don’t!”), she steers clear of hydrogenated oil and high-fructose corn syrup. Breakfast is a must. “You have to eat in the morning,” she says, “to stabilize your blood sugar for the entire day.”

Get a Life

Having a full life outside the studio is crucial for Tentindo. She enjoys doing film and puppetry projects with her husband, former dancer and puppeteer Luis Tentindo. “The more fun I’m having being creative in my whole life, the more I’m able to feel in the studio. And being creative in your overall life allows you to drop the idea that there is something perfect. You need to gain nourishment from outside of the studio to give dance what it deserves.”

 

 

Lauren Kay, a Dance Spirit contributing editor, is a dancer and writer in NYC.

The Conversation
Dance on Broadway
Michael Jackson performing in 1992. Via Wikimedia

If you love Michael Jackson, you'll love this news: A pre-Broadway run of the MJ jukebox musical will hit Chicago this fall.

Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough boasts more than 25 MJ hits and has set its premiere for October 29. As previously reported, Christopher Wheeldon will direct and choreograph the new musical, while Lynn Nottage pens the book.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Dance Media CEO Frederic M. Seegal. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Gallim will honor Frederic M. Seegal and Limor Tomer at its February 12 Force of Nature gala. Both honorees have a close relationship with the Brooklyn-based contemporary dance troupe, so it's fitting that they'll be recognized at Gallim's first-ever gala.

Seegal, Dance Media's CEO, previously served as Gallim's board chairman. He fondly recalls his first encounter with the company: After Gallim brought down the house at its 2010 Fall For Dance performance, Seegal was immediately convinced that he had to support the company and connected with artistic director Andrea Miller that night.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Joshua Dean. Photo by Craig Geller, courtesy Dean

These days, you don't have to be in the circus to learn how to fly. Aerial dance has grown in popularity in recent years, blending modern dance and circus traditions and enlisting the help of trapeze, silks, hammocks, lyra and cube for shows that push both viewers and performers past their comfort zones.

More dancers are learning aerial than ever before. Besides adding new skills to your resumé, becoming an aerialist opens up a new realm of possibilities.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Valdes and Alonso. Photo by Nancy Reyes, courtesy BNC

Alicia Alonso's famed ballet company in Cuba has a new leader: the beloved hometown prima ballerina Viengsay Valdés.

Ballet Nacional of Cuba just named Valdés deputy artistic director, which means she will immediately assume the daily responsibilities of running the company. Alonso, 98, will retain the title of general director, but in practice, Valdés will be the one making all the artistic decisions.

Keep reading... Show less
Advice for Dancers
Photo by Ahmad Odeh/Unsplash

I'm terrified of performing choreography that changes directions. I messed up last year when the stage lights caused me to become disoriented. What can I do to prevent this from happening again? I can perform the combination just fine in the studio with the mirror.

—Scared, San Francisco, CA

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
It's not about what you have, but how you use. Photo by Brooke Cagle/Unsplash

From the angles of your feet to the size of your head, it can sometimes seem like there is no part of a dancer's body that is not under scrutiny. It's easy to get obsessed when you are constantly in front of a mirror, trying to fit a mold.

Yet the traditional ideals seem to be exploding every day. "The days of carbon-copy dancers are over," says BalletX dancer Caili Quan. "Only when you're confident in your own body can you start truly working with what you have."

While the striving may never end, there can be unexpected benefits to what you may think of as your "imperfections."

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Alexander Iziliaev, courtesy MCB

It's the second week of Miami City Ballet School's Choreographic Intensive, and the students stand in a light-drenched studio watching as choreographer Durante Verzola sets a pas de trois. "Don't be afraid to look at the ceiling—look that high," Verzola shows one student as she holds an arabesque. "That gives so much more dimension to your dancing." Other students try the same movement from the sidelines.

When Arantxa Ochoa took over as MCB School's director of faculty and curriculum two years ago, she decided to add a second part to the summer intensive: five weeks focused on technique would be followed by a new two-week choreography session. The technique intensive is not a requirement, but students audition for both at the same time and many attend the two back-to-back.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Training
Instructor Judine Somerville leads a musical theater class. Photo by Rachel Papo

On a summer afternoon at The Ailey School's studios, a group of students go through a sequence of Horton exercises, radiating concentration and strength as they tilt to one side, arms outstretched and leg parallel to the ground. Later, in a studio down the hall, a theater dance class rehearses a lively medley of Broadway show tunes. With giant smiles and bouncy energy, students run through steps to "The Nicest Kids in Town" from Hairspray.

"You gotta really scream!" teacher Judine Somerville calls out as they mime their excitement. "This is live theater!" They segue into the audition number from A Chorus Line, "I Hope I Get It," their expressions becoming purposeful and slightly nervous. "Center stage is wherever I am," Somerville tells them when the music stops, making them repeat the words back to her. "Take that wherever you go."

Keep reading... Show less
News
Brooklyn Studios for Dance founder Pepper Fajans illustrates the cold temperatures inside the studio. Screenshot via Vimeo.

Dance artists, as a rule, are a resilient bunch. But working in a studio in New York City without heat or electricity in the middle of winter? That's not just crazy; it's unhealthy, and too much to ask of anyone.

Unfortunately, Brooklyn Studios for Dance hasn't had heat since mid-November, making it impossible for classes or performances to take place in the community-oriented center.

So what's a studio to do? Throw a massive dance party, of course.

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Anika Huizinga via Unsplash

As winter sets in, your muscles may feel tighter than they did in warmer weather. You're not imagining it: Cold weather can cause muscles to lose heat and contract, resulting in a more limited range of motion and muscle soreness or stiffness.

But dancers need their muscles to be supple and fresh, no matter the weather outside. Here's how to maintain your mobility during the colder months so your dancing isn't affected:

Keep reading... Show less
News
The International Association of Blacks in Dance's annual audition for ballet dancers of color. Photo by E. Mesiyah McGinnis, Courtesy IABD

A newly launched initiative hopes to change the face of ballet, both onstage and behind the scenes. Called "The Equity Project: Increasing the Presence of Blacks in Ballet," the three-year initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is a partnership between Dance Theatre of Harlem, the International Association of Blacks in Dance and Dance/USA.

"We've seen huge amounts of change in the years since 1969, when Dance Theatre of Harlem was founded," says Virginia Johnson, artistic director of DTH. "But change is happening much too slowly, and it will continue to be too slow until we come to a little bit more of an awareness of what the underlying issues are and what needs to be done to address them."

Keep reading... Show less
The Creative Process
Nashiville Ballet artistic director Paul Vasterling went through executive coaching to be come a better leader. Photo by Anthony Matula, Courtesy Nashville Ballet

From the outside, it seemed like the worst of New York City Ballet's problems were behind them last winter, when ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired amid accusations of abuse and sexual harassment, and an internal investigation did not substantiate those claims.

But further troubles were revealed in August when a scandal broke that led to dancer Chase Finlay's abrupt resignation and the firing of fellow principals Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro. All three were accused of "inappropriate communications" and violating "norms of conduct."

The artistic director sets the tone for a dance company and leads by example. But regardless of whether Martins, and George Balanchine before him, established a healthy organization, the issues at NYCB bespeak an industry-wide problem, says Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women. "From New York City Ballet to emerging artists, we've just done what's been handed down," she observes. "That has not necessarily led to great practices."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

If you've ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at Dance Magazine, now's your chance to find out. Dance Magazine is seeking an editorial intern who's equally passionate about dance and journalism.

Through March 1, we are accepting applications for a summer intern to assist our staff onsite in New York City from June to August. The internship includes an hourly stipend and requires a minimum two-day-a-week commitment. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

Keep reading... Show less
25 to Watch
Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt

What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.

Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Photos via Polunin's Instagram

If you follow Sergei Polunin on Instagram, you've probably noticed that lately something has been...off.

Though Polunin has long had a reputation for behaving inappropriately, in the last month his posts have been somewhat unhinged. In one, Polunin, who is Ukrainian, shows off his new tattoo of Vladimir Putin:

Keep reading... Show less
Health & Body
Dance classes will be a part of a movement towards "social prescribing." Photo by Leon Liu via Unsplash

It's become a colloquialism—or, we admit, a cliche—to say that dance can heal.

But with a new initiative launched by British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, doctors in the U.K. will soon be able to prescribe dance classes—along with art, music, sports, gardening and more—for patients suffering from conditions as various as dementia, lung problems and mental health issues.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Credits with photos below.

For the past few months, the dance world has been holding its collective breath, waiting for New York City Ballet to announce who will take over the helm as artistic director.

Though former ballet master in chief Peter Martins retired over a year ago after accusations of sexual harassment and abuse (an internal investigation did not corroborate the accusations), the search for a new leader didn't begin until last May.

Nine months later, the new director's name could be released any day now. And we have some theories about who it might be:

Keep reading... Show less
Irina Dvorovenko with Tony Yazbeck in The Beast in the Jungle. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Sam Rudy Media Relations.

Some people take this profession as just a chapter of their life. They feel like dance is a job—a fun job, but a job. Other people live their life through dance. I never considered being a ballerina a profession. It's a lifestyle.

If I don't have a performance, I feel like a tiger trapped in a cage. I have so many emotions, I feel I need to give them to somebody, to exhaust myself—I need to cry or laugh, or else it's suffocating. Other people might scream or throw bottles into the wall. We dancers scream onstage through our movement. For me, it's like sweeping off the dust in my soul.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance & Science
Amar Odeh/Unsplash

Back in 2011, Yale University's dean of science was thinking about refreshing the program's offerings for non-majors when he happened upon a Pilobolus performance. A light bulb went off: Dance is full of physics.

That realization led to what has become an eight-year collaboration between particle physicist Sarah Demers and former New York City Ballet dancer Emily Coates, both professors at Yale who were brought together to co-teach a course called The Physics of Dance. Their partnership has involved everything from directing a short film to presenting a TedX Talk and performing a piece that Coates created, commissioned by Danspace Project. This month, they're publishing a book about what they've discovered by dialoging across two seemingly disparate disciplines.

Keep reading... Show less
Career Advice
Umi Akiyoshi Photography, Courtesy Sidra Bell Dance New York

Sebastian Abarbanell remembers being asked as an undergrad at Trinity Laban in London to perform wearing only a dance belt. "I said no," he says, "because I felt uncomfortable." Now a performer with Sidra Bell Dance New York, he's performed partially nude several times, without reservation. The difference? "It comes with more experience and maturing as a dancer," he says. "When you see a dancer living in their skin, you don't need to put anything else on them. When I said no in college, I wasn't in my skin yet."

Getting in your skin—and getting comfortable wearing only your skin onstage—requires a particular alchemy of vulnerability, agency, preparation and practice.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancers Trending
Courtesy Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Royal Ballet announced today that international star Carlos Acosta will be taking over as director in January of 2020. Current BRB director David Bintley will be stepping down this summer, at the end of the company's 2019 season, after a 24-year tenure. "It is a tremendous honor and privilege to have been appointed to lead Birmingham Royal Ballet," Acosta said in a statement.

Since retiring from The Royal Ballet in 2015, Acosta has focused much of his attention on his native Cuba, where he's proven his directorial abilities at the helm of Acosta Danza, the contemporary company that he founded in 2016. In 2017 Acosta also opened his first Dance Academy through his foundation, which provides free training to students. We don't yet know how Acosta will balance his time between his projects in Cuba and his new role at BRB.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get Dance Magazine in your inbox