Christine Cali: Space & Connections in Dance

I took a contemporary dance course at ODC with Christine Cali that I had been looking forward to.  Her reviews listed her as “one of the most ferocious, spell binding dancers in San Francisco.”  (Her full bio is available here.)  But, as always, I was also nervous: what if I can’t do x-y-z, what if my muscle memory is totally shot when the combination comes around…on and on…

What I got instead was a nurturing class.  I know: the word nurturing was nowhere in my previous dance training or performances based on competition, picking up combos as fast as humanly possible, and kicking the highest or turning the most.  Which is what got me injured.  Yet, when developing or developing another talent, what is the term that is used?  Nurture.

We began with exercises that for me, was about connection to the floor and to space.  Everyone should take dance or yoga only because most people are walking around with the vehicle that will take them through life and have no idea about it.  They have an idea about its weight and love or hate it based on that number — and that’s about it.  Which is sad. The body is not a number; it is so much more than the weight on a scale.

How does a spine move; what are all the muscles of the core other than the famous six-pack ones; where do you hold your tensions; what are you limitations and strengths; how do you occupy space; how are you connecting with the people in your space?  When you begin exploring all this, guaranteed the result will not only be a good, healthy body but a healthy relationship to your body.  Ultimately, the best dancers have this relationship to their bodies that answers those questions.    Ms. Cali’s approach is to take you on the path to answer those questions. Not just do something; but how is it to be done on your body?

Later, Christine had us massage each other.  Not a full out massage, just standing while another dancer eases your tensions.  My tension always comes from someone else touching me so this was not relaxing…at first.  The result was connecting to the other dancers almost like company members rather than people who will judge or compete with you.

Either it’s just my life or this culture, but safe touch is not a part of life. There’s 14 but as my hub and love, that’s a given.  There needs to be much more of it: safe, connecting touches.  It can be transformative.

Connecting was another aspect to the class through duets.  Duets are not necessarily partnering as had been my training; it is also awareness of another body traveling through and occupying the same space as you.  I was nervous but shut my mind off and really concentrated on the other dancer. That’s a good partner — I would say in life as much as the stage:  shut up and listen!  As they say, 85% of acting is reacting.

Christine teaches Release at ODC every Mon and Wed, 10am-12noon (Intermediate) and Fri, 10am-12noon (Advanced).

She will be performing at The Garage on Sunday, March 7th at 8pm.

She will be teaching a workshop, “Presence: Perception: Performance” on March 18th (8–10pm) and March 20th (2-6pm) as part of The Garage’s Vergefest, a new festival curated by Christine, featuring contemporary dance, improvisation and performance from March 14 -21st.   All workshops culminate in a performance.

The workshop is open to all levels of dancers; as well as actors, musicians, poets and people interested in being more present in performance and life. Musicians, poets, actors – bring your instrument of choice, monologues, poems, songs, etc!  The class will question how we channel our creativity and become more present and available now. (Vipasana through dance!)

Both workshops are $50.  Scholarships and work-exchange is available. Just write to Christine at  Hope to see you there!

ODC: 351 Shotwell b/w 17th & 18th.

The Garage: 975 Howard b/w 5th and 6th


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