Finding Real Joy

Editor’s note: This month on Stance on Dance, several dance artists have been asked to share a pivotal dance experience that changed their trajectory or the way they think about dance. 


In May 2014, I participated in a workshop with a wonderful man by the name of David Zambrano. His work has spread far and wide from his home in Venezuela and has invaded Europe. It is now part of the curriculum for major dance school’s including P.A.R.T.S (BE), SEAD(AU)and London School of Contemporary Dance (UK).  I have been studying his techniques — Flying Low (a dance technique) and Passing Through (an improvisation method) — for the past three years in London with one of his 50 trained teachers, Leila McMillan. During this time, Zambrano’s ideas have altered my way of working and my future in this career. I have come to love these techniques and witnessed change in my own dancing and also how I interact with others in the studio.


To very briefly describe the work for the sake of talking in detail about it later:

Flying Low works with speed and efficiency traveling in and out of the floor, based on the idea of spiral and passing through other people and yourself. It commonly uses the term “gathering and sending” to recycle energy. It is also about being with the group and dancing together.

Passing Through works with all of the same principles as Flying Low but is quite simply turned into a game of improvisation. It always begins with running, walking and “pausa” (pause) and can develop to any degree of physicality depending on where the group decides to take the game. It is also a chance to connect with music and your own style as long as you follow the rules. Rules, to name a few, are use hands in case of emergency, eyes up, elbows in, and always travel in a curve.

This particular workshop was focused on Flying Low and solo improvisation.

It was the first time I had worked with Zambrano himself, and throughout the week I realized that this man was teaching much more than dance; his techniques truly influence and reflect the way he lives his life.

Zambrano is a strong character. Each day when I entered the studio (about 30 min before class) he was standing there, feet planted, eyes shut and simply moving his arms in a gathering and sending motion. He relates very strongly to music, whether Beyoncé, jazz, salsa, etc.  His charm and comedic comments in the studio drew me into the essence of what he was trying to communicate. One of my favorite phrases of his is (in a perfectly cheeky Venezuelan accent) “…touch yourself…or else nobody will touch you.” He says this as we spiral up, gathering from the earth through our centers back to standing.

There is a real joy for life that exudes from Zambrano. You can see he loves what he does, and that his work is his life and his life is his work. He believes strongly in sharing information. His notion of “passing through” is one that resonates very strongly with me, especially as a freelancer. That is, we are all passing through life, it is a constant motion and we should share and learn as much as we can from each other along the way (in a nut shell). Tradition and culture influence his work very much and is also something he emphasizes when making work. He is about 50 years old and throughout class is demonstrating every exercise. Not many in the group keep up to his speed as we fly low with the music. It is inspiring to see someone of that age moving with such vivaciousness!

david zambrano

After watching and learning from him for a week I felt a prominent change in the way I began approaching both dance and improvisation. First, I began to feel real joy and lightheartedness, as well as non-judgment towards others and myself in the room. This was quite pivotal for me, as on more than one occasion my feedback from auditions has been to not be too serious.  I very often, particularly in auditions, get hung up on getting it right and judging myself. This can lead to an inwardness that I suspect is not so attractive for those who are watching me. It usually happens when I’m under stress or not connected to what I’m doing. So, seeing this part of myself shift was very positive. Since the workshop I have been lucky enough to get pretty consistent work for the last six months and I believe this is NOT a coincidence.

Post-workshop, I also managed to get some of my own studio space to practice some elements of solo improvisations Zambrano offered. This period was a definite high point in my somewhat short experience of freelancing. I experienced a freedom to do what I felt was right in the moment. I mostly ended up improvising to some of my favorite music as well as creating a strong daily routine for myself which includes writing, singing and concentration exercises. It was a great couple of weeks and I am hoping to develop my research from that time into a one-woman show! Hopefully more coming from me soon!