The BeMoved dance class at Hubbard Street Dance Center is the ultimate body-friendly workout. Created by renowned dancer and choreographer Sherry Zunker, BeMoved is a class designed with adults aged 40 and 65 in mind. The brochure describes it as “a gentle dance class designed for adults of all movement abilities to embrace dance as a lifelong means of health, joy, and fulfillment.” I recently had an extremely refreshing experience of taking the BeMoved class, and its effects on my self-image and state of mind were definitely more than I could have anticipated.
After taking a nearly 2-year hiatus from regular dance classes, returning to ballet class in 2008 when I moved to Chicago was not as easy of a transition as I’d anticipated. Classically trained as an adolescent, I had it instilled in me that there is always room for improvement; you are never a “perfect dancer.” Thus returning a few pounds heavier with a diminished capacity to remember choreography, I found myself angry at my body for what it could no longer do, and discouraged that I might not be able to regain what I once had. Luckily, BeMoved is perfectly structured to combat this sort of self-criticism!
The class is a delightful assemblage of both former dancers and adults with no formal training at all. The teachers (two aspiring BeMoved instructors aided Sherry with the class) are fun and energetic, and there’s a fabulously social and laid-back vibe. It’s the best kind of exercise: play disguised as exercise! With flowing underwater-like warm ups that I can describe only describe as “Zen,” followed by simple but sassy movement sequences, BeMoved pushed me to let go and just have fun, to stop focusing on what my body can’t do and appreciate what it can.
I had the opportunity to ask Sherry Zunker a few questions about her wonderful BeMoved classes, namely her innate sense of how the body “likes” to move, and the vast benefits of dance at any age.
NR: Your choreography is very fun and natural. What’s your creative process?
SZ: For me it starts with the music, and then I reflect on the essence of what I feel, what I want to communicate, and how I can ultimately connect with the audience. I almost always see and create the outline, arc, structure of the dance first. In creating a dance concert piece I choreograph movement before starting rehearsals in addition to having the dancers improvise. Then I include and edit those two sources. In creating a dance number for a show I usually have the entire dance created before rehearsals begin as there is limited time for play and experimentation. I always have a plan for a rehearsal but am not rigid in my expectation to execute it exactly. It’s my intention to stay in an open, aware, almost child like state so that I can be in tune with my visceral responses and make decisions from that place.
NR: What was your inspiration for adult classes like BeMoved?
SZ: I started teaching a class for post-professional dancers and designed the class to respect any physical limitations while keeping it stimulating on an artistic level. The response was so positive that I felt that adults with no formal training would also like, and benefit from, a class created especially for them.
NR: What are the benefits, besides the physical, of beginning or continuing dance at an older age?
SZ: I believe dance benefits many aspects of our well being. It stimulates our mind, lifts our emotional state and spirit, keeps us connected socially, enhances physical confidence and vitality and engages all the aspects of our being at the same time.
NR: What is your favorite part about working with adults?
SZ: I find it deeply gratifying to nurture a demographic that often puts others before themselves. I also enjoy being connected to people who are close to my age. I am 49 and as a choreographer, director and teacher I almost always work with people who are younger than me.
NR: Many dance instructors strive to push students’ bodies to the height of their technical potential regardless of the physical consequences. What is your recipe for balancing technique improvement with listening to the body and respecting its limits?
SZ: I find that most classes are emphasizing technique, strength and endurance so I provide a class that feels good and is therapeutic. I concentrate on style, musicality, and expression. I call it the dancing of dance and feel it’s a good compliment to what students are getting from other teachers. Because dance has become so athletic I often feel there is not enough time to include the artistry of dance in class. I think we need to discourage the belief that if class or choreography is hard to do it’s automatically good and beneficial.
NR: Do you have any advice for adults over 40 looking to begin a dance regimen?
SZ: Yes, take BeMoved! It’s the one class designed especially for you!
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