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Dance & Travel: The Horton Lateral T Across the World

Posted March 27, 2014

Last fall, Ailey challenged Facebook fans and dance enthusiasts to submit photographs of themselves in an unusual place doing a Horton Lateral T, one of the classic movements from the technique that Ailey used in many of his famed works. The response from participants was overwhelming – submissions flew in from exotic locations around the world, displaying a full range of fans’ creativity and enthusiasm for the technique. One fan, Vanessa Villain, is a former student of The Ailey School spread her love of Horton across the globe, and discovered along the way that that combining dance and travel could enrich her experience of both.

Vanessa shares:

Since I was young, I've had an incredible chance to travel all over the world. Travel, for me, is a perfect way to open up one's mind and be aware of the world we are living in. As a dance teacher and a choreographer, I’ve always been inspired by traveling and meeting new people. I love to understand different cultures and forget mine for one moment by immersing myself as much as possible in the local culture of the place I visit. For example, last summer, I traveled by myself for two months throughout South America -- to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.

It's such a culturally amazing experience. Local people didn't hesitate to invite a foreigner like me into their house, where I ended up spending the whole afternoon talking with them about their country. These vital travel experiences create spontaneous and magical moments I live in with intensity. During these trips, I also let myself be snatched away by the colors, the flavors, and the landscapes that the places I visit offer me. I photograph street scenes, portraits...anything my eyes land on that draws me in. When I am back in my dance studio, I transcribe and replay all the emotions that I’ve gathered from my trips into the movement.

In every country I've been, dance has its own singular place in the society - such as Samba in Brasil, Cumbia in Colombia, or Bharata in South of India. During my two trips to India, I was captivated by the complexity of the Indian music rhythms and the symbolism of Indian traditional dancers' gestures, such as how they move their fingers or even their eyes within a dance.

Traditional dance, which reflects a country's history, is another approach to discovering a new culture and it fascinates me. That's why I always enjoy watching dance either on the street or in the theater. During my three years as a student at The Ailey School, my instructor Milton Myers always told me, “You have to use every piece of you and put every single experience you had into your dance in order to make it real.” For me, this is the core of dance interpretation. To appreciate the creation of a choreographer, the choreography needs to speak to you first. So, traveling for me is an incredibly intrinsic and extrinsic trip. You don't only open up to others, but also to yourself!


Above: Vanessa in Angkor, Cambodia; Below, from left to right & top to bottom: Taj Mahal in Agra, India; Forbidden City in Beijing, China; Atacama Desert, Chile; Villa de Leyva, Colombia; Madrid, Spain; Iguazu Falls, Argentina; Rio de Janiero, Brazil; Uxmal, Mexico; Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia; Machu Picchu, Peru; mountains in Peru; Maldives.