Anne Stanton 5/4/09
Partner dancing. Fun, but come on. Does it really change lives?
When you talk to a group of students and their college dance instructor, Mykl (pronounced Michael) who goes by one name, the answer is an overwhelming ohmygodyes! Their enthusiasm is so great about Mykls unique style of partner dancingan intimate style of ballroom dancing, which looks very graceful and altogether normalthey believe that it can become a movement. That it has the potential to spread like a virus (a good virus) throughout the world, and awake the weary worker bees who have lost their joy of living due to the hum drum struggle of survival.
In fact, they are making a feature movie about this dance style and are calling it Be Here Now.
They have little money, but so far passion has carried them a long way. With a barebones budget, they have written a 90-page script, filmed secondary scenes and put together a cast, production crew, and music. All that thanks to people who have generously given of their equipment, time and talent, said movie producer James Weston Lynne.
Even so, Westonfilm needs money to complete the projectup to half a million dollars. Filming is scheduled to begin in June and wrap up this fall. Westonfilm is looking for donations of any size and will be holding a fundraiser on May 13 at the InsideOut Gallery at 7 p.m.
Bring your dancing shoes!
The movies story line focuses on the lives of seven people who take a dance class from Mykl, a free-spirited dance instructor, who shares his philosophy of dance and its metaphor for enjoying life.
The characters are troubleda journalist, for example, was nearly blinded while on assignment in Iraq; she has serious questions about her ability to continue her lifes work. The characters lives interweave throughout the movie; as they progress through the dance classes and learn to trust, their sense of isolation and fear melts away.
Your ability to learn how to trust as you dance is something you carry into your life, Mykl said. You cant help it. I see it so often, and its the impetus for the film. Its all about growth and the potential for transforming your life. Fear turns to love and joy into creative dance. Its the only way you can do it right.
It affects anyone who gets into it. Ive seen the shy, nerdy boy hanging out in the corner. And, how after he learns to dance, hes out there talking to a girl. Not just any girl, but the prettiest girl in the room.
Mykl believes that dance isnt supposed to be a rigid set of complex steps, with the man leading and the woman subserviently trying to follow. His approach is to get the students to walk out the beat and ultimately to dance, following the passion of the music. The next evolution is the most importantfor the partners to balance their weight and dance movements against each other. Its as if the balance becomes the focal point, the real lead between the two dancers.
Mykl said he was subconsciously inspired by watching Fred Astaire movies when he was younger. Later as a dance teacher, he saw that most people were intimidated or felt boxed in by a rigid set of steps. They quit, and he felt like doing the same.
Instead, Mykl decided to teach another wayto instead show students a basic framework for the steps of a particular dance within which the dancers improvise, such as in the three-beat waltz. But whether its a swing, salsa, tango or blues dance, the concept is the same. Feel the passion, dance to the rhythm, and let the balance and the music lead you.
Its even bigger than that, say the actors who are gathered in a downtown Traverse City apartment to explain the movie. As the dancers move, they must be absolutely present in the moment and fully aware of their partner. That moment feels magical, said Jamaica Lynne Weston (James wife), who has studied modern dance for years.
I was scared, really scared the first time I tried it. Im used to dancing alone, and I felt intimidated. But I pushed through it. And I loved it. Ever since then, thats what I want to do. Youre learning to dance in an equal partnership. You give some, they give some, she said.
George Michaelson, the productions still photographer, says that dance helps people lose their sense of isolation.
Somewhere along the way, people lost their passion to live life as its meant to be livedtaking the time to enjoy the look, the touch of another person, the smell of a rose, he explained in a video promoting the film.
Dance revives the passion, he said.
James Weston Lynne, 22, said he started dancing with Mykl three years ago at a time in his life when he was questioning his lifes direction. He had started attending college at the age of 16 and began working as a flight instructor at the age of 18. A year later, he was feeling rushed and wondering if flying was truly his lifes work. About that time, he had returned to Traverse City and decided to visit a dance club held Wednesdays at Northwestern Michigan College at 9 p.m. The club attracts up to 80 people, most of them in their 20s and 30s.
I thought it was going to be more like a Streeters with a lot of kids with really loud music, lots of hip thrusting, arms waving in the air, he said. It turns out, it was an absolute stark contrast to that. There was much more warmth, the music was beautiful. I had no concept that could even exist. There is no drinking, we dont even have drinking at our events. You have to be present to dance, and alcohol just gets in the way.
After dancing at the club for four months, Lynne decided to take a class from Mykl. Over time, he began spending less time as a flight instructor and commercial pilot, and more time building his new company, Westonfilm. Through dance, I learned that I loved the arts and being creative, he said.
Over the past three years, Mykl, his partner Carrah Buckel (who is in the film) James and Jamaicawhom he met at the dance clubhave become dance ambassadors of sorts. They travel all over the state to conduct workshops and hold dance events. Former students often invite them to their college campuses and organize the events.
Mykl came up with the idea of an instructional video to take his dance style national, but Lynne talked him into making a full-length feature film, which could better convey the transformational power of dance. The movie title, Be Here Now, came from one of the first inspirational books that Mykl read in his early 20s. Its philosophy was very profound for me.
The talent fell together, drawing on an underground of a younger crowd with a spiritual and environmental bent, including musicians from the Earthwork music collectiveBreathe Owl Breathe, Chris Dorman, and May Erlewine and Seth Bernard, Susan Fawcett, founder of Fox on a Hill Productions, and the environmental group, Little Artshram, which is assisting with fund raising.
The stories in the film are based, in part, on real stories of dancers.
There are so many stunning stories of being changed and transformed, Lynne said.
The only thing left now is to come up with a name for the dance. The idea of unity dancing was suggested.
Yes, we like how it sounds, Mykl said. In the past weve been calling it freestyle shared partner dance, but we think thats kind of long... so yes, how about we call it unity dancing.
(If youd like to make a tax deductible donation, go to www.littleashram.org. To find out more about the movie, go to www.beherenowthefilm.com. To sign up for Mykls dance class, call NMCs extended education office at 995-1700.)