The stairs lead to a small corridor before a door left ajar. Already the rise in temperature is felt and there is a detectable odor originating from inside the adjoining room. The smell is evidence that a creative process is taking place in that room; it is simply a byproduct. Upon finally entering through the doorway, one’s senses absorb a one-of a kind scenario permeated with a combination of sweat, joy and pure life. Unfortunately, the air conditioning is not working properly; thus ventilation suffers. The result is stuffy, hot air and a not-so-pleasant odor exuded by swiftly moving bodies. Even so, it doesn’t seem to bother the occupants of the room. They seem to be more focused on generating more of the high-spirited energy that is already surging throughout. Even the onlookers forget about inconveniences as they are drawn into the action. The human condition allows us to adapt quickly and easily to almost any environment. This same principle is at work here.
Although the room is not large, it is fashioned to serve multiple purposes and is coordinated to function efficiently. There are strips of mirrors along sections of the walls, which make the room look more spacious and enhance light. Along one side of the room is a mirror stretching across the entire wall. It reflects the dancers’ movements fully covering the rectangular floor. The bottom of the mirror is slightly smudged with fingerprints from the kids that use the room in the daytime. The room functions as a playroom for children in daycare as well as a dance studio during weekends and evenings. The kids’ folding beds stand in the far corner in order to maximize the dance area. Kids’ drawings, early writing exemplars and other creations are posted on the other walls and cover the door. Bright blue, green, red and purple banners are cluttered in every available space, and there are even 3-D decorations hanging in some places. The most annoying of these is a huge silver disco ball hanging in the middle of the ceiling. It’s amazing how the dancers didn’t knock it down yet. One of them could easily jump or kick-jump high enough to touch it, or perhaps even knock it down with enough force.
In addition, the ornaments seem to match the season of the year. As Valentine’s Day is coming up, currently pink and red colors dominate the scenery. Warm-colored paper hearts of all sizes adorn every inch of empty space between the ceiling and the floor. Even parts of the mirror are blocked by the festive cut-outs. Apparently, the kids’ creative outlet has been concentrated into filling up the entire room with beautification. This adds additional distractions to the dancers, as they now have to avoid tangling the hearts hanging down from various places on the fringe between the wall and the ceiling. Unfazed, they continue their routine because they are so used to the childrens’ antics and thus the somewhat eccentric general effect on the design of their dance space.
On the opposite corner from the beds stands a piano with a pink cloth covering it. Next to it is a huge black boom box exploding with sound. Techno music is blasting through the massive speakers and its effect is palpable in the movement of the dancers. It is in large part a source for the excitement, and sets the tone for work. The upbeat rhythm it produces now is be a real change from the classical music playing just a minute before, when the dancers had been warming up on the bar. Now the bar stands off to the side, abandoned. Classical, eloquent yet strenuous ballet stretches have now been replaced by vigorous fast-paced work out. The girls have spread out to do individual routines such as back stretches, splits and crunches. They begin a series of complicated exercises, lined up one after the other. They proceed with kicks, jumps, turns and twirls, and cartwheels. The dance teacher watches as they stretch, evaluating ability, effort and grace. She sits on a chair next to the piano and observes the action unfolding in front of her. Her facial expression varies from unreadable to vacant at times, then switches to full attentiveness. As her eyes light up, she responds to her dancers by giving them feedback both by verbal and nonverbal communication. She gestures to them and mimics flaws in their performances. This method not only entertains the dancers, but also adds a personal vibe between them and the teacher. Although she imitates them in jest, they understand the point and take the criticism in with a defiant smile. It is obvious that the students enjoy the teacher’s interactions because they love and admire her; at the same time they respect her authority.
Another kind of noise adjoins the sounds of the music: the natural noise kids and teens usually carry with them wherever they go. This additional resonance weaves among the dancers and emerges in between movements. Gossip, laughter and mundane chit-chat flavor the musical noises and add a vibrant feel to the room. They are all gathered in the cluttered room for the same purpose, and there is a bond formed from the common aspirations among the girls. All of this takes place in a not-too-grand location, within the confines of four walls. In this particular, cluttered room the combination of smell, sound and motion create a special sort of energy. It is almost magical the way a mundane Wednesday night can be transformed by this blend of ingredients. Each person, sound, smell and grunt add something unique and the effect is indescribable. This small studio is a place of creation, and each element is enhances the essence of the overall product. Dripping with perspiration, the girls visibly put forth their maximum effort into the movement. Drained and exhausted, they still smile. Physically depleted, their spirits have found freedom of expression through dance in the space of a small but welcoming environment.