The White Room Studio’s banks of overhead fluorescents were off one Saturday in July, with just the distinctive dark proto-storm grey diffusing through the big glass windows that line one of its walls.
The heat was staggering and everyone lazily stretched and waited for class to begin. This was Body Time, a new guided improv class taught by Scott McCabe and Motrya Kozbur on alternating weeks, a class where professional dancers, amateurs and everyone in between can share a space to move.
Montreal, it seems, is particularly receptive to this kind of class. It might appear from the outside that only amateurs would attend this sort of thing; would choose to goopily wade through space and laugh. Only that’s not the case. A whole range of movers showed up to the first Body Time. It was predominantly young, but people showed up from all levels of confidence, of self-awareness, of technique. Some of the non-dancers were sheepish relatives of dancers, dance-adjacent people just game enough to experience part of what their children and siblings have been up to all these years behind studio doors.
The main challenge in teaching this sort of class would appear to be how to create an environment that is both unintimidating enough to encourage novices while maintaining the genuine and non-patronizing interests of career dancers. The way McCabe and Kozbur have approached this is by constructing an improv class where introspection steers everyone’s individual experience of class. No one shares weight; there’s no memorizing, no choreography, just a constant stream of verbal cues. You may not have the loose and limber hamstrings of the person next to you, but you can take comfort knowing that you’re both trying to visualize your posterior thighs to the same high-octane pop and rap.
In this way, someone familiar with techniques of body visualization can push themselves farther, explore new avenues for moving and thinking, right beside someone for whom a phrase like “feel your feet connecting to the floor” or “think about your shins like the bone is separating from the muscle and flesh” is very much new and maybe weird and frightening. During the class, it struck me that the amateurs allowed a certain pleasant hint of giggling to suffuse the room — because improv really can be very goofy. Meanwhile, the bona fide full-time dancers kept the tone focused enough that people took their own body-mind explorations seriously. The experience felt very sexy, in that profusely sweaty loft space circa Flashdance sort of way, but also safe and very joyful. As Kozbur had encouraged the group at the beginning of class, “This is your fantasy.”
Body Time will take place at the White Room Studio (4532 Laval) every Saturday until the end of August, 5 p.m., $5