Colleen Thomas Dance

"the beautiful and the ominous mingle in thoughtfully poetic ways" - Village Voice

TEACHING PHILOSOPHY

The practice of the art of dance has been noted for its ability to develop discipline, concentration skills, and a level of commitment that pervades all areas of the student’s life. The persistence of and focus on the detail of form and sensation can create an awareness of the body that is invaluable in the career of the dance artist.

My technique classes emphasize alignment and the student’s exploration of space, rhythm, and dynamic quality. I believe that the best teachers focus on the student’s growth as they develop an understanding of their body’s relationship to movement.

I do not believe in a hierarchy of technique or style. My own training began with ballet and traveled through the traditional techniques of Graham, Cunningham, and Horton. Later, I was introduced to release technique, contact improvisation and more contemporary forms of modern dance. The ability to connect with my own body and having a grounded technique to work from afforded me a successful career in New York City. I want to help dancers discover their innate qualities while developing an aligned body, and inspire them to apply that to movement in space and time. This knowledge will create a versatility that can be instrumental as they encounter other forms of movement in their careers.

The teacher’s attention to curriculum, knowledge and love of the form can help guide the student through her/his own journey. Dance was my first love and continues to inspire and inform my life. My experience as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher in the field continues to feed my passion for the art form.


RESEARCH

Colleen Thomas EEG 620.jpg

Dance is experiential. So many complex psychological processes occur when you move your body and the moving body is so extremely dynamic; I wonder how an electroencephalogram (EEG can record all this complexity?. This is the question Colleen Thomas-Young asked herself during her lecture at Columbia University in 2015.

In collaboration with neuroscience researchers Andrew Goldman and Paul Sajda, Colleen Thomas investigates how Contact Improvisation as a practice of the mind and body enhances the effect of certain cognitive processes. Dancers with training in Contact Improvisation —a form of improvisational dance with partners — showed greater activity in the brain's motor cortex than dancers with limited improvisational training, researchers have found.

In May 2019, Goldman, Thomas, and Sajda published their findings in Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Their article, “Contact improvisation dance practice predicts greater mu rhythm desynchronization during action observation”, examines brain activity during choreographed and improvised movement performances.

Read the published article here.

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Photos ©  Alex Escalante, Gary Noel, Ian Douglas, Ernesto Mancebo, Yi-Chun Wu, Judy Stuart and Michael Discenza