Brenda Daniels ADF Class
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Brenda Daniels’ students stretch it out.

I meet up with ADF student dancer Kat Folckomer in front of Epworth Hall, where ADF maintains its administrative headquarters. She’s wearing a loose-fitting brown tee, shorts, Birkenstock sandals and sunglasses. It’s 10 a.m., and class starts in 15 minutes.

On the way to her first class, Folckomer explains that classes are held every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On the other days, students have the option to attend informal classes, such as Pilates, or attend showings of work other students are in the process of producing.

Classes are divided based on difficulty level. On the schedule, levels range in ascending order of difficulty from one to five. But Folckomer says the levels are pretty fluid and open to interpretation. “They don’t really mean anything,” she says.

Her first class, “Cunningham-Based Technique,” (named for Merce Cunningham) takes place in the East Campus’s Brodie Gym. Many students have arrived and are stretching at the wall or on the raised platform.

When class begins, teacher Brenda Daniels takes roll, saying, “I know everyone’s tired from that whole complete week of dancing.” The class stretches to warm up, employing basic ballet. Daniels walks among her students, correcting technique here and there.

In an effort to rid her students of their “loose, Barbie-doll legs,” the dancers break into pairs and take turns balancing while turning on one leg, while their partner turns their leg to facilitate easier movement.

Brenda Daniels ADF Class
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • There’ll be no Barbie-doll legs in Brenda Daniels’ class.

For the second hour, it’s time to dance. The class practices several sequences, each one getting more complex. The students divide into three groups of four columns and take turns dancing the routine across the mat to experimental music provided by an accompanist. The routine encompasses a lot of vertical leaps with arms spread out.

Brenda Daniels ADF Class
  • Photo by Sarah Ewald
  • Dancers practice a routine in Brenda Daniels’ class.

After a quick lunch at Whole Foods (or, as Folckomer says, ADF’s unofficial cafeteria), we head back to Brodie Gym for Folckomer’s second class, “Movement, Momentum and Strategies.”

“This class focuses more on horizontal movement, so it’s better for someone like me,” Folckomer says. She quickly reassures me that I’ll soon see what she means.

After chatting and taking roll, instructor Pam Pietro tells her students to take a moment to gather their energy. The dancers lie on the platform, breathing deeply, as Pietro asks them to think about their intentions for class and the rest of the day, and to take stock of where their body is at this moment.

After warming up, the dancers practice the sequence they’ve been working on since the previous Monday. Many spins and vertical movement is incorporated. Accompaniment takes the form of a bandanna-ed man playing bongos.

Pietro fields questions between practicing sequences, telling one student not to hold anything back.
“If you fall, awesome. I just want you to go for everything,” Pietro says.

As the students get more confident in the routine, Pietro plugs in her iPod. The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” blares out into the space, and Pietro shouts encouragement and instructions over the song.

At the end of class, the students return to laying on the platform. Pietro tells them to think about what’s happened over the last two hours. “Don’t judge it, just accept it,” Pietro says.

After the cool-down, Pietro hugs each student goodbye and they file out of the gym.