word dance theater – strength, beauty, freedom
I had the privilege of having a conversation with Cynthia Word, founder, and direct Word Dance Theater Washington, DC.
Knowing Cynthia for several years, I have enjoyed her creative art of choreography and her passion for what she does.
Cynthia is an accomplished artist and truly an inspiration to her students and everyone around her. She commands an incredible art form with creative discipline, complemented by her congenial and gracious personality.
I decided to catch up with her current projects, and I was excited to share her talent and her dance company with the readers of Redux Extra.
I asked her if she would share her artistic journey with us, and she graciously embraced the idea with her signature welcoming smile. Let us have a few minutes with Cynthia Word
RE: Cynthia, I would like to start with an obvious question. Tell us about your background and your personal journey to becoming a dancer/ choreographer and a dance educator.
CW: I began studying dance in Abilene, Texas when I was eight years old and continued through high school. There were no dancers in my family. There was no one who would have a vision for me becoming a dancer. I never imagined to be a dancer. I did not see a live dance concert until I was in my 20s!
RE: Tell us about your education and how it led to choreography.
CW: I went to college at the University of Texas at Austin. There I majored in Special Education for Blind and Emotionally Disturbed Children. After my undergraduate degree, I taught in Ithaca, NY. I missed dance terribly, so I found a dance class called “Modern Dance,” not knowing that I was going to dance all the way toward my professional destiny. I must add that ballet was what I had previously trained in, and I had never seen modern dance prior to this class. I fell in love with it from the beginning, and within a year I had determined that I would dedicate my life to dance. I moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois to get a degree in Dance.
RE: How did your family receive your decision to choose dance as your profession?
CW: Making the decision to pursue a career in dance changed my life completely. It was controversial for my family. It created discord at first, but they graciously humored me and kept loving me. Since then I have never had a doubt about my profession. I have never looked back. My path has led me to be a choreographer, a dancer, and an educator, and I have loved it always.
RE: Tell us about the Word Dance Theater and its mission.
CW: Word Dance Theater is a 501(C) nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing the power of dance. Word Dance Theater is a world-class organization. We welcome people from all walks of life into our unique Isadora Duncan-inspired philosophy, methodology, and aesthetic of dance. Our approach blends music, theater, poetry, and visual art with holistic dance movements that unite us with the full range of our emotions and restore us to our roots: the breath, energy, strength, beauty, spirit, community, and freedom that is the birthright of all people.
RE: When did you start Word Dance Theater?
CW: In 2000 I founded my company, Word Dance Theater, in Washington DC.
Since then, we have won several awards for our work. I love the collaborative nature of bringing dance, original theater, and live music together to explore one topic.
– Revolutionary: Isadora Duncan: 2006 to 2008
– Preludes: Duncan, Sand & Chopin: 2010
– Once Wild: Isadora in Russia: 2013
– Chambers of the Heart: 2016
– Landscapes of the Soul: 2018
We have mounted many evening-length performances available on our website, www.worddance.org.
RE: Would you please expand on your art form, such as the purpose and style of your teaching?
CW: My training has been in ballet and modern dance. Within my early professional career in modern dance, I specialized in the repertory
and technique of Doris Humphry and of Merce Cunningham. I was a featured artist in companies in Houston, Texas, and later freelanced with companies in Washington, DC.
Maida Withers told me, “Don’t give away your power.” It took me a while to figure out what that meant or to even understand that I had power, but now I find that advice guides my life.
RE: Tell us about people and events that may have transformed, developed, and influenced your art form after your move to Washington.
CW: I moved to Washington, DC in 1989 because of a scholarship opportunity in the Department of Theater and Dance at the George Washington University. There I was influenced by Professor Maida Withers and dancer Mino Nicolas. I performed the Humphry classics in Mino’s company, The American Dance Repertory Company. While performing with Mino in 2006, I met Dr. Jeanne Bresciani, Director of the
Isadora Duncan International Institute. I became enchanted with Isadora Duncan — her life, philosophy, and technique of dance. Since then I have studied extensively with Dr. Bresciani. Word Dance Theater (WDT) now specializes in the repertory of Isadora Duncan and creates contemporary dances using the Duncan technique. We are the only Duncan company in the DC Metro area.
RE: I understand you have classes for several age groups. Could you expand on that, please?
CW: Currently, I teach classes in the Duncan technique for adults and teens through Word Dance Theater’s Education program. We also have a very active youth program offering classes for children aged 1 (taken with a parent) to 15 years old. Your readers are welcome to visit our website to learn more about our classes at https://www.worddance.org/youthprogram.
RE: Tell us about your most fascinating experience.
CW: I recall sitting at a dress rehearsal and seeing Jeanne Bresciani perform one of Duncan’s great solos. I had never seen Duncan’s dances, and I was blown away! I knew at that moment that I would do whatever it takes to study Duncan, both as an art form and as a way of living.
RE: Can you think of the best advice you ever received?
CW: Maida Withers told me, “Don’t give away your power.” It took me a while to figure out what that meant or to even understand that I had power, but now I find that advice guides my life.
RE: How do you measure success as a professional?
CW: I measure success by the amount of love I have been able to share through every aspect of my life and my career.
RE: If you have to choose one place to live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
CW: Anywhere that provides me with space, the freedom, the means, and the friendships to keep deepening in my life journey and sharing it with others.