My Personal Story

My studies in the field of movement span a huge spectrum of forms, aesthetics, and ideas. I received my BA in dance from Hunter College, NYC, under the tutelage of Dorothy Vislocky, and my MFA from the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee. I have studied extensively on the function and anatomy of the body, and have learned both from my own journey in re-educating my moving body and the many students passing through my classes, or on the table and in her classes how to break down material, concepts, ideas, and use imagery to help facilitate the growth and change of others.  The exercises are precise, and important, but one’s process and/or individual learning styles are dictate the direction I take when teaching, whether in group, private, or hands on classes.

Susan Klein began developing her work in the 1970’s. I began classes in 1977, at the studio she shared with a woman named Collette Barry. I “wandered” into the studio after suffering many major injuries in a short period of time. I had a “passion” for dancing, but I was 20 years old, with a “difficult”, as they say, body. I was not what one would call talented, but I was determined that not only would I learn how to dance, but that I would do it well.

“Getting on top of one’s legs” (as the expression goes) was supposed to improve coordination and skill, and make the body move more efficiently. This was the beginning for me of an understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, and my studies at Hunter College led me to the modern dance department where, under the tutelage of Dorothy Vislocky (a pioneer in dance anatomy) I was led to understand that there was a way to more correctly use the body.

There was an empty spot here -the process was missing. I still could not figure out how to get those shapes, forms and movement that I loved so much to work on my body – I needed something else. When I began my studies at the Klein/Barry Studio, I was not “fixed”, placed, or corrected for many weeks. I began to relax inside my self. I was no longer just a body that needed to conform, but a person with an individual style of learning. I was a person with a spirit. I realized I could now actually begin to learn, to figure out how to move, to have movement sequence through MY body. I understood, on a body level, that learning was a process, and that everyone needed to find their own, with guidance, respect, and with attention to mechanics. My coordination became better, as did my technical skill and flexibility. That was truly the beginning for me.

All of my work and research in the realm of  re-educating my own body has laid a foundation for me of support, of groundedness and body felt understandings. My teachings, as well as my contributions to Klein Technique  reflect this experience. I began teaching classes in 1979 when the studio moved to Tribeca, NYC, becoming the Susan Klein School of Dance. Between the years 1983 and 2003I taught the major load of the classes.  The dedication and reputation of the work towards helping and healing spread through the NYC dance community, as well as to Europe, Mexico, and Canada and across the United States. Our doors were always open, and students came not only for classes but also for our keen eyes, healing hands, and generous and dedicated spirits. The studio was truly a place learn, to explore, and to feel safe in the process of letting go of the old and moving forward, in dancing, and in life. In the years 2001-03, the name of the studio was changed to the Susan Klein and Barbara Mahler School of Dance and Movement Studies in recognition of my contributions and commitment. In my 25 plus years of teaching I have also been active in the practice of the work, and to a great extent, embody its essence. In 2004 Susan and I parted, continuing our own unique explorations adhering, I believe, to the essential principles behind the work, Klein Technique.

My studies began with Susan over twenty-five years ago due to my own frustrations learning to dance, and led me to more creative ways of working, learning to use my body, gaining technique, and facility. I also continually injured myself in my efforts to copy, create, and fit. I became involved in a process of self-discovery, of learning and self-knowing. I could “pick-up” movement by actually understanding how it went through my own body. As I continued to “learn” I suffered fewer injuries – I could avoid them by being aware and smart. By actually learning who I was as a mover I could learn to dance, my biggest and still ever present, passion. I began teaching at the studio, The Susan Klein School of Dance in 1979.

(FOR CURRENT UPDATES ON MY TEACHINGS, CHOREOGRAPHY AND WORKSHOPS, CHECK MY PERFORMANCE PAGE, AND/OR BIOGRAPHY HISTORY.) My choreographic vision and passion is the solo dance, drawing on my life experiences, architecture, time, the moment,  and artistic exposures to create moving dances with clarity and intention; spare and rigorous in their construction.  Upcoming Events include an artistic residency at La Guardia  Community College – LEAP, and a project with choreographer Richard Daniels – “DANCES FOR AN I PHONE”. Recent performances and workshops include Santiago, Chile,; DancingPeople Company, Ashland Oregon, Zenon Dance School, Mpls, MN,; TAKING ROOT, – Green Space, LIC, Ohio State’s First Annual Dance Festival; SFDI, Seattle; Guest Artist at the UMW MFA program, 2009, Skolen for Moderne Danse, Copenhagen, Denmark; Dance Alliansen, Sweden; Berlin (LaborGras), Ashland Oregon, (Dancing People) Puebla, Mexico, (Performatica), and New York: Danspace Project, the Joyce SoHo, (Performance Mix), La Mama (Dancing Divas,) Dixon Place (Crossing Boundaries) Hunter College, The White Wave Festival in Dumbo, Brooklyn, the 75th Anniversary Celebration of 92 Street Y with “WOMEN MAKING HISTORY, WEST FEST at the Cunningham Studio, WOW CAFÉ’S 30th Anniversary Performance – EPIGENIS.  In April 2011 she was a guest artist with Anne Bluementhal from San Fransisco at the 92 Street Y Harkness Dance Center, and part of New Dance Alliance’s 25th Anniversary Celebration – 25×3. Her process and products are supported by Movement Research. Barbara has been a recipient of the Sage Cowles Land Grant Guest Artist (University of Minnesota), a 92 St Y Harkness Space Grant 4 times, and was a Movement Research Artist in Residence for the 2000-01 and 2006-08 seasons.  “My interest, my passion, is the body – the limitless possibilities of the body as an expressive instrument – to carry a story, to express a viewpoint, create an environment.

My interest in choreography parallels the journey I took and am still involved in,  in re-educating my own body, working on  facility, alignment, function, articulation and connection, as well as in my teachings and choreography. I constantly look to “invent” new movement, and as there truly is no new movement I look for  new relationships, textures,  and juxtapositions. For me the movement creates both the personality and the structure of the dance. It is what allows the dance to manifest itself. My passion is the solo dance, which I create both for others and myself. My interest is also in duos and trios, in all types of performance situations and environments.  The dance is then created to live in the room, on the lawn or in the theater it was initially created for.

Barbara Mahler 2007-updated 2011

1 Response to My Personal Story

  1. Bette Tsouprake says:

    I came upon this writing accidentally. I studied with Collette Barry when she had left NYC and was teaching at Connecticut College. She was the greatest teacher of my life and through her work and attention my body and my relation to my body transformed. She was incorporating moving, breathing yoga in the developmental movement patterns of her work. Her students loved her so much as she helped us transform. I kept dancing in Boston for a while but eventually became a yoga teacher and bodyworker/energyworker. What I learned from Collette influenced everything I did! Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!

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