Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Explore art, life skills and health

Aubrey Stephens to share ideas, photography book

Express Staff Writer

Photo by Aubrey Stephens

Creative empowerment is a subject Aubrey Stephens, a photographer and retired dentist who resides in Hailey, is passionate about.

While photographing young Footlight Dance Center dancers he became impassioned with the idea that dance requires specialized mental skills. Indeed, researchers are beginning to look to movement to understand the integration between brain activity and emotional and intellectual balance.

For instance, PET scans have shown that one brain area helps to direct our movements through space. Another area of the brain serves as a kind of synchronizer that helps us pace our actions to music. People tap their toes to music unconsciously. No other mammal responds to rhythm the way a human being does, implying a synchronicity that spatial perception and orientation are not just inherent but, combined with dance, neuron-firing.

"How do we prepare young people to develop the creativity and adaptability needed to succeed in a fast changing world?" Stephens asked. "Artistic abilities, and particularly dance, concurrently with academic subjects significantly contribute to developing the full potential of the brain. The prefrontal cortex makes us human. It's not right brain-left brain, but continuous interaction. Dance and music both integrate the logical with the mathematical."

As well, dancing, along with yoga, gymnastics and weight training, is an activity that requires enhanced muscle memory.

"Dancers are among the truly gifted souls (who) endlessly create and recreate themselves before our very eyes," he writes in his book "Breathing Life Through Dance."

Stephen's gorgeous coffee table book includes 100 pictures of young Wood River Valley dancers, accompanied by inspirational quotes and testimonials from the dancers themselves. The photographs were taken by Stephens and contributing photographer Manon Gaudreau, between 2000 and 2007. Both Gaudreau and Stephens will be on hand to sign the book.

The senior dancers featured in "Breathing Life Through Dance" have danced for years, and "they know every muscle in their bodies," Stephens said. Their ability to physically create a scenic story for Stephens' camera is proof of their intense training.

To fully appreciate the skills, Stephens used his camera to catch the "moment the audience never sees, because dance is fluid," he said. "I don't think the audience is aware of the subtleties of ballet, the motor control of soft fingers and relaxed faces. They don't see the extreme extensions."

There will be a slide show of the photographs, including some more recent ones, set to music.

Talk and slideshow

What: Discussion on creative empowerment

Where: The Community Library

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20

Cost: Free, hors d'oeuvres served.

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