TEACHER PROFILE: ROSANNA TAVAREZ
Rosanna Tavarez’s exciting and diverse career in the USA stretches over commercial dance, modern dance and choreography. After her many talents had taken her into the spotlight as a performer in the entertainment industry, Rosanna transitioned back into the dance world and received her MFA in Choreography from Ohio State University. Now based in Los Angeles, she has been studying Countertechnique since 2011 and successfully completed the Countertechnique Teacher Training in 2016. Alongside her teaching career, Rosanna creates her own work in LA under the moniker LADANSADANSA.
By Madeline Harms
Tell me a little about where you are from and how you started dancing:
I’m originally from New York City, but was raised in Miami. I started dancing salsa and merengue in my living room with my family. At age three, I started taking ballet lessons and then went on to deeper training through performing arts programs in high school. I consciously shifted and embraced a career as a dancer, as an undergraduate in college.
In high school I was in love with dance but I really kicked it into gear in my first year at the University of Michigan, where I went to study choreography. Straight after completing my time there, I went on to graduate school at Ohio State University. I had a momentum that I didn’t want to break and just loved learning.
Where did that take you from there?
In unexpected directions! While I was still in graduate school, I attended an audition for a reality show called "Popstars" that tracked the process of forming a girl band. They saw about 3000 girls and I was one of the five girls they picked! The show lasted a year and then it took about 6 months to recover from that whirlwind experience. Not long after, I attended another open call looking for TV hosts and over the next few years ended up hosting several TV shows, red carpet events and entertainment news items for Telemundo, FOX, and various other networks. During this time, I knew all along I needed to recommit to a full-time dance career. I was still attending dance class regularly and missed it tremendously. So, at 32, I stopped tv hosting, completed my MFA and started over again. It's been an incredible journey and I am grateful every day.
How did you find out about Countertechnique?
In Los Angeles, I met Lillian Barbeito in 2011, Artistic Director of BODYTRAFFIC and certified Countertechnique teacher. The company was offering a Countertechnique workshop with Nina Wollny, and I was curious. I remember during class feeling completely disoriented! I loved the movement, but my brain and body just felt totally flipped around. At the same time, however, when she spoke about the philosophy of Countertechnique, it completely resonated with me. I left the workshop pretty sure that I wanted to get certified in the future, so I asked Nina how to do that. She advised me to first take many workshops and classes, as the teacher training is a culmination of all the information you have gathered. It sounded like a lot of research, which was perfect for me, so I was motivated to do just that.
How did you find Countertechnique influenced your performance career when you began this research journey?
I would say that some of the principles started to imprint themselves on me, especially how to deal with my awareness or how to approach how I was thinking about myself while I was moving. It changed the way I was perceiving myself while I was performing. Rather than being in this terrible binary way of thinking of “right or wrong” or “good or bad” I could give myself simple tasks that really helped and guided me while I was dancing. It gave me something to do other than worry about what I looked like or what people were thinking of me while I was performing.
Transitioning back from the entertainment industry into contemporary dance, Countertechnique gave me a seed of information to hold on to that made sense to me. In entertainment, I was constantly had a camera in my face and a team of people deciding what I should look like. Everything I was supposed to think about was externally generated. Then to come to a way of training and performing that is internally generated, where you are coming from within yourself and you are trying to deepen that relationship, was such a welcome respite to what I was doing before. I feel that Countertechnique offers another way to approach your dancing that is not coming from the outside in and that’s a big relief. When you begin to understand that, it opens you up in expansive ways.
How do you apply Countertechnique in other roles you may have?
Besides Countertechnique, I also teach yoga and I articulate a lot of my instruction in the way that I would in a Countertechnique class. I have been teaching yoga full-time since 2012 and Countertechnique has really freshened-up how I teach. Being able to use the tools on a population that have never been exposed to it is fascinating. It is so pleasurable to watch how people’s bodies morph when you give them that kind of instruction. You can see the whole room shift.
In a very simple way I also apply Countertechnique in my day-to-day life, for example when walking my dogs. I have two dogs over 40 pounds and both will pull me in different directions, so I really need to be consciously directing and count-directing, otherwise I experience lower back pain. That’s what I love about Countertechnique! It’s not just something for the dance studio, you can apply it in everyday life to keep your body healthy. It is medicine for my body and I feel it when I don’t apply it.
What do you like to focus on in your Countertechnique classes?
I love anatomy and you just can’t go deep enough because the body is endless and has so many layers. I love sharing the computer application Essential Anatomy 5 as I can see how the visual information can transform how dancers approach their bodies in class, because it’s not something esoteric. One shouldn’t assume that dancers fully understand their anatomy.
For a while now I have had this obsession with the latissimus dorsi. It is poetic! It is like a beautiful landmass on your back that goes from the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, covers your ribcage, inserts into the spine, goes all the way to the rim of your pelvis, and then inserts into your arm bone. Using this to widen your back it’s so fascinating to me! I am not bored of that yet.
Another thing is to simply cultivate a lot of joy in my class. One of the populations that I work with are commercial dancers and it’s a highly competitive world. It is wonderful to remind them that it’s fun to dance in a non-performative way. Not dancing and “performing” that they are having fun, but really having fun! I remind them that this class is not an audition, it is a process-based class and things will happen to them, through the way they think and the way they dance, if they trust that process.
If only I wish I had known...that being present can really be a portal to better dancing! That really sensing your body and connecting with people in the room and the space around you, can take you out of that self-judgement head-space. Then because you’re doing that, your body will be available and happy.
The Countertechnique Teacher Profile Interview Series is a bi-monthly publication, initiated in October 2017. Madeline Harms is an Australian dancer and writer, currently based in Mainz, Germany. Learn more about Madeline on her blog Travelling Dancers.