Denise Lampart has dedicated her life to dance. She’s a dancer, choreographer, coach, teacher, production manager and regular guest at performances. Dance flows through every cell of her body and she teaches with dedication, passion and clarity.
Denise Lampart teaches Contemporary Dance at ZHdK and uses many different approaches to teach her students the skills they need for a healthy career. The moment you enter Studio 7 on the seventh floor of the Toni-Areal, you know you are entering an intimate setting. The sunlight hits the studio through the floor-to-ceiling windows, which offer a breathtaking view over the roofs of Zurich. A grand piano and its player watch over the room like an eagle over a field, patiently waiting for Denise Lampart to start the class. She stands tall and straight in front of the mirrored wall, facing her second-year students. A group of young, ambitious, smart and dedicated students are scattered around the floor, stretching, repeating plies. And then the sound of her voice fills the room: “And we go!” The students swiftly move to their position and before they can stand still, the piano starts and off they go.
For Denise Lampart, studying Contemporary Dance is similar to learning a language. You have letters, which form words, which then can be combined into sentences and, in the end, her students will be able to play with the order of each element. “As a dancer, you need to be flexible. What happens when I place my foot here instead of there? How does that impact the whole sequence? Embrace change with joy and curiosity.”
She walks through the dancers, stopping in front of a student. “Where are you moving from Valentina? Why aren’t you moving from your centre?” She gently places her hands on Valentina’s lower belly and presses against it. “You are moving from here. The strength comes from your centre. It’s a different movement. Try again. Could you all see the difference? Good. Let’s do it again.”
Marked by multiple endings followed by new beginnings, the students work their way through the exercises. Live music and an accompanist provide a wide range of sounds at diverse paces. The pianist sometimes purposely misses a beat. For Denise Lampart, it’s important to give her students the opportunity to experience disharmony. She realizes that it’s unsettling but necessary and a chance for them to learn. Always having their best interest at heart: “It’s not easy, it’s physically and mentally exhausting, but I want to offer them a safe playground, a space where they can grow. Sometimes someone has to leave the class, because it’s too much. Their day may have been going badly and our session just pushes them over the edge. It’s okay, it happens. We are human and we have an agreement. If you want to leave, you can, but you always have to come back after the class ends, so that we can discuss what happened.”
Denise Lampart has been a dancer for almost her entire life and understands the challenges her students face. Before founding her own dance company in 1995, she played a key role in developing Swiss dance theatre. Her solo piece “Lung Mei,” created in collaboration with Susanne Linke, was just one milestone in her successful dancing career.
Grab the wood!
For the second part, the class is divided into two groups. One group stands on the sidelines, eagerly watching their colleagues. The other group is spread across the room, and each student is holding a long, medium-thick, wooden stick. There’s a wide range of emotions at work informing the viewer that it might not be everyone’s favourite exercise. Drum. Drum. Drum! The accompanist has exchanged his instrument for a djembe drum. Loud, rhythmic music immerses the room in a different colour. The aspiring dancers start moving, holding their “partner” in different positions. And once in a while you hear a small “clack!” and there it goes, that long wooden stick. “I want them to work with wood, to feel the texture, to learn how to grab their future partner, how to interact with something or someone within their space.” The class ends. The students leave the room, grabbing their shoes and heading to the next session. So does Denise Lampart.