Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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BaredFeet Co. aims to make dance accessible to all

Owner Lynn Buske hopes to use contemporary dance to heal, teach and entertain

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    Members of BaredFeet Co. dance during “Hands of Peace” in May 2015 at Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School. Lynn Buske, owner of BaredFeet, is hoping to expand the company to reach more community members with a new adults’ dance group.

    Contributed photo

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    Dancers participate in “Hands of Peace” in May 2015 at Chippewa Valley Montessori Charter School.

    Contributed photo

Dancing, like people, comes in many forms. And one local dance instructor wants to make sure dance is accessible to all people, regardless of income, age and talent level. 

Lynn Buske of Eau Claire recently started BaredFeet Co., a nonprofit that aims to provide basic wellness and arts education to kids and adults. 

“I feel the arts are a very powerful wellness tool,” Buske said. “There are a lot of great arts and wellness in downtown, but there are hurdles for people to get to it — either they’re unsure, beginners, feel like they are too out of shape, money is a problem or they just aren’t sure how to navigate information.” 

Buske has been working with BaredFeet to bring programs to groups, such as teaching yoga at local day cares and poetry and family movement classes at the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley. In February, she added a second component to her nonprofit: an all-levels, adult dance company.

Unlike other dance companies, Buske said BaredFeet won’t focus as much on the technical level of dance. Instead, she hopes to emphasize the education and wellness aspects of the art.

“It’s more about working with people who have a connection to dance as an expressive form, so we can really evoke feelings and use our body as a language tool,” Buske said. “There is conditioning involved, but it’s less about technique and more about being able to connect with the material and the audience.” 

Her newly-formed dance group is currently rehearsing from noon to 2 p.m. Saturdays at Anandaworks, 320 Putnam St., Suite 123. She currently has 12 dancers and two musicians is always looking for more to join. It is free of charge and anyone 18 and older is welcome.

She hopes to use local musicians to create original music and said anyone interested in modern, contemporary dance is welcome to join. She requests they be willing to make a commitment to attending rehearsals and any future performances.

“I chose this avenue because it’s a style that I’m drawn to, and it helps me focus more on individual differences and how bodies express themselves, because no two bodies are alike,” Buske said.

Natural progression

Buske minored in theater dance with an emphasis on choreography and performance production at Luther College (Decorah, Iowa), where she graduated in 2001. Wherever she has lived since, she has taught or performed dance in some way. 

But her passion for dance, health and wellness started well before then. She called dance a “coping tool” when she was young and remembers dancing around in her room to relieve stress. 

In college, she learned ballet, jazz and modern dance, mostly in studio spaces. But it was going through some health struggles after college that really emphasized how important dance was to Buske.

“I went through some health struggles after college, and it was through those struggles and education I was gleaning (that) I saw how powerfully dance had been helping me all along,” she said. 

 Further education proved dance was so much more than a form of entertainment: It is, to her and others, a wellness tool.

Healing powers

Physical therapist and yoga instructor Ellen Dovre has been dancing with Buske for years and was excited when she learned the two shared a connection through their dance philosophies. 

“I work a lot with body and educating people on body,” Dovre said. “Dance really embodies the connection of mind, body and spirit to really be able to express emotions and wellness. Working with Lynn makes me feel like she feels the exact same way — dance can bring vitality and energy while also being an expression of art.” 

Dovre said activities such as dance, tai chi and yoga that bring movement to the body not only physically heal injuries but can also heal people emotionally. 

Dovre was excited when she learned Buske was going to add an adult dance program to BaredFeet because she sees it as another opportunity for the community to view and, hopefully, participate in, dance.

“It’s helping people realize you don’t need to be perfect to be a dancer, you just need to connect your breath and your body and learn to express yourself,” Dovre said. “It brings so much joy.”

In January, the local dance community lost icon Barry Lynn, who, along with his partner Michael Doran, opened ChaliceStream dance studio in rural Ladysmith. The two helped launch the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council and Rusk County Arts Alliance and taught classes at Dancers Studio in Eau Claire’s Banbury Place. 

Dovre said Lynn and Doran changed the area’s dance landscape, and she sees Buske as potentially having a similar impact. 

“They (Doran and Lynn) had a really unique way of expressing storytelling through movement and body that really opened my eyes to not just being a physical activity but also a creative energy,” Dovre said. “I credit all of that to Michael and Barry, and I feel like Lynn is now going to step in and continue that energy.”

There are many opportunities for kids in Eau Claire to get involved in dance, Dovre said, but what she thinks is missing is spaces for adults who are also beginners. Buske is hoping to use BaredFeet as a way to bring expressive dance to the forefront of the city’s arts scene. 

Buske has also had conversations with Emily Emerson, curator and founder of the newly-created Eau Claire Dance Festival, about adding more dance-related community events. 

“It doesn’t have to be traditional on the stage, sitting for three-hour recitals, but more integrating dance into the community and bringing it to adults,” Dovre said. “I’m always keeping my ears open to see what I can do as an adult because it makes me feel good.” 

Future is dance

Buske is full of goals for BaredFeet. In its infancy, she has been sharing her ideas with community groups and borrowing spaces. In the future, she hopes to have her own studio and performance space.

“I want to collaborate as much as I can with other artists and other locations,” Buske said. “The focus is on art as a healing tool rather than entertainment, and to make it as high of a professional scale as I can.”

With the dance company in full swing, Buske will continue doing educational programs with kids. With three of her own children, she has firsthand knowledge how important dance has been as an outlet for them.

“My daughter (7½ years old) dances to integrate her daily experiences and to create things,” Buske said. “She’s danced with me since she was two, but she doesn’t realize she’s performing. And my son (3½) dances because he has a lot of energy. It’s more of a sport for him.” 

She will continue to offer these programs free of charge so everyone has access to the arts and wellness tools they need. When her dance company does performances, she’s hoping to offer tickets on a “sliding scale” so no one is turned away. 

“When it seems we have a regular flow of work, maybe we’re bringing in some income for the nonprofit and then I can pay some steady dancers,” Buske said.  “Right now, it’s just a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of thing.” 

For more information about BaredFeet, visit baredfeet.wordpress.com.

Contact reporter: 715-833-9214, katy.macek@ecpc.com, @KatherineMacek on Twitter


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