“We are sexy because we dance from the inside, not outside,” said Rafael Molina, my contemporary Martha Graham professor, during my first lesson with him. I was jolted from my seriousness to an openness. He reminded me of why I dance, why I cannot live without practising the Graham technique.
It is through the Graham technique that I learnt to appreciate the beauty in opposition. The power of the breaths, in connecting with the pelvic floor, and in the spine. Even in my very first class, I felt a transformation. I felt more centred, more connected and, in some strange way, I felt “bigger.” I felt a sense of openness and freedom.
Rafael radiates a sense of freedom and openness. It is not surprising to feel this around him as he is an example of what freedom is.
He defied the first rule of entrepreneurship when he set up the Graham For Europe organisation over two years ago, without thinking about how to make money from it. The organisation is a European platform which connects those passionate about the Martha Graham technique and fosters collaborations.
“When I came back from New York after being on a scholarship programme with the Martha GrahamSchool, I felt that Europe was missing a ‘Graham family’, although there was definitely a potential for a community to emerge,” he explains. “So I sat in front of the computer and made a website. I wanted to connect Graham teachers in Europe, to make a space for Graham in Europe so that everyone who is interested in the technique can find the right information. That’s all I wanted to do.”
He adds: “Maybe I wanted to do this for myself mostly at first. But I also knew that I was not the only who loved Graham and benefited greatly from the technique.”
Here we go, another kindred spirit, I thought. Someone who allows love to be his first guide.
“I fell in love with Graham during one of my dance hiatus periods. It’s like I saw the white lights with Graham. It provides a sense of freedom and self expression that is different from ballet,” he explains.
“In a way, Graham is like ballet. It is a classical technique because it is codified, rich in terms of technical training, and it has a large repertory. Yet Graham can be so much more. It allows the dancers to find their own ways of doing it. It allows the artists to find freedom within the work. It gives them space to push the boundaries and create something new, within the framework.”
Rafael Molina is the founder of Graham For Europe and a Graham teacher based in Paris. He regularly teaches at Studio Harmonic, Micadanses and the IFPRO (Paris). In 2019, he co-founded ActDance Studio Paris, a pedagogic incubator in which Graham teaching has a predominant place. He is also involved in a research project called Graham Educational Practices: Collection, Analysis and Transmission, funded by the Centre National de la Danse.
“What is dance?” I ask him over an avocado salad.
He replies: “Dance simply is moving with intention. So, yes, I think that everyone can dance. If you can feel and move, you can dance. Dance is also a path you take, like life. In fact, dance is life, it is about being with your body. You have to experience dance like you experience life. You cannot think about using dance, like ‘I am going to dance to lose weight.’ Just like you cannot think about using life.”
“What?” I ask in surprise. “Did I just miss the whole part of why this makes sense?”
Rafael, who always has a beautiful smile and exudes amazing energy,explains: “Dance is a path, like life is a path. And the path is being with yourself. Understand the constraints, within yourself and in your circumstances, and find freedom within all of that. Freedom does not necessarily mean doing whatever you want and whenever you want… as that’s never possible and not real freedom. For one, we have a body, we are all built differently so there are variations as to what each of us can do.”
Passionately, he continues: “This is why I love Graham so much. Graham technique was developed to help each of us find new ways of moving and rediscovering what the body can do. It’s a constant discovery and rediscovery. This principle applies not just to dance, but to life itself.”
“So basically, surrendering can be the path to freedom. Surrendering to our parameters but not being limited by them,” I say as I begin to understand where he is coming from.
“Yes, that’s freedom. C’est la liberté.”
Graham For Europe on Instagram @grahamforeurope
Martha Graham School, New York, USA on Instagram @marthagrahamschool