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Legacy Oral History Online Collection

McHugh Audio Clip and Transcript

McHugh Audio Clip

Interviewer: Jeff Friedman

I found very often in children's theater, the adults are basically having children do kind of - quote unquote - "adult movement" or "adult kind of dance." It made no sense to me because it didn't seem to honor the experience of children, to value the experience of children. It's almost like we want them to grow up fast and look like little adults.

That just always appalled me - this idea that creative movement is good for chidlren when they're five and six and seven. But then when they turn eight, it's time for them to do ballet because that's real dance. Creative movement is like this play thing that you do, but then, you can do real dance. That whole push to make children into little adults, precocious adults, I found very distasteful. I found that reflected the anti-child bias of the culture. Whereas, from my perspective, the vitality and life force and spirit that would emerge through children was something to amplify and give more room to, 'cause Lord knows we ceartinly have enough restriction and compression into the formation of adult self.

Nikolais was there at the same time I was starting to teach in public schools. So watching Nikolais was important. I’d say my major influence at that time was seeing Nikolais, Pilobolous and Mummenshanz, the Swiss mime group, that did incredible things with masks. So I realized that, in working with children to equate dance (with) dancing “about your feelings.” And so, very often, it gets derivative with children.

JF: Meaning?

JM: Children aren’t in a place of –quote unquote- “dancing your feelings. “(That’s) trying to make something happen that’s not really part of their experience. Of course children have feelings, but it doesn’t come out in adult ways, just like their dance shouldn’t come out in adult ways. 

©Museum of Performance + Design

Jamie McHugh
McHugh Audio Clip and Transcript