From 1976 to 2005, Ellen Moore taught modern dance through the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies. She inspired a passionate following for her improvisational dance course, with its welcoming atmosphere and emphasis on self-expression.

Ellen Moore's welcoming approach inspired Marina Kelly (above), the current instructor of Creating Dance through Structured Improvisation.

Ellen Moore’s welcoming approach inspired Marina Kelly (above), the current instructor of Creating Dance through Structured Improvisation. (Photos by Kim Keyes)

“Ellen created a community of dance,” says one of Moore’s former students in “Ellen Moore and the Ground of Being,” a recent article in Wisconsin People & Ideas Magazine.

Author Miriam Hall describes Moore’s philosophy of movement:

To Moore, movement is less about form and precision than honesty, and she encourages students to take credit for their creative expressions. In this way, Moore sees…the class being less about a teacher imparting lessons and more about the interactive, co-learning experience of humans together in a dance.

The Division of Continuing Studies still offers the course Moore created, now called Creating Dance through Structured Improvisation. Current teacher Marina Kelly had taken Moore’s course and retains her mentor’s methods. She plays a wide range of music while offering suggestions for movement.

The course emphasizes self-expression. (Photo by Kim Keyes)

The course emphasizes self-expression. (Photo by Kim Keyes)

“The language Moore used was so important in communicating the philosophy of the class,” Kelly says, “with gentle instructions like, ‘Notice if you’re willing to move your body toward standing,’ or ‘Might you consider rolling toward the middle of the room.’”

‘A true original’

The next session of Creating Dance through Structured Improvisation runs February 4-April 28 at Madison’s State Street Center. Kelly recommends that participants have one year of dance or movement practice, such as yoga, although prospective students without such experience can consult with her. For more information, contact Jessica Courtier, jessica.courtier@dcs.wisc.edu, 608-890-3626.

Though Moore is retired, she’ll be at the upcoming course in spirit.

“Ellen Moore is a true original,” says Kelly. “I can only say that I have been the lucky recipient of her teaching and guidance and that I do my part to keep the spirit of her teachings alive.”