Kim Robards has made dance a part of her daily life for 40 years. The founder and resident choreographer of Kim Robards Dance in Aurora is not a superwoman she says — though she has an ageless quality that comes from using her body for artistic expression on a regular basis.
“It’s not that I feel energetic every second of every day,” she says. “But the minute I put my feet on the ground, I feel my adrenaline start to rush. That feeling of needing to wake up goes away in two minutes.”
Robards says that while many people still view modern dance as something where you pretend you’re a tree, it’s actually a type of physical activity where you’re incorporating many principles you see in any exercise class at the gym.
“You have to have the mindfulness of a yogi, the discipline of world class athletes, the flexibility of a soccer player and the strength of a body builder,” she says of a professional modern dancer.
She says what people who are part of the insanely popular yoga trend in the United States don’t often realize is that modern dance was founded on much of the same principles.
“Sometimes the average person thinks they can’t take a dance class. But we start at the fundamentals of learning how to stand in a first parallel position, which is similar to a mountain pose in yoga,” she says. “You learn how to move from the crown of your head down to your spine, and from your tail bone back up. You learn how to develop muscles along the spine and keep good body alignment and posture.”
From the modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan to the art form’s visionaries that include Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey and José Limón, Robards says these dancers decided to throw off the ballet shoes and get barefoot because they wanted to connect to the floor.
And all of that stuff you hear about core training in pilates, many of those movements come from ballet. That’s because having an engaged core provides a key role in balance, which every dancer needs to make that leap or that pirouette look effortless.
“In modern dance, we also take that verticality off center,” Robards explains. “Modern dancers learn all those basic skills that classical ballet dancers know and we go a step beyond that, learning the range of motion of the torso, upper body curves and arches and spirals and releases. Modern dancers learn to shift weight more from the center and the pelvis rather than thinking about just using arms and legs. It’s such a broad, full-bodied expression.”
When Robards was in her twenties, she was a long-distance runner.
But it wasn’t until she started dancing that she began to view physical activity not only as something that kept her in shape, but something that helped her feel comfortable inside her own skin.
“There are so many people out there that are detached from their bodies,” she says. “When you learn the strength of your body, the power, the momentum, it helps you enjoy life more.”
Robards says dance has helped her cope with a divorce and her mother passing away. She even choreographed a piece that documented the city’s mourning and recovery following the shootings at the Aurora Century 16 theater in 2012 as a way to process the tragedy.
For anyone who wants to try a dance class but doesn’t know where to start, Robards says her studio offers classes for all ages and levels. The studio even offers one-on-one personal training. “We take people through all basic locomotor movements. We go through walking, running, jogging, hopping, skipping, galloping. All the things we did as kids thats are the fundamental ways of moving,” she says. “Modern dance training will give you such a great foundation to move forward in other forms of dance or other athletic endeavors.” n