Poetry in Motion


by Maxine Steinman

I was first introduced to Paul Rabinowitz and ARTS By The People some years ago, when Paul approached myself and the Montclair State Dance Division Chair Lori Katterhenry about a possible collaboration between our dance program and the organization. We felt the best way to begin our partnership was to plan a visit to a senior center in NJ with Montclair State University dance majors. The goal for this visit was for students to perform choreographed solos and to improvise to poetry and prose written by seniors at the center. Lori and I were very excited about this new endeavor, so we invited four choreography students to take part. On the day we arrived, we were greeted with much appreciation and generosity, as all involved were ready and willing to explore this sharing of poetry and movement. The large room was set up with chairs in a u-shape formation so that the seniors could be close to the performers while they danced in the center of the room. For the first part of the sharing, the dancers performed their solos and the audience response was positive, enthusiastic, and engaging.  Following the solos, the dancers improvised very sensitively to the poems and prose. Many of the seniors read their own writings aloud while dancers performed both gestural and abstract movements in response to the words. You could sense the electric, heartwarming energy throughout the room, which brought tears to a majority of the audience (including myself!).  Needless to say, the outcome was both enlightening and emotional. The images that were evoked through poetry and movement were quite powerful and left a long lasting impression. One of our MSU dance students was so enthralled by the arts program for Senior Citizens, that she continued on by working at the center as an intern for Stories in Motion.


It is an interesting coincidence that over the past few years, my exploration as an artist has revolved around a project with choreographer and poet Dagmar Spain called Poetry in Motion. Poetry in Motion explores the creative connection between the language of the body and the spoken and written word.  In finding the link between words and movement, I have come to realize how impactful the language of movement is in response to words and how words can illicit strong images, leading to new and inventive ways of moving. Likewise, the language of the body can also inspire deep and expressive writing. Dagmar and I have given workshops and performed in New York and Berlin and have worked on this project with artists in all genres.  During my exploration with Dagmar, I became aware of how interconnected Poetry in Motion is with the program at ARTS By The People

This past year, I introduced Poetry in Motion to my Choreography III students at Montclair State University.  In general, most dancers feel more comfortable speaking with their bodies as their primary creative voice, rather than speaking or writing poetry or prose. To my surprise, it was extremely encouraging and beautiful to see young choreography students write meaningful poetry instigated by movement, and visa versa. They truly found a way to express their poetic voices through both movement and words.

As a choreographer myself, I find great value in being inspired by other art forms.  Throughout my lifetime, I have collaborated with visual artists, composers, video artists, costume designers, set designers, and poets. The inventiveness and approach of these collaborative artists has always been a catalyst for my own innovation and artistry.  So, when Paul Rabinowitz invited me to ask my students to participate in a project called Jump the Turnstile, I leaped at the opportunity. Jump The Turnstile is a collaboration in poetry, animation and choreography between students from Montclair State University, and students from MICA and CSE.  Six of my former Choreography III students are currently participating in this project and at the moment, they are brainstorming with their poetry and animation collaborators. We are all looking forward to the culmination of this creative project in January 2019  What began as a small seed has turned into a wonderful relationship between ARTS By The People and Montclair State University.

Maxine Steinman MA, MFA

BFA in Dance Program Coordinator

Montclair State University


Thumbnail Photo Credit: Maxine Steinman

Insert Photo Credit: Klaus Lucka