Bob Davidson propelled performers
Amanda Rhodes remembers thinking that Bob Davidson, her movement teacher at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, was “too nice to be true” upon first meeting him.
“I was like, ‘Is he being sarcastic? I can’t tell,’ ” said Rhodes, a 29-year-old Denver actress. “Turns out he was one of the most amazing men I’ve ever met.”
Davidson was found dead at his home at age 70 on Thursday, his family confirmed to the Denver Center. No other details were immediately available, although colleagues and students said he “seemed fine” earlier in the week and planned to teach more classes next semester.
As a dancer and internationally known movement teacher, Davidson spent the last few decades working with actors in Denver and Seattle, but also the United Kingdom and Turkey, to teach them the importance of physical freedom in their performances.
He used the trapeze along with mental and emotional exercises to influence thousands of students, including some who went on to work in Cirque du Soleil or put Colorado on the map as a center for aerial dance, said Allison Watrous, education director at the Denver Center.
“He could help turn an MFA actor into a cowboy from Texas, and then into a 17th-century aristocrat,” said Kent Thompson, producing artistic director for the Denver Center Theatre Company. “A lot of people don’t fully understand that isn’t simply clothing or dialect, but a physical process.”
Born in rural Minnesota on July 20, 1946, Davidson began teaching Sunday school at age 13 and was a church choral director at 15, according to a September profile of Davidson by Denver Center journalist and critic John Moore.
“I toured Central and South America with our college a cappella choir, followed by a summer studying music and dance in rural Uganda and Uzbekistan,” Davidson said in the profile. “I established my own aerial dance company in 1988 and joined the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory faculty as head of movement in 1997. I was certified in the Skinner Releasing Technique in 1970, making me the oldest living certified teacher of this technique in the world.”
Davidson’s expansive work as a teacher and artist also included stints at the University of Colorado, University of Denver, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and, recently, the Denver School of the Arts.
“He was definitely a part of putting us on the map,” said the Denver Center’s Watrous, who first met Davidson 20 years ago. “Actors were choosing between going to Julliard or NYU and coming to Colorado, and a lot of that was because of him.”
Students took to social media Friday to mourn Davidson and call his work essential in their acting training and careers — including the way Davidson used the power of suggestion to open up formerly timid, stiff bodies to their own physical spaces.
“I never thought I’d be able to hang upside by my ankles before, and he had me up there in a week and a half feeling grounded,” said Rhodes, who first worked with Davidson three years ago. “It was very relaxing, almost like yoga.”
“He was one of the most elegant and compassionate men I’ve ever met,” Thompson said. “Something about him elicited the beautiful and free parts of our human creativity.”
Davidson is survived by his sister, Peggy Nield, according to the Denver Center. No services or other arrangements were planned as of press time.