Bob David­son pro­pelled per­form­ers

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Wen­zel

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.

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