Fiery, playful and harmonious.
These are just a few of the adjectives used to describe European dancers Stephan and Bethan Freedman who will present a world dance workshop this Saturday and Sunday at the Knoxville Square Dance Center.
Incorporating dance styles from all across the globe, the Freedmans' mix music, meditation and emotions into their choreography to allow their students to connect with dance and music as a whole and as an art form.
"Bethan loves Eastern music and rhythms and relishes dances with style and a touch of the exotic; I adore both Arabic and Israeli dances and especially like to offer them in tandem with a peace focus," Stephan Freedman said. "We enjoy playing music and singing and creating an informal atmosphere.
"With easy familiar dances we often pick up instruments and incorporate other musicians and singers into a spontaneous band while others dance around us."
Victoria Knight, vice chairperson for the Cultural Attractions Committee, said she sees dance as a unique art experience within cultures connecting the Freedman's unique choreography style with any world culture despite language barriers.
"Most of the time performers want to get the audience involved, whether it's through teaching them the dance moves or having them clap to keep up the rhythm," Knight, a senior in microbiology, said. "There's also just something about seeing people dance and express themselves which can move the audience in a way that music or art can't."
The couple met during a 1985 summer solstice in London and created a strong connection as more than just dance partners.
"We were firm friends before passion kicked in," Stephan Freedman said. "Bethan is a natural dancer whose training included contemporary and historic dance. It was a natural and swift progression for us to be working in partnership."
As their dance progressed after helping with a dance camp on the East Coast, fellow dancers invited them to California and Canada, eventually allowing them to perform in much of America, Europe and parts of South America and the Middle East.
"The traveling crept up on us," Stephan Freedman said. "It's a remarkable adventure staying with hospitable people in all these places. But it was never exactly a plan or a decision ... more like being swept up by a tide."
With all the travel, this weekend will not be their first time in Knoxville. Five years ago, Kevin Meyer, a dance teacher and choreographer, invited them to teach a workshop here.
“There was a local power cut the first night so we lit some candles and picked up musical instruments; it was a magical night,” Stephan Freedman said.
With their popularity and dedication to peace, the couple has performed at the Middle East Peace conference, a humanitarian educational congress and an international conference on conflict and communication, among various others.
The duo aims to connect people and provide a sense of physical security.
“It's hard to imagine people who dance together in a circle being in violent conflict,” Stephan Freedman said. “This participatory, non-competitive approach to dance has many benefits to individual and societal well-being. That's the kind of culture we like to foster.
“We are exploring whether dance can play a role in peace-building dialogue.”
Bethan and Stephan also recognize dance as a part of world cultures and use this common societal connection to bring their message of peace and connection into perspective with their dancers.
“We don't seek to interpret people's experience but it's fascinating to see what bubbles up for them,” Stephan Freedman said. “Some people find different parts of their essential character – by turns playful, dignified, sensual, spiritual, strong and earthy or light and serene.”
The workshop costs $125 for the entire weekend or $75 for Saturday only. Interested attendees can register at the event, which is open to all ages.