Learning how to play the body

Bo Gemmell

Body percussionist Keith Terry teaches students the art of body music

Keith Terry, a professional body percussionist, teaches a class of Kent State students and locals the basics of body music using different series of claps and stomps. Terry’s style of music and rhythm dancing has been influenced by many cultures. Elizabet

Credit: Ron Soltys

Members of the Kent State community slapped their hands, thighs and butts to the rhythm of an award-winning body percussionist Saturday.

Fourteen people joined Keith Terry, an artist who combines dance with body percussion, for a workshop in the MAC Center Annex.

Terry said the workshop focused on rhythmic skills.

“I came to this through the drum set,” Terry said. “I had a moment about 30 years ago when I realized that I can play the swing of the drums on my body.”

The group included Kent State performing arts students and faculty members. Rick Coffey, junior theater major, said actors can integrate Terry’s art into performance.

“There’s a lot in percussion that’s tied to our emotional experiences in life,” he said. “It’ll be integrated not consciously but subconsciously into my work.”

Coffey said he wants to apply aspects from the workshop to his senior honors thesis on experimental theater directing.

Terry explained the history of body music before leading the performers in exercises. In less than 30 minutes, the performers formed groups and combined dance, body percussion and spoken phrases for an impromptu gig.

“People in my workshop often break through the ceilings they thought they had,” Terry said.

Percussion professor Ted Rounds said drummers can easily relate to the rhythms in Terry’s workshop due to a “direct correlation” between the different styles of percussion.

The Kent Dance Association and the student chapter of the National Dance Education Organization sponsored the event.

Heather Jacobs, president of the Kent Dance Association, said Terry offered a new way to learn.

“I really enjoyed his teaching skills,” Jacobs said. “It helps to pick up things faster.”

Terry described body percussion as “physical work.” He said he cracked a rib during body percussion, but performers shouldn’t let that deter them.

“I don’t think students should worry about that,” he added. “That’s kind of the extreme cases.”

Terry recently received a Guggenheim fellowship for choreography. Fellows receive grants to produce “as much creative freedom as possible,” according to the foundation’s Web site.

“I’m still kind of stunned about that,” Terry said.

Coffey said he found the workshop interesting and enjoyed “experiencing rhythm and music on our own bodies.”

“It’s hard not to smile while you’re doing it,” he said.

Contact performing arts reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected].