Choreographer Brian Sanders still pushing the limits after joint replacement surgery


    Choreographer Brian Sanders opens up about the hip replacement surgery that sparked a minor career change.

    Choreographer Brian Sanders couldn’t even tie his shoes. The breaking point had come. He’d been in denial but now, that was no longer possible. His left hip had grown more and more painful over three years. It was no surprise that he would need a hip replacement – the degenerative condition runs in his family.

    A choreographer with a hip replacement poses specific challenges – particularly for Sanders, 47, whose Philadelphia-based troupe, JUNK, dances to his fluid, hyper-athletic movements.  Some of the routines appear so dangerous, that you fear someone might get hurt.  Sanders, who trained in gymnastics for years,  is comfortable hanging upside-down by one foot from a high perch one minute, then dancing in kinetic, graceful movements the next.

    His studio, housed in the high ceilinged nave of Shiloh Baptist Church on Christian Street in South Philadelphia, attests to this. When I interviewed him for “The Pulse,” he was rehearsing his dancers for a re-run of “Patio Plastico,” an exuberant  piece that had twice been a sell-out at Philadelphia Fringe festivals, where JUNK is often a headliner. Sanders is remounting it and taking it out of town, along with six other pieces. The huge studio has all the implements needed for a Brian Sanders piece: razor scooters, pogo sticks, ladders, large exercise balls, ski boots and metal scaffolding just right for climbing.

    “I was quite in denial about the severity of the procedure,” says Sanders, who had hip-replacement surgery seven months ago and is back in business. “I thought I was just taking the car into the shop for a quick fixer-upper.”

    His attitude about his work, after the operation, says something important about choreography in general: It’s the vision for movement that makes a choreographer’s work unique – the actual moves can be made real by talented dancers who understand that vision.

    “I knew that at some point in my life, I was going to need to transfer from doing to pointing my finger and having others do.”

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