Mind the Gap(s)

Over the last few years I have realized that my role in dance is that of a mediator. This summer, however, I am realizing just how many realms in which this is true. In this, though, I am also more aware of my own biases and working on letting some of those go.

Here is a sample:

Academic – Studio Dance There seems to be a natural rift between those that have trained within the concert dance philosophy and those those training in the studio dance philosophy. Even as I type that I realize another- those that have trained and those currently training and perhaps that is part of the friction in academic and studio dance relationships. The process of evolution is different within those two worlds.

As I see it right now, dance academics have evolved away from their commercial or recreational dance roots and have forgotten how -or forgotten their interest- in connecting with the tan-tight, sequined, or booty shorted youth newly entering their space. Likewise, the evolution of the studio dancer seems to depend on the athleticism and current movement trends. It is an evolution of the body that sometimes excludes the mind and spirit other than adrenaline and satisfaction that comes with performance and all that comes with that- positive and negative.

I think some of the hesitation of getting theoretical with teen dancers has been an issue of wanting to engage through entertainment (keeping up with the Joneses) and not expecting them to be capable of thinking through big ideas.

It isn’t true.Even early elementary kids are capable if their educational guide is patient and most importantly, willing.

I think our best strategy would be to stop setting expectations and simply start from wherever we are- as people, dancers, citizens, thinkers, doers, beings.

Recently, I had the realization that most of what we view as being in poor taste is really just an inheritance of limited information. Take studio dance fashion, for instance, and the comparison to what is worn in an academic dance setting. Both are wearing “booty” shorts these days but because one might have some sequined detailing or tan tights underneath, the “evolved” feel the discomfort of the depth of conversations that have NOT been had with that student and the tendency is to joke. I am so guilty.

In reality, though, the wardrobe is just an extension of the intention of training and a reflection of the evolution to be expected. In my day, it was French-cut leotards. With a belt run under the leg holes in back and on the outside in front. Classy. But I was serious. I was committed. I evolved into a deep thinking dancer concerned about Dance as an art form, a way of being and knowing, a method to finding embodied learning and able to talk shop with the best of them.

Some of the other gaps:

Dance as Entertainment – Dance as an Intellectual Pursuit This one is particularly painful for me, I admit. I have been surprised at how often in recent years, I have had to defend why I teach dance the way I do. I have been met with great supporters but also a segment of families/students that don’t know why I “refuse” to use pop music, moves found in music videos, and so on.

Artists – Educators In some ways, this is the inspiration for my blog. This site started as a means to communicate with fellow “underdogs” and share my real world experiences as new graduates (or old) entered their own journeys. I was continually frustrated with artists not explaining their struggles experienced when they first started their professional paths.

Think about it- most biographies go from the family, upbringing, and early training of an artist- touch on their artistically formative years (beyond training)- and suddenly jump in to the history of their tours or projects. Little discussion is offered about the obstacles of becoming dance-makers and thinkers. We jump to when they were recognized as brilliant. Or so it seems to me. And the same seemed to happen when I was able to ask artists about this.

So, my mission became to chronicle one dancer’s journey- tangential and all- within and around the field of dance. Along the way, this has turned into a site that explores teaching experiences more than life experiences. Though, like everything else, those two things can’t be separated. I just choose to talk less about my children than my classroom- maintaining somewhat of a gap based on comfort level and respect for my home. 😉

There are more gaps than this but I will stop here for today.

Moral of the story: We are all just doing the best we can with what we have. My job is to meet people where they are and hope they have an interest in moving further along their path. If not, maybe we can have a good time moving.

Which gaps are you mindful of these days?

Something in the way she moves…..

There is something in the way my daughter moves that elicits strong physical memories of my childhood.

Both of my kids are highly kinesthetic. My son, perpetually fighting imagined villains, never stops darting, kicking, rolling, falling, and slicing- much to my annoyance (grungey floors in public places) and sometimes embarrassment (totally wrong moment as deemed by socially acceptable behavior).

G is incredibly silly but also incredibly intense. He is a thinker. A deep thinker. Yet, he enters and exits movement without much of a plan and with a total sense of confidence in the process of moving. Whatever happens- it will be good. Moving allows G to free himself in a way his mind won’t always let him do. And as such, sometimes he enters a “state” while moving that can make it hard for him to hear or process the world around him (hence the annoyance of falling, crawling, or rolling on disgusting surfaces in public places). He isn’t naughty, he is committed. He is living. In fact, if he thought he was doing anything wrong, he would be sad and maybe even a little worried. So when we talk about it before it happens, on our way into a store or whatever, he often says, “But I am sorry. I will try to remember but what if I can’t help it.” And then the sound effects resume, I sigh, and then say, “keep trying, kiddo”.

I also know that he doesn’t do this all of the time. He does this when he feels safe- emotionally, physically- like when he is with my husband or me, or a few others. He doesn’t do this in his classroom; he waits until the right time- recess or after school.

H on the other hand, is aware of everything in her environment when she is moving. She uses movement for problem-solving and for interpreting the world around her. She doesn’t trace new objects with her hands- she does it with her feet and sometimes her whole body. She is a climber, and her movement is controlled, precise, owned. She, in spite of being 2, knows her body well. She makes me hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me, with a sigh, to “put your legs down-it isn’t lady-like.” I now realize, given the tone of her voice and the presence of the sigh, talking to me must have been a lot like talking to G, even if the movement was different.

While I understand G’s relationship to movement, H’s relationship very much mirrors my own. Movement heightens her awareness. I was the dancer that noticed when the light cues were called at different times in spite of complex movement phrases and other performance stimuli. I was the dancer that could process outside of rehearsal hiccups that were interfering with the dance, even if the problem wasn’t near me spatially or obvious to me visually. When I sensed my way through the dance outside of rehearsal, the answers would come to me. Movement truly is how I interact with the world.

Beyond the front door……
I realize movement, and body, also determine much of how I relate to others and consequently how they relate to me. It isn’t a golden rule by any means, but I think I am noticing that even though the person I am with and I have a common verbal language, if we have drastically different movement/body experiences we have a hard time connecting. It goes beyond topics and moves into how we understand the world in addition to how we perceive it. I am often left feeling like I have no idea what to “say”.

It makes me watchful of how my kids interact with others and how people interact with them. It also makes me wonder about the social norms and how much movement impacts personal impressions beyond mere body language (posturing and facial expression) and levels of energy. I think about the labels that are often doled out and how sometimes it seems to be a matter of relationship to movement. No new revelations there, of course, but I feel for the kids (people) that don’t have an adult or someone in their life that understands and can advocate.

In my teaching, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about learning styles so that all learners feel welcomed and can access the material I want them to adopt. While I have understood, intellectually, that there are different kinds of kinesthetic learners this summer time with my kids has been especially enlightening.

Hope you are enjoying the movement of summer, too.