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?

I am a……

Ok, so sometimes I don’t know how to introduce myself. I mean, I know my name and everything, but some scenarios require I explain a bit more about myself- what I do, why  I have the skills that I have, etc- and this can be where I start to get a little flummoxed.

Here is an example:
At yoga, I have been recently asked repeatedly how long I have been practicing. To which I reply, “just a few weeks”. Then people feel uncomfortable because they have been practicing for much longer, or not, but inevitably our physical starting points are vastly different. Then I explain that I am a dancer and that is the point I struggle.

  • They may be looking at me and, as I shared yesterday, I imagine they are thinking that I don’t look like a dancer (sylph or stripper). Should I continue explaining?
  • They may have never met anyone that identifies themselves as a dancer and they are processing what that actually means.
  • They, due to their (lack of) understanding of dance expect this means I have been dancing recreationally my whole life.
  • They tell me they are/were dancers, too. And it becomes apparent to me that we don’t share the same definition.

So, I often play with other “titles”. Dance educator, choreographer, dance specialist….. In fact, to go back to body issues, when I was heavier I found these titles much easier to utter.

How do I convey, in just a few words, the breadth and depth of what I do?

Not only that, in these instances I feel the need to defend dance as an academic, intellectual, valuable pursuit. That, I dare say, is the root of the problem.

How do I defend what I do? Why do I feel I need to? Why is the idea that Dance is “fun” such an insult?

Maybe I will try “ I work in Dance”. That might invite clarification if any one wants it and sets me up to take a little more time in my explanation.

Or maybe I am over-thinking.