If only I’d learned this sooner, say 40 years ago.
And it’s what I tell the earnest, jittery dancers coming to take my class for the first time. Trying so very hard, laudably but misguidedly, to do exactly what they think they see me do. Right, left, right….
Wouldn’t it be grand if it were that easy? Just get on the correct foot facing the right direction doing the right thing on exactly the right count. And you’re in!
It’s dancing, after all. How could it not be about the steps?
While precision does play a part, to me, the “art” part of dance, the magical part of dance, is not about getting the step RIGHT. No, what makes someone so compelling to watch and what makes dancing so infuriating and wondrous to do hour after sweaty hour, and year after gut-busting year, is actually much, much harder than that.
It’s about being you through the movement in that moment, and the next and the next. Showing us, thrillingly, the essence of who YOU are making this art. Ditto for other art forms.
At least, that’s what I’ve come to believe after all these years of training and teaching and performing, and, yes, loving dancing. Despite the physical and mental challenges and complexities of dance, in a strange way, it would be easier if it were as simple as just getting it right.
I could drill more. I could check it off my list. If I didn’t get the role or the callback, I could justifiably feel wronged.
But it’s much larger and more slippery than mere correctness. Although exactly what creates the ineffable “it” may have many variations, countless dance artists agree on much of what makes the magic.
It’s what and how the dancer expresses through the movement. Some alchemical potion of the dancer’s uniqueness and the dance. So many of the dancers whom we want to watch and who we yearn to be are sorcerers. They cast a spell of themselves kinesthetically.
This reminds me that, once again, dance is a powerful metaphor for life. Because just as in life, in dance, the steps will get changed. The scene will shift and the lights will dim or blind me. The inevitable injuries or limitations will require shifting.
If all we do is mindlessly check off the To Do list and leave it at that, we’ll be empty-handed when the next list shows up, and the next. And in the end, neither our art nor our lives will reflect us.
Hard as it may be, I need to cultivate more mojo than just dancing, and living, by rote. Some personal puissance to weave it all together.
Funny thing: As challenging as it may be to dance and live generously with integrity, it can be incredibly freeing not to get endlessly entangled by inessential details. Yessirree, out there on that big old stage, you’ve just got to fill YOUR self up with your breath and your passion and your experience and….GO.
*Note: This older post has echoed repeatedly for me over the past few years, as I travel around teaching and taking countless dance classes….and performing in and witnessing many performances. I figured I would unearth it for new, and old, friends.
I continue to find it enormously daunting and thrilling to explore how to make the movement MINE….and so inspiring to share the adventure of making art with so many talented artists creating in a variety of genres, including all the lovely writers here in WordPress Wonderland. GO MAKE YOUR ART.