There was something F Teacher said the last time I saw her that has stuck with me. It was our end-of-session class performance day (not to be confused with The Show of my previous post) and as the different students presented their short dance pieces, she gave constructive criticism as each finished.
I’m paraphrasing somewhat (if I can’t remember a few steps in center combination you think I’m going to remember a whole motivational speech?!), but she said something along the lines of “when you’re a beginner at dance, you have to give more of yourself to make your performance interesting, or fun, because the techinique’s not there, and there’s only you. But as you get more advanced, and you have more technique, and there’s more things you can do, you run the risk of being able to hide. You just hide behind the beautiful movements and don’t reveal any of yourself at all, and that’s not as entertaining.” (Remember I’m paraphrasing; the original quote, complete with her method of delivery, was about a million times more awesome)
Reason that this stuck with me is because… I think she’s right. At least in my case, but who’s to say that it doesn’t apply to others as well. Now it’s time for my long-winded explanation of why…
By this point in my dancing experience, I’ve mostly done ballet with a little bit of modern thrown in the mix. I wrote a post last year before comparing the difficulties of the two, but that post just dealt with the physical difficulty, actually doing the steps (and balancing without falling over). Taking the physical difficulty out of the equation – assuming we’re strong enough to do both equally well – I still believe that modern is much more difficult for me than ballet.
Reason is, in ballet it seems to me that there is the correct way or the wrong way, and all that’s left for me to do is to work towards the correct way. In modern, it seems there are so many different ways that are all technically correct, and it’s up to me to choose which (and I am one indecisive person). Those times when M Teacher would leave it completely open for us to decide what to do, they were very challenging for me. In ballet class, if the teacher says walk, you know it’s a ballet walk. In modern class, M Teacher could say to walk and it can mean a number of things – walk facing front or back, leading with your shoulders or pelvis, level up high or down low – you decide. In ballet, the port de bras is more or less codified unless the choreographer says other wise, but modern is so open. There were many times during modern when M Teacher would tell us to walk around while moving our arms and I seriously couldn’t think of anything to do with them besides swan arms. In short, I think during modern class I mostly do ballet with bad technique (because we’re not corrected on technical stuff as much).
Getting back to discussing performances, back when I first started dancing I wanted badly to choreograph. I would listen to music and imagine what I would dance to it, if only I was able to. And now, I have improved to the point that it is feasible that I could hear a piece of music and choreograph a short dance to it. This is something I enjoy extremely, something I find quite exhilirating.
But still – I guess I’m never satisfied? – I worry that the dances I make are boring. Perhaps all I am doing is going through the movements, never really revealing myself in the process (or maybe I am revealing myself, and the truth is that I am a bore, a coward, or both). I often feel guilty of the fact that I enjoy watching beautiful dancing. Not necessarily expressive dancing, or dancing that tugs at my heartstrings and elicits an emotional response – though I do find enjoyment in that too (provided I can actualy understand it) – but just beautiful movements, connected still shots of beautiful poses, as beautiful music plays.
Is the fact that I like my art “pretty” rather than expressive a character flaw? This is one of those times when I wish I could be as self-assured as others make themselves out to be, just “I like what I like, whatever”, but I’m not. I grew up feeling like my opinion was never valid, and the feelings of invalidation and self-doubt are still there – I fear they’ll always be there. Often I feel like I’m missing something, like others can see things that I don’t, understand things I can’t. All I want to do is make pretty art that is beautiful to look at – is that so wrong?
(not wrong, just boring)
Does it make me simple-minded to find it NOT boring to look at beautiful things without searching for a deeper meaning? Boyfriend says that perhaps it’s because I barely discovered dance as an adult and all my modern-loving classmates have danced since they were kids, so by now they’re over the concept of just making pretty movements, whereas all I ever wanted was to be able to move gracefully and I’m still stuck on that phase of my development. His explaination makes sense… somewhat. Another part of it, still having to do with having found dance as an adult, is that to me dance is my (only) form of escapism – I dance to forget the troubles, and the ugliness, and the sometimes horrible truths of my existence. I dance to feel happy, to feel free. So when I dance, I like to create beauty, just simple, uncomplicated beauty. There’s enough ugliness being created out there, no need for me to add more to it (or so I feel) .
Of course, things could change as I get more experienced in dance – and life. Perhaps I’ll look back on this post in the future and be like “What were you thinking?!”, and feel so much superior to my in-the-past version of me. Stranger things have happened.
We ran out of time and I didn’t get to dance for the class, which was a relief as I was worried about the constructive criticism (because not only do I fear that my choreographies are boring, but I know my technique is not all the way there yet either). But I did get a video of me dancing my piece that I had prepared, and that makes me happy. I’m still contemplating making a youtube account to post some of my dances, but making no promises.