Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The concept of what dance really is can be an unending debate, but I have always had a single opinion about what it is for me. When you dance, you are portraying a message through the movement. It is about giving the right amount of emotion and energy to capture the audience’s attention and keep it throughout the entire piece. However, sometimes dance can be completely the opposite. I experienced this kind of dance growing up in the competition dance world. There are a lot of great things that I learned dancing in this kind of atmosphere that I will never regret learning, like discipline and how to be hard worker. I will never forget the lessons that my dance teacher drilled in me almost every day about never giving up and pushing through no matter what. I grew as a dancer in this kind of life, but I really found a passion for dance when I got to my junior year in high school.I went to a performing arts high school and one of the styles of dance that we studied was modern. It was the first time I had ever experienced modern, but I really started to love it my junior year. I quickly found out that modern was not about how high my leg could go or how many turns I could do, but more about concepts like how much space can I cover in my movement or how much further to the ground could I get. It was an eye-opener for me. I had been trained since I was little that you couldn’t win unless you could do this many turns or you couldn’t get platinum unless your leg was a certain height. These pictures are just examples of an amazing ability but nothing coming from it.
I had always struggled with flexibility and extension, which was one of the most important things you had to have to succeed. Because I never had this, I always put myself down and thought my dancing never stood a chance against my competitors. When I discovered modern, it was a style that felt good on my body for once. I felt more alive and more comfortable doing movements that were more in the ground and more emotionally based. I finally realized that no dancer needed perfect turnout or the highest leaps to create works of art through dance. In our classes here at SMU, performing in our technique classes is essential. My ballet teacher, Leslie Peck, always says that we constantly look like robots at barre when we should have expressions in our faces and life in our movement. Dancing is beautiful and should evoke some kind of emotion from those who watch it no matter the style. In jazz, our teacher, Lauren, wants us to be a character for some of the combinations we work on which can be a very challenging thing for a dancer sometimes. To be completely out of your comfort zone is scary but can be liberating at the same time. Most of the time, it is not just about the steps but about the sensation that comes from doing those steps. For some, the tricks are more important than what kind of message is portrayed. For others, no tricks are necessary for an exquisite piece. This video shows that even though the dancers have flexibility and extension that can be used for tricks, they are using it in a beautiful way through movement that has texture and life in it. One of my favorite modern companies right now is called the David Dorfman Dance Company. What captures my attention when these dancers dance are the looks on their faces. Half of the time, I don’t even watch the lower half of their body. They have the ability to make one step something more than just one step. They keep your attention the whole time no matter what kind of style they do. Another famous dancer that had the incredible ability to make a simple move so much more was Martha Graham. She would “use emotions as her tools to create a dance” (Jeanne Ruddy, New York Times). The movement would come from the emotion she felt inside. One of her most famous works was called Lamentation, and the reason it is so powerful is because it evokes pain and anguish from simple gestures. When the dancer is moving, she makes you feel what she feels. This kind of power should be what all movement should be like. Just moving across stage with one trick leading into another trick is not really what dance is about. It is about the passion that comes from within that leads the audience into a place that they will never forget.

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