Dance Less Narrow

by admin on January 2, 2014

Happy New Year All!  Have you made your resolutions?  Get those splits flat? Triple on the left?  Well, I have made a resolution to blog more in 2014.  I do enjoy writing, and I love having a way to connect with the dance world and share our thoughts, opinions and experiences.  I hope you stop by often!

So, what topic could hold the title of “first blog post of 2014”?  I have a whole list of ideas… each one sounding more enticing than the last.  Those of you who have taken my class, read my blog or have merely met me on the street know I am never at a loss for something to discuss!  Yet, as I sat to write, I still hadn’t made a decision… soooo I decided to check my email instead. Of course – first was the random forward from my mom.  Love her.  Usually don’t love her forwards.  But, out of cyber-zombie habit, I clicked on it anyway.

And saw this:

(if your browser doesn’t embed – click here)

This amazing compilation struck something deep inside me.  So many eras, so many icons, so many styles, so many stories.  Yet, not one would I place above another. Suddenly I knew exactly what I wanted my first post of 2014 to discuss!  Something for which I would love to resolve on behalf of the dance world in general: opening our minds to the various, unique, subjective areas of our infinitive art form.

I think, as an artist, each of us has areas through which we excel as well as areas we enjoy more than others.  Luckily for most of us, those two categories usually overlap.  However, I have seen a dangerous epidemic start to rise in the younger generation of dancers.  Possibly due to the ever shrinking size of the dance world, the ever growing breadth of exposure and creativity, the vast increase of competition dancing, or even simply the way dance has become such a part of mainstream pop culture — there seems to be a general sense of “right vs. wrong” or “good vs. bad” in the art today.  And that is an attitude that just should not be.

Let me share an example that I have encountered time and time again.  As a teacher, choreographer and judge, I attend many conventions over the seasons.  I can almost guarantee one thing that will stay consistent with each convention I attend.  There are some classes that will be heavily attended, dancers nearly knocking each other out with their interest, attack and attention.  Then, a few minutes later, I will watch a mass exodus as a less “popular” genre of class is about to take place.  If you’ve attended convention, I’m sure you know what I am talking about.  Dancers clawing for the front for say, contemporary, then sneaking out for well, ballet? tap?…

I myself have favorite styles.  Styles that come easier to me.  Choreography that falls out of my brain.  Then I have styles that challenge my self-confidence, don’t exactly feel right, and induce what I call “choreographic constipation”.  This is, I believe, completely normal!  The issue is when we decide the other styles are not worth our time.  WHAT?  Just dismiss an opportunity to learn, grow, bloom?  In writing it sounds so preposterous doesn’t it?  But when faced with these moments, it is so much easier to slip out; just bag it and go back to that which feeds our preferences.

While I watched the clip above, getting chills through each new and unique segment, I began to think about some of the dancers I’ve worked with.  I will say it’s the minority, but still a growing group. The dancers who have closed their minds to certain styles either because it’s not their forte, it’s “too hard”, or – my personal favorite – it’s not what’s popular at the current moment.  I have seen dancers turn-off and shrug-off what could have been a real learning experience because they had it in their head that they either couldn’t do it well, or that *maybe even* they were “above” what was being taught.  I hate to be the one to say it – but I know I’m not the only one who’s experienced it… And I hope to help put an end to it!

Dancers – you are only becoming more educated, more versatile, more unique, well versed, employable, teachable, and gosh-darned talented when you decide to soak in each and every class, technique and style offered to you.  When a teacher/choreographer comes into the room, do not judge the value of what you will learn before the first move!  Open your mind, open your eyes and see that every style of dance is valuable.  Every style is beautiful.

On the other hand, I have most certainly worked with dancers who defy this growing trend.  Dancers who are eager and open to learn and drink in anything new, different, hard or unpopular.  They are thirsty.  They are the dancers I sincerely love to teach.  They have the depth and maturity to see past today and find value in what can become.  One dancer with whom I am close, Jillyn Bryant, is a great example of this.  I have never seen her look at any teacher in any style of class without excitement in her eyes.  I have never taught her where she didn’t head-nod and “I can” and “I will” from beginning to end.  She probably has her less favorite styles, and I know – like all dancers – she has weaker genres.  But that never causes her to shy away or close down.  It’s such a gift to her own talent, her classmates and her instructors – and I know it will bring her much success down whichever road her career takes her!

So, at the beginning of a New Year – I challenge all of us dancers out there to resolve to open our minds.  Embrace discomfort and challenge.  Don’t skip tap.  Take a folk dance class.  Let your “old school” jazz teacher find you open and eager to learn a way to move that you may find less popular.  Because if there’s one thing that’s certain – what’s popular today will be “old school” tomorrow… and when those trends come and go, trust me, you are going to be glad you danced less narrow.

Dance on,


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