Beyond the Body

Recently, I wrote about the struggle of explaining to new people what it is I do in a way that speaks the breadth and depth of my experiences and the field of dance. This morning via Facebook, this article by Shawn Lent came across my phone and my wheels have been turning ever since.

I have before written about the “Underdogs”- those that find the unconventional paths in dance and how we can rally and support each other. Now, though, my mind further turns to education- the environments that teach about dance but often short change the potential for dance in terms broader than stage and studio.

I realize much of one’s purpose in life isn’t taught or directed in a classroom. In theory, it is the content, the experiences, and the interactions that lead to what my grandmother would call, “all part of life’s rich pattern”. But there are threads and stitches that can be at the very least, made visible for those ready to admire or those not ready to at least know they exist.

Choreographers in college programs are often encouraged to work in liberation of how dance has been made in the past but this usually deals with form and structure, maybe content, not usually function, purpose, and social potential.  We are always asking for innovation in choreographic terms, but what about in dance theory courses. And does it really make for these experiences to be taught in isolation of each other anyway?

When do we put the “how” down for a while and get back to the “why” of art-making?

A few years ago, while directing the dance minor program at a liberal arts college, I taught at a festival for high school students. An MFA candidate from my alma mater was also there and asked if I wished I was teaching dance majors. My response was easy- no. I explained my philosophy of dance and how I feel compelled to educate everyone on how dance serves their lives, their studies, and their relationships. I liked that dance minors weren’t all “dancers” but committed to applying dance to their other areas of studies and were taking risks in the studio and in the community through dance. The MFA candidate’s response was that he thought that was very “responsible” of me.

Maybe.

But where should the responsibility be placed to bring new pathways to dance students?

And what is the responsibility of art in the first place?

Maybe it is because of the guest teaching I have been doing this summer and the fact I have been blurring lines between coaching performance, teaching technique, and introducing composition to teen dancers. We are working in sophisticated ways out of the typical teen-dance norm. And they have been brilliant.

But it leads me to think…..

  • Why are most guest artists technicians or choreographers….why not include more dance theorists, experts in pedagogy, community engagement (for real), thinkers, do-ers, writers,…..practitioners.
  • Or, instead of having these people come in and talk or lecture, put them into practice. Give practical examples of what their work is like.
  • Why not partner with other departments? Treat arts departments like humanities and explore communication and human experience through artistic disciplines. Collaborate with non-arts departments to examine how the same problem could be solved or examined through two or more lenses. Compare and contrast the outcomes.

There are so many possibilities beyond and including the stage and studio. I am bored with the labels, the singular visions, the bottom line to determining value being how to neatly describe something in a couple words, so that the funding will come and the product can be showcased.

I don’t know….

Let’s just go blur some more lines.

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