Friday, February 19, 2010

Four weeks to go!

It's a little surreal that the time is winding up for the performance. We spent a lot of rehearsal today talking about my psychological narrative of the piece, thus far. My dancers physically and vocally asked for clarification. I respect that. Sometimes, choreographers don't tell their dancers what they expect from a inner, psychological/energetic narrative perspective and it's up to the dancer to create that narrative, that rationale, for herself. As a younger dancer, I experienced this and always questioned if what/how I was performing captured the intention of the choreographer. I felt as though I could better shape myself into my perception of the choreographer's intent if I were aware of the intention and motivation. Looking back, I can understand why a choreographer would refrain from projecting too much information onto the experience of the dancer, especially if part of the intention is/was to draw on the personal experience of the dancer. In turn, the experience of the dancer's psychological/energetic narrative becomes part of the performance.

I believe in education through the choreographic experience. Part of my research begs the questions: How do you teach performance? How do you teach that moment of pure vulnerability on stage while being completely in control. How do you teach a dancer to be comfortable in that moment? How do you teach them to be ready to "drop into" performance mode?

It's more than a feeling state. It's more than remembering an experience that you repeat on stage. It's real and alive and needs to be present in that moment. All of the time.
How do you describe a strong performance? Presence? ....But how do you teach that?

I worry that many talented technicians do not learn how to perform and are therefore looked over in auditions and castings. I worry that many students interested in pursuing this life of a dancer will not have the opportunity to PRACTICE performance if they are not in an environment where practicing performance and teaching performance are valued. It's hard to teach these things that cannot be quantified. I've seen instances where choreographers expect the dancer to come to the rehearsal process with a strong performative skill. But, performance is a skill.... and it can be taught... and it can be learned and acquired with the right attention, dedication, and practice. It is important for us, as educators of dance, to remember the importance of performance practice.

A practice of performing. A practice of teaching. A practice of researching. A practice of dancing.

Side note: As I write, I've been referring to the psychological/energetic narrative of the dancer. In modern dance performances, there may not be a linear narrative - one that tells a clear story like a play or a musical. Here is where I/dance/artists delve into a different realm, one that I'm classifying as that of an energetic nature.

I believe that every body innately has the ability to move. Based upon our energetic makeup, our organic movements will be different. Some bodies create movement that other bodies cannot or will not. All bodies are capable of training that movement, which manifests in codified dance techniques, sport training techniques, and even ways that we sit at the computer and type or read. So, when I refer to the psychological/energetic narrative of the work, it does not have to make logical sense. Rather, the psychological/ energetic narrative is comparable to that of the narrative sense that our dreams make during sleep, but not necessarily once we have woken.

If I could offer some advise for watching many concert dance works of the late 90's and early 21st Century: remember that dream state; feel and see what your body is experiencing as an audience member and experience the work instead of trying to figure out what you're "supposed to" be getting. When you lift a glass of wine, do you experience the smell or do you try and figure out what ingredients were used? When you taste chocolate, do you quantify the ratio of coco to sugar or do you just experience the chocolate? I request that you just experience the dance and if something strikes you, then pursue why you were effected and what happened both on stage an internally....

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