Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I wonder if there is any professional field that is completely satisfied.

I am acutely aware that the dance profession is a difficult one to understand and participate in. As artists, we are often low on the totem pole of financial security. I often wonder if this is because of the nature of the work. Everyone has a body. Every body moves. So, if every body moves, why study it? For me, the answer is so simple - it's almost like assuming that because everyone has a heart and it beats, that the individual understands his/her heart and should not need to study it. If anything, the moving body needs to be studied and understood, more! Why not try to understand ourselves? We do this through medicine and psychology and religion and culture... why should we negate the importance of studying the hows and whys of movement?

Again, I am in the thick of this world, so the answer might seem obvious to me. However, I'm learning that I need to articulate this importance and understanding. More recently, I have experienced the tears and anxieties of students who do not understand why they're having difficulty grasping ballet technique or academic writing about dance (for example). I am coming to the conclusion that, because dance technique and study is about the body, it is accessible to everyone and "should" not be difficult. I ask my students, how long did it take you to learn how to ride a bike, do algebra, learn how to spell your last name? Their answers usually include a significant amount of time.

Learning dance is just another part of this learning process. I beg you, please be patient with yourself. Trust your body -s/he is very intelligent if you will let her/him be. Please do not negate the importance of your kinesthetic intelligence. Take time to practice the transfer of this intelligence from your body into your consciousness. It is a practice. It takes time. It takes diligent attention.

A friend of mine was working on a social justice project that involved movement. She said the mantra of the project was "The issues are in the tissues." Our bodies hold our stories; we need to take time and practice and attention to listen to them; to listen to ourselves.

I realize this is a terrifying project. It's very difficult. Please take the time and the risk.

And so I wonder... as dance artists, we always need more funding, more space, more understanding, more audiences. Are there any professions that are satisfied? Are there any professions that say, "we have enough space. We have enough money." In writing this post, I realize that I am asking my readers to look inward. I am trying to do the same - in looking inward and looking at the things my profession needs, I need to realize that other professions may also need these things. If we all need them, is there a way we could share them? In sharing, is there a way that we could better understand each other and what it is we do? How can I use dance and the development of kinesthetic understanding to better help someone deeply invested in economics or business? Could they help me? Where is our common ground? (our bodies...?)

I guess one could pose the question, how would ballet technique help someone who is not invested in the field? Studies have shown that dance, technique classes, are beneficial for people who have medical illnesses, like Parkinson's disease. Dance can be used for very specific purposes, like improving gait and balance, but it can also be used as a way to connect with community and the self - through its technical practice. Maybe a student of dance (when I refer to student of dance, I mean anyone who takes a dance class) doesn't need to aspire to be a professional. However, having the knowledge can only be beneficial.

Many colleges and universities require students to take "Core" courses. These courses are designed to expose them to a variety of fields of study and thought. Generally, they are courses in religion, math, science, language, and philosophy. I challenge the universities to invest in courses in the body and the self. What would happen if every student was required to take a dance class, or a yoga class, or a Pilates class? What would happen to our communities if every student was required to connect with his/her body?

It might be an interesting experiment... but it would require time and hard work. Space, money, participants...

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