Friday, April 20, 2018

Dancing Dreams

I've chosen to teach at liberal arts universities because I deeply believe in developing the whole person. Dance (and all of the arts) are avenues through which the whole person can express him/her/themselves through creative thinking, outside-of-the-box problem solving, social development, and hands-on engagement.

In classes, I challenge my students to address their "dancing dreams". These might be remembering and growing in specific points of feedback, technical challenges, and artistic expression, or addressing elements of trust and confidence in performance.

My students at Widener had their final dress rehearsal with the Chamber Music performers on Wednesday. They'll perform Sunday afternoon. I asked them to share a dream for themselves and their class.

I didn't expect them to turn the tables on me and ask me what my dancing dreams are for them. But, as good students often do, they repeated my words back to me.


Dear Dancers,

Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for now challenging me as I've challenged you. I have many dreams for you... here are a few, for your performance on Sunday and the many times you'll need to turn to your performance skills in your future:

Trust your training. In class, we practice improvisation. We practice contemporary dance technique to prepare your body for the demands of choreography. We practice seeing and listening to our environment and the people in our space. We practice using the whole kinesphere, the under curve and the over curve, so as to create a fluidity in motion and awareness of injury prevention in real time. We practice performing for each other. We practice vulnerability. We practice creating a safe space for newcomers as well as old friends. We practice non-judgement. We've spent many weeks and many classes embodying these concepts. Trust your training.

Made a choice. You'll learn soon enough how that works out, but commit to a choice, first. Take the fall and roll. Forget the movement and remain still. Do a different step and go with it. If you trust your training when you make this choice, you'll learn from the moment. Remember, you're sharing a visual art and all of your choices are being displayed in real time, so make a choice and reflect later on the success of your decision. You'll learn a lot from being confident in your decision making. Be bold.

Commit to the moment. Art reflects life. As in life, as in dance. Commit to the moment of your performance. Be bold in your movement. Be bold in your trust. Be bold in your decision making. Be bold in your vulnerability. Be bold in your story telling. Be bold in the way that your impact can have a ripple effect. Commit to yourself and commit to the moment of THIS DANCE.

Take care of your audience. See them. With your presence, let them know that you see them as much as they see you. Own your responsibility to their expectations. Your audience is coming to watch you share a story. They're coming to have an experience through your physical, artistic expression. Honor them and their trust in you.

Trust each other. Your dance colleagues are trusting you to know your role in this story and you're trusting them to tell theirs. Provide your friends with the respect you expect from them. Through the process - the joys and frustrations, the sharing of vulnerabilities and strength, the fear and the conquests - you've already been there for each other. Trust each other, now.

Listen to each other. Whether you realize it or not, this has been part of your training. Enhance your awareness onstage.

Meet this, and any -every- challenge, with 100% of you. As a dancer, you know the thrill of dancing. Share that. You know the thrill of performing. (Even if you're presenting at a conference or at interview, or teaching, or in your professional practice and in your specific "business attire",  that is a type of dance performance.) Through your performance and in-class practice, you know how to make someone else feel like they're being acknowledged. Do that. You understand what it feels like to be "in" your body, and what it feels like to be "out" of your body; and you know both when you see it in someone else. Acknowledge that. You know the feeling of vulnerability and the feeling of strength. Use this personal knowledge as an asset to your community - your audience, your peers, or your professional clients.

Enjoy the dance. You've reflected after every class that you're more confident, less stressed, and happier than when you walked in. Dance is powerful - and you have the power to share those experiences with your audience. So, do that and enjoy the power of dance.

And yes, lengthen through your limbs. Project up and out. Dance "full out". Don't look down.

Shine... but know that the light you share through these performances come from deep within you. I've seen it and I know it.