Trying Not to Fidget

September 1, 2012
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First your head starts to bob. Then your feet begin to tap. And after a few painful minutes (well, 30 seconds, but it feels like minutes), you eventually give in and start twitching in your seat to the rhythm of the latest Justin Bieber song; praying that neither your date nor everyone else at prom is watching your failed attempts to ignore the beat. To be a dancer means devoting your life to art that understands no boundaries. Unlike football, saxophone, baking, pottery, or computer games you can’t simply leave your body at home and forget about dancing for one night. It’s much more than the stereotype and yet it’s simpler than most people (wimps) make it out to be. Dancing isn’t about how many pirouettes you can do. It isn’t even about having 180 degree splits or showing off your recently perfected aerial. Dance is the music, the movement, and the emotion that you want to display.

The Music

Like in any good movie, whether romantic or action-filled, the music to which you set your scene influences the progression of its idea. Simply put, dance is a form of communication. Without music, dance lacks its foundation and fails to influence the emotion of the audience. Each beat commands the dancer and is defined by a breath, a contraction, an extension. One melody can speak a thousand different ways to each dancer, playing upon memories, hopes, dreams, and imaginations. Twinkling high notes, that run through your head as light as air, and the twanging bass notes in the background. Without fear of being heard, the notes provide a canvas on which dancers can begin to create their art. With music, “freedom is slavery,” because the only way to lose yourself in the moment is by handing over the reins and letting the rhythm lead you where it will.

The Movement

Sharp, quick, slow, soft; every flick of your wrist, every position of chin, and every lengthening of your fingertips tells a different story. Once the idea has been captured by the music, it is up to the dancer to tell its story with their body. For hours upon hours, technique is drilled into the heads all dancers, so that eventually all rebellious movement is forgotten by the body and, in a moment of inspiration, technique can cleanly take a back seat to emotion. Like writing, there are many different ways to approach the same thought. Hip hop, ballet, and modern dancers might all approach the same song with the same idea in hand. None of them will use any of the same steps, but it is possible for all to leave the audience with the same sense of awe, sadness, joy, or hope. On the other hand, three modern dancers, all with the same training, may approach the same song, with the same steps in their back pockets, but will all accomplish different goals. Last week, I watched as the same song was interpreted into a story of a cancer patient, falling in love, the rumor mill, and winter melting into spring. The slight variation of hand movements, placement of legs, and the way in which the dancers moved to the music turned each story into something completely different.

The Emotion

There are few passions in life that you can throw your heart, sweat, body, and soul into. Fewer even that push you farther than you believe yourself capable. And only one that, when executed correctly, will set fire to the passion of those around and maintain your burning desire to never give up. The emotion of dance means something different to everyone who is able to lose themselves in it. Emotion is not forced, cannot be taught, and won’t always be there. It’s found in the moment that movement and music combine. In that moment, you can find freedom from control and endless possibilities in repetition. A dance can be successful without ever tugging the heartstrings of the audience or the dancers, but that is not dancing, that is choreography.

Dancing is a way of life. Wherever there is music, there an inability to sit still. Once discovered, the adrenaline, the burning passion, and the clear guiding music will take a hold of a person’s soul and will make them a dancer. Dancing isn’t about reflecting what others think about you, it’s about telling them who you are.





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