This past 2 months I have been working with a duet and I am amazed at what the girls are accomplishing. I guess because the girls are so precise in their movements I began to think about something that has caught my attention. I realized beginner dancers want to know everything and taking small steps instead of giant leaps is very hard for them to do.
I was there and I remember feeling that same way. But If they don’t learn the moves and combinations to the point of muscle memory than they can learn the moves to the point of dancing them incomplete. After awhile of performing these particular dancers movements can become a blurr and the combinations become muddy. There is no completion in each move making it distinct from the next move. And since this is a story telling with the body, I feel it is so important to emulate what the music or voice is saying to the best of our abilities.
When I had my studio I had a student who was becoming a very good dancer. But the one thing she would do in class when she was bored was to either start doing her own dance or she would hurry up the move and complain that she knew the move already. And when I would ask her do the move for me, I would see she had no feeling in it and I would say to her, “No, you don’t have that move down because it is incomplete.” An incomplete move is a move that has no emotion or feeling to it. It is blah to the point of boring and if it is boring to you, imagine how it is for the audience watching dancers perform incomplete moves over and over again. This particular dancer would get mad at me and she eventually went to go study with another teacher. I saw her dance just recently and there is still an in-completion in her moves because to me she still does not understand how to feel movement.
So how do we teach our students to feel music and movement? This is a question that has plagued me for years. I can only go by my own dance experience and hopefully share with my students what I do and how I do it. This is one way but each student has to hear the music, it has to sing in her heart so she can dance each verse and phrasing of the song. Movement is the key element for the audience to visually see what the music is saying. So movement is an extension of how the beat and rhythm is played out in each dancers body. Just to move isn’t enough, we have to own the movement in order to make it fit and work within the story we are trying to tell.
So after looking at this dilemma I created this new curriculum so that students can understand that feeling movement means you can have the option of going fast or slow with it; play with speed. A hip circle can be a slow 4 count circle or a 1 one count circle. Right and left hip thrusts can accent outside the circle, it all depends on how fast or slow you want to go. If you dance to the voice in a song than elongate their words as they do but with combinations and movement. Adding to this means that both sides are equal and strong. So your left side can be as pronounced as your right side.
A strong dancer on stage is one who owns every move that comes out of her body. She and the music are one. Each move is completed with accents, pausing ,speed change, level changes and turns. The fact we have so many choices is what makes dance so much fun. So last but definatley not least is fun. A dancer on stage enjoying her dance is pure joy for the audience to watch. So maybe completing moves means that we allow the joy of the dance to come through us. And looking back at the dancer I had mentioned earlier, I would have to say I saw no joy in her dance.
This past week my duet laughed to the point of crying, danced to the point of exhaustion and high fived each other to the point of pure joy! It’s amazing what our students can teach us. Yes, something as simple as joy can make all the different in dance!