Are we Dancers or Acrobats?
The introduction of the internet has changed the world in many ways and one of the most important ones is the way in which the world is now communicating. Emails, podcasts, tweets and of course… how can you ignore videos? Thanks to such playgrounds such as YouTube, the whole world can see what’s hip, trendy, and what’s the ‘in thing’? What’s the latest thing that dogs are getting up to and more importantly for the dance industry, how different people around the world are pushing the boundaries of gravity?
We’re constantly amazed at these humans who can undoubtedly perform these super human fetes of endurance, strength, and speed etc. We marvel at their skills and are inspired by their abilities. We then go out and try the same things in our own backyard, only to find that it needs a little more work before we look like them.
The dance industry is no different. We the coaches, dancers, performers and choreographers are constantly looking and creating new ways to improve and give a better performance than the last time. We are constantly looking for ways to touch move and inspire the audience. We want to show a new and different way to express an emotion or communicate an idea through the medium of movement. A lot of the time we succeed and the performance brings the crowd to their feet. We manage to give the audience one more amazing performance, one more chance at inspiration, a little more hope that they can do the same and in some cases, one more day to live on this planet.
So with so much invested in our intentions for the planet, why then would so many teachers, coaches and choreographers succumb to the allure of the “me too’s” and the “look at me, look at me’s”? What I’m talking about is the trend that has been sweeping the dance world for the past 5 or more years. This trend asks the coaches to give their students an edge which will stand them out from the crowd. It influences them to put in another spin, flip or a tumble so that the students stand out of the crowd. These are very impressive moves and tricks but in most cases can be hurtful or painful to the students and possibly look out of place to the audience. Sure, a walkover with a twist is impressive but is it the right step to perform in this particular piece of music? Is it the right move to do to express this emotion?
I know that if I say something like “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”, then I’m judged as an old man and that I’m back there in the past. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the art of breakdance where acrobatic tricks are encouraged and sought after. I should say that even in breakdance it’s not always appropriate just to push tricks if the music is telling you something different. What we’re talking about is the art of dance. Any form of dance is a form of expression. This is a form of physical communication which I believe is the next stage of our evolution towards being better human beings, but that’s another article altogether.
In dance, you get to be an interpreter. You get to say things to the audience, with your body and the sound of the music, that which you cannot say in language. You get to inspire people with your intention, touch them with your heart and move their souls with yours. I read a quote a few months ago which said, “don’t raise your voice, simply improve your argument”. I fully believe in this idea and the benefits it brings with it. The same thing should be in dance. Don’t impress me with how high you can jump, flip three times, land in the splits and then float to your feet. Impress me with how courageous you are in holding my stare in your eyes so much so that you pull my soul into your world and show me the wondrous mind with which you view your form of reality.
Be the change that you wish for on this planet. Be the Willie Wonka and show me your chocolate factory. Be the Leo Tolstoy and show me how you see the world at war. Bring me back to my seat and allow me to go home being inspired, touched, moved and impacted by what I saw, that it makes me think of what I can do to improve life here on earth. Don’t just be a ringmaster of your circus and show me the trapeze, because that is simply one element of who you truly are as a human being and it’s only one shade of who you are as a dancer. Give me less of what you can do, but give me more of YOU!
As I sit here and type these words I am reminded of where my partner and I just came from. Anna and I have just landed back in Australia after working on a 6-star luxury cruise line as dance teachers and performers. The ship took us all over South America and the one place which had the greatest impact on me yet again has been Argentina. The reason is, that they have their national dance which of course is the Argentine Tango. This dance is as old as the country and is practiced by nearly everyone who can walk. The example I bring is the fact that while over in Buenos Aires I saw something magical which to the people of Argentina is a normal everyday occurrence. The young ladies are mostly dancing with the elderly gentleman. “Oh what a wonderful nation to be taking time to be with their grandparents” I thought to myself for a long time until I found out that it’s not necessarily so.
What is known in Argentina is that the older the man, the more experienced leader he is and the more sought after he is. The younger guys, although handsome, dark haired and muscle bound are still learning, as one lady told me. She said: “it’s very exciting to dance with a young one for one or two dances, but the old ones make me feel like I am a queen in their arms” I pondered this for a moment and saw a correlation between this concept and our own dance industry, both back home in Australia and around the world. The more experienced the dancer the greater the arsonal they have to play with. If you can get the job done with a sniper, why bring the whole army? This I guess is what I’m saying in a very roundabout way. Dance is not acrobatics and should not be turned into a circus. I love the circus because I want to be amazed at what I cannot do. I love going to the movies to be transported into different realities. I love the art of dance because I want to see people give of themselves and create pieces of artwork on the floor which a few seconds ago were in their minds.
I will leave you with this thought. When I dance, I see sound pouring out of the speakers like liquid gold and cascading down onto the dance floor. It splashes down meandering around the floor like a small stream which I follow with my body to create steps, motions and movements that to the onlooker seem invisible.
The floor is your canvas, the music your paint. Be the brush and create beautiful strokes of art for people to enjoy. Dance and inspire the world with your intention. Dance and give the world a reason to go on.
Paul Zaidman D.H.I