I never fully appreciated why I dance until I transitioned from drill and dance team technique in high school to modern and street styles in college. The drill and dance technique was taught for the purpose of perfecting the skills and showing them off to a board of judges to win trophies and increase our team’s and our school’s reputation. While that was enjoyable, helped me to blow off some steam and laid the groundwork for organization and teamwork skills, the styles I learned and practiced in college allowed me to improvise and play with the techniques in a way where my body felt comfortable and I realized how important dance is to me as communication with myself and with others.
Drill technique, along with the concepts stated above, provided me with movement that is sharp, fast paced, and accurate in where my body is placed in space. Having only had dance training like that, learning modern was a very different experience. Modern technique gave me movement that was slower in pace, more careful in where the body is placed, and required more control. Drill technique needed control as well, but modern helped me to recognize what level of control I needed for each movement and that control didn’t necessarily mean tensing the muscles to the extreme. Modern concepts helped me to find release in certain parts of my body that didn’t need to be active for a particular movement. While learning modern, I was introduced to street styles and the technique involved had a happy combination of drill and modern. The movements varied in tempo, control, levels and provided an opportunity to add your own flavor to the movement. I am at home in all three of the styles and they are very much a part of who I am as a dancer and communicator.
I have always made it a priority to try at least every dance form once to recognize the culture from which it was developed and so that I can continue to shape my own dance aesthetic and teaching methods. I am constantly listening to, attempting and utilizing concepts taught to me to put it on my own body and discover how that affects me physically and mentally. The concepts that mold the technique and movement is what I take away from each style. If I did the movement because I thought it looked cool, I wouldn’t be expressing myself honestly. I need to understand why I am doing a movement and translate it physically in a way that keeps my body safe from injury and emotional trauma. And as I choreograph more and more pieces in my life, I find that I want to pass these ideas onto my dancers as well.
When I choreograph, I start with a concept and then create movement I think encapsulates that idea. However, I avoid giving phrases to my dancers to practice because putting movement that was developed from my own experience onto another body with different experiences would mean insincere interpretation and expression. I enjoy working with and listening to my dancers opinions and ideas by providing them with a concept or asking them questions surrounding the concept and seeing how they would represent that concept or answer the questions through movement. Through this type of collaboration, I get different perspectives on the core concept and it gives my dancers the opportunity to find their own physical translation of the concept in their bodies. Putting my own movement phrases on dancers wouldn’t I want to provide dance in a way that is honest, genuine and maybe even emotionally healing for those who don’t know how to express themselves fully.