Monday, May 4, 2015

Embracing Your Past

It has taken me a long time to really understand that my past is just a tool at my disposal. I have felt, and often still feel, that it defines and confines me to a specific genre - a genre that I was never perfect for, and I later tried to move away from.

But every time you move away from something, you realize what parts of the thing you left really are you. You can change in many ways, and learn new things....but they are only adding to the platter. It is actually quite difficult to loose such strongly imprinted patterns, such as years and years of ballet. This may hold you back from learning new techniques at first, with their different coordination and sense of gravity, but over time you will become immersed in new worlds. The cool part is when you start to mix them - the old and the new. Not superficially, but on a fast-switching mechanical level that makes it seem like one seamless style.

I speak here of ballet / gaga vs. floorwork / breakdance. I am not a master of the second form, but my understanding of it has grown greatly over the past three years. Years I spent training POST University, mind you. That's right: I couldn't find what I was looking for in any of my long years of education in the USA...which might be the home of break dance?...(irony intended...)

A pitch to bring schools up-to-date:   Stepping into the Present

I often critique schools for being too narrow, "old-school," or stylized in their specific way. In many ways, this is inevitable and unavoidable. But as one Finnish critic wrote when critiquing that Finnish dance education has become too conceptual, he made point that conceptual is fine, but you should have the OPTION to do other things. And then it is even more powerful when you choose NOT to do them.

This is the point that I would like to make. That approaches to movement in different techniques are very, very different. No one is better than the next. But in this increasingly competitive field, one is expected to be able to do almost anything. And: most of us want to, don't we? Its just fun! Therefore, in any education system, or personal training, it is necessary to find these different technical worlds in a deep understanding, so that later your body has a wider range of possibilities to draw from.

Education systems are often behind the demands of the current professional field. So if you are a dance school director, I would look outside of your walls, and see what your students truly need. The job market you left no longer exists, except as a few preserved, fossilized companies who were lucky to maintain their funding. The style has changed, and the demands on the body and spirit have changed. A "traditional technical foundation" is no longer enough. New traditions have been and are being created right under your very nose.

This is a strong sting to end this post with, but it will be a common theme in articles to come, and is one I strongly believe in.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Blog Re-Start 2015

Its time to re-invigorate this blog.

Since the post-university European travel that started the blog four years ago, I freelanced with very talented and diverse artists in Seattle. As of September 2014, I entered a postgraduate program called SEAD Bodhi Project in Salzburg, Austria. I have been here for the past eight months, creating work with international emerging choreographers. Through the program I have a year visa to study in Europe, tour the works we create, and go to auditions when I can. And most importantly: be surrounded by an international cast of characters that teach and challenge me daily.

I have long had many thoughts about contemporary dance, and dance education. They are constantly shifting, but they remain gathered around a central pulse that always brings me back to Europe. I don't think all the answers are here. But I do think there is a wealth of knowledge and differing perspectives on life and performance that should have a more fluid discourse with their American counterparts. There are many cultural, political, and historical reasons that I'm sure contribute to what I call this "Atlantic Divide." But I am not an ethnographer or anthropologist, and in this blog I will not attempt to be. I will simply offer my experiences, and what they made me think and feel as an American dancer living and working overseas.

In the end, there is no one style, context, or education system that is perfect. Was it not Martha Graham that said being and artist is actually that divine dissatisfaction that drives us forward?

I am led by this dissatisfaction. And I am led to write about it.

I think its about time I start.