Embrace YOUR dancing!
#wednesdaywisdom "Insecurity is experienced when you try to be someone else. Greatness is achieved when you embrace YOUR dancing, biscuit feet and all."
This week at SkunkWorks, we are exploring how many dancers feel the need to reject their personal aesthetic choices and uplift the perfection of trying to dance exactly like a teacher, choreographer or peer. Luckily as the industry has shifted with time, dance leaders are embracing individuality more frequently in their companies and businesses. But between competition "standards" and archaic principles in the dance world that promote one body type or one way of executing a movement, it can be confusing for a dancer to navigate embracing one's creative self.
I remember growing up in rigorous Cecchetti ballet and Horton modern dance training, where every movement had a specific place, meaning and physical approach. In junior high school wanting to explore more dance styles, I began taking, what would now be considered, urban dance classes. I loved the fun, sassy and musicality-intense movement of the class, but consistently felt like I was not "doing it the way the teacher did." Even though I would go home and work on the movement from class, I always perceived that something was wrong because the way I executed the step did not look like the instructor perfectly.
A few months into the urban dance class, a new student showed up to class. I recognized right away that her approach was very different from the instructors aesthetic, and initially was taken aback. Here I was trying to copy EXACTLY what my teacher did, and here was this new woman executing every step in the way she felt best... and not only was she unapologetic about her approach, but she OWNED IT!!!
While I was confused at first, by the middle of the class she had won me over. At the verey end of class, everyone was cheering her on in a dance circle as she danced the combination with the correct choreography, but completely within her own style. It was in this class, that I had a light-bulb moment. Finding greatness in dance was not about mimicking the teachers, choreographers or popular dancers that I valued; it was about my willingness to be vulnerable and embrace my dancing style / aesthetic. To see those dancers I was in awe of a loose guide to movement approach, but not a rule book.
Now I'm not saying that if a choreographer gives you a specific phrase you should just ignore the choreography and do whatever you want, but within that phrase instead of getting flustered trying to get every minute detail that the choreographer demonstrates, maybe next time play with a few moments with your personal timing, approach or texture.
I found that once I embraced who I was as a dancer, I found so much freedom and joy in my craft. In the end, I realized by putting so much pressure on myself to copy the instructor, I was constantly setting myself up for failure and disappointment.
So next time when you feel the need to get every little step a teacher or choreographer puts out, maybe pause for a second and choose insert a little of yourself in the combination too.
- Jana Bennett
SkunkWorks Dance Founder and Director
Did you ever tie movement mastery to how close could you mimic a teacher or choreographer? How has your perspective on embracing individually within dance changed or stayed the same? We want to hear from you!
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