For those of us who don’t want to jump on the online train…
As studios and dancers immediately adjusted to our world shifting online, I took a step back. I am teaching my college courses online, but instead of keeping up my normal schedule outside those classes, I’ve decided to take advantage of the extra time (even just the time I lost to commuting) to explore in new ways and reflect.
I had to ask myself, why don’t I want to jump onto this online craze?—Am I being lazy? Am I being stubborn? There are so many classes available, and if your social media feed looks like mine, it seems like everyone is taking class all day, all the time. But I just want to take a step back and reflect—I want, I need, to pause. Stillness is often the most powerful moment in a dance.
I saw a young dancer post on FB the first few days of staying home that she felt guilty that all she wanted to do was rest. The dance world has taught us all that resting is unacceptable—we must go go go go go if we want to make it. And it’s that unsustainable attitude that leads to burnout, injury, and a lack of fulfillment. Rest. Pause. Reflect. Personal growth usually goes hand in hand with artistic growth, and personal growth requires reflection.
I guess I’m choosing to adapt in a different way—life isn’t the same and we don’t have to act like it is.
Other ways to take advantage of the time:
-delve into other arts, create in other ways—draw, sing, photograph, write, read
-discover new music
-develop other skills—cooking, baking, sewing, building, crafting, gardening—I’ve learned as a lot about dance through gardening. Any creative process feeds us, nourishes us, and teaches.
-call old friends
-slow down—rest is something necessary to develop as an artist too, and to stay healthy
I’m also able to shut out all the extra “noise.” I’ve realized that wanting to prove myself to people or fill outside expectations hindered my growth recently. Take time to listen to yourself (it’s a lot easier to tune out the extra noise—i.e. other people’s expectations and demands when they’re not around—listen to what you want and what your body is telling you). But if you’re on social media all day, it can be hard to do that—don’t get sucked into social media for too long. This is such a beautiful time to reconnect with yourself!
What I’ve learned so far:
-I’ve rediscovered a joy in dance by taking the pressure off myself. I’m dancing to dance, to explore, to have fun, to simply move.
-I’ve realized it’s okay to work slowly and steadily. I’d been working in an unsustainable manner the last couple of years. Now finally having the time to reflect, I can keep moving forward instead of sprinting in place.
-Time to reflect leads to new creative ideas! Woohoo!
-I’m feeling inspired without saying “I have to do X or I’m supposed to do Y…”
-I’m rediscovering what I value and why…e.g. always asking why I like an aesthetic, which lead to me rewriting my bio and artist statement.
-I am working more in line with the schedule I had in Spain—where rest was built into each day with the siesta. I often used that time to listen to music, read, write, and draw. And I realize now, I had a lot more creative ideas. It wasn’t the country that gave me inspiration, it was the value of going more slowly that opened space for new ideas to form and grow.
And let’s not forget the value of woodshedding—taking the time to deconstruct and construct your bodily knowledge, build your own style, explore on your own, work on “owning” your movements—that ephemeral quality of confidence, ease, steps fully integrated into a dancer’s biomechanics and filled with personal expression. That takes time and solo practice—what better time than now to work on it!
Paco de Lucia, took a break from guitar every year for at least one month. He didn’t touch the instrument. It is okay, even at a professional level, to take a break.
Yes, keep moving—but it doesn’t have to be the same as before, in fact it probably won’t be the same…
My experience so far with online classes:
-Live exchange of energy missing, I feel uninspired teaching to a screen. That proves the value of the human connections and community dance builds
-Immediate feedback from the students missing, so it’s harder for me to know if students are internalizing concepts
-Online classes just aren’t the same as a student—there is something about the class atmosphere, the competitive energy, an audience of peers, more space that can’t be recreated in your living room
-There are totally advantages—you get to take class from lots of teachers you may not usually have access to, which is amazing! Try out some new moves!!!
Come back to dance with fresh eyes….we don’t know when, and we don’t know how what was “normal” will have shifted, but if we give ourselves the space and time to pause, we’ll surely have a fresh outlook. Give yourself permission to pause, rest, reflect. The growth will happen if we give it space.
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