I had an excellent weekend. After spending all of last weekend with a significant portion of the charter members of the OMC, I had all of this weekend with Bay. I won’t go into the stuff that you didn’t come here to read, but I highly recommend meeting someone that makes you a better person and marrying their ass (and the rest of them too). Your life continues to get better the more work you’re willing to put in to a relationship like this – win/win!
We hosted my parents on Saturday night to cook them dinner, play crokinole, and slice off a portion of my finger. My finger didn’t ruin the night, and fortunately it didn’t affect my crokinole playing. I also successfully managed to raise my Dad’s blood pressure by playing my shots before he had the time to tell me “aim for my finger Adam!”. I’m pretty sure my Mum had the exact same look on her face that she did over 15 years ago in Majorca when he did the same thing at the pool table. Ah.. fond memories.
Before that, however, I took the afternoon for myself to go down to Centenniel Square and dance. I didn’t start with this intention, but no one else was available given the short notice I had provided, and it had been too long since I’d danced in my hometown. I wasn’t going to let anyone else’s lack of availability affect my need to get some creative release. I gathered up my stuff and headed down.
Centenniel Square is actually a pretty great spot to go and share some culture. The main part of the square has been fixed and is much more open than it once way. While there was an event happening (and I heard at least one deep house song that I like playing), there was plenty of room further back and closer to the road. One of the great parts about this area is that there are a number of businesses along one side, and all of the glass there is one-way mirror. Not only that – it’s covered. No issues with weather.
For a good solo session, having a reflection can go a long way to making you more comfortable dancing in public. And that’s the other great benefit about the Square – it’s got a steady stream of foot traffic, but enough open area that no one ever has to feel about having their space violated.
One of the biggest things I’ve been working on this term has been opening myself up more when I’m dancing. Not just physically, but emotionally and, if you can handle this, spiritually (it probably doesn’t mean the same thing to you that it does to me). Having a consistent flow of foot-traffic offers plenty of opportunities for an audience, and if you can’t be comfortable with an audience, you’re never going to be able to achieve what you’re fully capable of. If you have trouble getting yourself to this point, check out my post about opening yourself up more – it’s a great starting point that will naturally lead you to what I’m describing.
I was practicing in front of the windows (after being told, bemusedly, by two commissionaires that there were people that could see me on the other side and were watching me), and taking a break from really dancing (when the goes off, I have to too!) and sat there grooving. I made a surprising discovery – I figured out how I could teach gliding.
Gliding has always been an elusive technique for me. I’ve never really felt how it connects to the music. When I first started trying to to learn, it was by watching Graham. Graham’s an amazing dancer and a great glider, but he is highly intuitive. Without anything technical to grab on to, I was never really able to pick up the foundation. Graham picked the technique up so quickly and seamlessly that I couldn’t find a space in his movement to pick apart and build on my own understanding.
With a lot of time, practice and classes, I was able to slowly pick up the technique. But I never really learned how it connected to the actually dancing that I was meant to do. Without an ability to ground the technique in the dance, it was a very dead move that I had taught myself to do. Don’t kid yourself – anyone that is actually listening to the music will notice straight away if you’re just doing technique without any dancing. Without an ability to dance with the technique, I could never really figure it out. The way I taught the class was the same way I felt about learning the technique myself: it was slow, arduous.. it was frustrating.
The seed for my own epiphany was initially planted by Jamieson – a good friend, dancer and teacher. In Jamieson’s class, he had us performing the stationary front glide (almost a forced walk) to the beat of the music. This was the first time that I had actually seen a glide properly connected to the music. (Much to Jamieson’s credit, I have never seen him teach anything that wasn’t connected with the music).
Ready for the music to pick me back up, I stood in front of the mirror doing the following to the beat playing in my ears:
- Simultaneously raise my left toe and my right heel (1st beat).
- Simultaneously lower my left toe and right heel, and then raise my right toe and my left heel (2nd beat).
This is a simple motion, but it’s rhythmic, and that means that it’s a way to keep time with the music. You should always strive to have part of your body moving to the music – this is how you stay connected to your dance, the rhythm, and the feel. It’s how you know you’re actually dancing. Have you ever watched a great dancer and seen them move like they had already heard the song before? They haven’t – they’re just feeling music to the extent that they know where it’s going to go next.
Standing in place, rocking my feet up and down to the beat, I let my mind wander and focused on the music. Rather than trying to think of what to do next, I allowed myself to sit in the groove. I let myself know that it was okay to not do something new – I could do this for as long as it felt good. This might sound trite to those that don’t understand, but this is the most fundamental principle of dancing that I can conceive at the moment. If you can do this, you can dance. If you can give yourself permission to enjoy a groove you’re sitting in, you don’t have to worry about how you look to anyone.
Reaching this conclusion is part of the greater (and ongoing) epiphany I’ve been having this term, thanks in part to the talented influences of my friends and teachers Dennis, Kyle, Kim, Johnnii and Jamieson. Sitting with the groove in this position, I suddenly felt the tumblers in my brain fall into place. I had gotten inside the glide!
Moving my feet up and down rhythmically, I was able to do the same while floating (the first is a foundation for the second), and almost magically felt everything snap into place. If I could float to the rhythm, I could glide to the rhythm. If I could glide to the rhythm… I could dance.
At the moment, I can’t provide any greater a breakdown of the technique I’m describing. I need to teach it in order to understand it better myself. What’s that? You shouldn’t teach something that you don’t understand completely? Why not? Shouldn’t the teacher be allowed to learn with the students as well? Surely this is teaching at it’s finest. This is part of my process, and it’s part of why teaching, for me, is never just a one-way – it’s a two-way interaction. Articulating an idea for someone should be a learning experience for both of you.
The good news is that I can promise more articulation in the summer months, for those of you that will be taking classes with me. I’m looking forward to sharing what have been some profound changes in me as a dancer, and mutually working through those discoveries together in classes. I have not yet found the right space for what I want to do, but that is currently in the works and once settled, I will be posting more information right here. Suffice to say for now that I’m really excited about what is in the works.
While the audience for this post may be different than some of the others I have written, I still think summaries are a good practice. If not for you, certainly for me. Here we go:
- If you want to excel as a dancer, you need to be open to your audience, whoever and wherever they may be (don’t be selective)
- If you’re nervous about dancing in public, find a place with a reflection. Make sure you spend time facing away from it, but it can act as a security blanket when you’re feeling intimidated by those around you. If you insist on staring at the mirror, make eye contact with your audience through it (it’ll catch them off-guard, I guarantee!)
- If you can give yourself permission to sit in a groove, you can dance (yup, step-touch and two-stepping counts – don’t move on until you’re ready to).
- No matter what you’re doing, try to keep some part of your body connected to he music (if you’re not sure why, see the point above)
And of course – I’m going to be teaching this summer somewhere in town, and it’s going to be awesome. (and you should be there too!).