Saturday, August 30, 2008

dancing thoughts

well i haven't really blogged about dance for AGES. there was a period there when i didn't really want to but lately i've had all these ideas and struggled to put them into words. so i thought i'd just start and see what comes out of it.

this semester i'm doing primary dance education as an elective at uni. so far it's been really fun and interesting. i often walk out of class feeling totally uplifted and buzzing with all sorts of abstract ideas. but one thing it's been really good for is learning about dance theory and the basic dynamics of dance. these are things that i've never really entirely been aware of or understood. so armed with this new knowledge i'm approaching swing dancing from a different perspective. at the moment the biggest thing that has struck me is the concept of locomotive vs non-locomotive movement. swing dancing is definitely a locomotive dance where our focus is often on travelling and moving across the floor rather than the shapes that can be made on the spot. well that's the initial level. ideally i'd love to explore the other aspects a little bit more. the most enjoyable and dynamic social dances that i have had usually include a variety of levels, shapes, moods, speeds, etc. i'm going to spend a bit more time on this one and get back to you. i think this stuff is especially important in performance/routine dancing - because the audience is not involved in the complex connection and communication that goes on between the lead and follow which seems to take up the majority of our attention during a dance.

so how does swing dancing actually work? .. ..goddamn that stuff is hard to put into words. and every time i think i'm getting closer to the answer i make a new discovery and change my mind a little bit more. ultimately i think that what is at the crux of it all is good movement. i'm still deciding how broadly it can be applied but it's definitely important and desired by ALL dance instructors. do we really actually need to learn specific ways of moving, beyond what comes naturally to us, in order to communicate what we want our partner to do? or would the fact that one person does the movement that the other person is open enough to receive those messages correctly that they can follow(in as loose a term as possible)?

so what do i mean by good movement? i mean good posture. i mean good alignment. i mean using the large muscles for large jobs and small muscles for smaller jobs. i mean using your core centre. i mean connecting your arms to your core. i mean connecting your legs to your core. i mean making weight changes that don't absorb the natural bounce that is present in the action of comfortably switching from one leg to another. the knee/ankle/hip bends then straightens and collects again on the other side.
>ok so when i start think weight changes this is when i get off track. there are so many ways that we can do them. some people would naturally have a much smaller bounce than others. some people would take larger steps etc. also we are able to communicate the types of styling we want to produce through just doing the desired steps, so would it really matter whether the weight changes are what i would consider 'good movement' or not? as long it is a movement that is within the capacity of both partners then why wouldn't it be communicated smoothly?
so this leads me onto my next point: is it all just about creating a vocabulary of movement that is common between dancers? that we move similarly therefore we can communicate more easily? surely that would mean that people from a variety of dance experience would not be able to dance with each other effectively (which we know is not true)? or that people of different heights would have massive problems communicating as the movements are stiffled and restricted by adjustments they make to reach down/up to their partner. to make such assumptions would be ridiculous and discount the variety and range of dynamics(for lack of a better word) that swing dancing has to offer. 
bah i don't have any answers at all!

i've also been thinking about how one would go about choreographing a routine. this has been an unattained aspiration of mine for quite some time. the obvious place to start would be with your music. but finding that dynamic kick ass tune that gets every bone in your body pumping isn't really that easy (isn't meant to find you?) plus it needs to be short, high energy and of good quality to be heard on even the crappiest of sound systems.

once you've got your track, i would break it down into sections that are easily identifiable with solid contrasts and progressions. this would form part of your mapping which would define the sorts of genre of movements you want to include or the feel you want to express in each section. for example a bouncier part of the music may include more upbeat charleston-ey type moves etc.

this is probably also a good time to select a genre or theme for the routine. as in who would dance it? in partners or solo? is there a story line or theme? a particular era of dance? any particular styles of dance? are there any hero moves that must be included? any particular original art that you want to reference?

ok so you get that far right? after that i start getting a bit hazy. actually VERY hazy. i can't figure out how to link the moves that i want or fill in the massive gaps. sometimes even navigating the song can be difficult. and i spend hours experimenting with possible solutions to my problems but they seem to fall out of my head as quickly as they come to me.

i'm also not so good at the phrasal stage either. i'm far too detailed in the little nooks and crannies of a song to think in groups of movements. excuses maybe: i suspect this may have to do with years of thinking like a follow and only having that 4 beat increment in which to insert my creative insights. it's really hard for me to get out of that mentality.

well i guess it has been a while since i attempted choreographing anything and i should give it another shot sometime soon. perhaps find someone to collaborate with. ..and.. well.. find a new buzzing song that i'm not sick of!

recently i've learnt many solo routines that have made me so damn excited about routines again. hence this post. but the thing that makes me consider getting back into it is that i can see the ways in which i would alter or adjust the routines to make EVEN better: just a little more arms, a lower energy movement to match the slower build in the music etc.

anyway well i'm just about to start working on something new at uni for an assignment with a group of girls from a variety of different dancing backgrounds which could be really exciting and FUN!