A collection of journals from my fall semester Contemporary dance class and a video of the showcase from the last day of classes.
Oct. 11 – Body Organization
I am a very structured person: I prefer math and ballet, lines and maps, and knowing that an ‘x’ will always yield a ‘y’. The Bartenieff Fundamentals taught in this contemporary class seemed to be just the opposite of everything that I knew and loved; it, at first, looked like a free-for-all on the floor, and I knew that it would be a challenge to execute all of the movements correctly. Entering this contemporary class was like entering a stage of entropy, and the only thing that my mind wanted to do was create order.
In trying to understand the information presented, I tried the method of using previous knowledge – a deductive reasoning of sorts – in an effort to understand the movements of the Bartenieff technique. I applied the modern technique of Horton, and while it gave me a reference point for my movements, the two techniques were not completely compatible with each other. However, some fundamentals translated between the two techniques. For example, Horton is concerned with energy always reaching out of the distal points of the body (the head, arms, legs) and the oppositional energy between them. What I have learned in contemporary is that while it is true that the energy must go out, it must also have the ability to come back into the body and flow. This is characterized in the rolling through X’s on the floor – the energy reaches out through the distal points of the body to form an X and comes back in; the transitions between them become the flow. The use of breath in movement is also a universal concept, and using it as an initiator and a connector for movement is something that I have been familiar with. Applying it to moves such as leg swings, coming in and out of the floor on a parallel leg, and leg kicks on the floor while in X have helped me better work the flow of the movements.
While some concepts translated and helped me, some made it harder for me to grasp the concepts in contemporary. The hardest thing for me to understand has been the use of weight including the release and shift of it. In ballet, weight and body is always held, and since it is what I am familiar with, it was almost as if it were a reflex while dancing. I have found that I need to break my habits while in this class, and start forming new ones. Letting the weight fall and lead like in “evil swing” has been made easier by isolating a specific areas of my body and focusing on it moving me throughout. What I had once thought had no structure actually requires me to constantly think while moving – the movements are not spontaneous: everything follows the flow of weight, breath, and energy.
Nov. 8 – Body Connectivity
I am thankful for opportunity to spend the last few weeks on improvisation. The sessions definitely heightened my awareness to not only my own body but to other bodies and the space and environment around me. I previously have had a trial improvisation classes where a teacher would emphasize the phrases of body, space, time, and dynamic; yet, the contact improvisation sessions have given me the freedom to explore those relationships and have attuned me to the context and meaning of the phrases.
I see the words body, space, dynamic, and time on a scale – similar to the 0-6 exercise learned in Jon Luna’s class but with regard to the specific element. For example in body in relation to body, a 0 would be without acknowledgement to other dancers while a 6 would be complete connection to other dancers and where actions and reactions are given and received. I previously thought that this element was rarely used in contemporary class but after reflection, I found that I am almost always at a 1, for I must be aware of the other dancers are around me. While we are not connected physically, there is a certain body-body awareness that is always constant while dancing.
Body in relation to space can also be put on a similar scale, with 0 for no movement and a 6 for strong movement travelling through space – the swing combination would be a good example of a 6. I believe that a 1 on this scale is a presence of energy in the space even if there is no movement and being at a 0 while dancing is not a very acceptable place to be even when still. While in an X on the floor, even though not technically moving through space, there is still the presence of my energy in the space that flows from all distal points.
On a body in relation to dynamics scale, 0 would be performing every movement the same while 6 would be highlighting and accenting some actions to give a flow to the movement. Body in relation to time can be interpreted in many ways, but for the 0-6 scale, the measured element will be movement to music or rhythm. A 0 would be stillness, a 1 would be dancing on the correct counts, and 6 would be dancing with the beat, with the phasing, and with the same inflections as the music/rhythm. I believe that with these two scales, dynamics and timing can be paired together because to get effective dynamic to movement, the rhythms and music must be understood.
Dec. 6 – Body Integration
Looking back to the beginning of the semester, I am glad to say that I definitely see and feel my improvement in this contemporary class. I also have gained a better understanding of all movement and their relationship to weight, space, energy, and breath.
If I had to name one of my strengths in dance, it would be my ability to pick up on combinations easily, especially in ballet. Memory games are a favorite of mine, and I love it when Sophie would show us a combination once and leave it to us to piece it together. Like a sponge, I am able to absorb the information well yet the ability to process and execute that information is something that I have had to work on for this class. I remember that at the beginning of the semester, it was difficult for me to get the steps from my brain to my body – like there was a disconnect stopping me, and it was because I did not fully understand the movement. I found that it was easier for me to learn and perform in ballet because I have a foundation in how the technique works, and it was not until I understood the fundamentals of this contemporary technique; the basics of using weight, finding my head-tail connection, and using release and momentum that I was able to process the information correctly and execute.
Of course, learning and doing the steps are not the ultimate goal – performing the movement is. This was one of my main corrections given to me during the midterm evaluation. These last few weeks, I have begun to perform my movement by moving through space and adding energy and intention to every piece of movement. With the bigger and more energetic combinations that we have begun to practice in class, I find it easier to apply energy and intention because the larger movements required it. I also feel that working towards the end goal of the Informance has encouraged me to perform more in class. The imagery of dancing in front of an audience works very well for me; it is the idea of dancing for someone that appeals.