Me: I feel like I'm at the training grounds for So You Think You Can Dance...
Dancer D: You are.
Indeed I was. We were taking Contemporary Jazz at Broadway Dance Center and the young man who took class as the teacher's assistant was Billy Bell, current contestant. This week was the first time I've ever taken class at the studio, and it gave me an opportunity to think long and hard about how I feel about different genres of dance.
I grew up dancing like most little girls with lessons in ballet, tap and jazz. But it wasn't until the preteen and teen years that I really started to delve into dance through a Christian dance ministry. The ministry was non-denominational and we rehearsed at my neighborhood recreation center. Our teacher, unlike those of many liturgical dance groups, had technical training and taught us all she knew in ballet, jazz, African and even a little tap. She often sent several of her students to Baltimore School for the Arts and encouraged us to attend other programs to further our training. I did.
In addition to the dance classes I took at school, I attended Maryland Summer Centers for the Arts: two week sleep away camps on college campuses over the summer. At the end of my second year at Salisbury State University, Dr. Victoria Hutchinson recommended to my parents and I that I think big and try the American Dance Festival for the summer.
ADF changed my life. In four weeks, I saw more different types of dance than I could imagine. Twyla Tharp, Meredith Monk, Philadanco, Paul Taylor, Eiko and Koma, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence, Shen Wei, Merce Cunningham... (Seriously, click some of these links and find out how different they all are from each other.) Not to mention, I was 14 years old and sharing the sidewalk with Carmen de Lavallade. I didn't even really know the weight of that experience then, but I knew it was big.
In that environment I saw and experienced so much that I learned at an unusually early age to appreciate it all. I acquired my likes and dislikes and learned to steer away from using generic terms such as good and bad to describe dance.
Which brings me to Tuesday. Me, in a studio learning a phrase of gestures, mostly using the upper body, layered over developpes in second, barrel turns, pitches and pirouettes in secondbesque. Not to mention, I glanced out the window of the studio at one point and thought I saw Shane Sparks.
As I watched my classmates perform the final combination in small groups, I felt the cheese of SYTYCD melting all over me and it made me cringe a little. Maybe because through college and grad school my body found a home in the techniques and styles of "downtown" dance. Not just technique, but also approaches to choreography and movement invention that demanded I give more thought and intention to every dancing moment. Watching the combination reminded me how much I disliked tricks for the sake of them, no matter how technically brilliant. It reminded me how much I believe and need dance to be real, and not some faux-drama with 32 fuetes.
But performing the combination was different. Performing felt good. Performing was a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of freedom within the confines of the steps. I hoped that my performance was real. Not pretend to be upset, but really upset. Not pretend to stomp, but really stomp. It reminded me of the days in which I grande jete'd for Jesus. Literally. And the leap and emotion there was real.
I'm not sure what came across in the BDC studio, but I found myself at odds with myself. Is there anyone else who dislikes to watch a genre of dance such as lyrical jazz, but love to perform it?? Can anyone make a case for performing tricks for the sake of performing them? How many dancers out there were exposed to a wide array of genres as a young teen? How did it shape you? If you only were exposed to one or two kinds of dance at a young age, how has it shaped your view of dance now? Are you a SYTYCD fan? Why or why not?