Bushwick Open Studios 2015

Bushwick Open Studios 2015

Kathleen Dycaico at our TRIPD workshop June 2015

Kathleen Dycaico at our TRIPD workshop June 2015

Eunoia Dance Ex had its New York preview of TRIPD at Bushwick Open Studios this past Saturday (6/6/2015). Bushwick Open Studios is annual art festival in Brooklyn run by Arts in Brooklyn. During Bushwick Open Studios, artists residing in Bushwick (a neighborhood in Brooklyn) open their studio doors to the public. Bushwick Open Studios serves to provide a platform for creative minds in the community of Bushwick and to work towards an integrated and sustainable neighborhood through arts programming, creative  accessibility, and community organizing.

Eunoia Dance Ex participated in R&D Studios’ day long event. R&D Studios is run/curated by Diana Mino a photographer, musician/composer, event planner, cook, mixologist and overall bad ass. It is an intimate performance space that blends arts appreciation with a raucous good time.

We ran our TRIPD workshop leading up to the performance and through this program had 7 guest artists perform with us. The energy in the room was electric and we got a tone of positive feedback from both audience and guests artists. A special thank you to Hailey Morgan who stepped into Alex Jenkins shoes and danced with us.

The bill included a whole bunch of talented artists and performers including the wild art of Jarid Blumenthal (a couple of prints were purchased by yours truly), the explosive music of big band BOMBRASSTICO and the poetry of Kiely Sweatt.

We are looking very forward to repeating this process in Montreal. So join us at Studio Bizz next week June 9-11th! Or catch any of our six shows starting on June 13th!

The gift of receiving

The Gift of Receiving

Thank you, from an incredibly photogenic group of artists!

Thank you, from an incredibly photogenic group of artists!

 

I am pleased to announce on behalf of E.D.E. that our Kickstarter for the Montreal Fringe was a success. We owe a huge thank you to all of our generous contributors; you are making this project happen! Also, a big thank you to everyone who supported the campaign by spreading the word.

Overall, my experience with Kickstarter was incredibly humbling. We launched the campaign out of necessity, a 9-day tour to Montreal simply wouldn’t have been feasible without outside support. Truth be told, when we first launched the campaign I was terrified. It’s uncomfortable asking people for money, especially when what you’re trying to fund isn’t a tangible good. But the response was overwhelmingly positive. Our donors spanned from friends and family, to fellow artists, to arts enthusiasts. Seeing so many people put their faith in this project has been an overwhelming joy.

After this positive experience, I had to sit back and ask myself where my initial fear came from? Amanda Palmer, song writer, crowd funding guru, and all around bad-ass, put it best in her recently published book “The Art of Asking:”

“From what I’ve seen, it isn’t so much the act of asking that paralyzes us–it’s what lies beneath: the fear of being vulnerable, the fear of rejection, the fear of looking needy or weak. The fear of being seen as a burdensome member of the community instead of a productive one.

It points, fundamentally, to our separation from one another.”

If anything, the response we got from our Kickstarter Campaign showed me not our separation from one another, but our inherent connection. I think too often separation and isolation is self-induced out of fear. When E.D.E. reached out, help reached back.

We are so excited to bring this production to Montreal. Through our workshops at Studio Bizz we are excited to share some of the generosity that’s been shown to us and offer young dancers unique performance opportunities!

Studiobizz

Studio Bizz, our home away from home

Studiobizz

I am very pleased to announce that Eunoia Dance Ex will be conducting our TRIPD workshops in collaboration with Studio Bizz during our run at the Montreal Fringe!

Studio Bizz‘ state of the art studios have been providing creative space to artists in Montreal since 1988. We feel very lucky to count them as a creative partner in our run at the Fringe.

Check out the announcement below for more information about our workshops in Montreal:


 

 

TRIPD Workshop, May 2015, NY Photo credit: Shane Velazquez

TRIPD Workshop, March 2015, NY
Photo credit: Shane Velazquez

Eunoia Dance Ex (E.D.E.) is holding an open workshop for emerging dance artists in Montreal. This workshop is being offered in collaboration with Studio Bizz.

The workshop will take place June 9th, 10th, and 11th from 12pm-6pm at Studio Bizz, 551 avenue du Mont-Royal Est, Montréal, Québec, H2J 1W6.

TRIPD is an improv score for dance, flute, and piano. The workshop will include a full warm up, in depth exploration of the movement vocabulary specific to TRIPD, learning the structure of TRIPD, and some repertory. After the workshop, select dancers will be invited to join us during our 6-performance run at the Montreal Fringe.

Fringe Performances take place on:

Tech: Friday June 12th 2-5pm

Saturday June 13th at 7pm

Sunday June 14th at 1:45pm

Monday June 15th at 6pm

Wednesday June 17th at 7:45pm

Saturday June 20th at 7:15pm

Sunday June 21st at 12pm

E.D.E. is committed to strengthening bonds between the dance communities. This performance model offers young dancers performance opportunities at low-cost and low-commitment, while giving us the opportunity to engage in a meaningful exchange with young dancers. E.D.E. believes that fostering collaboration is vital to our growth as a company and to young dancers embarking on their professional journey.

For more information and to register please contact: korynwicks@gmail.com.

Also, feel free to visit our website at korynwicks.com

TRIPD Workshop Bruchure

 

Collaboration as a way out of the talent vs. hard work trap

Collaboration as a way out of the talent vs. hard work trap

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Collaboration is not a skill that comes easy to me, so why do I direct a company with collaboration at the heart of its mission? I think it is a trope that creative people are headstrong and passionate about their ideas; I am no exception. I find it hard to kill my darlings and let go of things during the creative process. I can be obstinate, I don’t always like to compromise, and I get defensive in the face of confrontation. Off the bat, these characteristics seem to make me a poor candidate for collaboration, so how did I end up here?

It may seem counterintuitive given what is written above, but I think part of what used to drive my isolation during the creative process was insecurity. It is one thing to share a finished product with another person, but to invite someone in at the beginning of creation, to reveal yourself in the vulnerable state of not-knowing, of figuring it out, that can be truly terrifying. I always wanted to hide the missteps, the messy parts of creation, and wait to show off the polished, finished product. I felt confident in creating such a product; I didn’t always feel confident about all the steps along the way.

The idea of confidence in the finished product vs. confidence in the process brings to mind an essay about talent I read in the 9th grade. The thesis was that talent is overrated and that hard work is a better road to success. I wish I remembered the name of the essay so I could quote it properly here, but I don’t, and when I google “talent essay,” there are simply too many hits to sift through. Anyway, I imagine it’s an essay that most people in a liberal, capitalist society have had to read in one form or another. I think this dichotomy, of those who are gifted vs. those who work hard, can produce insecurity in the process of creation.

Growing up, I never considered myself incredibly talented, but I was always a hard worker. I always believed that if I put enough time into anything, I could make it good. Thinking about my worth as an artist in this way put me in a position of constantly trying to curate peoples’ perceptions of me. It made me insecure about the process because I measured my worth in hours spent. But, after years and years of working for the outcome, of pitting myself against task and time, I hit a wall. I began to feel like I wasn’t growing anymore. The problem in the dichotomy of talent vs. hard work is that it ignores the quirks of individuality. Both categories force you to compare yourself to others. Sure, comparison is necessary in any field, but it is also important to celebrate individuality.

Individuals are at the heart of the collaborative process and this is what excites me about collaborative work. Collaboration isn’t about good or bad, it isn’t even necessarily about hard work; it’s about bringing individuals together and allowing each of them to bring something unique to the process.

Opening myself up during the creation stage has allowed me to grow a great deal as an artist. It has helped me embrace my own quirks and find validation in what makes me unique as opposed to how I measure up against others.

Audrey Stanley Photo by Shane Velazquez

Audrey Stanley
Photo by Shane Velazquez

One the most fruitful collaborators with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working is my long time dancer, Audrey Stanley. Audrey is a beautiful dancer, but one of the things that make her most valuable to my work is her willingness to engage in the process. Sometimes, that means trying something crazy, sometimes it means saying no, sometimes it means suggesting something different, sometimes it means talking through ideas and flushing out concepts; whatever the direction, she is always present and contributing. What draws me to Audrey is the way her willingness has allowed her to grow as a dancer, not only through my work, but with the countless other artists she works with in New York. I consider myself very lucky to have her on board with E.D.E., and I hope you will get an opportunity to see her in our upcoming performances at the Montreal Fringe.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Necessity is the mother of invention

Work in process with Audrey Stanley

Work in process with Audrey Stanley

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about this English proverb. Recently, I was fortunate enough to book an exciting opportunity to show my work at Harwood Estate Vinyards. The performance will take place in an unconventional performance space; an operational winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada. This opportunity is interesting on many levels, but the venue itself presents a number of interesting challenges which have gotten me thinking about how the parameters we are given as artist challenge and inform our work.

When I was younger, I hated being directed  creatively; it always felt limiting to me. When I was studying dance I hated creative assignments for this very reason. I think that there is a natural hubris that comes with youth and in me it reared its a head in this way; I always felt like I had the most brilliant ideas and that any kind of external prompt would somehow make my work lesser. As I got older, I began to see how the assignments I was given in composition classes forced me to rethink my initial impulses. There is a lot of value in being forced to step outside your head; to create within and without yourself.

Outside of school, I was confronted by an absence of structure and constraints for my creativity. This didn’t only apply to my artistic creation, but to life in general. Among my generation, I meet so many individuals struggling to find their way outside the structures we were brought up in. We were taught that our futures were limitless and with that in mind we worked to excel within the schools and institutions we attended. But that infinity became the paralyzing trope of our generation when we left school and found ourselves in an unsure economy with no clear path to success. The conundrum presented by such freedom is not limited to artists and millennials, it is a hallmark of our time.  Barry Schwartz has a great book on this subject titled “The Paradox of Choice,” (you can also check out his TED talk here), in it he describes how, “[l]earning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.”

This paradox of choice has been on my mind lately as I struggle to find my voice as an artist and my way to in life. What I’ve found lately, is that creating without constraints can leave us paralyzed by the infinite nature of our imaginations. Limits can be liberating; they can suggest a framework, push us out of our comfort zones, and challenge our aesthetic. And so, I approach the unique demands of this latest opportunity with an eagerness to let my work be influenced by them.  I don’t want to give it all away but this project is already encouraging me to find new and interesting ways to layer my choreography and think about composition. For more information about my upcoming event at Harwood Estate Vinyard click here.

Curating Experience with Sensory Overload

Curating Experience with Sensory Overload

The scale of Ai Wei Wei's work confronts the viewer in a way that forces us to engage in the act of taking it in; we have to step back to see it all, turn our heads, participate .

The scale of Ai Wei Wei’s work confronts the viewer in a way that forces us to engage in the act of taking it in; we have to step back to see it all, turn our heads, participate .

If anyone has ever told you that you over think things, then you and I have something in common. I analyze almost everything, sometimes at the expense of truly being present in my experiences. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between analyzing and experiencing as it pertains to audiences. Have you ever sat in a theatre and been so caught up in the act of analyzing what you’re seeing that you have trouble following the performance? Conversely, have you ever been so captivated by a performance that time fell away and you lost yourself in the simple act of watching? It is interesting to think about the dynamic between watching and analyzing; whether there is a threshold between the two acts, what control we have over our experience as audience members…

This weekend I saw Maud le Pladec’s piece “Democracy,” at New York live Arts and Ai Wei Wei’s exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Both of these works made me think about the difference between experiencing and analyzing and how an artist can curate audiences’ experience. Maud le Pladec’s work was an intense experience of light, dance, drums, and energy. The show’s score was performed by 5 drummers on full drum kits, the dance was kinetic and driven, and the lighting was nothing short of intense.What struck me about Ai Wei Wei’s exhibit was the scale at which his work existed in. Most of the work on display at the Brooklyn Museum was on a large scale, almost in excess. For example, there is a great snake made out of the backpacks; each of which represents the life of a child taken by the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. Another work, “Ye Haiyan’s Belongings,” is a catalog of over 600 photographs of a woman’s rights advocate’s possessions, collected after she and her family had been driven out of their home by Chinese authorities.

Both these artists created work that assaulted the senses. In Maud le Pladeck’s “Democracy,” sight, sound, and light bombards the audience in such excess that you are at times paralyzed by sensory overload. Similarly, the scale of Ai Wei Wei’s work confronts the viewer in a way that forces us to engage in the act of taking it in; we have to step back to see it all, turn our heads, participate . These artists suggested to me that one way to control the audiences’ experience is to create in excess, bombard the senses, and exhaust the mind as it tries to keep up. These experiences pointed out the meditative power of excess.

 

 

 

Belinda McGuire + MADboots Dance, In Studio Performance

Belinda McGuire + MADboots Dance, In Studio Performance

I spend a lot of time thinking about the relationship between performers and their audience (or vice versa). How do we define that? For people who attend the theater what relationship do they feel to those on stage? What do they ask of the performers? On the other hand, in the case of performers, what do we expect and hope for from our audiences? Patrons of the arts, what expectations to they harbor?

This afternoon I attended an in studio performance by Belinda McGuire and MADboots dance. The performance was a mixture of new, old, and in-the-works repertory by both presenters. It was a tremendous experience. I was blown away by the choreography and performance of both companies.

Belinda McGuire of Belinda McGuire Dance Projects presents primarily solo work and engages in collaboration and production projects all over the world. Her work is mesmerizing. In her choreography, she integrates a sense of musicality that is harmonious without being obvious. One of the most striking aspects of her performance is her movement quality, which is both expansive and intricate. She has an incredibly pure clarity of movement and a presence that commands attention. During one of her pieces, she came forward and stood between the rows in the audience. She stood there for perhaps 30 seconds. It was profound, the stillness, her focus, the minimalism of that moment.

MADboots dance is run by co-directors Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz. The company has a distinct style that blends athletic, fast-passed dancing with a complex aesthetic that is equal parts mesmerizing and disturbing. Their performance included mouth pieces, sequin hoods, and a diverse and expansive score which was engaging in its own right. Their work in-progress, Beau, was both technically and emotionally demanding. The choreography was intricate and exciting, while the use of props was unconventional and at times unsettling. The piece did a wonderful job drawing the audience in while keeping us at arms length. I’m definitely excited to see how this work develops.

Although the performances in themselves were wonderful, one of the aspects of the afternoon that stuck with me as the setting. The performance was a studio showing; informal, with minimal production. I’ve found that among a lot of theatre goers, the notion of a studio performance can be off-putting. There is a sense of, why? Why would we want to see something that is not yet finished, why not wait for the end product? The in-studio performance changes the relationship between the audience and performer.  It brings you closer to the art; you see the sweat, hear the heavy breathing, and listen to the artists own voices as they introduce their work. You feel a closeness to the artists that the stage and lights of a theatre diminish. In a studio showing, there is a a greater sense that we are all just people, some of dancing, some of us watching; and that realization is incredibly humbling.

 

For more information about Belinda McGuire check out her website.

For more on MADboots follow this link.

DanceNOW at Joe’s Pub, Dorothy, Annie, and Maria

DanceNOW at Joe’s Pub, Dorothy, Annie, and Maria

Last night I had the pleasure of attending DanceNOW’s presentation Dorothy, Annie, and Maria at Joe’s Pub. The show consisted of three works commissioned by DanceNOW over the past 10 years. The performance began with Nicholas Leichter Dances’ The Wiz, continued with The Bang Group’s Showdown, and ended with Doug Elkins Fräulein Maria. Each of these works are a contemporary take on a classic musical.

I love Joe’s Pub for its intimacy. The stage is tiny, the tables are cramped, and the drinks are, well, available. Although it can be challenging to find a good view in the house, Joe’s Pub always wins me over with its charm. I mean, what could be better than an evening of dance, drinks, and dimly lit table tops?  For dance performances, the layout of Joe’s Pub offers a unique challenge. Because the stage is small and irregularly shaped, staging works under these conditions force companies to contend with a variety of spatial constraints. Witnessing how choreographers cope with Joe’s Pub’s unique setting is half the fun of attending dance performances there.

Nicholas Leichter Dances’ The Wiz takes songs from the beloved musical by the same name and implants them in contemporary underground New York. The movement is interesting, however at times the staging came off as a bit two-dimensional. Leichter’s work is influenced by a variety of social dancesAlthough his dancers were talented, there were moments when I felt the social aspect of the choreography took over and I lost the sense of performance.

Of the works presented last night, The Bang Group’s Showdown stood out to me. The piece, set to music from Annie Get Your Gun was a delightful mix of seamless partnering, and brilliantly timed comedic moments. The company succeeded in making Joe’s Pub’s stage look big! An impressive feat especially when you consider that the piece had a cast of 8 dancers, most of whom were tall and long. The dancers movements were consistently full and the staging was flawless. The Bang Group’s choreography succeeded in being witty without appearing contrived.

The last piece of the evening, Doug Elkins Fräulein Maria, was another high point of the night. The piece was brought to life through Elkin’s intricate choreography and the artistry of his dancers. The acting chops of the dancers really stood out as they brought their characters to life telling stories in even the slightest of facial expressions. The movement throughout Fräulein Maria is engaging. I am always impressed by how Elkins manages to make strange moments appear graceful and coherent in his work.

The performance is playing for one more night, Feb 16th at 7pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here.

The deal with Nerves

The deal with Nerves

Last week, I got a call back for the National Tour of Mamma Mia! I was ecstatic. I’ve never been a big fan of musicals, however my love of Abba runs deep and so Mamma Mia is up there on my list of dream jobs. There was just one catch, for this call back I was going to have to sing…

Now, I’ve taken singing lessons before, but we’re talking 5 years ago. Since that time, my singing experience has been limited to karaoke nights where my song choices tend towards ridiculousness rather than artistic merit. That being said, I was excited and prepared as best I could. I dusted off my old vocal CDs, and rehearsed diligently that night and the morning of the audition. The next day, as I turned the knob to enter the audition room, I was confident that I would do my best.

But then something happened, I walked into the room and my body began to tremble all over. As I handed my sheet music to the accompanist, I was shaking like a leaf. My throat got coarse and my chest got tight. I got through my 16 bars, but the audition did not go as planned. What struck me afterwards was the way my nerves managed to creep up on me when I had felt confident and prepared right up to the last second.

This experience prompted me to do some research into what are commonly called nerves. By nerves, I mean feelings of nervousness and discomfort when confronted with a particular task.  Well, it turns out, nerves, as most people refer to them, aren’t really a thing. Instead, the collection of physiological responses we refer to as nerves are just part of the body’s response to adrenaline.

The production of adrenaline is a function of the autonomic nervous system. This system operates in two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is charged with the production of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. The these chemicals charge the body for action in high stress situations. The parasympathetic nervous system works in opposition to the sympathetic nervous system, releasing chemicals that calm the body. Most of the time, these nervous systems work together to create a balance within our bodies. Nerves, as I described them above, occur when the sympathetic nervous system is working on over-drive.

The sympathetic nervous system kick’s into high-gear in situations where one feels threatened. We’ve all heard of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. Well, the production of adrenaline caused by the sympathetic nervous system is what enables us to engage this mechanism in threatening situations. In our society, most of us don’t experience physical threats on a regular basis, however even giving a presentation in front of pears, or finding oneself in an awkward situation is enough to to set off our sympathetic nervous system.

The effects of adrenaline can vary. In general it causes increased blood flow and oxygen intake allowing the individual to process information and utilizing actions at a fast rate. Side effects of this process can include increased heart rate and breathing, butterflies, dizziness, dry mouth, sweating, tremors and shakes, and slurred speech. These side effects are a result of the increased blood flow and oxygen intake caused by adrenaline. For example, the sensation of butterflies in one’s stomach is the result of blood being diverted away from the digestive system depriving it of oxygen. Shakes and tremors are caused by diversion of blood from finer motor muscles to major muscles and organs. Sweating is caused by increased blood flow which produces heat.

As I looked over my research, I was fascinated that the nervous reaction I had experienced during my audition was caused by adrenaline, a bodily function commonly attributed to acts of heroism or high-performance. It was strange at first, to consider that two opposing reactions, decreased performance due to nerves , and the improved performance we usually attribute to adrenaline, could actually be side effects of the same function. When I considered these reactions in light of the fight or flight mechanism, things began to make more sense.

In a simplified model of the fight or flight mechanism, one could imagine the negative effects of adrenaline as part of the body’s flight reflex, and the positive effects of adrenaline as part of the bodies fight reflex. Nerves tend to occur in situations where our discomfort with a particular situation causes the body to desire to flee from its current situation. In contrast, the high-performance results of adrenaline tend occur in situations where the body finds itself in fight mode. Looking at things this way, we are then left with the question of how to help control our bodies response to adrenaline so as to maximize our fight or flight responses in appropriate situations.

Unfortunately, there are no clear-cut strategies for mastering our fight or flight mechanism. One can aim to control anxiety and stress (other products of adrenaline) by healthy living habits such as good sleeping patterns, healthy eating, and meditation. In particularly stressful situations, there are breathing exercises and mantras that can be used to help calm the body`s physiological response to adrenaline (specific examples of these exercises can be found in the following article on pyschcentral.com). However, there is no handy switch with which to calibrate our fight or flight mechanism.

In researching and writing this post, that the biological process that sometimes paralyzes me with shakes and fear is the same one that often pushes me to go above and beyond. Now, I know this is an oversimplification of the effects of adrenaline, and I’m sure there are situations in which it is preferable to find oneself shaky and hesitant rather than balls-to-the-wall. However in the context introduced at the beginning of this post, I imagine that had I understood the physiological cause for my nerves, I would have been comforted knowing that somewhere in that process lay the potential for useful adrenaline.

Dance with me, not on me

Dance with me, not on me

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Living in New York City sometimes feels like an experiment in claustrophobia.
Working as a dancer in New York City brings a whole new dimension to the spatial experience offered here.

Living in New York City sometimes feels like an experiment in claustrophobia. There are times when I get the impression that the city is testing the limits of my personal space; for example, as I jam myself onto the L train at rush hour, or find myself at my favorite restaurant seated not a foot from my neighboring diners. Working as a dancer in New York City brings a whole new dimension to the spatial experience offered here. Ever tried to squeeze yourself in onto the bar at a packed ballet class? Better angle in! Or, even worse, attended a Broadway cattle call? Dancers in New York not only navigate the crowds of the streets and subways, we also face the unique challenge of crowds in classes, on tiny stages, and in auditions.

Dancers are trained to understand and manipulate their bodies in ways that defy the mundane, day to day workings of human kinetics. Often times, dance requires stretch, length, and height, needs that are taxing at the best of times, and daunting when confronted with the close quarters of the many of the settings in a dancer’s life. It can be frustrating, attending  a class only to find yourself trapped between colleagues. Learning combinations sometimes means being unable to do the movement fully until the class is broken up into groups at the very end. Auditioning often means warming up in a scrap of floor no bigger than an oven mitt. Dealing with other dancers can mean getting stuck next to that individual who refuses to conform to the constraints of the crowded studio and insists on kicking, smacking, and stepping on you in order to move full out. Yes it can definitely be frustrating, sometimes even pushing the most patient of us to huff and puff. But lately, I’ve been thinking of spatial constraints less in terms the space around me and more in terms of the people dancing next to me. Through this lens, the experience becomes less self-centered.

Dance can be a very intimate, internal experience. There is a good reason for this; dance is a learning process, the best dancers will tell you that a dancer is a student their entire life. This learning process occurs not only between the individual and the outside world, but, perhaps most importantly, between the individual and themselves. In order to improve, dancers must learn to manipulate their own body, a practice that requires self-knowledge above all else. Such demands can draw a dancer’s focus inward, sometimes at the expensive of external awareness.

In my experience, this kind of isolation is particularly prevalent in technique classes. In class, dancers can focus on many things, technique, artistry, getting the combination, but all of this often comes down to one thing, wanting to feel good about their dancing, wanting to feel as though they are improving. Whether a dancer wants to feel as though they applied that correction, got that leg an inch higher, or brought themselves to the movement, a drive towards accomplishment is often present in the studio. This focus on the self can often alienate the outside world, not to mention the other dancers in the room. The self-oriented goals described above are also encouraged by the deep sense of competition embedded in the dance world.  Dancers are constantly reminded how there are more of them than there are jobs to be had, and that there is always someone better, stronger, or more flexible out there. Under these pressures, the quest for self-improvement can border on obsession, making awareness beyond the self even more difficult to obtain.

Self-centered dancing can become problematic. Firstly, it clouds the fact that dance is, first and foremost, a form of communication. Communication must occur between at least two people, when a dancer is decidedly focused on themselves, communication is limited to a discussion between you and say, your leg. Another challenge brought on by this kind of introversion is the challenge of navigating the densely populated dance world described earlier. When focus is so internal, it can be difficult to also gauge the distance between yourself and your fellow dancer, especially when that dancer is but 2 inches from you.

The subject of spatial awareness and awareness of those dancing beside me was brought to my attention during two workshops I took in the past 7 months or so. The first was conducted by Nicole Walcott of Larry Keigwan + Company at Peridance, the second was led by Alexandra Beller at Dance New Amsterdam. During both workshops, these artists highlighted the act of dancing with in different ways.

During Nicole Walcott’s class, we were taught a combination without timing then instructed to make our own musicality as we performed it. As we went through the combination the last few times, Ms. Walcott told us to take cues from our fellow dancers rather than trying to make all the decisions ourselves. I found this bizarre at first. I worried that as I followed other dancers, I would fumble in my execution of the movement. This however was not the case. As I danced with those surrounding me, I felt removed from the conscious execution of the movement. In a sense, my body was liberated from my mind because my mind was otherwise occupied. This exercise took the focus on execution outside me gave some of this responsibility to my fellow dancers. After class, Ms. Wolcott told me that that last performance had been my strongest and that by submitting myself to my fellow dancers I had freed myself from much of the anxiety that has been known to creep into my movement.

Alexandra Beller’s class was part of the company class series at Dance New Amsterdam. This series provides the opportunity for dancers to experience various companies’ rehearsal processes. Beller’s entire class was dedicated to an improv exercise that culminated in the creation of a piece. In this piece, spatial patterns were created by a pre-defined relationships between dancers; dancers took cues from one another and moved as a group trying to maintain different spatial relationships in different directional facings. As we set up the piece for its first performance, I looked hesitantly at the dancer standing not 12 inches from me, and prepared for all kinds of trouble. Instead, what I found was an ease of movement supported by everyone’s adherence to the ‘rules’ of the game. We became something bigger than ourselves. This kind of unity in movement tends to arrive after an arduous rehearsal process rather than a one hour and a half class. Experiencing this kind of unity among strangers was a real revelation.

As dancers, we often get so stuck in our own goals and desires that we forget to see the world around us. Often times, it is our colleagues that are the first people to disappear from our field vision as we push, push, push to dance, dance, dance. We want to be the best, to stand out, to get the job. Walcott and Beller’s classes reminded me of the value of joining the crowd; the beauty in submitting yourself to something greater. From these experiences, I learned two valuable lessons about spatial awareness and dance. Firstly, I learned that a lot can be gained by submitting your awareness to the world around you and your decision making to a collective environment. Secondly, I learned that navigating tight spaces becomes a lot more enjoyable when each individual has some focus on the group, instead of themselves exclusively. I do not pretend that I adhere to both these lessons every day, but I am happy to have them in my toolbox.

For dancers, an awareness of the space around you becomes most important in performance and rehearsal settings. Sometimes, it is easy to turn on that mode, sometimes, if we’ve been living in our head too long, it becomes harder to integrate spatial awareness into our dancing. With this blog post, I invite my readers to investigate the space around them and those who share it. Rather than become frustrated with the limitations of our environment, engage with it; don’t push against it, delve into and make it meaningful. Yes, cattle calls will still suck, yes that girl kicking you is going to upset you, but hopefully, as you twirl about the floor you’ll experience the magic of dancing with rather than against the strangers in the room. And there is something quite wonderful about that.