I think the power of creative movement comes in giving children and teenagers the power to try something new. As a creative movement and choreography teacher, I try to encourage dancers to think outside the box and not worry a
bout what is “right” and what is “wrong.” While that might be a liberating thought, it is a hard one to internalize.
I encountered this very issue in a class last week at the 6th National daCi conference at the University of Utah. A wonderful student from North Carolina was in class, working on a movement conversations exercise. This exercise pairs two dancers together. One of them talks/dances a short improvised phrase while the other listens/watches. The listener then dances an improvised response. This series of talking/listening repeats back and forth. The idea is that the dancers build a connection through movement, listening and responding to each other, using their bodies in unique, different, and surprising ways. The challenge is that any movement is valid – there is no wrong answer.
After a first go at this exercise, the daCi dancers and I processed the experience. This dancer from North Carolina was very honest and said that she felt very concerned that she might do something wrong. I immediately started to talk about that issue.
If you think about it, there is very little in our lives that is open-ended and free the way creative movement, choreography, and art can be. Our bank accounts and check books require an exact and correct answer. There are “correct” social interactions and ways to work with others. The bottom line in business often requires a business person to make the “right” decision. A “wrong” decision can lead to lost profits and a business downturn. Our kids’ school work and home work require a correct answer and we test them each year to make sure they are understanding the “right” things. Right and wrong rule our lives every day.
How scary, then, to have a teacher say, “Don’t worry. You can’t do anything wrong here. Just try something new.”
After talking with the daCi dancers, we tried the exercise again. It is always astonishing to see how much freer and open they are after that first conversation. I tell them very honestly that I can’t “make” them feel or believe that there is no wrong answer. I can only tell them over and over again until they start to believe it themselves. What was so wonderful about the daCi dancers last week was their ability to internalize that statement so quickly. Soon, everyone was moving in new, interesting, and unexpected ways.
At SVCD, our dancers who work with me hear this daily. Most of them have danced with me for 4-6 years and have now become to believe, whole heartedly, that they can do no wrong. In fact, I make it a point never to say NO to a student’s idea in class or in choreography.
As artists and choreographers, the world is our playground and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to create, choreography, or shape our dance art. The sky is the limit. Often the best art, dance and other, surprises the audience and the artist. It’s so difficult to find that a moment of surprise or discover something new when all you worry about is doing the “wrong” thing.
If you’d like to experience this first hand, please consider signing up for our FREE demo day. Our studio is offering FREE demo classes on August 19th. RSVP and discover the freedom and joy of creative movement first hand!