‘Full out’, the way we ask our students to dance at all times. We want our dancers to dance at the level that has the potential to actually move someone. How do we get our students to work like this?
For me, I find that when I give them further explanation of why I’m asking for the ‘what,’ they are more open to exploring these limitless limits. I often use the scene from the movie, Snow White, as my example of a genuine offering. Picture, if you will, the moment in the woods when the wicked witch (disguised as a decrepit old women) knocks on the door and offers Snow White the poisoned apple. The witch all but shoves that apple towards Snow White, her energy coming from all the way in her back out through her outstretched arm, to her fingers where that apple lay. The energy in her hand is palpable as she offers from it. THAT is a genuine offering, and that is what we as dancers are capable of when we reach our arms out or extend our legs. When a dancer is offered a reason as to why we are asking for a move a certain way, my observation is that they are much more willing to try it that way. In return, it inevitably feels better for them and they then approach it this way in their regular practice.
I’m sure some are reading this and thinking, “but I shouldn’t have to explain why to my students, they should just do what I ask.” I respectfully agree to disagree, to an extent. Yes, our students should absolutely do what we ask of them, but I see no harm in explaining to them exactly why I am asking. If having clarity from their teacher enables them to put forth a more informed action, then I will gladly answer every “why?” from now until eternity.
This brings me to the ‘how’. How do we get our dancers to dance at this level… we inspire their minds, of course. It is one thing to demonstrate and ‘give’ class, and a completely different thing to open a mind to possibility and ‘teach’ class. I, personally, have been lucky to be trained by educators who never allowed stagnant process. Engaging a mind does far more than show-and-tell could ever hope to do. Dance as an art is visceral, and if we are to expect our students to do more than just execute steps or attempt to duplicate what we are doing, then we must allow them to see potential in their minds and spirits. We also must encourage our students to utilize those ideas in their movement; a how and why to their what. As humans, we think, we feel, and we do. As dancers, we think, we feel, and we do… at an even higher level.