What Everybody Gets Wrong About Technique – Part One


In 2016 I learn a e book that modified my life. It’s referred to as “What A Body Can Do” and it’s by non-binary writer Ben Spatz. It put into phrases a number of the emotions I used to be having about method, about language, about gender, and about how I transfer by the world as a queer, neurospicy, typically very odd human being.

“Technique” is a phrase that lots of people suppose they perceive, however don’t. They say issues like “that dance had a lot of technique” or “She has a lot of feeling when she dances, but she’s not very technical.” What I hope that folks will perceive by the tip of this weblog put up is that neither of those statements fairly make sense, and that by discovering higher language for what we see, versus the shortcut of “technique,” we’ll truly be doing a service to our dancing, and to our communities. This weblog put up is about how.

What is Technique?

“Technique” in the best way it’s generally used, is a hierarchical system of values. When individuals say a dance is “technical” they typically imply that it seems like ballet, or a white-codified type. Historically, ethnographers and dance critics framed a binary opposition between the educated “technique” of white live performance and social dancers, and the “natural” or “instinctive” dancing of People of Color. This binary was used to justify paying Black dancers decrease wages, exclude them from recognition as artists, and affiliate Black vernacular dances specifically with racist concepts about comparative morality. When individuals say {that a} dance “has a lot of technique” they often imply that they will see an upright posture, elongated traces, consideration to agreed-upon particulars of articulation, and different motion parts that have a tendency in direction of the white, live performance finish of the motion spectrum.

One method I share this with my college students is thru this thought experiment, which doesn’t work completely in textual content, however which I invite you to strive for your self: get up, shake your physique out, and get into your greatest dance posture.

Ready? Go!

Most individuals after they strive it will get up straight, weight shifted barely ahead over the toes, arms hanging loosely down from the shoulders. Depending on their dance historical past they might or could not end up their legs. This is a really helpful posture for… some varieties of dancing. It’s utterly the unsuitable posture for faucet, for Blues, and for a lot of different types of dancing. It’s okay, however not right, for a lot of others. It makes an attempt to be an approximation between a number of totally different dances that winds up failing all of them by not being particular sufficient. This occurs as a result of individuals hear “dance posture” and make assumptions about what “dance” means, identical to they hear the phrase “technique” and assume that method typically, and dance particular method, are the identical form of factor.

So What Should We Do Differently?

Since I began instructing dance historical past and evaluation (oh gosh, over ten years in the past now), the consensus has been that we have to push again in opposition to this concept of method as a technique of transferring, and as an alternative suppose extra about method as a system for getting issues achieved. This is the place Spatz’s work was transformative for me, together with a bunch of different writers like Aimee Merideth Cox, Fiona Buckland, even Bessel van der Kolk (have you ever labored out that I’m a nerd but?).

Here’s an experiment for Spatz. Pick a steadiness and attempt to maintain it. Feel your physique making micro-adjustments to try to maintain you in place. If you might be standing on one leg, really feel whether or not you shift extra to the middle of your foot or to the within. How a lot do it’s essential chill out or tone up your core? These changes shall be totally different for each single physique, and each single change of place, however they’re experiments in method that you would be able to construct for your self and study to copy extra fluidly, and switch between totally different steadiness factors as you develop your experience. You may be capable to share them with another person, in the event that they requested you tips on how to steadiness properly.

Spatz additionally thinks about gender: what are the alternative ways you try to dwell your gender in society every single day? How do you present the phrase that you’re your personal specific, particular person taste of boy, or woman, or non-binary particular person, or one thing else? How does what you present change from everyday and context to context? Can you consider a second the place you needed to study a brand new method on your gender as a result of an outdated one didn’t be just right for you? These methods are usually not for “gender” typically, simply as method isn’t for “dance” typically. They are particular and private ways in which you should use your physique (and phrases) to do the belongings you wish to do, dwell your life the best way you reside it, and transfer the best way you wish to transfer.

Wait, So Does Dance Have Technique?

One method that dances develop into recognizable is to develop a pool of methods in frequent that may be shared, taught, and aspired to. The distinction is that with this new understanding, nobody dance has any extra, or much less, method than every other, and no technical system is kind of helpful. While dancers could have kind of experience within the specific methods they wish to undertake and use, it doesn’t imply that the methods themselves aren’t there. Techniques for creating upright posture, elongated traces, defiance of gravity and so on. nonetheless exist, however so do methods of improvisation, groundedness, mess, connection, and particular person adaptation. Techniques of transferring to the music and methods of permitting the music to develop into disconnected from your personal sense of bodily time. We can take a look at dances to not see if they’re “technical” however to find what method is doing inside them to create the identification of the dance and the neighborhood that practices it.

I observe dances that fall over the stereotypical method spectrum. I do my gender in predictable and unpredictable methods. What I would love individuals to comprehend – as a result of I’m a nerd, in spite of everything – is that my decisions in these items are often deliberate, and often hyperlink again to values I care about deeply. If you dismiss what I’m doing as “untechnical,” you’re in all probability lacking details about who I’m, and what I care about. If you dismiss a dance, or dancer, as “untechnical,” you may not have the instruments or cultural training to establish the methods they’ve chosen, and why they’re in use.

As many people take a break from dancing earlier than the New Year, I invite you to contemplate what methods you might have notably chosen as reflections of who you might be and what you care about, and the way you possibly can deliver them extra into your dancing. How may you achieve a greater recognition of the alternatives and methods of others, and the way doing so deliver us collectively in higher conversations concerning the dances we love.


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