Thursday, August 11, 2011

What Makes Dancers Good: Relaxing

In this series, I'll be discussing different aspects of dance that I think "good" dancers have or do. Please note that these are my opinions and I am in no way trying to force my ideas on you, and that I'm not an expert, so I'm just sharing my thoughts as another dancer who's noticed things. See my first two posts on "Soft Power" and Breathing. Thanks!

This is something I've struggled with in my 15 years of dance: relaxing. My mother's been telling me for years: "It was great! Just...relax more. Enjoy it. You're too serious, loosen up a bit." Mom, you've always been right. Relaxing and just letting go has always been the hardest part of dancing for me, and I've only started to relax in the past year.

Why do we dance? Why do all of us dance? Because it's fun. Because we like love it have to. Because nothing else makes us feel quite so alive. Right? Isn't that what we perform for? Isn't that what makes a dancer's life worth living?

I used to feel that if the dancer fails to entertain the audience that the dancer has failed his/her purpose because I used to think that performance was just entertainment. But dance is really about more than making an audience laugh or cry or hurt: it's about sharing part of yourself and baring part of your soul for the viewers to see. But how can they see that sliver of your soul or receive the gorgeous gift of yourself that you give if you can't relax enough to show it? They can't!

The most relaxed dancers look so beautiful on stage because it looks like the movement is just flowing out of them naturally, that it wasn't choreographed and practiced for hours on end. It looks like that's just what they're meant to do, and it makes the audience feel at ease. Although, you can't relax so much that your movements get sloppy! That's never good.

I really have no tips to help you learn to relax (because I struggle with it myself) other than this: in class, focus on your technique. Go ahead and focus on getting your leg that inch higher, or lean back an inch farther. In rehearsal, do what's asked of you and begin to mold the piece to your body. Make it your own. But when you perform, perform for no one but yourself. You're not trying to impress a judge, an audience member, or even your mother: you are living in the moment for yourself because this is what you love to do. Go out and jump higher than you've ever dared, and if you fall, you fall. But you'll never forget that soar into the air that made you feel like you were flying. Relax, let it all go. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks, because at the end of the day, you're the one living with yourself. You have to be proud of what you do, or no one else matters.

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