I haven’t posted a dance blog in over 2 years. I’m comfortable with that. I’ve developed a different relationship to dance in my life, which hasn’t really prompted me to participate in the same ways as I did before. Hence, not so many blog posts. I was pretty busy with other things, like starting my own company (and then closing it).
Yesterday I gave a private lesson. I like to open every private lesson by asking the student what their goals are. Why have they asked me for input? What is that they want my help with, exactly? I don’t take it for granted that I know what a person wants for their dancing, and I don’t expect that I know better than the person themselves what they “should be working on.” So I ask. This student (a follower) wanted to improve her ability to improvise and express herself, among other things.
In the course of our conversation, the student revealed that a well-known and respected international instructor, who is a man and a leader and who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, told my student not to add so much styling and improvisation to her Lindy Hop.
Yeah. So he told her basically to stop DANCING so much, and focus instead on FOLLOWING.
Can you feel the flames on the side of my face? Have we not been here before? Did I not explain this whole situation YEARS ago?
What the heck is the point of dancing if not to dance? To create your own ideas! To express yourself joyfully, exuberantly! The notion of anyone telling another person not to DANCE quite so much just fills me with righteous indignation.
Since I already wrote that blog post (seriously, go read it), I’m just going to add one point here.
The Savoy Ballroom in Harlem opened in 1926. The Great Depression lasted from 1929-1939. People went dancing during the original swing era because their lives were difficult, they were facing racism and poverty, and spending a night out dancing their cares away was one of their few opportunities to briefly escape their worries and troubles.
I don’t know if you noticed, but things aren’t looking so good these days. People need dance as a joyful outlet more than ever. So even if they’re in your class, even if they’ve asked you for a private lesson, even if within a specific context it would be better just to do basics so we can work on something particular for the time being, please never ever tell anyone, in words or in facial expressions or in morse code, to just tone it down a bit on expressing themselves.
Dance because it’s fun, not because it makes you feel expertly skilled at something. Make yourself have fun when you’re dancing. Do cat impressions. Whatever makes you smile and laugh.
If you’re not expressing yourself and having fun, what the heck is the point? </rant>