SELF-REFLECTION OF A LATINA/EUROPEAN CHOREOGRAPHER
EXPLORING THE NEW YORK CITY DANCE SCENE.
What makes people congregate around dance in 2012? Is it the openness, the permission, the space to be yourself? Maybe it is two sides of the same coin: the individual (you can be yourself) and the collective (the feeling of belonging). Dance for your ego.
Why is the general public of New York City not attracted to dance? Instead of asking this important question, we look in microscopic detail at movement instead. All I hear are people complaining how little money is available for funding/supporting dance and the arts. Complicating matters are the big egos creating capsules of micro-communities that isolate themselves in order to survive.
Is dance inclusive or exclusive? I hear myself -and other choreographers- say they want their work to be accessible to the audience, but in reality the material that we put forth is just for an elite sector of the audience. There is a thin line between what you want to create and what you want to offer to the people. The words “service in dance” is in decay like Mary Wigman said in a letter to a young dancer: “Our task lies in serving: to serve the dance, to serve the work, to serve man and to serve life. Keep the artistic fire from being extinguished”.
Why are all attempts to unite people, dance audience members and dance enthusiasts so weak? Dance marathons and dance festivals try to generate new followers to the small dance companies, and events like Dance Parade try to gather groups of people that practice dance as a way to homage culture and heritage. The picture is incomplete, however, largely because the mainstream commercial dance groups and institutions don’t participate.
Everyone talks about community, and all the grants support grass roots projects and their missions, but what community we are talking about? The term community refers to a group of interacting people that share common values and has social cohesion. A community is a group or society, helping each other. Intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs and risks are some conditions.
Everyone looks at their belly button (myself included), but what is the big picture? At some point self-reflection must yield insight and this insight must be shared through dance as the medium. When the self is celebrated and the ego is elevated above all else, the dance community becomes fragmented, disjointed and incommunicative. We have disconnected our mind from our souls. We cultivate our bodies, but the trilogy of body, mind and spirit is left disparate and unconsidered. The survival mood we often find ourselves in doesn’t let us share what we love. We dance, dance, dance, but nobody gets the Holy Grail. Nobody is right or wrong.
Since the beginning of the critique writing workshop at New York Live Arts with Eva Yaa Asantewaa, I spent time describing in articles how dance is manipulated, underestimated and misunderstood. I have become more settled in my role as a writer, and its fundamental difference from that as a choreographer. When I write a have a civil, moral responsibility. I need express ideas clearly and transparently, while when I choreograph I can go into my darkest corners to explore why I dance. Putting these words on paper forces me to be honest with myself.
As a choreographer, I celebrate, meditate, respond, protest, scream, cry and laugh about life through dance. I use dance to make the audience experience, feel, think and emote. The black box theater allows me to shatter preconceived ideas about life and momentarily transcend awareness of our present condition. When I choreograph, I am emotional and intuitive.
As a educator I search for what is essential and I look to reconnect people with the joy of dance. I search for each dancer’s individual voice. I love to see people bloom and develop. I am not only teaching movement, but also guiding dancers to rediscover why they dance, and what they dance.
Like integrating the mind + body + spirit, I write + choreograph + teach.
These are the combination of elements that help me amplify my message as a choreographer, teacher and writer. It is my hope that artists and audience also find themselves walking in the same direction: to integrate mind/body/spirit and to serve to the community. A meaningful dance community will grow from this change in audience appreciation and artistic integration.