Thursday, November 11, 2010
On Teaching Dance
Twelve children balancing peacock feathers on their hands, moving in concert with their graceful partners. They excitedly call my name, inviting me to share in their amazement, their discovery of a great accomplishment, of what, until that moment, they didn't even know to be possible.
It is magic.
I am the dance specialist in an elementary school.
Do I teach children how to dance?
It isn't about the moves, the balance, the point of the toe, the positioning of the body, the beat or any of those things we tend to think of when we think of dance, even though those are all things I teach.
What is it then?
I have spent my life trying to answer the question, "What is dance?" And maybe the problem is the way in which that question is expected to be answered.
I can't answer it with words.
The answer to that question is in the body's domain.
And when the children that I teach feel the answer in their own bodies, the magic in the room is palpable.
One student says, "I am dancing with the feather. We are partners! I look at it and it shows me how to move." This expressed both with excitement and with a seriousness that conveys the profundity of her discovery. This dance is a big deal.
I was recently at a conference and when I told a fellow conferee that I worked with young children teaching dance, she cheered. She told me, without the benefit of ever seeing me teach, or meeting the children, that what I did was important. That it made a difference in their lives.
I can see that it does, sometimes more clearly than other times.
What is dance?
Let your body answer that question.
Wishing you balance,