What It Is
As an incoming freshman at TWU, I thought I knew what movement was, what dance was, and how to create it and perform it. I thought wrong. I had excellent training growing up, far superior to most young girls going to dance studios. We were required to take Pilates, taught good foundational elements, excellent technique, and I had some of the best teachers in the nation. I was afforded opportunities to take classes from world renowned teachers and artists of dance. I attended classes with professionals from Joffery, American Ballet Theater, The Royal Winnepeg Ballet, and former prima ballerinas from the Russian Ballet Academy. I went in a strong confident dancer that freshman year and was knocked flat on my ass with knowledge that made my brain melt and my heart hurt. I was attending one of the top ten universities in the nation for dance and felt I had made a huge mistake. Then a comment from one of my professors made me rethink my challenges and pushed me to find my true home in movement.
“You’re NOT a ballet dancer, your short and your strong, people underestimate that, use it to your advantage and I promise you, you will go farther.” – Jay H.
As I ventured in to the world of Aerial Arts and Pole Dancing, I was excited to blend dance and gymnastics with other movement studies in my life. When our studio began choreographing for other performers and competitors I was excited to create purposeful and creative works for them. Then, I started watching some of the competitions and my heart broke. What happened to the creative movement? Actually what happened to the movement at all? I began noticing that instead of choreographing, people were formulating recipes of tricks. Stringing together trick after trick after trick. Worse, it was predictable and noticeable, and my heart broke. Aerial Arts and Pole Dance had become the new floodgate of self indulgent narcissists, simply slamming every trick they could into 3 minutes and 30 seconds. You could actually watch these performances and go, and now they are going to handspring, and here they are going to fonja, and here comes the meat hook. Anyone can be trick pony, or a sideshow act, but it takes a great artist and truly proficient movement artist to choreograph a piece where a beautiful trick is pulled off with grace and grows organically out of the movement before and after it. Shock and awe is great for certain settings, but shock and awe all the time becomes redundant and boring. It lacks creativity and purpose and therefore is the death of movement and dance all together. Think about it, when you watch someone like Marlo Fisken perform, you keep watching from the first step around the pole to the most beautiful invert, she blends everything together so seamlessly you never know where she is coming from or where she is gonna go. Marlo’s movement keeps you on the edge of your seat enjoying a journey. The best part is, some of my favorite Marlo clips have no tricks at all.
As my sadness for this new art I loved so much grew, I began to explore my own movement further. I questioned those I respect the most in the dance world for their views on this topic. During my undergrad at TWU, there was one grad student I HATED taking class with. I hated taking class with her, because even the tiniest movement, the simplest transition, became transformed into a beautiful performance in her body. I hated taking class with her, because I just wanted to sit and watch her move. Even now, years later I still find her to be one of the very best performers I have ever had the pleasure of watching. Joylyn Bateman has a long professional wrap sheet from performing with the Graham company, to owning a dance studio and inspiring young dancers. I sent her several questions about meaningful movement, tricks, and creative movement. What stood out to me most was when she said:
“Meaningful Creative movement is movement that comes from an authentic/raw place, that has a purpose for the creator.” – Joylyn Bateman