A Common Thread

“Dance is that common thread that bonds us together like no other passion can.”

Most people don’t like strangers. They’re out of our comfort zone and can present demands to build new relationships and share some sort of bond. If you’re a dancer though, not only should you have a high tolerance for strangers, but you should be ready to interact with them on a physical and emotional level at any given time. People we do not know do present a challenge, but they also present an opportunity to learn new things.

I spent the morning after my Fourth of July at the esteemed “Pillow” of the Berkshires (Jacob’s Pillow, that is). Part of my quick “long” weekend spent at home, I planned to take a master class offering with BODYTRAFFIC – giving me an opportunity to visit the Pillow, take class, and check out this intriguing company. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it would be modern (socks being the foot apparel of choice), but attendance and content-I had no idea.

“Anywhere else, you bump into someone and you’re a clumsy idiot,  but as a dancer you’re simply opening an avenue for an interaction of energy and movement.”

Attendance – whoa. The Marley space covering the Doris Duke stage quickly was blanketed with dancers of all sizes, styles, and walks of life. We began with an improv based warmup, moving in a pedestrian-like fashion throughout the studio and advancing to an exploration of levels and tempos of movement. We were consistently asked to be aware of one another. This prevented crowding, which was absolutely necessary, but we were also asked to make eye contact, to observe one another. The faster we moved the harder that became, but as dancers and movers the teacher asked that we absorb one another’s energy rather than considering any sort of physical interaction to be a mistake or an intrusive bump. Anywhere else, you bump into someone and you’re a clumsy idiot,  but as a dancer you’re simply opening an avenue for an interaction of energy and movement.

After warmup, we progressed to repertoire. Two phrases of “meaty”, detailed choreography were doled out, and we were given the opportunity to practice them in groups. Even the smaller, divided groups seemed like massive crowds. Each practice run provided the option to either embark independently in the front or blend into the middle or back of the mass. As we “attacked” each piece of choreography, despite the pressure to impress, a camaraderie began to grow. I found myself admiring the work of people I had never met before, applauding their bold approach or commending someone on a correction well-applied. You never know what you may learn from the stranger next to you.

Experiences begun with strangers have been some of the most valuable of my life.  Ballet Austin Summer Intensive 2010
Experiences begun with strangers have been some of the most valuable of my life.
Ballet Austin Summer Intensive 2010

What I admired the most about my Pillow experience, however, were the things I saw happening once class was over. Under the guidance of a PR rep, our large class of strangers huddled together, arms around one another for a photo. Sweating profusely and breathing heavily after finishing class, no one argued or shied away. We had bonded. As the group dispersed, the teacher hugged individuals who offered further thanks, commending everyone on a job well-done. Small groups formed as dancers shared information and complimented one another, finding some sort of connection from their dance world (the small, small dance world).

Not every class is like this. It is, after all, a competitive, cutthroat field. But these are the moments that make me smile. Great joy and purity of feeling can emanate from movement and sharing that with someone else, even if they are foreign to you. A class among strangers is daunting, yes, but more likely than not it will provide a fresh experience. You will feel pride in your own work and awe in that of others. Dance is that common thread that bonds us together like no other passion can. If you are a dancer, you will never be alone.

HAPPY BELATED 4TH EVERYONE!!
HAPPY BELATED FOURTH EVERYONE!!
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