When I first started at Northern, I was aware of how creative, individual and unusual contemporary dance could be, but I have to say that sometimes I didn’t really get it all.
I came from a dance background where everything was focussed around ISTD ballet, modern and tap, technique, technique, technique an performace quality. It was all about following the syllabus and performing the steps, which I always enjoyed. I knew exactly what I was doing and why I was doing it, and could see that there was progression as I rose through the grades, although I have to say I sometimes tired of doing the same exercises every week, to the point where I didn’t have to think about what I was doing anymore.
When I came to Northern everything changed, it was no longer always the same in technique classes, the progression was so much quicker, and I found how much more focussed I had to be in class in order to keep up with what was going on.
But it was in the more creative classes that I found the biggest contrast with my previous experiences of dance. To me improvisation meant step-ball-changing and circular-springing my way around a studio to whatever music an examiner brought along with them. Here I have discovered it means so much more than that. In my improvisation classes now, I am encouraged to dance in a way that makes me feel good, choosing movement not because I think it will look good or because it is a habit I have developed when asked to improvise, my go-to movement, but because it feels like the right thing to do in that moment. To constantly entertain myself and develop new qualities in my movement, to reach, to contract, to turn in and out, to twist, to turn, to push the floor, the walls, the ceiling and the air around me. I’ve become fascinated with dancing with my eyes closed and the freedom it brings to do so, to fly across the room (avoiding hitting classmates if possible) and feel the possibility in the movement.
I’ve learnt to constantly push movement further, to make it bigger and more powerful than I would usually dare to in improvisation, to explore more rhythms and variations in dynamics than I would have thought possible before. Possibly my favourite part of improvisation is working with other people, I used to think that contact improvisation would never work out, because each person would have their own idea of what they wanted to do, and wouldn’t really be able to communicate this to their partner. It took a while but I found out that it doesn’t have to be like that at all, that it gets to a stage in an improvisation when you can just tune in to the people around you and dance together without constant thought of where you’re going to stand or balance or put your next hand, you just dance and it just works.
Since I’ve been here I’ve flocked, followed, fallen, run, lifted, been lifted, shouted, sung, moved with breath, with thought, without thinking, with my eyes closed, without stopping for the longest I ever have… there is so much more possibility within dance than I have ever appreciated before. And to say I didn’t really get it when I arrived, I have thrown myself in head first and had some amazing experiences that have made me appreciate how much I love to move and to dance.
I know I’m never going to get everything I’m asked to do or watch, it would be boring if we all did all of the time, but so far I have enjoyed and learnt so much from the lessons I never imagined I would feel comfortable in, and I’m excited for how much more there is out there to learn. Here’s to the weird, the wonderful and the existential experiences to come.