Perhaps the most noticeable change as a result of this class has occurred in my enjoyment of the creative process in shaping the structure of the dance. Some of the readings, in particular Ann Bogart’s “a director prepares” alluded to the difficulties of creating something as complex as an extensively choreographed dance. Yet I did not have a solid grasp of what she was trying to convey. Going through the paces and creating an artistic piece is something which I have struggled with in the past. As I continued to struggle with some of these same problems throughout the semester, I realized that somewhere within me change needed to occur. I have a sense that change did occur not only in my dance style, comfort level and creativeness but also in my perspective towards the class as a whole.
As May approached, the product, Heavy Train, matriculated into something so enjoyable that it far outweighed all the negative emotions that occurred for me during the past three months. Perhaps it was the actual time that made learning and practicing difficult. Four hours on a Tuesday night is an extremely large amount of time for someone who is not a trained dancer or a performer. It might have been a myriad of obstacles which blocked me from realizing that I was in the midst of having a wonderful time all along. It could easily have been that I was tired. Sleep is something which I love and cherish and unfortunately it was not valued high enough this semester. It also could have been a sense of wanting something to eat. I always felt hungry even though the majority of the time I had just come from eating dinner. Regardless of the excuse, I learned to respect letting the piece develop even though at times it was challenging. In hindsight some of the basic objectives, like learning the four phrases, ended up becoming perhaps the easiest part of the class. Yet during this time I felt unsure and uncomfortable. I really was not happy with the way my body received the movements. I additionally did not like how ridged the movements felt to me. I kept wondering who Chris Elam was and how did he manipulate himself in such contorted ways. None of my prior dancing experience could have prepared me for what I was dealing with. Yet in reality all of my complaints eroded and blended into a revitalized way of experiencing movement.
I feel as though a great number of the movements have transpired for me over the semester and became part of how I chose to move in the piece. Nevertheless, perhaps the fondest memory of the semester was the improvisation during the Wednesday morning workshops. The improvisation helped me explore aspects of my own character which was really nice. This discovery occurred during performances; while watching and listening to others discuss what had happened and while watching others perform.
There are a few changes which have occurred in the ways I think and understand performance. I have observed changes in the way I feel about performance by understanding that it is not solely about performing for an audience but also performing for other cast members and yourself. Throughout numerous instances during the dance there were moments of realization where I learned that I was only a fraction of what was going on and that my movements actually affected other dancers. I also realized how a vast range of complex physical interactions are identified and created. This change is a result of a greater sense of how to apply and manipulating my body’s intentions and dynamics during the rehearsals and the workshops.
In addition, I have developed a better understanding of partnering as a result of taking this class. I pay better attention when two individuals are involved, a change from a primary leader follower mentality. I have developed more trust in other people with whom I partner. With this trust, I learned to differentiate between bearing my physical weight and bearing my whole body. This breakthrough with partnering for me is perhaps a defeat of fear and distrusting nature, which I had developed prior to this class. I also have developed how to better utilize my body. Often I am stronger and more capable than I previously imagined. I have learned how my body is able to do long strenuous movements while engaged with someone else as well as myself.
I would have liked to further my experimentation with choreography (coaching). I did, however, enjoy the little that I did do. I feel that during the workshop periods where we gave instructions to dancers allowed me to gain a number of new tools which I did not have before. It has helped me garner a new appreciation of how performance, no matter how seemingly complex or simple, can have complex choreography. This class was a wonderful experimentation in dance and movement and a thoroughly enjoyable undertaking. I look forward to seeing further choreography and classes created and taught by Chris Elam.