It has been four years since I have step foot in a dance class, and even then it was not very demanding. I have always wanted to dance, mostly because my mom was a dancer, so I have dipped in and out of classes since I was little. I had competing interests and so it never fully stuck and when I got older I gave up on dancing because I figured it was too late to start. After seeing YDT perform last year, and being thrown into Dreamgirls in the fall, I decided to go for the long shot and audition. All that background to say that my muscles were wholly unprepared for what Ruthie and Amanda threw at them.
After the first class I wrote, “My arms are not equipped to remain in the air for more than maybe 45 seconds. This is what I have learned from our first class.” After getting over the initial shock I have come to really appreciate the way that Taylor dance calls for movement. There is a rigidity to the shapes we create, but the path to that shapes is often so loose. For example, we will swing our arms above our heads, very fluidly, and then pull one arm through to create an “s.” That “s” is specific and fixed. It should clearly create two half circles, one curved up, and one down. The style is so difficult because you have to find where to let your body just go, and where to give it a limit and a shape. I have found the biggest challenge for me is to learn how to have that “mind-body” connection unconsciously. I think dancers have the uncanny ability to use a kinetic rational instead of thinking through each step. That is to say that it feels like a different part of my brain is working when I know what I’m doing in class. I’m not going logically step-by-step, because then I get behind, or I confuse myself, and my body doesn’t move fluidly. It is difficult to explain, but the thought and the action happen almost simultaneously.
The study of movement is also very new. It is fascinating to watch Amanda and Ruthie study the old footage of Party Mix, go over the counts again and again, attempt it themselves, and then teach us. I’ve never watched dance for anything other than entertainment. Even when I was young and tried to recreate dances, I never asked why they were moving a specific way or how that specific shape adds to the whole story of the piece. Now that we can study the footage on our own, I am learning how to apply the critical lens I have used on written works to dance. It actually reminds me of the work I do in some of my theater studies classes. We will read a theory, but the only way to really investigate is to get up and try it. This is the same. Even as Ruthie watches the footage for the counts, she will instinctually start to mark it out.
I am very grateful to be in the room with all these wonderful dancers and I am excited to see what next month brings.