It is said that to be able to dance one must begin to study from a young age; it is also said that it is necessary to have a body “naturally gifted” for dance, and that, even so, the student must have a certain degree of cunning to master that with which he has been naturally gifted.
While we can say that all this is true to a certain extent, the idea of is to demystify and rethink, from research and knowledge, some concepts surrounding these claims, imposed collectively over the years.
First I would like, humbly, to trace divisions:
1.) On the one hand, not everyone who dances can be a professional dancer.
2.) But everyone who is willing to work, investigate, recognize their body and dedicate themselves can dance, reaching the maximum of their physical and expressive possibilities.
I think it is very important that young students should consider that “having conditions” can be something important or absolutely irrelevant, depending on how they are used. Neither a great elongation, nor a great rotation or jumping possibilities strictly make a dancer, but they are simply physical qualities that help and facilitate the learning and execution of the dance.
If we have a dancer with a great elongation, we will surely be talking about someone with a good disposition to a great leg work, but we are not talking about someone who will necessarily be able to have very high positions and beautiful lines, something that will require strengthening to be achieved: this condition of being muscular or articulately soft, forces us to work our body to dominate this flexibility.
Similarly, having a very strong back does not automatically lead to good turns. That strength provides axis and momentum, but that virtue will condition the body to surely apply extra force at other points, which may eventually stiffen the dance.
What I am trying to say is that every virtue also has its downside and that there are no bodies that are absolutely balanced in every respect. It always requires work to balance its possibilities of development. In this sense, the conditions are simply an optimal predisposition for movement, but which do not make a good executor of steps, nor a good dancer, much less a good artist, conclusive.
Even, on the contrary, a condition should not be considered only “a facility”, but a limit that lies “a little beyond” and that, far from sitting down to contemplate it because “you already have it”, forces us to be aware of exploiting that aspect even more and explore the possibilities it offers to our dance.
If a person does not use these “natural gifts” to the fullest, if he or she does not work on them daily and balance them to get the most out of them, they will also remain at half-mast, ceasing to be something extraordinary and becoming just another aspect that does not give any advantage or difference with respect to another student who does not have these same physical facilities.
Dance is an art that is learned day by day, it is assimilated day by day, the bodies are molded over long periods of time, as a craftsman models wood or clay, with much patience and dedication. It is the dance teacher’s job to fully appreciate the virtues and weaknesses and to make him the best dancer he can be, that is, to help him exploit his virtues to the fullest and work as hard as possible on his weaker aspects.
It is in this aspect that the results offered by two pedagogical visions can be identified: between a movement education learned by form and used for all students equally, and a movement education born from the link with the teacher, from personalized work on the specific needs of a student and the possibility for the student to ask and consult about his or her convenience in working on this or that movement or emphasizing a certain muscle group.
Within the class it is necessary that the teacher exemplifies the corrections with different body types and aptitudes, so that the correction is understandable for those who have physical facilities as well as for those who do not.
3.) All bodies can be suitable for dancing
Being a dance teacher for years now, I often hear these phrases, as a justification for the difficulty in achieving certain movements and placements in the dance: “I’m too old to learn to dance” or “I learned badly when I was a child and there are things I can’t correct”.
These statements are only myths that limit one’s own possibilities. Through the study of movement mechanics every body – of different ages – can learn to correct mistakes and mislearned concepts, as long as one finds a teacher willing to guide this re-education or body education – in the case of a student who starts dancing when he or she grows up.
In this sense, dance is a heritage of all bodies: it is an activity that strengthens and aligns the body, that trains and broadens the mind, that generates work of coordination, dissociation, memory. Enjoying and learning to know one’s own possibilities is a work whose fundamental guide is the teacher, who has the mission of inciting his or her students to investigate dance, their own body and to pay attention to the corrections applied to other students.
4.) Intelligence, the greatest of virtues
Whether with more or less “natural conditions”, the dancer must know that it is only his ability to study, practice and reason about his physical capacities that will give him the satisfaction of reaching his goals and enjoying his body by enjoying quality movement.
5.) Dance is an art, a craft that does not depend on virtuosity
Following the previous line, the goal should be to achieve “quality of movement” and not virtuosity, a value that, despite being very much in vogue today, is not desirable to absorb the energy of those who seek to develop as a dancer.
In this way, once the students have been introduced to a conscious work of the academic material of the technique they are approaching, they will be able to begin to concentrate on details and expressive aspects, which will lead them to transform that movement into dance, into words translated corporally to say, to tell and to generate sensations to themselves and to the public.
It is not the extremely virtuous dancer who will become an artist capable of moving. Nor will it be the one who through effort has achieved high technical levels. Only the dancer who succeeds in filling those movements with intention, nuances and dynamics can be the transmitter of a message.
A dancer who manages to project his movement, give it colors and intensities, move and be moved from what the music generates, from what his personality and his unique inner energy provides, will be an artist and not just a performer of movements.
There is no point in multiple pirouettes if they do not say or tell anything, there is no point in long and stretched out bodies if they do not have enough sensitivity to become the music they are playing. Unintentional jumping turns the dancer into an athlete, which has absolutely another purpose.
The reflection on the physical conditions and body development for dancing, the value of the body as a vehicle and technology for movement, in a time when there is an over-evaluation of physical power in dance: should a dancer be beautiful and virtuous simply because he is?
Or should his body be a tool, a suitable and balanced instrument tuned to tell a story, to generate sensations and feelings that, when they happen to him and go beyond his own body, also move the spectator? Finally, the difference is projected very well on stage, whatever the play performed or the technique used.