Thursday, January 29, 2015

Still Very Moving

Anabelle finished her second season as part of the Danceworks’ Moving Company.  Once again, I am very proud that she is a member of a group that has been bringing performances to Rehabilitation and Senior Care centers in the area for twenty years.

This year, I managed to learn some new things myself. 

I thought there were fewer, but it turns out that there is an escalation of distinct locations that dancers look to while performing.

Phase 1: At the teacher standing in the wings.

Phase 2: At the other dancers

Phase 3: At their own feet

Phase 4: Straight ahead
Note: there is a gradual shift from-
Phase 4A (Terrified grin and zombie like stare)
Phase 4B (Relaxed smile and sparkling eyes)

Phase 5: Into magical dance space somewhere above the crowd and slightly off to one side.

Phase 6: Somehow directly into the eyes of every individual member of the audience. 
It’s kind of like those big eyed bobble heads with the gaze that follows you around the room, minus the creepiness factor, of course.

I knew Miss Chris was able to infuse “the awesome” into her choreography to showcase the outstanding skills of her students in unexpected ways. (The Pirates of the Caribbean ballet in last year’s recital springs to mind.) However, I managed to be caught off guard once again, both by En Point tap dancing (which I didn’t know was possible) and Led Zeppelin ballet (which I didn’t know was legal).

I also learned how ingrained that "Miss *First Name*" method of addressing dance teachers becomes.  At one point I referred to the owner's husband as "Mr. Chris."  Although, much like the Doctor calling Rory, "Mr. Pond," it may actually be the way it works in this case.

What I learned is irrelevant anyway when compared to the valued lessons the members of the Moving Company themselves got and always get.

Frankly, I was overwhelmingly impressed with the big picture of what they accomplished last year to the point that I missed some of the details.

One is the importance this is truly a Show. They’re not only learning a routine, or preparing for a recital; each number is an integrated part of a whole.  Learning routines for a competition, or gearing up for a recital requires learning the specifics of a dance.  Being part of a Show with multiple performances in varied venues means learning all of the little behind the scenes adjustments and alterations that have to occur to make the visible part come out as a quality product and honing it with each run through.   

These kids are dealing with unknown and/or oddly shaped and floored locations and other random curveballs like:
Working routines around absent performers,
Planning and executing act transitions including costume changes in near zero time and space,
Not having the dance collapse when an audience member invokes, “I’m old and I don’t care,” and wheels themselves out through the performance area.”

Dealing with the unexpected is a much more powerful preparation for real life presentation skills than practicing a routine and then executing it flawlessly under controlled circumstances.

Throughout the season, their abilities, confidence and cohesiveness visibly increased with every performance.  My favorites to watch were the dancers and singers whose courage slowly catch up to their technical abilities with each show.

I’ve mentioned the camaraderie fostered at the school previously, but it merits extra highlighting.  My daughter is part of the younger group of dancers, yet she frequently comes home relating conversations she’s had with some of the top members of the group about their show, school plays or other unrelated to “show biz” topics. 

The internal support at Danceworks is phenomenal.  I don’t believe it is a coincidence that at the end of the recital...

The same recital where squadrons of former students return to help out, and thanks are offered to massive amounts of current students who volunteer as assistant instructors for the younger classes...

At the end of that recital, each year when the seniors are being bid farewell, many of them invariably are going on to respected institutions to pursue careers that give back to the community (e.g. Medical Fields, Education, and yes I’m including Engineering on this list) while maintaining a connection to the arts.

There’s one other key thing I noticed this year.  I’ve seen some competitive dance teams where it appears every girl was made from the exact same Play-Doh molding machine.  Consistency is what they’re going for, and it works fine in that arena.

In the Moving Company, however, that is not the case.  Heck, even the twins wear their dance buns at individual positions. At all age levels there are young women of many different heights, with many different levels of emotional expression and of many different body types.  When they perform the routines they’ve worked at with each other and practiced together, they all look graceful, athletic and beautiful.

I don’t think my daughter could learn any more important lesson from a physical activity than that.

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