Friday, December 31, 2010

It's dark in the desert....(part 3)

Ok, so where was I? Oh yes, happy, happy, joy, joy!

Technically this part of the series is about two similar-sounding complaints with a world of difference between them: 

"One cannot express "dark" things through this dance" and "My dance is about joy, it's impossible to bring something "dark" to it."

To quickly address the first issue: Well, if the dancer is supposed to be the music made manifest - i.e., it's our job to be the music, and if the music expresses "dark" sentiments, one could follow the line of logic and say therefore, the dance itself would be "dark."  No? Yes? Of course.

The thing is, what the hell is "dark" anyway?  If you get obsessed about dividing everything into "light" and "dark", you miss the whole picture.  Our experience here on this planet is never simply one or the other, but a collection of mixed emotions and events.  To designate "dark" as all things negative, and "light" as all things positive is far too simplistic.  Not everything "dark" is about anger, angst, sadness, and pain. (And if you haven't noticed, I'm placing "dark" in quotes, because in the way it is referenced in our examples, it has been used to designate "the realm of the other", aka, the marginal. The intentional segregation of something that is not of the world or familiarity of the speaker.  Darkism if you will.  Woohoo! Congrats!  We have a whole new 'ism!) Essentially, what the dark really represents everything foreign to us, mysterious, not easily understood or addressed, things that are arcane, secreted, unclear, and not easily dealt with.

And with that, we'll move on to the second complaint. Look, I want to make it very clear, I'm not dissing anyone who wants to express only joy and happiness in their dance.  More power to you!  Because dance is about expression, and as the performer, you can choose to express whatever you wish.  For some, the dance is their only means of escape for daily life, a place of wonderful fantasy and positive creation - somewhere to get away from a stressful relationship or family situation, a tough job, to forget about pain and illness, a break from mundane troubles.  But if you also look at dance as a way not only to express, but to explore and to heal, to address issues and conquer them, then considering the whole spectrum of emotions and the possibilities they can bring, can be an amazing experience.  It's not easy, and frankly it can be downright scary unlocking those feelings and experiences on stage (performing can be already scary enough right), and I can definitely understand not wanting to go there.  It's not for everyone.  Or maybe it's just not for you right now in your life.  But that doesn't mean no else can do it either.  And it can be very very beautiful and powerful if you give it the chance.

On the flip side of this, there's also a danger in exploring deeper emotions on stage that you haven't had a real connection to, or are afraid to make that connection.  Not so much a personal danger, as a problem in being sincere on stage - it falls flat.  Anger or angsty dance for the sake of being "dark and spooky", rarely translates well, and often comes across as taking yourself way too seriously.  It dangers on audience abuse.  Please don't abuse your audience.  Similarly, not everything has to be performed.  Some things are best explored in the studio or living room, and not brought to the stage.  Dance can most certainly be therapy, but would you really want to make all your sessions with your psychiatrist public?  If you're unsure, ask a friend, your teacher, your partner. 

In the end, I believe that in order to be good dancers, we need to be able to express a wide range of emotions, a breadth of experiences - in order to truly be the music and share that with the audience.  And sometimes you'll be asked to do it just within a single song.  Don't be afraid of the dark. Don't be afraid of the light.  Don't be afraid to dance.


  1. " order to be good dancers, we need to be able to express a wide range of emotions, a breadth of experiences - in order to truly be the music and share that with the audience."

    Awesome line, Tempest! Great article!

  2. mmmmm.....good stuff. Maybe a DVD on emoting several different kinds of emotion? It is badly needed in the dance community.