This is an excerpt from a reflection I wrote a few days after teaching as the contemporary dance artist at Creatives Day, organized by Charity Mack and others with visiting artists Duarte!, Jalen Fields, and the Street Angels, at Lynden Elementary
Here come the kids into the GYMNASIUM!! So many possibilities for what can be done in that room, but I bring them into a circle. A couple volunteers half heartedly gesture children to follow my thread but it is a lot to agree to, that they want to be doing what i’m doing enough to enforce the participation of these children, and they don’t even know what I have planned. In the first group, two middle aged women from the same church were supporting the students’ participation, and they went along with me, making an effort to see the thread I wanted to string through and deciding how close they wanted to get to it, while also deciding how close to get to these kids that they do not know. I wonder now, what hesitations and desires they experienced. What were my own? I wanted the kids to be engaged, to have fun and to move. I didn’t want to make them behave and I didn’t want to lose them with too much about myself. I hesitated to share myself? But my whole body was involved in getting them to like me, to trust me and to ride with me and still majorly to control them.
In the first group I put out the “magic word” as a limitation to their movement as a precursor to explaining what we were doing, “Monster”, to give a verbal cue for letting loose, and forgot to set a verbal cue for re-combobulating oneself such that I end up cringing inside as I yell Freeze in a deep almost cartooning voice and throw my hands high in the air, feeling like I am at once embodying the cop and the body on the line and wondering who saw this white woman do that. Here I wonder about this white woman as a virtual self and physical myself, it is a self that i try to view (objectively?) and what else?
Oh they were moving away from their monsters, shielding themselves from their monsters, giving away the secret of who their monster was. Maybe 3 people got that the game could make you move through space in interesting ways in relationship to each other. That could be a whole very interesting game. Oh how i want it to happen in relationship to each other. Does naming all this make things better? It’s something to work with, and yet, naming things might serve more to concretize something i don’t want. I mean, not hopelessly because it does provide a platform to move from.
Okay this class I taught. Not a lot of reflection time with these 20-30 minute doo-dahs. I said that contemporary dance is what we make it. In the 2nd class I asked if they wanted to learn a piece or just move across the floor. The concepts were flying at them too quickly, or not, they got what they got. But these kiddos moved across the floor reaching, rising and falling. It would have been nice to do twice, 3 times or more… but we did it once, and 2 people didn’t, and I just kept channeling a combination of lyrical and Eddie’s class in my examples which some of them went with and others found their own ways. One student was backhandspringing his way across the gym and I decided to trust his body’s sense of safety. I hope it doesn’t create problems at school for him if he repeats that in the gym later on. I am reminded of enforcing rules to kids so they don’t get in trouble later with someone else even when it’s a rule I don’t want to enforce. I am on the line there too– the dance teacher said its okay. (“the dance teacher thinks everything is okay, has no clear intention or theoretical framework”?). Both times we learn the phrase. I’m glad I included reaching and pulling in. Some of them love reaching and pulling in. We dance together, I mirror better than I expected. The first group faces away from the door and I am soooo far from my computer that I go running between it and the front of them, but I don’t want to spend time shifting their orientation so I spend time running.
The second group faces a basketball hoop and is situated close to the side the sound system is set up on. Obviously the second group goes better in some ways. I explain Monster better, with a demo that engages some volunteers and so they get it too. We go a few places with the possibilities of movement and how this could be a dance, I am talking. I wonder if we can have dialogue in a 20 minute class about moving, but I am responding to their bodies in space with what I say, and how I move…