Dancing With/ Without Music

Wassily Kandinsky– Russian-born painter emerging from the German Expressionist movement into abstract expressionism who wanted painting to come as close to capturing pure music as possible. For this reason, he called his non-objective paintings, ‘improvisations’ for their lack of subject matter. Call me crazy, but anyone who has seen the musical score for a symphony or a string quartet or a comlpex drum pattern would probably not relate all music to improv. It looks pretty methodical and specifically organized to me.

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I do understand his desire to capture music. For me personally, I love a good piece of conceptual choreography or a character to bring to life but nothing makes me want to move like music. I admittedly find it a huge struggle to execute choreography set in silence. I feel like it’s harder to lose myself in the dancing and not become fixated on the physical without the emotional wash of notes and rhythm.

Tuesday was my final Beginner Modern 1 and 2 class and I asked them as I took attendance, ‘what was your favorite thing about class this semester? Answers ranged from ‘Step draws’ ‘prances’ and ‘sparkles’ (I swear this is a real technical name in the Horton vocabulary) but quite a few said the music. Now I feel sort of bad for making them do leg swings to the sound of my counting/clapping but I wanted to actually hear their feet brushing the floor through that first position (otherwise they tended to hover their dangling limbs like a rusty pendulum on a grandfather clock)

The presence of music does not mean that I as a dancer, stop thinking. It does however, make it immensely more enjoyable to me. There is of course, a kind of music in silence as bodies breath and move together. I love the dynamic section without music from this video from Saks Fashion’s Night Out with the Blue Man Group in New York. My old friend from Interlochen Arts Academy, the beautiful Fana Minea Tesfagiorgis, is featured here.

At home with Common Thread Contemporary Dance Company, we have a committment to using our bodies, art, voices to speak in favor of compassion and against violence. One example of this daily meditation is through the ‘Plies for Peace’ Initiative– in which we collectively focus a positive energy toward individuals, towns, people from the news, etc. during the first exercise of class. This is done in silence. I think it allows me to really feel my body, as I begin to activate and stretch the muscles, circulate my blood, and find balance- and to focus on using that body and my gifts to the best of my abilities. It reminds me of what a blessing it is to be able to dance, to have legs or freedom or a car that drives me to the studio where I am priviledged to work on something that I feel passionate and humbled and excited to do, and how there are far more important, worrisome, heart-breaking circumstances than the likely small trials I may be suffering. I don’t find this depressing at all- it is a reminder to be joyful for all that I have, everything that brings ‘music’ to my life.

“What is most important in art is what the viewer lives or feels while under the effect of the form and the color combinations of the painting”- Kandinsky

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I would add that an important aspect is the residual effect, the hopeful creation of music even in times of silence. xo- Jess

One thought on “Dancing With/ Without Music

  1. Pingback: Prose and Pirouettes

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