Fall is upon us, and before long we’ll be spending more time indoors. It might also be a great time to give our body some rest. But we can keep building our dance artistry through creative activities apart from dancing ourselves. These include viewing dance performance with a critical eye, creating and engaging in art apart from dance, reading about dance and getting outside in nature. Engaging our creative juices, even if we’re not dancing, can make us better performers through boosting various performance-related skills and broadening our mindset. Read on to learn how!
#1. View dance that you might not usually see.
No doubt, most of us take in one, two or a few Nutcracker performances every holiday season. What a lovely holiday tradition! But there are many high-caliber dance companies and independent choreographers, doing commendable work, living right under most everyone’s radar. Bonus: sometimes these performances are reduced cost or pay-what-you-can. To find about new dance to see, ask dance friends and teachers for recommendations or what shows they’re involved in. Keep an eye out for promotional postings around your dance studio and on social media.
At the show, let yourself fully enjoy it as an audience member, but also use the opportunity to hone your artistic sense. Bring a journal and write a few notes pre-show, at intermission and before heading out (it can be tough to write in the dark, and jotting here and there is okay, but continuous scrawling can be distracting to fellow audience members). Invite a friend to join you at the show, and settle down at a cafe afterward to swap perspectives about what you saw.
Fellow audience members, even if strangers, are also open to talking about what they see and think – during those times when the performance isn’t happening, per respectful theater etiquette. Think about things like movement qualities, production values and thematic content. Is the choreographer trying to convey something specific, or is it more open to viewer interpretation? Viewing dance critically in these ways can spark your own creative fire for choreography or the qualities of your own dancing.
#2. Pick up a paintbrush or sing!
Engaging in art forms apart from dance can also fire you up creatively. Drawing, painting, making pottery/other sculptures, collaging and myriad other visual art activities can further train your eye in effectively molding elements like form, space, color and line. Those are, of course, all things that impact the aesthetic and energetic qualities of dance.
Singing, playing a musical instrument or listening to a music with a critical ear can greatly enhance your musicality. Singing has an added bonus of boosting the timber, range and volume of your voice – a bonus when you need to confidently and clearly present yourself at an audition or other job interview.
Along these lines, try attending a symphony, other concert or browsing for music you wouldn’t normally listen to (such as through Pandora, Spotify or Google Play). You’ll broaden your musical and artistic horizons, and maybe find a killer tune for your next solo or group choreography project!
#3. Read about dance to learn and be inspired.
Maybe you’re a student already reading hours a day, or otherwise feel like you have too much going on to read. But reading about various dance forms, biographies of inspiring dancers and books on dance history can truly benefit your dance artistry. You can add nuance to choreography through adaptations to, and commentary on, notable dancers and dances of the past.
While you weather the trials of auditioning, performing and choreographing, you can also learn about how other dancers/choreographers made it through their own hard times – and came out stronger in the end – through such reading. You can learn about a dance form you’ve never tried before (maybe “jooking” or Gaga), find a local class to take, and exciting new opportunities could emerge. In addition, just as with viewing dance, reading dance reviews can broaden your artistic perspectives and help develop your critical eye. If you might feel like curling up in front of the fire with a good book, newspaper or device this winter, why not do it with content that will encourage your growth as a dance artist?
#4. Get outside and breathe, feel, be!
Sure, when it’s cold outside, that might be the last place we want to be. But playing in the snow, and every so often stopping to appreciate the beauty of nature blanketed in white, can be wonderful. It can bring us back to being kids again, even if just for an hour. It can help us stay connected with the truth that even with harsh weather, nature offers beauty. And in the fall, foliage can be truly breathtaking. The crisp air can make simply breathing make us feel more alive. Even city dwellers can enjoy these things in parks and nature reserves just outside the city.
Nature can also certainly offer artistic inspiration, if you truly key into your senses and remain as present as you can. What do see, smell and hear? What’s the feeling on your skin and the taste on your skin? Being present in these ways in nature can also be very calming, and help us think more clearly. Just like when in the shower, fresh new ideas or solutions to pressing problems can suddenly come to us. After all, out in nature is where we mainly resided for the majority of human history. Get outside, play in the leaves, throw a snowball, breathe deeply and notice the treasures that can then emerge.
By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): Jessica Collado. Photography by Richard Calmes.