is dance technique overrated?

“Spell your name in a dance, across the floor.”

They gave us this prompt at the audition for Oakland Ballet and I nearly froze in fear.

Improvise?! Perform something random that I create, that is not following exact choreography?! Nooooooo!!

That was 19-year-old me, and oh man was I stuck in the technical pursuit of perfection, without any sense of creative expression or me and my own voice.

(If you gave me that prompt now, I’d give you a dance, no problem, because clearly I no longer have issues breaking out in dance in any place possible.)

what I’ve learned over the years is that dance technique can squelch creative expression, if it’s relied on in excess and not balanced out with free movement.

Since I left that path of pursuing professional ballet (shortly after that Oakland audition, actually) I’ve been slowly called back to dance, but in a totally different way. A way that is purely about expression and creativity. Making my own dance videos has been a huge part of that, and I’ve also been teaching and leading others in this way.

In the classes I lead for my You Can Dance Again program, I’ve had a mix of students who range from no technical training at all to former serious dancers. And you know what? They can all be in a room together and take the same class and create and perform dances together.

How is that possible?

well, in a class that emphasizes freedom, flow, and creative expression, it doesn’t matter so much what your technical training is like.

In fact, those with technical training might even find it harder because they’ve been so trained to strive for perfection. Just like I was back then. It’s easy to learn how to see yourself through the mirror, through the eyes of your teacher or choreographer, and to forget what it FEELS like to dance in your own body, just for you.

For those who have no training, it can be a little easier because there’s no unlearning to do with technique, but of course it’s still a process of unlocking your body and allowing it to move and express freely.

This is the kind of dance I live for. And I sense the world would be a much freer place if more people danced like this. Do you agree?

And so. Hope to see you in class if you’re in the Brooklyn/NYC area.

there are 2 NYC in-person intro classes coming up next week:

Monday April 8th - Manhattan
Thursday April 11th - Brooklyn

>>Click here to sign up!<<

And whatever you do, keep dancing your dance and be patient with where you are. Sometimes we’re in a place where we need lots of structure and someone telling us what to do (and thankfully there’s ballet for that, and would be thrilled to see you in ballet class, too!) and other times we just want to be set free. Try both. See what moves you most.

to all the ways we can dance,

Jess