Four Ways of Looking (adapted from The Four Ways of Looking Reflective Practices for Masters in Literacy Program, developed by Yang Hu)
Looking Back – Yesterday was my first exposure to the Gaga language. While the language in and of itself was distinct from other experiences I’ve had as a dancer, I’ve done a lot of improvisation with different movement impulses and qualities to consider and explore.
Looking Inside – I have trained extensively in ballet and very linear techniques like Graham and Cunningham. To this day, I harbor many unhappy thoughts about what my body has never been capable of doing simply because of my short and stiff build. Add to that the fact that I am in my mid 40’s, and I often feel as though my dancing ship has passed. The Gaga language was absolutely liberating. As a dancer, I felt able to move and to reach and express in ways I have not felt in quite a while. This old body might still have the ability to dance after all! The intricate attention to bone and muscle and dynamics was also very healing. I could feel my connective tissue releasing a fair amount of tension.
Looking Sideways and Around – I am of a generation of dancers that missed the wave of workshops and exposure as part of my own performance training. I’ve been hearing about it and have even found some youtube excerpts, but the exposure is always very limited. There is also a bit of an elitist cloak of secrecy about it in the way Manhattan and Brooklyn dance studios have approached their scheduling of such. At Peridance, an hour and a half Gaga Workshop is much more expensive than a regular class. I now understand the reasoning behind the no observer policy, but when considering dance classes, I usually prefer to know what I’m about to pay for, so the inability to peek at the class was off putting. I think all I’ve really heard from some other dancers is that the language really accommodates one’s own body.
Looking Forward – I’m a first year Grad student making a career change, and I’m still in the very infancy of my understanding as a dance educator. My next steps are to well in my classes!
Last night I taught my Building the Foundation of Literacy class an Intro to Composition lesson – my very first time teaching a dance education class. First I lectured about creating movement phrases out of 6 body actions. Then I had everyone get up and use those actions in a circle, then in groups to create their own unison and counterpoint phrases. It was amazing. Everyone had a lot of fun and really worked well with each other. I walked the room to assist with movement or transitional status –never creating my own movements to impose on them but asking how they might deal with a specific issue that was preventing unity or fluidity. They all created their own little pieces of art!
I could see myself in that sort of situation with children who might never have been exposed to dance beyond their own preconceived notions of what it is to be a dancer – to allow them the opportunity to explore how their own bodies can move and become part of a greater whole with other bodies moving with and around them.
The feedback I got from my learners was that I made them feel at ease with moving, working together, and then demonstrating their work to the class. I think the Gaga workshop that I took just a few hours before my lesson was very much in the same vein of supportive exploration. I will definitely want to put some of the language in my “toolbox”, as an educator as well as a dancer and choreographer.