Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Is Technique?

My modern class at Towson University was asked this question at the beginning of our spring semester and my definition of dance technique has evolved during these past four months. I used to think that technique was simply the basic skills that we learn in any given genre of dance, which are the foundation of our movement style. Here is the actual definition that I wrote for my college technique class way back in the beginning of February:

Technique is started in the early stages of learning and must be mastered in order to become an exceptional dancer in any genre. There is technique for every style of dance and they all vary in certain ways. Technique is the foundation of dancing and it is continuously practiced in class in order to gain strength, endurance, and flexibility. Dance is an aesthetic based art form and the strong technique of a dancer is what makes it beautiful to watch. A great performer adds emotion and stage presence into their dancing, but technique is the basic underlying principle that holds it all together.

I still believe in this definition of technique, but due to certain activities and exercises that I have experienced in class this past semester, I have added a few aspects to the mix. Technique is definitely the foundation of any dance style and it is what we practice and focus on in class. I think that one of the purposes of technique is to gain strength, endurance, and flexibility since this tones the body, which is entirely important for a dancer. One of the purposes of technique, which I left out in my earlier definition, is to express an emotion, thought, or idea.

Now I include the element of artistic expression in my definition of technique, and this is the main way that it has changed over time. It is true that a dancer needs to hone his/her skills before performing on stage. But, to be an excellent performer, which is often times the goal of a dancer, you need artistic expression. A dancer who is strong and can do many tricks may wow an audience, but if their face is blank and they have no expression, it can be boring. On the other hand, someone who is dancing their heart out and truly feeling the movement might be absolutely beautiful to watch, but if they lack foundational skills and concepts, a trained dancer or audience member may like to see more clarity and precision. Either of these options is completely acceptable, but my point is that having dance skills and understanding basic concepts along with emotion and performance quality is the whole package that a dancer should stive for.

My new definition of technique is as follows:

Technique is the combination of the basic skills used depending on the genre of dance, the understanding of concepts such as breath support, placement, and use of weight, and the use of movement dynamics and artistic expression. Technique is unique to each style of dance and each dancer because everyone interprets movement in their own way. Practicing technique is a way to condition the body, express emotions or ideas, and communicate to an audience.

Our final for this technique class was to create a movement study, which is basically choreographing a dance that shows our evolution of technique using exercises from the class. I started off my study by lying on the floor and performing a warm up exercise because this is typically how a modern technique class starts. The purpose is to connect the mind and body right from the start and it is a way to find the relationship between the head, core, and limbs. Next, I perform one of the combinations facing the back of the room and the first time I focus on the basic aspects of it, such as body alignment, turn out, core support, and breath. I do not add anything "extra". The next time I repeat the combination, I show the difference between my original definition and my new definition by adding more movement in my upper body, variations in timing, and different movement qualities. The second version of the combination has more artistic expression and it is unique to me.

The last combination in my movement study was one of the key factors in deciding to add artistic expression to my definition. One of the activities we had to do was to choreograph a combination to teach to the rest of the class and explain how it relates to our own definition of technique. I had my classmates perform the combination on the first side just focusing on foundational, basic technique. The next time they did it I had them add their own unique qualities to the combination. This made me realize that it's not about separating the two ways of dancing, but it's about combining the physical aspect with unique expression. Yes, dance is an aesthetic art form that is based on physicality, but it is also an emotional art form that uses the movement of the body to express the thoughts of the mind.

Here is a link to the video of my movement study from modern class:

1 comment:

jorlyn marrero 702 said...

technique is when a dancer learns a certain dance and have all ready mastered it. technique gives you strength and when you dance you can tell your emotion.