I loved the supportive environment and the intimate studio space of the showcase. It was so much fun to feed off of the dancers’ and audiences’ energy and be able to see classes show off what they have been working on throughout the semester. I also liked watching different dance genres being represented: ballet, jazz, modern, hip hop, etc. The fact that a class would break up into smaller groups to perform and then come together as a whole in the end made their performances more dynamic and compelling.
One class (possibly modern or jazz) had everyone laying on the floor and they coordinated their movements to look like a ticking clock. Moments where dancers’ bodies pulsed in rhythm to other dancers’ hand movements were particularly captivating to watch. I thought the choreography was ingenious.
A different modern dance performance reminded me of Martha Graham’s dance style. She was an American modern dancer and choreographer known to pioneer the technique “contraction and release,” which is a stylized conception of breathing. A lot of her pieces remind me of someone who is held captive; the dancer usually appears constricted, like they are trying to escape from something. Their limbs may be twisted and they may jerk eerily in a certain direction. It is particularly emotional for me as an audience member to watch.
An observation I made between the dance genres is that because hip hop is naturally more upbeat, lively, and “energetic,” it actively engages the audience more so than say, ballet. During a hip hop dance performance, audience members as well as other dancers cheered and hollered to support the performers. Whereas when a ballet performance was happening, people were respectfully quiet. Perhaps this is because ballet is more “aloof” and austere, which requires a more passive involvement from the audience. Thus, the quality of the performance (in terms of the entertainment factor) relied more heavily on skillfully executed technique. That’s not to say that hip hop does not require technique; breaking and popping (as two examples of hip hop) require a tremendous amount of strength, control, and awareness of the body. But because hip hop originally took place on the streets and in interactive dance offs and breaking battles, dancers could also rely on other factors than technique to engage the audience.
The showcase overall reminded me of how much I love the fact that dance roots a person in their body. Whenever I dance, hearing the sound of my skin making contact with the floor, imagining the space around me and my body filling it—all these things connect me to the world in ways that other art forms cannot. Dance often reminds me that my posture and movements consciously and unconsciously convey my emotions, confidence, and thoughts. When I watched other people dance during the showcase, I could tell whether they trusted their partners just by the way they moved their shoulders when they fell.
I think for these reasons, dance is especially important for trauma survivors. When trauma occurs, dissociation happens between the person’s body and mind. Dance teaches people to be in their bodies again: to love their body, to own their movements, and to trust in themselves again as well as their dance partners.