Two young ballerina sisters were getting their first pointe shoes at Movin Easy and I stopped to ask if they were working hard in their dance study. They shook their heads yes with a smile.
Then I asked if they were excited to begin school this week. The frowns and no head shakes made me so sad.
I then fumbled my way through the ways I have seen ballet students apply their excitement for learning in dance to excel in school. My explanation was a mess and they smiled because they were amused while their mom translated by saying that they were smiling but she did not see them convinced in the least.
My tongue stumbled over my mind as I tried to give my observations of dancers who transferred their excitement for learning to academic study. I had to avoid the detail of ballet and modern training that interconnects the body brain intention emotion hope and everything else. Those are enough for many lifetime studies.
What I tried to express was the essence of dance as the excitement, the fun, the curiosity for the next moment and then the next. I wanted to give a clue about how to transfer that fun to study inside and outside the classroom. All I could come up with was a gesture of presenting myself in a dance move.
Both sisters smiled. The mom beamed a pained wish that what I was fumbling with would find its way into their minds somehow.
I must try to say this for the thousandth time. Inside dancing there is something basic about opening to excitement. Something rejuvenating, encouraging, and hopeful happens inside the dance.
Yes we can take all that excitement and work toward perfection and toward the winning we want in our lives. Yet a massive opening happens inside those simple movements of the Ballet Barre and the warmups for Modern Dance and every other dance form.
When dancing, something says inside, “this is me.” I am suddenly here and now I am here. What greater place could I be than flying, diving, floating right here, right now.
This is the learning of life. Imagine our cells just before they divide to create two refreshed cells. Their intelligence and perception must be in that place. That place is anticipation and exuberance for the next moment. That is curiosity.
Transferring that curiosity to academic learning is what the ballerina discovers. I refer to Ballet because the study is the most detailed learning of so many basic principles.
Perhaps the most critical principle is the two way flow of learning. The smallest change of direction or attitude or emphasis or effort reveals a complete new experience that is a surprise or at least a wonder to the dancer.
The dancer is not just doing something that looks a certain way. They are shifting their entire way of seeing and feeling and thinking. This comes from a two way flow of learning that coordinates giving energy with receiving energy? The analogy is breathing that is expelling air and receiving a new breath. With every effort there is a moment to refresh. Every movement has its moment of integration.
Dance study goes into the experience of this process of giving and receiving as a part of learning. We call that fun. How this happens will take many volumes, yet the basic elements are simple.
Dance becomes like the movement of the breath as a simple rising and falling that is always moving. Dance is the study of the curve of movement that is always rising into a new movement and falling into another.
Watching children move gives the next clue to how dance is both giving and receiving energy. With children, movement is an experiment, an exploration of how to go over and under and through with the most delight. Dance is that study of making slight changes to discover the difference in the experience.
So dance is discovering the experience of learning. Academic learning can be that too for the dedicated explorer. Ballet and other dance forms build that dedicated explorer who is eagerly receiving and applying the next insight and inspiration.
Tim Hurst 08/22/17