future

Growing a Body: Dance Education with a Future Lens

How do we train our bodies for the future?

Students performing in their Final Showing as part of my Digital Technologies class at Montclair State University

Students performing in their Final Showing as part of my Digital Technologies class at Montclair State University

How do I train my students to be ready for a world that doesn't exist?

In physical training, we have to balance our drive towards the future with our ability to be deeply present in the body's current experience. Training becomes a deep struggle to identify, feed and nurture the future you (the dream), the present you (the body with its guts and gore and pain and pleasure), and the past you (with its preferences, fears, trauma, and responses).

It is that time of year when I meet individually with all my students to discuss their progress and their goals. One theme that is coming up this year is connecting deeply with the emotional capacity of the body. How do you move in a way that isn't about the image of the movement, but about the communicative ability of the body? I find myself saying: How can you work to engage your body so that plié actually means something and makes you feel something?

As a teacher I am often confronting my own history, past training and biases. I know how to prepare for the present world because I did it. But how does that translate to my student's world, which can be wildly different than my own?

In my training history, neutrality was valued. Anatomical simplicity was valued. Abstraction was valued. But now, I see "technique" becoming so much more about becoming human, not becoming abstract.

We are all cyborgs. Donna Haraway claimed it many years ago, and every student in my class who has on an Apple Watch is living that maxim. But then if we are deeply intertwined in these digitized abstractions, maybe dance training then becomes about enlivening the body to wrap around this digital sphere and give it blood and guts and humanity.