Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Interpretive Dance Class

Today was interpretive dance day in my Urban Literature of Nature class. After a sentence like that, I don't see how I could ever persuade naysayers that I am a serious college student. In the same vein, there has never been a time more in my life where I've felt like an honest to god hippy.

The young woman who lead the class was a graduate student at my school, and professionally teaches dance. She has led interpretive dance in an academic class setting like this before, so she knew what she was doing. We sat in a large circle on the floor with our shoes off as she questioned us about or relationship to nature, what our role in nature is and how nature makes us feel. At certain points she would ask us to demonstrate these feelings without words.

Many students were hesitant to participate, and several moments of silence would pass before another brave soul would walk into the circle and silently act out their emotions through a flail of arms and the stomping of legs. The audience was then  left to interpret the meaning of these awkward gestures. It was more often than not pretty obvious what emotion or idea the student was portraying with their jagged body movements. The overall theme I surmised from my classmates dance moves is that we are destroyers of the thing we love. We love nature so we smile and skip around and pick up an invisible flower and smell it. Then we wield an invisible ax and chop down the invisible tree beneath which the flower grew. The students brave enough to step into the circle acted out their feelings as literally as possible.

After a while our interpretive dance instructor became fed up with our lack of willingness to display our mediocre dance moves for the class to see except for the handful of brave dancers. Quick like a cat she sprang up to her feet, strode to the center of the circle, and gracefully fell to her knees before performing a half summersault and leaving one leg momentarily outstretched toward the ceiling. Then she gracefully landed and uprighted herself as she exclaimed, "And that's how I feel about nature."

At first I couldn't help but think "show off." But then I realized she was demonstrating the potential we had to markedly improve our own interpretive dance moves by not trying to act out everything in such a literal fashion. Her elegantly organic movements were unlike anything anyone in the class had even attempted. It was in this moment of realization that my definition of interpretive dance was completely turned on its head and I saw it as an artistic form of expression rather than a frivolous hippy activity.

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