Friday, 17 February 2012

Advanced Modern Journal

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Advanced Modern Journal � //0

As I began to read Merce Cunningham’s article, “Space, Time and Dance”, one particular statement immediately jumped out at me “The dance is an art in space and time. The object of the dancer is to obliterate that.” This is a very bold declaration, but I couldn’t agree with Cunningham more. Many times, dance is thought of as just movement itself, rather than movement existing in and moving through space and time. By forgetting about these two key elements, much is lost in the dance. As a dancer, it is important to always be aware that you are moving through space and time. But at the same time, it is crucial to not let the space and time act as limits or boundaries on the movement. As Cunningham says “The dance is free to act as it chooses…”

The reason that I connected so strongly with this article is because I just recently began to realize the importance of space and time within my own movement. Before I arrived at Muhlenberg last fall, I had never been exposed to modern dance before. Because it was such a new art form for me, I wasn’t completely aware of all that this dance form encompasses. I was used to competition and Broadway style jazz, which although I still enjoy doing it, has a tendency to be somewhat mindless movement meant to show off how many turns and jumps you can do. So when I took my first modern class in college, I was surprised at the fact that we concentrated so much on our mind, our surroundings and the intentions of our movement rather than just working on the technical side of the movement itself. These ideas were all very new to me, so I had a hard time trying to think about everything while still dancing. But as the year progressed, I began to get used to the idea of the body, mind, time and space working as one, and I now realize how much concentrating on all those aspects at once can really add to my movement.

In his article, Cunningham also speaks of the formal methods of choreography � mind following heart, form following content and movement following music. He refutes these ideas, saying that modern dance itself is meant to discover and invent new movement for contemporary reasons. I found these ideas to be particulary true after performing and rehearsing modern pieces for the first time. I can still remember coming to my first modern rehearsal last year and expecting to simply learn choreography already set to movement and rehearse it until it was perfect. But as I entered the studio, my choreographer asked us to play improvisational games which were then turned into movement phrases. Again, this was a very new idea to me, but I was awestruck at the fact that it is possible to create dance by simply doing what comes naturally to you. Most of the movement that was eventually performed was movement I had never done or seen before, but that was what made it so special. I really appreciated and enjoyed the fact that I was executing new and unique movements and that those movements were created for us, the dancers in the piece.

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After performing in my first modern dance concert, I came to the understanding that dance is not just turning, jumping and smiling, but it is � as Cunningham says � “a spiritual exercise in physical form, and that what is seen, is what is.” I believe that modern dance is a unique art that allows dancing to be what it should be, free movement within space and time. And if looked for, dancing is found all around us, from rolling out of bed in the morning, to walking to class; for “Dancing is a visible action of life”.

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