I am not known for being quiet, calm, timid, shy or restful. I dance for many reasons, one of those reasons being that I cannot sit still, but a mind often needs a break. When I dance, my thoughts can find time to rest even if my dynamically energetic dancing does not give my body downtime.
In the studio just a few nights ago, as I watched snow falling onto the porch, lingering on windowsills, catching the rims of hats of pedestrians on the sidewalk, I started playing some new music in an effort to clear my head through some free dance practice before my students arrived. The hour drew later, students late to arrive, and snow began to accumulate on the streets and pathways and I could feel a chill in my legs. As I undulated and turned, reaching my arm out for the warmth of light from the Moroccan lamp on the table by the mirrors, the snow seemed to melt and I was transported else. I was not transported in time and space so much as internally within my body; I could feel every molecule, it seemed, every hair at its root, every tendon and muscle reaching for the lamp as if willing the cold of winter to melt into the light warmth of the lamp. In this span of time, my movements seemed to be as close to perfection as ever while I grew closer to the present moment and the passion I felt listening to the music.
With my hand reaching desperately to touch the lamp so far from me, I took notice of my body line stretched forward with a lifted chest and straight spine, my left leg in lifted releve and my right pointed perfectly back and away with a slight tuck in the oblique to accentuate the hip. I was breathing, I was emoting, and I was perfectly connected and felt every ounce of emotion being the source of my ability to sustain this statuesque poise.
Known for my technique, that reach shattered my old theories and in an instant a fleeting moment of clarity shaped the rest of my dance and subsequently my night of teaching and plans for my growth as a dancer. I have always instilled a strong sense of technical ability in my students and have always felt that strong muscular technique is the tool we dancers use to be able to connect with and represent the music passionately. In that moment of clarity, however, I saw so many things by being open to the music: that the stillness I crave to find in my life has to start on the dance floor first and, in my searching for it I get closer to my heart and express myself in my dance better. But more than anything my passion for technique is not just that my technique can allow me freedom to dance beautifully but also my heart can help sustain a beautiful moment in dance. When there is no passion, my fingertips droop to the floor and aren’t as concerned with reaching for that lamp. When there is no emotional connection, I have no need to stand strongly on one foot in releve and can instead let both legs lazily hold my weight. When there is no connection to making the music meaningfully visible, my body line can slump and say something inaudible rather than powerfully meaningful.
As I took a few back turns and landed reaching up into the snowy sky above the ceiling of my studio, I caught the glimpse of a dark shadow approaching and realized a student had finally arrived – the first one to this class in 2015 – and my lesson plan instantly shifted. Upon entering, I decided to give her the most important lesson of my teaching career using these very new discoveries. As I try to instill this relaxed, but powerful calm in my dance, I now take a break from the years I have been teaching regular weekly classes. Focusing now on coaching/private lessons to really cultivate better dancers, I will also focus on the development of my own movement theory; continued growth as a performer; and the direction of my student company, the Head over Heels Student Dance Ensemble. While still in the field of dance instruction, I feel so connected to this dance. Passion is so critical in sustaining technique and is at least as important as using technique as a tool to allow us freedom to express our passion. I am so excited to develop and share these ideas more – and for the many gifts dance continues to give me in new and unexpected ways – as I cultivate calm and stillness. Peace and serenity to all. Thank you for everyone’s support and years of dedication working with me. Thank you - shokran.