After spending last summer in the city dancing outside and seeing shows every week, I entered my second year of the conservatory program with a new vitality. I started training harder and with each class worked to gain a deeper perspective of the art I was trying to create. It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing spectacular was just going to happen to me, I needed to be proactive and make things happen for myself.
It has always been a dream of mine to dance in Europe. People would ask me about my career plans and I would say, ‘you know, perform and travel around hopefully find myself abroad with a company,’ but this was just talk. I had to act…now! That very moment I found a round trip ticket and booked it. I have never made such an impulsive decision. The next step was finding somewhere to dance. I turned in an audition video for a gaga intensive in Amsterdam and about a month later was accepted.
The first sight I had of the Chasse Stratt studios in Amsterdam made my heart almost burst. I didn’t even have to walk inside to realize the incredible adventure I was about to embark on. The attic like studio had no mirrors and about fifty bodies moving around, introducing one another. Taiwan, Paris, Canada, Finland, and Indonesia to name a few places these dancers had traveled from. The space was full of different languages and accents but once we started moving together it was as if we were all speaking to each other like old friends. I had never experienced gaga before and was so very grateful that this workshop was my introduction.
With no familiar peers or mentors around I found I was making bolder choices because I wasn’t worried about other people’s expectations. I didn’t feel obligated to move a certain way or perform for anyone, I was dancing only because I wanted to. I realized there was nothing else that could bring me such joy and frequently found myself with a genuine smile on my face while moving.
With no mirrors or footage of the five days I have no idea what I looked like but I know what I created in that time was honest and real. I did, however, try to take in as much movement visually from other dancers as I possibly could. Speed and stamina were being pushed, constantly exploring the limitations of space and the body within it. I know contemporary dance is characterized by improvisational techniques but I had no idea that the boundaries I had set I only inflicted on myself. These beautiful movers were constantly loosing their control and generating new material.
All the movement I witnessed and the sequences I learned did not stick to a set of rules. Rather humor and athleticism worked as one creating such a surreal quality to the work. Even though I’ve seen tons of contemporary company performances the realization that dance is not always a clear art form set my imagination on fire. It took this one short trip to be able to perceive dance with all of my senses and allow that to aid my creative process. I feel so humbled to have explored another country’s take on this incredible art that is dance. While I will never be able to replicate anything from that experience, I learned how to put my mind and body in an authentic place.
On my first day back from Europe, even after crying upon landing back in the states, I started opening my eyes and fully taking in the magic around me. Though I have found myself on the same train every morning, passing the same performers in the underpasses and ordering the same cup of coffee it can all be so much more than just that. You can chose to let your surrounding hinder your creativity or you can chose to let them inspire you. I constantly have so much to be inspired by when taking classes at Steps, a place with so many artists flowing in and out of it. I plan on using the new self confidence I’ve gained in my travels to enjoy and learn as much as possible until it is my turn to reciprocate the qualities that have been bestowed upon me.