Active vs. Passive Process

June 18, 2019

Every action as a dancer comes from  a place of purpose, whether we are aware of it or not.  The awareness element in our dancing puts us into what I think of as an ‘active process’, and the subconscious choices that get made are what become a ‘passive process’. For myself, and dancers that I work with, I am always in search of the active process.

The idea of ‘it’s just movement’ is something that doesn’t sit well with me. While I respect those who prefer that approach, I strongly believe we have made a choice, whether consciously or subconsciously, for everything we are doing. Our brain is asking for an action, and how we approach the request can either be with a purposeful idea and/or meaning behind it, or done in a mundane capacity.  Our arms swinging while we walk is a perfect example of something that is typically done passively; very rarely do we think about which foot we are stepping on, and in turn how our arms are swinging in counter to them, but when we think of it actively, we become much more aware of which foot is stepping forward, which leg is bearing weight, the arm swing that counters it, and which body part is leading (is it shoulders forward/focus down? Is it pelvis forward/shoulders back?, etc.).

This active process is what allows a dancer to step on stage and ‘speak’ to an audience.  A gesture that is just a gesture may or may not evoke something more for a viewer, leaving the possibility for it to have simply been a moment of a visual flourish.  But, a gesture that is given an active thought, and purposeful dialogue of what it trying to say is artistry and can become an experience; something tangible and defined to an audience.

By Emily Bufferd

Jazz Faculty