On Display

July 9, 2015

Reality: let’s face it, not fight it. By embracing the inherent “perfection” of the human body, and its supreme intelligence, we suddenly lighten the load of negative misperceptions that we may have been bearing. Interestingly, a lot of our training gives us the idea that we must “fix” ourselves, lengthen ourselves, or just change our bodies in order for them to work properly. The truth is, our bodies are incredible, and we may be better off honoring instead of shaming them.

Working with Zvi Gotheiner, our Contemporary Master for the week, has been a refreshing step into a clear, simple, and very mindful state of being. He encouraged us to meditate on a range of fascinating and important concepts. One of them being the opposition that we often embody in various techniques (we must go down to go up, right…and up to go down?) Does opposition produce tension since the body is fighting itself to go in 2 directions simultaneously? Tension is conflict; it is block of energy. What I really appreciate about Zvi’s philosophy is the fact that it is so logical, perceptible, and honest. There is no sense of illusion or false existence. If we are going to do a plié, we are going down. When we stretch our legs, we are going up. It is as simple as that. When we move with this sense of reality, we enable the natural flow of energy to circulate throughout the body. We are able to be free and actually enjoy dancing. Breathing is a big part of that. Dancing should be fun, right? The J.O.D. is a very important thing we must not forget if we have chosen to commit ourselves to this profession.

The spacious, expressive, dynamic, and expansive movement of ZviDance is a thrill to see on stage and to embody in the classroom. Last week, we witnessed their amazing performance at New York Live Arts. This week, three of the company’s dancers: Alison, Chelsea, and Ying-Ying assisted Zvi in class and taught repertoire from their last season’s work, Surveillance. They were a blast to work with, and we got a glimpse into some of the different personalities that make up this eclectic and eccentric company. They move terrifically as an ensemble, but they each bring their own flavor to the palate. I am looking forward to more opportunities to dance with them again! It feels good to embrace your individuality as an artist, rather than always fitting into a mold.

Back it up to surveillance, if this past week had a theme, it would be to be “On Display.” The concept, the literal title, the ideas behind it…all of these notions came into my realm of consciousness this week while examining the state of behind on display.

To start things off, in Heidi Latsky’s Performance Skills class, we are building our ensemble piece for the Steps Summer Study group’s final showing on Friday, July 10th at 7:30pm. The soundscape is a list of various descriptions of real-life people that we actually observed and recorded our findings. Everything from hair to eye color to gait and prominent characteristics are noted in this recording. Some of these descriptions are even of us!

A part of this structured improvisation is to speak and dance at the same time, and saying things as personal as, “My name is _______.” For example, I would say, “My name is Nika,” and gradually drop parts of the sentence until I am saying my name and then nothing else while dancing. In another section, we are all saying our names and increasing the speed of our walks and pre-set patterns until we are jolted to another state of performance by a loud, “STOP!” I get to have the luxury of announcing this immediate halt to all of the tedium and madness.

Heidi uses these tools with us to give us something to consume ourselves with while performing. It is distracting because we are so engaged in the task that we do not have time or energy to “put something on.” We are raw, in our essence, and I think that is what being “on display” is all about. It is a vulnerable condition because you are truly exposed and honest. It can be satisfying, and it can be terrifying, depending on the individual person and the context in which it is presented.

ZviDance’s pre-show for Surveillance, was set-up so that the audience watched the dancers essentially being on display for their viewing. We practiced this line-up in class, and it was a great exercise to explore the idea of watching yourself, or just moving with the knowledge that you are being watched: you are on display. We split into 2 groups and watched as the other half of the class enjoyed themselves in their essence and discovered what it was like to be like to be displayed. This experiment and experience was real on so many levels because it revealed to me what I liked and didn’t like. Now I ponder about why I feel the way I do.

In the context of class, I personally felt comfortable with being watched, but I understand how it might make some people feel uneasy. It may be easier to perform for a room full of strangers than close peers. Nonetheless, exploring this idea of being on display is critical for dancers since dance is a visual art form and we are always being watched – whether by ourselves, our fellow dancers sharing the space, or an audience. Now DANCE ON, & do it with abandon – like nobody’s watching, or like you are on display. Take your pick!

– Nika Antuanette
Summer Study NYC Student

Photo: Courtesy of Dance Enthusiast

On Display