Wrapping up the second week of the summer study dance program has called for a time of reflection. Certain days, we are pushing our bodies to their physical limits and our minds beyond our zones of comfort. These challenges that we have welcomed and accepted into our lives, actually prove to be quite transformative. As dancers, we cannot grow complacent, we must continue moving, growing. As artists and human beings, it is essential to stay vibrant and receptive in all areas of our being. Even if we understand this to be true, how do we begin to embark on this quest?
Working with Donald Byrd, our contemporary master of the week, has made me think about this very question. How do we maintain an attitude of resilience and continue to persevere, despite the hardships we may encounter along the way? I think the number one thing we must do is remain present. We can only focus on the task at hand, while still maintaining an awareness of what is to come.
Mr. Byrd’s class is like a meditation moving in logically sequential, yet rhythmically specific patterns. The key – stay focused awhile simultaneously manifesting the physical desire to achieve more. Mr. Byrd has stressed the importance of really emanating out through space. He believes that when we dance, we should actually move the particles in the space around us. By channeling that energetic connection from the floor, through our bodies, and out into space, we can move in a way that is larger than life!
He observed the changes in us as we worked toward these goals all week, and because we persevered with these intentions in mind, we did make some major strides as a class. We began to focus our attention on aspiring, striving, and reaching toward the sky above and stretching out from the ground below. This was achieved through listening to our bodies and to the valuable insights that Mr. Byrd offered. I truly think he wants us to be the best we can possibly be. Sometimes we would repeat exercises 3-4 times until they were actually on point with the aesthetic of the Byrd technique.
His class is primarily comprised of technical exercises that are based in ballet and that strive toward a vertical orientation. We shift and transfer our weight from our center out into space, often using the true weight of the head in the four directions: front, side, back, and side. However, we always return back to neutral and find our center. It is key that we return our weight back to both feet, even during quick one-legged exercises. This can be challenging, and it presents obstacles because all of our bodies are different. What’s more, it is mentally rigorous. A high level of precision and divine execution is demanded by the technique. Nonetheless, it is possible, and we just have to stay the course.
I really enjoyed Mr. Byrd’s residency because it put things into perspective and brought me face-to-face with my personal truth. It is essential to check-in with ourselves, especially as performing artists. We are constantly putting ourselves in vulnerable and demanding situations. This is good because it builds character and hopefully a strong work ethic. However, it can be tough, so that is why I write this week’s blog on the value of perseverance.
As long as you keep moving, you will keep moving forward! Set an intention and that movement will be even more meaningful and fulfilling. Persevere and stay strong and flexible in body, mind, and spirit.
– Nika Antuanette
Summer Study NYC 2015 Student