by: Eryn Goldstein
Like many New Yorkers, I spend a lot of time traveling around the city. During an average week, the hours I spend walking or riding buses and subway trains far outnumber the hours I spend dancing. Sometimes, this is really frustrating. I miss the daily schedule of classes and rehearsals I could count on while studying dance in college. The good thing is that my body is always with me, so I can practice no matter where I am. It's not always practical to rehearse choreography or do pirouettes while waiting for the bus, but I can walk with my feet relaxed and sit with my spine gently stacked. I have been surprised to find that building good physical habits outside of the studio has helped me break down technical challenges that didn't budge when I was taking classes every day.
Studying dance reminds me in a concrete way that everything in my life is connected. The way I move in my everyday life is necessarily connected to the way I move when I dance. It is very difficult to suddenly change my physical habits when I step into a dance studio. For a long time, I saw this fact as a complicated problem. Lately, however, I have been working to make my body's good memory work in my favor. I focus on creating habits that I want to follow me into the studio, like keeping my hips square while walking. I examine the people around me to find postures and strides that I would like to adopt. Exploring alignment and other basic challenges outside of class makes the most of my time. It means that rather than serving as a way to reverse the effect of moving inefficiently everyday, dance classes can be a place to expand and add sophistication to my dancing.
Now that I am used to it, I almost prefer this way of working. It challenges me to analyze my dancing and identify the basic physical concepts that can help me improve as a dancer. I don't feel the stress I used to have over trying to address all aspects of my dancing at once. I enjoy going to class a few times a week and picking up new ideas, knowing that I can try them out in the less complicated physical world of my "normal" life. I have plenty of time to mull over the things I have discovered, exploring the ways I can work toward the same goals in dance and in life.