A Slight Change of Plans
Anyone who knows me knows that I really like... well... knowing things. I want to be the most knowledgeable person possible and pursue everything I do with supreme understanding and thoughtful planning. However, I never seem to know where my creative process is going to take me until I get there. Every time, I try to meticulously plan and consider what I want to creatively explore and every time, my plan kind of flies out the window. My intellectual curiosities seem to only ever be able to kickstart my process… and then whatever emotional intuition I have runs off with all the creative juice.
I started this blog by simply stating that I wanted to explore creating ballet in unconventional spaces for my Artistic Project in my Artistic Praxis I course. After weeks of brainstorming, self-reflection, and choreographic exploration, I’ve decided to film this project in a studio. So… the most conventional dance space (besides a stage, I suppose). I also do not plan on being the “star” of this project. I have decided that I want my students to shine.
I am currently taking the second half of Artistic Praxis - Artistic Praxis II, at the same time as Artistic Praxis I (my schedule is a strange one). For my second class, I have been required to do an Artistic Project that involves my own pedagogy. For this, I have been teaching some of my ballet conservatory students about the choreographic process and how they can create their own ballet choreography. We are getting close to finishing the project, which culminates in them creating their own solo. To create this solo, they will follow the prompt “Ballet class makes me feel _____, like a ______.” The example I used for them was, “Ballet class makes me feel super happy, like a bee who just found a realllyyyyyy big flower.”
A quick note: ballet class does not always make me super happy, but the physical comedy of me improvising what a happy bee doing ballet would look like made us all giggle. So that’s something!
Also, apparently bees do "dance" to show their hive-mates where they discovered a good source of pollen or nectar (like a reallyyyyyy big flower...).
Witnessing my students blossom into thoughtful, collaborative, self-assured creatives during this project has made me realize that “space” or “environment” is so much more than a physical location. A ballet studio can transform itself from a place of nervousness, competition, and approval-seeking to a place of connectivity, idea-generation, and question-asking with a simple shift of pedagogical focus. As I watched my students work independently on their in-class project last week, I realized that as a class, we had created an “unconventional space” without changing our location - we created a ballet studio environment that was supportive and collaborative.
I plan on filming my students’ solo work (if they choose to participate) in the space where they have made this magic. I will approach the process the same way I would any professional project - by respecting each artist’s unique perspective and vision for their part of the film. I will then edit the solos together, possibly adding spoken word or additional choreographic elements as we go along. Although I will not be able to personally post this work to respect the privacy of my students, this artistic idea just… feels right. I mean - does art have to be posted publicly to be considered art?
My goal for this project was to do “ballet on my own terms.” This goal was created because I still felt terrified to choreograph ballet outside of a recital dance… because I myself have so much trauma around my own bodily relationship with ballet. When I look at and speak to my students, they do not appear to be fearful. They aren’t constantly unpacking all sorts of messed up stuff. They just really like making ballet dances. In a lot of ways, they are ahead of me on this journey.
Being able to pass on a message to my students that they are allowed to and are capable of doing ballet on THEIR terms feels much more personally impactful than simply showing myself that through my own choreography. Although I am sure my students will have their fair share of thoughts and feelings that they will have to work through regarding ballet once they are in their twenties… maybe they will be able to unpack a bit less than I have.
After I gave the kids their solo prompt, one student asked if I would create a solo too so I could perform with them… maybe I will have to dig deeper into my bee performance.