Dance Ugly and Drool: Eternal Memory Found Through Movement by Vin Marti
When I was three, I sat in front of a small black and white TV, watching a variety show. A pair of dancers moved into the mystery of their craft, and the atmosphere became suddenly charged and dense. I watched the dancers and I watched myself. I knew what they were doing and what they would do next. Each step appeared slowed down and familiar. In that moment, my world changed.
I’d love to say that I ran to my parents room and shouted “GOTTA DANCE!” But no, that memory slept in my subconscious only to awaken many years later to inspire me to become a dance teacher.
Dance evolves. In the 25 years I have been teaching, I’ve found that I am the student as much as the teacher of it. Just as no two bodies are the same, nor can they express the same emotion in the same way, no two classes are the same. The space, the participants, my personal evolution, the state of the world, all conspire to dictate the content of class.
Dance Like Nobody’s Watching Most bring along previously conceived scripts to a movement class and then hang on to them as if they were the ego itself. It’s familiar and feels safe. No problem... Lots of people choose security and safety over experimentation and the unknown.
Hey, but this is dance, not a routine. To each student I give two things: scissors and an invitation. The scissors are to shred the script. The invitation is to rearrange the parts of that script, to create something at once familiar and new.
Dancing “pretty” is not necessary. People say “I don’t have rhythm, I’m a klutz,” But that’s just mind chatter. The simple act of walking sets a rhythm.
It’s important to put aside preconceived notions of what makes a dancer. It’s OK, even desirable, to Dance Ugly. There is a wide range of expression between singing in the shower and singing soprano for the metropolitan opera—and it is just that ground between two poles of creative expression that interests me. I want students to be comfortable, unaffected, and unconcerned with how they look when they dance. There may be mirrors in life worth paying attention to, but there are no mirrors in my classes!
My credo is “Dance Ugly and Drool.” Get unselfconscious. I say “Wake up! Disrupt the dream! Get rattled!” These are invitations. I encourage students to embrace the place they find themselves in, both in the dance room and in the living room of their daily lives.
The Intimate and the Infinite When we first start, we dance to the “little sound,” the music coming out of the speakers. But eventually we learn to dance to the “Big Sound.” Big Sound is the music we not only hear but learn to see and sense all around us. This is the music all of us are playing, with the wave of an arm, the turn of a head, lowering of a body to earth. Big Sound is the music that is present in the physical silence of a room. When we first dance, sound leads us and we go with it 100%. But soon we understand that we, in fact, are the leaders and the sound follows us. Finally, there is no leader, no follower, just dance.
Such dance frees us to understand that we’re moving in all directions at all times, simultaneously. It’s as true in life as it is in dance. When we dance forward, the other directions are there too: upward, diagonal, downward. I coach students to stay in orbit, not allow their dance to become unilateral, but rather dance as if moving in all directions at once. We are the stars in the firmament, orbiting and rotating. We were born to dance.
In this way, the myth of separation and solidity is explored from a different platform. There are times after dancing vigorously, soaking with sweat, that the connection between us all comes sharply into focus. The wake of my dance affects the dance of another. The exhalation of one dancer becomes the inhalation of another dancer. The space in the room is a conduit between all dancers. The space in the room and the space behind our eyes is one and the same. The intimate and the infinite share a common source.
We gather together to forget about everything and everyone, and we dance. The miracle of life is experienced in the shifting weight, as we sweat our prayers and breathe our worries away. The soul accompanies the body in motion when our daily cares cease to obstruct it.
Dance is effective for dropping out of thoughts and into your body in motion. Then, if you’re really lucky, you’ll sample a few seconds of no-thought, no-worry, no-needs, no-desires—and be in the intimacy and infinity of self and silence.
Vin Marti is Co-Director of Body Moves, an innovative movement arts studio in Portland, Oregon. He has been teaching movement for over 25 years. Vin is currently a faculty member of Gabrielle Roth’s Moving Center and conducts classes and workshops throughout North America.