I believe that all dancers start with some spark from their inner spirit or soul. How that spirit is nurtured will determine their artistry.
Artistry has two main influences
- Oneself (for example: inner landscape, self knowledge, innate response to art, sensitivity, self awareness)
- Environment (for example: your teachers, your friends, your home life, your exposure to the arts, your health)
We all know how to grow our technique but not everyone knows how to grow their artistry. This may be because they don’t even realize that they are artists!
First realize you are artistic.
- Embrace the fact that you experience emotions deeply.
- Recognize that you interpret the world with intuitive perceptions.
- Accept that you may be ridiculed and misunderstood.
Nurture these differences, don’t be embarrassed. You might discover that other people knew you were artistic before you did.
Recognition is paramount to acceptance. Acceptance gives you permission to develop it.
I gravitated towards other creative kids when I was a kid. We loved to do summer art camps, listen to classical music, draw, paint and indulge in fantasy lands. I heard other people say that my BFF was “spacey” . I heard my mother say “Sarah lives in her own little world.”
You know what we were doing? We were unconsciously growing our artistic nature without trying. Creative people have to create or we can feel lost, depressed and useless. People who are not wired this way can be critical and when we realize it, we try to hide our nature.
My junior high BFF was also the one who wanted to start ballet at fifteen and I eagerly followed her lead. I had wanted to dance since I was since I was nine years old!
My father’s family were bankers, mathematicians and trained pianists. My father left our family when I was six but I saw him every other weekend. On the way to and from his house, we listened to classical music. He played classical music at his home and told me stories about Wagner and how Germany was a great cultural country prior to Hitler. (His grandfather emigrated from Germany as a classically trained pianist).
I am sharing this personal story because I believe that all dancers have had artistic experiences. Most likely these were sought out and felt quite natural. These influences become part of your inner spirit and drive you to dance.
I highly recommend this video on highly sensitive people. It is a Ted Talk and the speaker’s opening line is “I am a highly sensitive person. What is the first thing you think about?”
Great opener. Intrigued, I thought “I am not one of those people.” Aaaa..hem. Impostor syndrome can be very strong.
Technique is the perfection of a syllabus. It is only the means to share your interpretation of a role.
Nobody wants to see an untrained dancer go out on stage and emote. That is not what I am saying. Nobody wants to see perfect technique on stage with no artistry. I often say, we are not in PE class! Pliés are our first place of discovery in class. There is the music, the timing and the expression of the head and elegant port de bras. If you feel nothing but a perfect squat, get out of ballet!
To conclude, let me suggest a few ways to just grow your artistry.
- Put on the music at home and dance around your kitchen or living room just like you did when you were a kid. Let the music and imagination drive your movement. Don’t think about technique.
- If you are rehearsing for a performance, close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? What do you respond to in the nuances of the phrasing? Remember that and listen when you rehearse. The saying “Let your spirit move you” is rich and valid.
- Go to the museum, look at art.
- Take a hike in a beautiful place and appreciate the inspiring beauty of nature.
- Lose yourself in a book. It will feed your imagination.
Let me know what sparks your creativity and imagination in the comments below!
Yours in the joy of dance (and art),