I teach students middle school through high school at Ann Carroll School of Dance in Franklin, TN. The same place I learned how to dance and developed an addictive passion for it. We never had ‘Bring a Friend to Dance Day’ when I attended, yet I wish we had.
For the past three years I have been teaching there, ‘Bring a Friend’ week has taught me more about teaching dance to young adults than teaching my actual students. When you have a class that is a melting pot of all of high school- soccer boys, shy bookworms… you name it- and they are all trying to make their body do something they never do, it puts a lot into perspective . A few months ago one of my students brought her friend from Brentwood High School, lily Beasley. During this class we did an across the floor combo and then I let them do a round-robin improvisational exercise at the end. The premises around this improv. is that all the dancers stand around the perimeter of the room, you may enter the circle at any time, BUT there must always be at least one person in the circle and no more than five. ALSO, they had to make one physical connection with another dancer and one non-physical (eye contact, reaching but not touching, energetic exchange, etc.). It took a little coaxing to get some of our new friends to let loose and let their body move freely, but once they did you could see those pure moments when dance infiltrates the body.
Lily went home later that night and wrote a short essay and she gave me permission to share it with all of you. I don’t cry very easily, but I teared up at this.
‘Contemporary by Lily Beasley
A circle of girls lines the walls, a mix of dancers and their friends stand in pockets all around the room. Lyrical music begins to play over the speakers, and I watch in awe as the girl next to me glides away and into the center of the room. Her arms flow as if swaying to a sound only she can sense. She steps around lightly, each step soundless, and smooth. Slowly as her solo continues, a few others join her in the center, each moving to their own rhythm.
As I continue to watch the improvisational dance unfold before me, I watch one girl suddenly fall on another. The abrupt meeting of the two amazed me, looking closer I notice that they do not appear surprised. The transition from sudden to seamless happened within a moment, and I know that if I look away, the scene will be gone.
Over and over again, I watch as people lean, lap, and lay hands on one another. Though each girl moves on her own, they all share a similar passion: dance.
My heart fumbles in my chest, wanting nothing more than to join in with the dancers, but I don’t know how. They each move with a confident grace that both excites and intimidates me.
I look to my right where the girl who began the dance now stands, she smiles at me and mouths a simples “try it.” I look to the girls currently in the middle and observe their constant movement. The moves appear simple, and without a second thought, I twirl in just as I had seen the first girl do earlier.
Once in the circle, I freeze, I’m not a dancer. I haven’t danced in over ten years, what am I doing?
I watch a girl next to me move her arms in broad sweeping motion, so I do the same. With my arms, I decide to move my feet in another direction. With my eyes on my feet, I didn’t see someone reaching for my hands until it happened. My head jerked up only to see a warm smile, fueled by a love of dance.
We spin around and do a few twirls, each of us moving to the music in our own way–together. After we finish our final twirl, we let go of each other and return to our self guided dance. I soon return to the edge of the room, no longer an outsider, but as a dancer.
The connections I formed within in the dance circle in a few minutes gave me clarity to see dance as simply an expression of unspoken words. We all danced in an wordless silence, communicating only through our actions. As humans, we constantly seek the wisdom of others around us, while forgetting the fact that the most fulfilling discoveries are those we make for ourselves.’