Emmi's Pen (7): With or without words

Emmi’s Pen is a blog, appearing on our website every two weeks. Dancer Emmi Pennanen will take you behind the scenes into the daily joys and struggles of a dancer, each time zooming in on a specific aspect of life at Ballet Vlaanderen.

Last week I received my first public reader's comment about this blog-project of mine. Reading questions, and impressions inspired by insights I have shared so far, really made me smile. Also, it got me thinking on the different layers of dialogue we have in this profession. As dancers we usually get given our roles, steps and directions. With and through them we let ourselves speak. Most of the theaters we perform at carry approximately 1000 seats. Yet, though we are in front of big audiences, mainly we only get to hear about the true personal impact of our dancing from a handful of people. Colleagues, staff members, friends, family and some articles.

The biggest part of our season is spent rehearsing in the studious. When working from 10:00 to 17:30, it is clear that not all this time can be used continuously dancing. Whether practicing a solo, duet or ensemble piece, there is a lot of information that needs to be passed around the room. We talk about the nature of steps, the quality of movement they demand, the details and positions necessary to be highlighted. A partner needs to know which grip feels best for the girl in that big lift. The third dancer in line will ask the front girl how she intends to take a certain pose. Constantly we start and stop, receive corrections, discuss and try again.

Meanwhile, watching each other practice, we are drawn into a whole other realm of conversation. Seeing your friends and colleagues transform into a role, move as though gravity didn’t exist for them or succeed after struggle is inspiring to say the least. This way we directly connect to a place in each other where no words are needed. Similarly, when dancing together we receive a continuous flow of feedback from the colleagues moving around us. We synchronise our timing, relate our bodies in space, go in and out of character. Always throwing ourselves into the challenge head first.

Dance, like all art forms, is communication. Through movement, and with the help of the magical powers of stage technique, we tell stories, portray emotions and create new worlds. All the while pushing the boundaries of what the human body is capable of doing. Often I have heard the phrase ‘I don’t understand’ uttered in relationship to dance. I would say that is a good thing. There isn’t necessarily anything that requires intellectual understanding. What happens in a dance performance is a dialogue in which both the performers as well as the audience are invited to feel, experience, touch and be touched. After that there is room for conversation, for the exchange of ideas and impressions.

Emmi's blog: with or without words

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