Lately, in scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I’ve noticed a common thread in the conversation amongst dancers/choreographers on status updates posted by people in the dance world. The trend I’m noticing is what seems like a lot of “choreography bashing.” It is usually a dancer posting an opinion that says, loosely, that learning choreography is not dancing and you are only a dancer in the true sense of the word if you are a freestyler. The comments on the status are always people supporting this thought, saying dancers who take classes and learn choreography are not artists and that choreography is in some way phony. Now, I am going to play Devil’s advocate and stand up to defend “learning choreo” because 1. I love to do it and 2. no one else seems to be.
I think that learning choreography is as valuable and as valid as being a freestlyler. I love to learn choreography and I think it does take an artist to find freedom and self expression within the confines of someone else’s choreography; to not just regurgitate an 8 count, but to find every moment where you can insert your own feeling and emotion into a piece- it takes talent. I don’t think it makes me any less of a dancer or an artist that I prefer to learn choreography to freestlying. Yes, I agree that freestyling is critical- but I don’t think it’s fair to downplay choreography and its definitely not OK to judge other dancers and try to make them feel badly for liking something different. I feel more alive when I am dancing in class then any other time. I love to learn choreo and I love to teach it. I dance from my heart while following someone’s 8 count and if thats not art, then I don’t know what is. I can freestyle as well, but I don’t love it like I love to dance choreography- but does that mean I am not a “real dancer?” NO. Should I stop going to class and sit at home and freestyle even though my heart isn’t it? If anything, THAT would make me phony.
On a completely logical note, It is impossible to deny that in order to be a successful working dancer you must be able to pick up choreography and perform it quickly. In a lot of ways working on learning choreography quickly and being able to be your own dancer within the piece without compromising the choreographer’s vision is a skill, like battements to a ballerina. It’s not fair to decide that only certain skills make you a dancer and all the rest is bullshit. We do this, we entertain, because we LOVE what we do. If you love to pop, or lock, or do ballet- then you should do that. If you feel free and alive while you are dancing, however you are dancing, then you ARE a dancer and you ARE an artist- and I don’t think any one can take that from you.
Support each other. Be positive. Be well rounded. Love what you do and love each other.