Betwixt and Between

Alessandra Ferri and Sting: Bach Prelude

[A special thank you to my students for inspiring this post. Pay attention to the ‘bits in between’ and follow your dreams. : ) ]

Learning  is two-fold, there is the information that is given to you and the connections we then make between life and the lesson.   In the summer of 2010 my students made that connection.  It was a case of the students teaching the teacher,  one of those amazing teaching moments when a deeper conversation between teacher and student [and they were teenagers!] occurs.  Love those moments!

I asked this group of pre-teen/teen students about what makes music and movement mean something to us as dancers and audience members.  What moves us/you?  They said that it is the ‘in-between’ bits in the music (click on this text for Yo Yo Ma’s interpretation) that tell us the most.   Connecting this to dance, we concluded that it is what happens between the steps which speak to us and move us.  This is where the story is relayed from dancer to audience (click on the text for Alessandra Ferri and Sting’s interpretation).    In music, if we didn’t have the notes in between the beat/pulse the music would be just a straight pulse or beat – no melody, no rhythm.  Movement is very much the same, if there was no ‘in-between’ dance would just be a bunch of steps put together sequentially with no fluidity, no emotion, no connection.  The result of both would be bland, flat, boring, in a word – mechanical.

For those readers who are not dance lovers,  I suggest that something similar happens in sport.  If athletes only execute the skills of a sport, without effort force, or passion, the sport is diminished to the mechanics of the skills alone.  There must be energy,  force, velocity,  and a [healthy] competitive spirit behind the performance of the skills in order for the event to have meaning for the observer, and certainly for the athlete to achieve any success in competition as well.   That energy and spirit is what makes up those ‘in-between’ bits of the sport, makes it exciting to participate in and to observe, and is what make us cheer when an athlete puts all of their effort into a play or event (in addition to team/country pride).

My belief is that art [in all its forms] and sport help us appreciate the ‘in-between’ bits of life.  When we watch a dance performance we tend to appreciate more fully those performances where the dancers have found a way to express the moments in between the steps and/or the motions of the characters.  Somehow they have found a way to internalize the movement and the story to then relay it back to us through their form and their dance.  At its very best it touches us, even those who do not feel that they understand the music or the dance.   In sport, the emotion behind the force and energy is raw, true to life and tangible.  We see the raw emotion given to a race or event and when the athletes take the podium, or watches competitors take the podium.   The [sport] athlete learns to use and manage the ‘in-between’ bits throughout training and in performance, becoming conscious of emotions  felt and learning how to manage or use those emotions in performance situations.   Both similar situations – one translates the ‘in-betweens’ and one manages/uses the ‘in-betweens’.

The ‘in-between’ bits of life [the yummy and the painful alike] which make life interesting, giving us something to obsess over (a little obsession is healthy!), to relish, and in the end what makes us who we are.   Learning to translate, manage and use those moments is what makes life meaningful and leads us towards our purpose in this life.

Author:  Jacqui Davidson  [Please note that this is a re-post from my first blog, Something to Learn.]