What is Technique?
In its purest form technique is a ‘correct’ execution of a movement –normally a format or codified movement that has a set way of being performed.
We might think, in a western-dominant culture, of ballet or contemporary – where clean lines, extension and outward projection are often captured. But technique is a wide spectrum, depending on the dance style. Butoh can be twisted, inward and broken shapes; geisha and maiko often dance in small, precise, isolated movements of hands, head tilts and feet; krumping is often strong, staccato movements, and so on.
It’s difficult to judge dance as a whole with only one notion of technique, when it is a multi-faceted lens. We should question our initial response to technique and understand the intention behind the piece and styles incorporated.
How I See Technique and Expression
I see technique as the grammar and language of dance; it helps us be understood and communicate clearly, and it teaches our body new ways and pathways of movement. If this was literature, technique would help us be legible, teaching us how to craft sentences, structure our piece, and different creative presentations e.g. poetry and prose.
Expression is your voice – what are you trying to say? What is your story and who are you as a dancer? We can all copy and paste a Shakespeare sonnet, but they are his words, his voice – what do they mean to us?
Expression is not the ‘icing’ on top of technique either – expression shifts and morphs technique. For example you might not perform the perfect chest circle because you want to emphasize the rounding of your spine, creating a hollow in your chest, to communicate emptiness or suffering.
Expression is vital to make the dance your own, to be a unique and authentic performer.
The ‘Perfect’ Dancer
I believe our need to show ‘perfect’ technique is tied to a desire to show we are a good, capable dancer. To show we are worthy, we are trained, we know what we are doing. But what makes this movement different than drills or another dancer doing the same movement? What about this reflects us, our voice, our personality and our unique being?
There is no ‘perfect’ dancer. There is only you, and you are enough. Use technique as a tool to tell your story. I want to see you on that stage – I want to hear what you have to say. Express my loves!