I love the notion of "fashion versus function" in my day-to-day life; it is something I think of regularly when I’m getting ready to head out after I have looked at my calendar for the day. Do I need to be "dance-able," do I need to be more business and/or formal, and do I actually need to be a combination of the two in any of it? Winter in NYC would also be a perfect example… when it is freezing outside, "function" (ex* me last winter wearing two coats because that was what kept me warm) always wins over "fashion" (one cute coat and freezing). This breakdown helps me figure out my plan for the day as far as my attire is concerned, and this notion also helps me in training my dancers effectively.
When we discuss "fashion versus function" as far as dancing is concerned, I think to what principles and ideas will the dancers in my room actually need to hopefully progress in their training, audition successfully, and hopefully, then work consistently. I am almost always doing my best to train dancers for "function."‘ "Function" allows them to go into any room and have foundational ideas down pat so that any "fashion" thrown at them can be approached with confidence. It is the age-old dilemma of "style versus technique," but instead of only thinking about technique, we’re going to toss the idea of how we actually do the actions of technique in there so that it is not an isolated element in idea or approach.
"Fashion" to me, is the style ideas. A dancer who is working on "function" can then apply "fashion" to it… a dancer who only has "fashion" may or may not be able to actually execute technical elements safely, but one who has been trained in understanding "how," can then add a "why." Jumps&Turns class is always a wonderful example of dancers working mostly on "function" – those who go into rooms like that to train very rarely break from their ability to perform in actions such as pirouettes or any other variant of turn or jump because they have trained functionally to do them… there is no hesitation involved in approach when they are part of choreography because of this.
These thoughts bring me to a tangent of why understanding foundational ideas (elements of technique) is so important. We, as dancers, can do pretty much anything with the security blanket that is understanding our facility and knowing how to make it do what we want it to do… being cognizant of how something works enables it to work safely/proficiently/smartly/completely, thus in turn allowing it to move presently/coherently/stylistically/dangerously(but safely, dangerous)/excitingly/etc. Nearly all roads of freedom in movement lead back to an understanding of "function" and how to approach each idea safely.
With that all said, what is "function"…"function," as an idea, is proficiency in a tendue, thus enabling progression to degage… in turn, allowing battement… which then allows any variation of a shaped out/stylized moment. The trajectory and progression of understanding "function’" leads to "fashion," and I hope we can get back to the ideology of making sure the dancers we are training are equipped to be safe in their process before they are asked to be stylized in it, i.e. "fashion."
Proficiency allows freedom, freedom allows personal style… the personal style allows performance quality, and quality wins, always.