“That’s How I Was Trained”
by Emily Bufferd
I hear this sentence a lot and oftentimes think to myself how it feels like a hold back or a reason to not question ideas. As an actively training dancer, and even more so now as a teacher who still takes class, I ask questions to the point of annoyance. I want details, and I want my ‘why’ and ‘how’ answered so I can offer my own ‘why’ and ‘how’, and most importantly I want to dive into all of it and see where it takes me beyond the status quo of what I already have and know, and the face value of what has been offered to me. I teach my students to be investigative by being investigative myself, and then when they ask me questions that I don’t have answers to, we dive in together.
With that said, some of us (myself included) were trained really well… really, really well… by brilliant teachers growing up, and Master Educators in our later years and even these factors don’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to learn more and do better. If dance as an art is to be ever-evolving, than we must be willing and open to evolving, and I don’t just mean in our physical capabilities. We must also grow in our headspace and our heart space… and then in our generosity to share what we have discovered there. This notion allows us to say, ”That’s how I was trained”, acknowledge that the information we received was great, and then mature from that starting point.
What my teachers have offered, and continue to offer me, are not finishing points… they are starting points – where I will jump off from where their information put me. This pattern will hopefully continue to repeat itself in the dancers who I train who then go on to teach, and so on and so forth until what someone in dance has in their tool kit is mind-blowingly progressive for training smart/safe/artistic/technically proficient dancers.
I think back to when the studio I grew up at had parquet wood floors over concrete (you can see it, I’m sure, it was the very early 90s). It was the standard until we all knew better and sprung floors were installed. A perfect example of evolution in dance that isn’t in the physicality at all, but that allows the physicality to happen safely. Someone asked questions, got answers, and once they knew better, they did better.
To encourage dancers to be inquisitive in their training will help build curious artists. Some of us prefer not to answer questions, and that is their choice and I respect that, but for me…I will answer all of them (not duplicates of the same one from multiple dancers in the same class, just to be clear). Some days it is arduous to do this, and other days it is enlightening…regardless of either way it swings, it is helpful to my students’ (and my) growth every day, and for that, I encourage them to be inquisitorial and stay curious!