Before reading this blog post, please watch these two videos back to back.
The Condos Brothers
Coles and Atkins
Which of these two dances is technically more challenging? What should one value in dance technique? How much does technique have to do with one’s ability to be artistically expressive? What elements combine to make up for an ideal level of technique and artistry? How much technique does one need to execute any given dance? Is it more impressive to see a dancer perform a dance with incredible speed, accuracy, and athleticism? Or would you prefer to see the same dance executed slower with sustain, space, and command? Which one is more challenging? Which one requires more technique? Which would you rather watch? These are the questions that I am asking myself as I try to evaluate each of the 68 submissions for Technique Tuesday Challenge III, Metronome. I believe these are the questions all tap dancers should ask themselves about the capacity of their own technical ability and the projection of how they want to be artistically perceived.
The challenging moments in any given dance exist on many levels. These challenges are often technical and visible, worked on in class and refined through determined practice. The deepest challenges often come in the form of artistic demands that hide and cloak the visible elements of the dance. The greatest challenge is when these technical and artistic elements combine to make a statement of beautiful and lasting art. To make this statement you can not have one without the other. Having technique without artistry is like having the peanut butter without the jelly. More over, having the artistry without the technique is like having the peanut butter and jelly but without the bread. The combination of the two comes in many forms with varying levels, recipes and manifestations.
In an era dominated by instant gratification and fueled by the speed of social media these challenges are diminished by an onslaught of 15 second Instagram videos, #hastaginghashtaggingness, and filtered photography of distorted leg extensions with zero alignment. The practice of the things that places gain of likes, followers, and retweets is not the same practice that is needed to attain technical and artistic mastery over an artistic discipline. In a world that increasingly places an emphasis on short attention spans, speed, and flash I find myself in a constant state of agitation at the general lack of attention to quality, care, and accountability that it takes in becoming an artist that has the ability to speak.
I guess what I am trying to say is that much of Operation: Tap is operated in the ether of the Facebook and the Instagram newsfeed. I want to make sure that I am clear about what I value as an artist. I value and stand for having something artistically to say. I value and stand for the practice to give oneself the level of technique to allow a statement to be made with elegance and nuance. I value and stand for the time and process it takes in saying something of truth over the quick and knee jerk posting of a product that is shallow, false, and vacuous. I value and stand for the absolute control over technique in all of its manifestations in order to make any artistic statement you want. I value and stand for working to have the technical range to be able to say anything. I believe in using one’s facility, time, and energy to be introspective and proactive in improving upon this range. I value the time, practice, and energy that the 68 dancers who submitted for Technique Tuesday Challenge III took in making me ask many serious questions about what I believe. They are all winners for having taken the time to practice and improve themselves. Let’s try to be a generation of artists who stands for the importance of valuing craft, artistry and technique and the potential of what you can say when all of these elements are combined.