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Too Much Technique?

Technique is absolutely necessary to be a successful dancer, that fact is indisputable. However, is it possible to have too much technique? Many people would think that I am crazy and that—no matter what—the more technique training a dancer has, the better they will become. I disagree, hear me out.

Often times, dancers who are taught technique, and ONLY technique, for years and years become restrained. Its similar to a history class: a course that only involves memorizing facts and being able to perfectly recite them is not nearly as interesting or beneficial as learning the facts and how they relate to both ancient history and more recent events. Dance is about more than learning how to perfect your lines and turn as many times as possible—its about sculpting a movement quality that has different dynamics, artistry and sensation in it.

Many schools, especially strictly ballet institutions and competition oriented studios, are focused on creating “photo dancers”. A photo dancer is a dancer who looks great in photographs and can hit the most beautiful lines that illustrate their facility, but lack the ability to hold an audience’s interest on stage. These dancers are unfortunately becoming more and more common. Part of the reason for this is emphasis on tricks and a neglecting of transitions. Growing competition culture has taught young dancers that five pirouettes, a 140 degree side extension, and the ability to hit your nose with your ankle is the definition of technique and the definition of a good dancer.

That could not be further from the truth. The most beautiful thing about dance is the quality of the movements, the dynamics. How a dancer gets from one movement to the next, how they breathe through movement, how they change the rhythm of their bodies…that is what makes dancers often seem to transcend human abilities.

Even if you take tricks out of the equation, many dancers are too concerned about maintaining perfect posture, and pointing their feet (not that those are bad things). They forget to enjoy the act of moving, and that is evident when they step out on stage. My favorite dancers to watch are the ones who have technique, but I don’t even notice it because I am so engaged in the dancer’s presence.

Success in dance undeniably requires technical training, and lots of it. But it also requires a genuine appreciation for the intricacies of movement—something that you won’t learn if all you focus on is rigid technique. Artistry and intent can not be left out of any technical movement a dancer makes.