I've been a dancer all my life, and it has certainly meant many different things to me over the years. Along the way, I've also tried many different styles; every new style I have a chance to see or learn, I do. Recently it occurred to me that they may each mean something a little different to me. When I feel a need to move, I have my own improvisation vocabulary that's developed out of all these experiences, and yet there are definitely differences in the movements I need or discover at different times, and differences in what I've gained from each style over the years. So I thought I'd take some time to reflect on a top few styles and what they are to me...
Tap: My first style, tap is home to me. My studio as a kid excelled in tap, and everyone did it in addition to other styles they learned. It's a heritage connection to my earliest days in dance and to my Midwest roots where tap is strong. Today, tap is also my opportunity to be a little goofy; its a style with a sense of humor and freedom that I'm (ahem) tapping into more lately.
Modern: Modern is the style that taught me to bring myself and to take up space in the most authentic ways, always teaching me more about connecting inside and bringing it more fully outside. It naturally became my self-therapy when I first encountered it in undergrad, and has since been the way my improvisation looks when I need to move to process difficult or deep feelings. Modern is also how I move in prayer. Modern attuned me to my inner impetus to move. It means potential to do anything I need. It also reminds me of the beauty of all body types and ways of moving, including mine.
Ballet: This is the style that taught me to stand tall and proud, with gentle but repeated reminders from my instructor in college. It embraced my enjoyment of paying attention to the tiniest details of my movements to seek accuracy and grace, while also challenging me to let go and try to take up more space and move bigger. Ballet also helped me learn and practice the kinds of care my body needs after a good workout: foam rolling and ice.
West African: This style is the embodiment of FUN! It's free-flinging, energetic, grounded yet airborne, and always moving. Hints of West African pervade my just-for-fun dancing to just about any music style. West African dance also urges me to respect its cultural roots by connecting with others spontaneously in dance circles that follow the traditions of the style.
Those are the styles I've spent the most time in, getting to know myself in them. There are quite a few others... jazz, swing, Irish step, contemporary/lyrical, aerial, hip hop, and a touch of tango and Bollywood. Thinking of these styles, I see how they have been opportunities to experiment and get in touch with new parts of myself that each style highlights, so as a group they certainly represent this. There are many more styles I hope to learn, and I hope to always be dancing and growing through dance, so altogether, to me dance means potential!