This week, I’ve been searching for inspirational songs to program for the Bowie Senior Chorale’s spring concert. (Conducting the Chorale is part of my day job). It’s gotten me thinking about inspiration in all the aspects of my life, especially dancing. This past summer, I attended a workshop weekend called “Stompology” in Rochester that focused on solo jazz steps. One of the teachers there, Bethany Powell, taught this dance routine to Rose Murphy’s “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” In it, she incorporates moves from African dance, from a hip hop video, and from old Soul Train videos that she had been watching. It was a lot of fun to learn.
Working with Bethany and listening to her ideas got me thinking about the dance in new ways, looking for inspiration in lots of different and unusual places. The challenge is to take moves that are designed to fit with a different type of music and restyle them to fit into the context of our music while maintaining the spirit of the original movement. Lately, I’ve been working on footwork from Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” video. I’ve almost mastered the basic movement, and I’m now working on altering it to fit in my solo jazz dancing.
Beneath these conversations of inspiration and movement lies a deeper conversation about the aesthetics of the dance. What defines movement as swing dancing/lindy hopping? What defines movement as vintage solo jazz/charleston? What defines movement as blues dancing? There are no easy singular answers to these kinds of questions, but I think its important to ask them because rooted in them are our concepts of authenticity and authority around the dance. Personally, I try to keep an open mind and listen to what other people value, knowing that, while there is no singular right answer to any of these questions, the deeper we delve into them the richer our dance becomes.