Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Richard Powers - a fresh perspective on social dancing

Richard Powers is a dance historian and professor at Stanford University who has also taught and choreographed vintage and social dance for over 30 years. He is responsible to a large part for the resurgence and redefinition of social dancing and in particular the waltz in a segment of our culture. His many workshops around the country have helped to spawn a network of dance communities that focus on the waltz and other traveling dances of which Waltz Eclectic is one.

I have gone to a number of Richard and Angela's workshops and have been impressed by the fresh prospective they bring to social dancing.

Below are thoughts that I wrote down after a Waltz week at Stanford.
1. Richard taught individual moves rather than patterns of moves. Learning a move then practicing it in the your “freestyle” way allowed me to lose the move,  then find it again it while dancing, helping me to integrate the move in my body memory. This coincides better with the kinesthetic way I learn to dance as opposed to the way most teachers have you practice a sequence of moves that you do right or wrong and for me becomes more mind memory than body memory.
2. I learned a system, a way of dancing to music rather than individual dances. Understanding the continuity of waltz from the slow ballroom speeds to the fast turning and faster hesitation and tango waltzes was a breakthrough  for me. I can see the possibility clearer of waltz and dancing in general being more of a conversation with a particular partner about a particular piece of music on a particular dance floor rather than superposing  patterns onto music that they do not quite fit or my partner does not feel comfortable doing. 
3. Learning to transition between Cross step waltz and turning waltz or waltz swing also added to my feeling of breakthrough, as did learning the cross step one-step. These allowed me to forget what I learned (verbally), relaxing the work of my “left hemisphere” and just let my body “right hemisphere”  find the patterns that were appropriate for the situation. I dance for those moments my partners’ and my movements flow without any seeming effort on our parts. 
4. The concept of deep listening and the guided imagery session took dance to a level I have never been exposed to. One thing that impressed me about the week was how Richard balanced verbal “left hemisphere” work with a more body oriented “right hemisphere” integration of the work. I hope he continues with this and more teachers try to teach in this holistic way.
5. The lectures added to the balance to the week.
The way partner dancing was presented during this week made so much common sense. Why isn’t it promoted more by our cultures as the healthy, fun, community oriented, creatively fulfilling activity it is? Going to the dance should be looked upon, and encouraged just as much as gong to the show, going out for dinner or even going to church. I think our mainstream culture uses the idea of dancing as a metaphor to be done in our imaginations, when the real thing is so accessible for us if we make the effort. (Just my personal ravings)

1 comment:

Shelberita said...

Are there descriptions for the classes they are going to teach?