I’m a dance teacher and it’s Recital Day 2022.
I’m not only a dance teacher. I’m also an English professor at a community college where I mainly teach writing courses. For years I have felt that I am essentially teaching the same concepts, the same processes, and helping students deal with the same challenges in my dual careers. At the core of the similarity is the concept of performance—a “showing” for the purpose of affecting others, but one important effect (intended or not) is that performance affects ourselves. It changes who we are by changing how we view ourselves. Moments of performance then, of encountering an audience (whether that audience is hundreds of people in a theater or even just ourselves), are invitations for transformation. We perform—open ourselves up to effects—not for the effects themselves (many of which are unanticipated anyway) but for the experience.
Subjective experience is central to performance. It is a “living through” with “changes felt.” We perform because it is fun, exciting, or we are otherwise intuitively drawn to the experience. But in performing, in stepping onto the stage, whatever our motivation, we open ourselves up to being changed often in unexpected ways. Performance always involves an element of the unexpected, as any dancer or writer can attest. We don’t know what is going to happen and we are never the same after the experience.
I could go on forever, but these are the thoughts that emerge from and float through my head while I’m teaching writing, teaching dance, or what I’m doing this weekend: directing my studio’s annual recital.
I’d like to invite you along to share in the experience as my students and I take to the stage this weekend. I don’t know what will happen, what insights will occur to me, what magical moments will transpire, or how we will all be changed, but that is the magic of performance.
I imagine that if you are reading this and interested in what I have to say that you are probably an educator in an artistic field like writing or dance. Often I imagine myself talking to other composition (writing) teachers who have a love for, or at least an interest in, the arts. I hope you gain something from my sharing my experiences and thoughts. I hope you might be inspired to draw on your own lived experience in endlessly crafting your pedagogies. And, of course, I would love to hear from you!
“Dance like the world is watching.”