Research – Bill Evans

by leighcburrows

I have recently been reading an article by Bill Evans ‘Teaching what I want to learn’. My tutor from university recommended it as a good read and said that it may relate to our studies here in Spain. The article can be found as an edited version in Contact Quarterly Summer/Fall 1999, Volume 24, 2 Page 43-51. 
Within the article Bill discusses dance and the technical training that he has received over his years as a dancer and also about the ways in which he teaches now.
At the beginning of the article he talks about his training growing up, and how he was constantly corrected for doing things ‘wrong’ in class.
” I discovered that my body was mostly wrong. My feet and knees, specifically, and other parts generally, did not look right, and, therefore I did not look right.”
This quote feels really familiar to me for how I have felt at certain times throughout my training here in Valencia. Particularly in Ballet class when I have been constantly corrected for my turnout not being wide enough, my relevé not being high enough and my legs not being flexible enough. Bill then discusses how this way of forcing someone to create the ‘right’ move or look can injure them because it may not be within their bodies range, yet we become obsessed with trying to achieve it anyway. This makes sense to me as I have found myself wanting to conform to how the other dancers in my Ballet class look, yet, I know my body has its limits and that I should not over work it or push it too hard.
I have had my fair share of injury over my years of dance training, but most of it was acquired in my early days of dance training when I was not regularly corrected on my technique. Therefore, I used to have very turned in knees resulting in knee injury and week muscles around the knee. I agree with Bill’s article in the sense that it is wrong to tell someone their body looks ‘wrong’ or trying to make someone conform to create a certain aesthetic look even if it is not within their bodies range, however, I do believe it is important to change someones body if their posture is incorrect or their technique is wrong, as it could prevent serious injury. I am very grateful to the teaching I received at college and university to correct my posture which, without it, I could have been injured more long term.

Within the article Bill also states ‘Technique should be a tool for enhancement’ which I believe also links to my above comment about using it to prevent injury. It should not be forced upon a persons body but used to enhance what skills they already have. Technique should be used to help us learn about our own body but also should teach us to know when something is or is not possible for ourselves. I feel that the training I have received here in Valencia is mixed in its teaching approaches to technique. Ballet class is more about conforming to the look of the Ballerina and stretching your body to do things it may not be able to do. Whereas we have technique classes that encourage relaxing into your own body and doing what it can and needs to do, without forcing shape and form onto your body which is uncomfortable. I also noticed that when I first came to Valencia and started class I already had technique from my previous training very deeply ingrained into my muscle memory. For example, in Ballet I was dancing more Ballet for contemporary and not classical. In release I felt comfortable as we had done a lot in classes in Falmouth, and in Flamenco I couldn’t help but ‘dance’ everything as my teacher Marta would say. So I had to train my self to change posture and arm movements to conform to the aesthetics of Flamenco, adding a new type of movement to my muscle memory.

I think that it is important to work at perfecting a certain dance style or technique and not to push your body beyond it limits, however, I also believe that to an extent this is how we progress and improve things such as flexibility. I feel that as long as it is gradual and you don’t force your body beyond its limits then it is okay, but you should also remember as a dancer to listen to your own body and its needs and not to forget the enjoyment that can be found in basic movement as well as highly technical dance styles.

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