Working with patterned movement in young dancers

Working with patterned movement in young dancers

Here at Attik Dance we are always working with new dancers, new explorations of creatively what a body can do, different experience levels and different levels of the experience of dance ‘technique’, or what we often now refer to as creatively limiting movement patterning.

We use this term, creatively limiting movement patterning, not as a disparaging phrase, but as a description of the outcome of the creative offer that comes from dancers who have spent a great deal of time learning a particular technique or way of moving their bodies, and have little to no experience or understanding of how they can use a creative process to move their bodies differently.

With these young people, what mostly happens is that we will give them a range of creative tasks (more on that in a later blog), from a range of very different ideas and sources, and the answer/response for each of these tasks is the same and looks an awful lot like the technique they have trained in. So this is where the description comes in.

There is a limitation on what creative offer these young people can bring to the ideas we are working on, limited because the way they have had their bodies trained is one that only lets them fire their neurons in a certain way, thereby limiting their movement to certain actions. And not only is the limitation on their movements, but this is also a limitation on their creative options. If your body is inflexible in that it is only able to give you one answer to any question, then your range of options is limited to one. We had an interesting experience of this last year, where we worked with a group of young dancers who had been heavily trained in Graham technique. When it came to creating new movement out of new creative ideas, the only physical ‘answer’ they could offer was movement that looked mostly like Graham technique.

So this isn’t to say that technique training in and of itself in dance is a bad thing. Not at all. But it is a bad thing if there isn’t the realization made through the training that the learning of technique, whilst keeping you safe and developing strength and body knowledge and skill across your dance, is ultimately there to give you options creatively, not limit them. A greater strength, flexibility, range of movement and understanding of what is possible with the body should support an increasingly wider range of creative answers to questions you are being given. Yet in the majority of our experiences, the opposite is the case.

So this is a major part of what we are interested in exploring across all our programmes of work, but particularly working with Attik Youth Dance Company, South Dance Company and Attik Youth Dartington. We are interested in developing young dancers for whom exploring creativity with the body is a natural part of what it is they do and for whom technique is a vehicle through which creativity is supported.