“too great an emphasis on technique arrests naturalness. The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages. This natural flow of riches comes first. The technique is merely a way to organise the flow, to chisel, shape; but without the original flow from deep inner riches of material, everything withers”
The Journals of Anais Nin – Volume Four.
There is so much I love about this quote. Anais Nin is not a dancer, but her words speak to every artist. This is the second part of a three part series, unpacking this quote and talking about it in relation to pole dancing – to pole practice, to performance, to training, to choreography, and to expression.
I think sometimes poledancers forget to see themselves as artists. We’re told by the media and social memes that we are strong, empowered women. That we are athletes, stronger than our counterparts. We need sass, attitude, and if people don’t listen we’ll just bust out a move and prove them wrong.
Just like other creative endeavours pole dance is a form of expression, in your lounge room or on the stage. Just like a painter, photographer, writer, or singer, a pole dancer is expressing part of themselves. It feels good and that’s why we keep doing it! At the heart of the matter, we are not in it for the likes, nor to show off in the gym when we can do more pull ups than the guys. Our intentions when dancing come from within. We are artists and dancers, and shouldn’t be afraid to take that seriously.
At the beginning of the quote Anais Nin suggests:
“too great an emphasis on technique arrests naturalness”
Last month I talked about the importance of strong technique in creating flow. And yet, “too great an emphasis on technique arrests naturalness”. Is Anais Nin contradicting herself? Far from it! I believe this sentence actually reinforces the ideas I spoke about in the first article.
Without technique, obviously your dance and your art is going to be stunted. We need to know how to invert safely, engage throughout a pose, and extend through our limbs to create elegant lines.
But dance is not just about lines, shapes, extensions, and poses. It is about feeling.
Movements such as Finding Your Freestyle, I feel, are trying to recapture this “naturalness”. As opposed to emphasising tricks and the latest trends, this movement encourages dancers to feel the music and explore what comes naturally. It is always worthwhile filming your freestyles. Small hand gestures or new transitions come out of just letting our bodies respond to the music. Your hand might find your foot in a new shape, or after a pirouette you might find yourself continuing the flow and emerge in a whole new spin.
I have had many conversations with pole dancers who find they get so bored watching gymnastic pole routines. These performances are an amazing display of strength and flexibility, but with so much emphasis on technique there is often no intention to create meaning in their dance. In fact, their routines often have little reference to dance at all, the music simply being a backing track with no effort towards musicality or creating a mood for the audience.
Returning to Anais Nin’s words – their emphasis on technique has “arrested” their “naturalness”.
There is a lot of debate in the pole community over labels such as “pole fitness” and “pole dance”, and many women and men feel strongly about only labeling what they do one way or another. I don’t want to offend anyone by saying that the way they pole dance is right or wrong. If you joined the pole community for fitness reasons, to workout, and be strong, that’s awesome! If your intention is to dance, however, then truly dance.
Find that space where you flow, use your technique as a tool to express your emotions and ideas. Make it feel natural, not stiff and ridged, and bring the dance back into pole dance.