Sunday, 23 February 2014

Grace, and the phantom

I've just been watching archive videos of Yevgeny Plushenko and remembering how beautiful he is. Such grace - that mastery of the physics that makes the man appear to fly, to move softly and subtly and effortlessly, with instant acceleration, deceleration and control.

It frequently makes full-speed video look like slow motion.

Part of it is musicality - even in Olympic competition, the music rarely seems like simply a background or framework for the choreography. In many routines he still manages to make the movement look as though it's motivated by the music, and that contributes a lot to the illusion of ease, and the reality of grace.

Of course, it works much better in the gala routines, which are more like pure dance.

I often think that it's a mistake to learn how to move by trying to make it look a certain way. If the movement has a meaning, something to do, say, or express, then beauty is an automatic byproduct of efficiency in doing that. I can't prove that, it's just my opinion. For me, seeing that something looks wrong is often a good way to identify an inefficiency or bad habit and discard it. Seeing the way someone else does something, and noticing that it looks good, can also be very helpful in working out how to do it better. But trying to look a certain way, or to do anything simply because it might look good, is mostly confusing and counterproductive.

An individual performance is about how it looks for an audience, yes. But I think it looks better when it's looking that way at least partly in the service of meaning something.

Bonus: Destin and his Phantom super slow motion camera explain the physics of ice skates.

My favourite thing about the internet these days is all the pop-science educational content that gets straight to an interesting point. Or if they do waste time, it's with genuine banter rather than irritating apology. Not a Pensive-Presenter-With-Landscape in sight.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

My dance and Buenos Aires

It takes a few weeks before you can say how your dance has changed, if it has.

I made no deliberate changes and took no classes, except a leaders' technique class with Marcelo Gutierrez, which I found very useful, and recommend. I also helped another of his students revise some work by following him for an hour under supervision, and that student's improvement was very marked when he put the advice into practice; like having an engine upgrade. But on the whole I prefer not to mix classes with social dancing too much, I prefer to separate them in terms of time, especially if any marked changes are likely.

Jet lag definitely helped me to make a flying start: I nearly always dance better when I'm fairly tired, because it eliminates mental noise and the tendency to try too hard. I was also confronted with a completely new set of partners, the majority of whom had a high level of emotional connection to the music, expressed through uncomplicated (but focused) vocabulary and technique. This helps the follower to keep a good connection and concentration level, and my concentration level improved dramatically. It helped me to simplify my dance and let go of unnecessary effort, which is something I need to do from time to time.

I was able to bring this back with me. That was nice, as it was something I had wanted to work on. I came back with memories that help me recreate that when I need it. I'm not sure that it has lasted till now, but it certainly lasted a while and is probably retrievable, in favourable conditions.

I also felt that I got more robust and resilient to balance or mobility problems in the partner, which a year ago would have sabotaged me for several hours. This might have been something I had already, but didn't know about - I can't identify what caused it specifically. I felt able to be, confidently, more adventurous than I normally am at home and to dance with a wide range of people. The reasons were complex and the effect was probably enhanced by the shortness of my stay.

I regained a sense of inspiration and adventure that I had been looking for. The concentration comes with that. I regained the ability to lose myself in the dance with a wider range of partners. At least some of this has stayed with me.

I got mixed reviews from partners at home: I was more grounded, more subtle, less inclined to think, possibly a little less responsive, but the response was positive from those who noticed a change.