“Let the dance begin. Let joy be unconfined.”
Dance has a language all its own and to see it interpreted by a master performer is truly awe-inspiring. While in the Berkshires on a quick trip, I had the good fortune to attend a master class given by the artistic director of a dance troupe. While watching, I began thinking about how his advice applied to our own discipline of writing: Here are a few thoughts that leaped and twirled through my mind as I watched a bunch of eager dancers put through their paces:
Start from scratch: The instructor had the students lie on their backs, pretend that they had no muscles, and feel the heaviness, the weight of their bodies at rest. After asking them to experience their bodies without form or movement, he asked them to begin moving, to call themselves to life, to recreate their bodies through motion. To me, this recalls what it’s like to come to the page: A fresh, empty page is like a dancer’s body in repose. When we write, we summon words and ideas out of the stillness, the emptiness of inaction. Dance is physical and emotional energy in motion and writing is psychic and emotional energy in motion.
Act with purpose: The instructor urged the dancers to keep each movement crisp and clearly defined. He wanted them to express each movement with purpose and intention. No wasted, sloppy, muddy motion — that’s what he was warning against. When we’re at our best as writers, we, too, move through our world on the page with purpose and intention. Sure, we may have to write and rewrite to capture exactly the sense of things that we want, but we are always striving for clarity and fully realized expression.
Create organically: While the instructor wanted each movement, each gesture to be fully articulated and independent, he also wanted the students to let one movement lead naturally and fluidly to the next in order to create a sequence that had a logic and momentum of its own. It occurred to me later than this is how we as writers build paragraphs. Each sentence is complete in and of itself, yet each points to the next and then to the next until we have constructed a small citadel of meaning. Write on!