Jazz Dance…..yes, Jazz Dance

Did I peak anyone’s curiosity about how I’m going to write a pagan blog about jazz dance? Yes, I did it with ballet, but many of you know that jazz dance is a lot different than ballet. Jazz is about rhythm, syncopation, style, big jumps, snazzy turns, and of course, jazz hands. I must admit, even I would be pressed to relate the typical jazz dance class to pagan practices, but I’m not going to discuss jazz class in it’s entirety. Instead I want to share an experience I had in one particular jazz class that I feel is very pagan in nature, as it centers around energy.

As some of you know, I am a dance professor. Every year my colleague and I take students to the American College Dance Festival. I have actually attended this festival ten different times and I’ve gone as an undergraduate student, a graduate student, and now as a faculty representative. ACDF is an amazing festival held in regional locations throughout the U.S. every spring. It is an intense week of various dance classes all day long, mixed with adjudicated and informal dance concerts of student and faculty choreography.

So it’s day two. My dance piece had adjudicated the previous day, which is an extremely stressful, emotional experience (just FYI, my group adjudicated really well, which was a huge relief as in the past I have had my ass handed to me…). My dear friend from grad school happened to be teaching an 8:00 am ballet class. I love her classes so I managed to get up crazy early after getting very little sleep and drag myself and one student/friend to the class with me. Now, I teach ballet, but taking a whole class is a whole ‘nother beast. Especially when you are no longer a fresh 20 something year-old. And I’ll point out that my student/friend is an untraditional student (returning to school after a professional dance career) so she is also not a 20 something.

Class was fun, but it kicked my butt.

Student/friend and I took a little break afterward and sat outside talking for a bit while the second session of classes began. I was pretty drained and we decided to go our separate ways to different classes. Since I also teach jazz I thought I’d go observe a jazz class taught by someone I had met at the festival the year before. She had amazing energy around her and I had clicked with her a year ago so I was very curious to see what her classes were like.

I arrived late, which is acceptable since I was just observing. I quietly entered the room and found a little spot in the corner to sit and watch.

Well, her class was amazing. Even though I was exhausted I could absolutely not resist joining in. I put my jazz shoes on and hit the floor. Now, let me point out, this is very rude behavior in the dance world. To come into a class late, watch for awhile, then join the class is very frowned upon. But I had to! I was absolutely called to take that class. I figured I’d just do it then apologize to the teacher later.

I’m so glad I did it because I can barely describe what happened to me in the class. Her final combination was so beautiful that it grabbed my heart. It was a sincere, emotional piece that was unbelievably touching.

Keep in mind, I’ve been dancing for 30 years. I’ve taken thousands of classes and learned hundreds of combinations and dances. Never has one touched my soul in the way this class did.

At the end the teacher had us all stand in a circle. We put our hands on various parts of our bodies, like over our heart and said, “hello heart, you’re a wonderful heart, thank you for beating strong in my body”. We ended by hugging ourselves and repeating the words.

And then I realized I was going to cry. Not just a few little tears I could dab away, but I was going to openly weep. I didn’t particularly want to do that in a room full of students and strangers, so I maintained my composure and when class was over I quickly grabbed my things and left the room.

My student/friend was waiting for me outside. “How was class?” she asked. And then I burst into tears.

I can’t really explain what happened in class. The energy of the teacher just spread into all the movement and into everyone in the room. It was a beautiful, rare, sacred moment when I was able to connect with why I dance, and why I’ve devoted my entire life to the art form. Dance is so much about energy and spirit and that teacher showed me how to reconnect to that.

Later in the festival there was a faculty concert where the faculty at the festival were able to perform for the students. The jazz teacher did a piece, and once again I was deeply touched. She simply recited some of the lyrics to “Feeling Groovy” while she danced and once again her beautiful energy brought tears to my eyes.

Afterwards my student/friend told me that piece made her cry. I told her that was the teacher who taught the jazz class, and then she totally got it as well. That woman is a rare being. She has the most beautiful, pure energy, and she uses dance to share that with the world. I don’t think this woman is completely human, but has some sort of astral spirit within her.

So that is why I share this story with the Pagan Blog Project. To remind us of the beauty in the energy of dance, and to remind us of the amazing spirits out there whom we can only hope to cross paths with.

I am so thankful I went to that particular jazz class and didn’t let my laziness win out. I can’t wait for next year’s ACDF so I can see this amazing teacher again.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A Changing Altar
    May 13, 2012 @ 09:33:14

    I few months ago I performed my first choreography in roughly 2 years. It was a duet with a friend of mine from high school (we both went to an arts school, in the dance programme), and I was choreographing it for a fundraiser for a national Pagan Conference.

    She is not Pagan, and the piece was heavily rooted in Pagan imagery and emotion (it was to the song Neglected Space by Imogen Heap…you need to hear it. It is written from the point of view of an abandoned park). She worked very hard during our short, rushed rehearsals, but admitted that it felt a bit silly. Very “tree hugg’n dirt-worshipper”.

    I was worried that the piece was going to come off completely insincere. I was very concerned.

    Then, during our second-last rehearsal, we both decided to dance towards the mirrors, but with no lights on. Only the ambient light from the city came in and we could barely see each other. Something about not seeing each other really brought out the breath of the movements, and it flowed so beautifully I sighed.

    We finished, and before we turned the lights on my partner laughed and said “Ok…..I get it now.”

    It was a beautiful moment where the energy of the piece took over, and even to someone who doesn’t really understand the reason, understood the message.

    It really was an impactful moment for me, so I understand the moment you’re describing. Congratulations on an excellent piece!


  2. etain1
    May 13, 2012 @ 17:25:07

    Very touching blog. I am not surprised at your connection of Jazz Dance to Paganism. Both (dancer and Pagans) are in tune with their body. Both acknowledge the power of dance and the ability to capture spirit in the movement. I enjoyed reading this


  3. Faeriedaughter
    Jun 16, 2012 @ 20:41:31

    Wow, I loved this post so much. I love it when dance just touches a part of us. Thankyou šŸ˜€


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