This Summer, I have had the great fortune of teaching a wide variety of class types. Each week has been an entirely different story and in one day I may teach a group of fitness lovers at a premier gym, then ballet for a group of young actors who have never formally danced, a contemporary technique course for professional level dancers, and on to a movement exploration class for seasoned performers. This has been fortunate - firstly, because I’m producing a show to premier this September so the extra income has been helpful - but more than that, these opportunities have given me the chance to put into practice all of my thoughts and theories around the Bodies in Play approach. An approach in which my goal was to identify a way to focus my processes as a teacher, creator, and performer into something that felt consistent, authentic, and accessible.
In pursuit of this goal, I utilized Simon Sinek’s technique for defining business platforms outlined in his book “Start With Why.” In short, rather than identifying a product, he suggests identifying an ethos. Why do I make movement based performance? Why do I like to dance? Why do I teach people to use their bodies? Why? Because I’m inspired by the body, for all it can do and represent. The body is my playground, and a playground is more fun with other playmates.
Beyond defining a purpose for your brand or company, starting with why also allows us to reframe our measurements for success. With a product-first way of thinking, we may only feel successful when large amounts of products sell. In my case, more classes, more students, more projects, more money. Sinek, instead, suggests to design a measurement based on your “why.” For Bodies in Play, that measurement is laughter. When I teach a class (or run a rehearsal), I leave feeling most successful when we’ve accomplished the goals of the course while finding room for laughter. The interesting thing is, the more I focus on this measurement rather than the “more product” measurement, the more product I actually end up with. This Summer, I’ve witnessed the success of this approach carry from class to class and style to style, which has been immensely gratifying.
So now, my next experiment, is to see how this translates into performance. Can I fully realize my artistic thesis (which is in no way comedic) and still invite the audience to laugh?
Come check out Dearly Beloved on September 20 to find out. #ShamelessPlug
In closing - I’ll leave you with the beliefs and values of Bodies in Play:
The body is an instrument.
To be played well, it must be tuned, cared for, and thoroughly understood.
Working within a state of play is a best-practice for art-making and performance training.
Esoteric does not equate to intelligent.
Entertainment and art do not need to be mutually exclusive.
Growth in Uncomfortable. Laughter helps.
Rules and Restrictions create the scope in which play, discovery, and innovation can occur. They should be respected, and intelligently broken.
There is never justification for cruelty. Ever.
Simultaneously question and respect tradition and form.
Push boundaries, while leaving room for those who are new to the work to play and enjoy.
Collaborators are playmates, and must be respected as such.
The audience is our ultimate collaborator.