*Disclaimer: This may or may not be a plug for ballet!
Let's begin by going back 18 years...
A young girl, about 8 years old, walks into her first official ballet technique class. Wearing pink tights, soft pink shoes, and a crisp black leotard she is filled with anticipation. She is excited about this new class. She knows she is about to begin the training to become a dancer. This little girl has seen the older dancers and everything they can do. She knows it will take many years to train her muscles and her mind to be able to do the things the older dancers can do.
Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and year after year, this little girl continues to work hard. She goes to class every day. She works as hard as she can. She learns patience. She learns to be still and obey a teacher. Sometimes she cries a lot. It isn't always fun. Sometimes her body hurts. Some days are so hard and she wants to quit. Some days are wonderful and filled with love for dance.
Even on those hard days the little girl knows that she loves to dance. She loves being able to move to music, and to express the feelings she has through movement. When she isn't at dance class she is thinking about dancing. She feels something wonderful when she is dancing.
Eventually this little girl has grown up, and eventually this not-so-little-girl-anymore has trained her body to do everything that is asked of her. She can jump high, she can hold her leg where she wants it, she has control over gravity, she can turn, she can leap, she can put steps together with a moments notice, she can replicate movements quickly...but, can she really dance?!
Dancing, of course, is more than technique. Having good technique doesn't always mean you are a good dancer. It doesn't always mean you are passionate and expressive. It doesn't mean you are artistic and creative.
However, does it help?
Let's ask and answer a few questions.
1. What is technique?
Technique, simple defined, is a "way of accomplishing." Technique is the set of skills, for any discipline, that allows someone to accomplish something. As it is often put, technique is like a set of tools that you would use to do something. It's like the hammer that lets you flatten a nail, or the curling iron that lets you curl your hair. Without the hammer, or the curling iron, it is much harder to flatten a nail or curl hair.
2. What is artistry?
I looked up the words artistic and artistry on dictionary.com, and this is what I found. 1) showing skill or excellence in execution, and 2) artistic workmanship, effect, or quality. Can we suggest, then, that artistry is a qualitative element of dance; something that comes as a result of something else?
On a side-note, I believe artistry is different than creativity. A dancer may consider themselves artistic, but not necessarily creative. I'll ask some questions about this at the end of the post.
3. How do technique and artistry work together?
Let's think about the little girl, who grew up, and developed great technique. She has passion for dance. She loves dance. She has trained her body for years and years so that she can dance. Her technical skill has become a tool for her to be artistic. It will now allow her to, more effectively, express the love and passion she has for dance.
4. Does having strong technique allow a dancer to be more artistic?
I believe technique and artistry work hand in hand. If you think of technique as the means to the (artistic) end, then having strong technique will only help you get there. Say, for example, you want to build a house. The finished house is the artistic, expressive, end. If you only have a simple screwdriver and one piece of wood it will most likely be impossible to build that house. Obviously I believe there are exceptions to this, as I have seen a great many artistic dancers who may not have the strongest technique. My belief is simply that strong technique will help artistry.
Let's watch a few short videos to see how strong technique increases the artistry of these dancers:
Simply put, I believe there is a technique to being artistic. Obviously, as I mentioned earlier, there are exceptions to most rules. Some dancers have flawless technique yet they are not artistic. Some dancers are very artistic but do not have a solid technical base. However, I still believe that developing strong technique will help a dancer to find clearer artistic expression.
Do you think strong technique helps increase artistic expression?
Do you think strong technique helps or hurts creativity?
Why or why not?