Politics and Dance: Ask, and You Shall Learn the Dancing Politics of Others

This week the Dance Department is hosting a residency with David Dorfman.  With this week long residency, Candace Feck has come and joined our conversation of politics and dance.  Wednesday, Candace came to speak with the graduate students about professions in dance, oral histories and interviews.  Seriously, interviewing is an art!  The two most important skills to have:  listening and asking good questions.

At the end of the day, people enjoy being asked.

What stuck with me the most during this session was when Candace stated so simply that “at the end of the day, people enjoy being asked.”  She was talking about interviews and oral histories, but this truly refers to a lot of different things in life.

True, our culture has the problem of always answering “fine” when asked how we are doing – even if it is not true.  But how many times have you asked about a specific experience?  And how many of those times could you see the emotions of the person answering displayed on their faces and in their bodies?  In my experience, people just enjoy sharing their experiences with others.  I mean, really, why else would those “when I was a kid…” stories even come up??

This conversation has encouraged me to reflect on my time dancing with Elizabeth Clark Dance Ensemble.  During those two years, I not only learned dances from her repertoire and excerpts of dances from her past experiences (including New Dance and Humphrey’s Passacaglia), but I was also given several opportunities to hear excerpts of her amazing life.  These stories ranged from her times as a child, her rebellion as a teenager, touring as a college student, endless classes with people you read about in dance history and numerous stories of past performances and company members.  If I had never asked, I wouldn’t have known.  And she obviously enjoyed sharing with me.

My advice is this:  ask questions.  You will learn a lot by listening to the answers, and you could just make someone’s day.

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