Now versus not: The Dilemma of Dance Trends
A reflection by Jo Bolden on the ever-changing nature of dance
So … there’s a conversation that has, no doubt, been around for way longer than I have. I’ve heard it in a few places amongst dancers, teachers, choreographers and studio owners. It’s going on in Sydney (where I’m from) and LA (where I live) and beyond.
It’s about A v B.
A. New, ‘right now’ dance styles, movement, ‘in’ dancers/choreographers/teachers and trending gimmicks.
B. Everything else that isn’t the latest thing.
There are some defensive reactions in this conversation, mostly because we seem to pitch these two (I’ll admit, very loosely labelled) categories against each other. Um … why? Side note: Category B was once new and probably daring and outrageous and possibly even resisted because it was perceived to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries. You know, fashion just does that. It’s supposed to.
So let’s say for a moment that there’s not much difference between this conversation and your wardrobe. When a new clothing trend emerges you usually have a reaction to it filtered by whether you think it work for you and is in line with your tastes. If the fashion doesn’t match, co-ordinate or clashes with your core, your ego tends to dismiss it. If it appeals (or you are curious) then you tend to try it out and this is where two versions emerge.
1. Some try it out just to see what it feels like and perhaps to grow and add to their own look, tastes and ideas.
2. Others look at what’s labelled ‘now’ and jump on in forgetting there was ever anything else, dropping everything they’ve loved to run for the new thing so they can feel and be new and even frown at all that doesn’t seem to be a part of the latest trend.
Note: In the absence of confidence in your own opinion either way you might go with popular vote so as not to stand out or miss out.
Here’s the thing (deep into the wardrobe we go). At no point do you need to get rid of your favourite pair of jeans to try a new hat. That new hat might rock every room you walk into but boy do you need pants to make it work!!
Perhaps there’s room for both your trendy hat AND your favourite jeans in the wardrobe, maybe they work well together. Your jeans don’t have to feel threatened. Let’s be clear though – the hat is not and never will be the jeans. A hat is a hat. Your new hat might encourage you to step out of your comfort zone, sometimes you try it once and decide never to do it again but at least you know because you tried. Knowing that seasons, trends and your tastes will change you generally don’t go throwing out the rest of your clothes.
There will always be a new trend, gimmick or style in dance. You don’t have to like it – I’m not claiming that I like or align with every new trend by any means. New trends, though, don’t mean that what you have previously enjoyed or held valuable has reached its Use By date or ceases to be relevant. It’s the response to the trend that makes the biggest difference.
Young dancers in particular get super excited about current styles, people or flashy gimmicks … and it’s their job to be excited and curious and inquisitive and to explore creativity. You know, we did too! The invitation is to let trends (plus the next generation of dancers) remind you of your own enthusiasm and to gently ask questions about newness in your own artistry and perspective. The invitation is to share the tools you have developed for how to experience trends without giving yourself away AND take all your existing respect, knowledge, training and common sense along for the ride.
Each ride will end, the season will change, the boundaries be pushed and what always had value will still have it. Ultimately, the more you defend classes, styles, ideals and your jeans against being outdated the more it says about how you secretly fear they might be.
Follow Jo on Instagram: @thosewhodance
‘Those who dance are considered insane by those who cannot hear the music’