The Worst Things About Dancing Alone May Also Be The Greatest

Written by Erin McKay

We are dancers, so we keep dancing. Though moving alone is becoming exhausting. We long to be together in a studio, soaked in sweat and dripping with gratitude. But maybe, just maybe, some of the hardest parts of dancing alone are also the greatest, allowing us to grow in ways we may have missed before. Let’s consider some of the worst things about moving alone in our spaces:

Not Enough Room

Smacking a foot into the dresser during grand battement? Longing to eat up space across the floor again? Trying to dance in a 8′ x 8′ space is the worst.  

The challenge of moving with limited space forces us to focus on the small things that make a big statement. What are we saying with our port de bras? Does our breath contribute to our movement like another limb? Are our eyes finishing out our lines, putting a period on what we want to say to the world? When nothing is taken for granted, and we make every movement matter, the difference is felt, seen, and experienced. 

Mirroring Choreography

Trying to learn choreography is tough. Period. Trying to learn choreography while reversing it at the same time and squinting at a 5-14 inch screen, that’s the worst. 

It is also great practice for across the floor and auditions. Many choreographers and teachers ask artists to reverse movement on the spot. But the words, “reverse this,” typically spur a minor yet palpable panic in the room. The ability to mirror something quickly and calmly speaks to our agility and can make the class experience more enjoyable. As we now reverse almost everything we learn online, we’re sharpening our skills, making what was once a struggle a strength that we can whip out at any moment.

Missing Our Teachers

We long to be in the studio with our teachers again. They share feedback in real time, demonstrate details and sweat along with us, driving us to give more than we thought we could. Trying to feel connected to them through a screen and second guessing whether we are seen at all, that is the worst. 

We can often rely too much on our teachers to push us. Without their watchful eyes in the room, we are invited to cultivate this drive within ourselves. We also have the opportunity to develop a habit of taking risks. This is the time to try things we may be too timid to do in a studio full of our peers and teachers. Who knows how bold we can become? How courageous a curiosity we are capable of?

Lost Community

Dance just isn’t the same without being surrounded by others. Whether it’s in a crowded class with fogged up mirrors or in an intimate rehearsal workshopping ideas, the ability to be with people while we move matters. We not only thrive off of their energy but we learn from them and we laugh with them. They are our teachers, our motivators, our friends and without them something that makes moving come alive is lost.

Dancing alone pulls us to ask ourselves why we do it? With no real obligation to turn on our computers and take class, without our community next to us pushing us to jump higher and stretch farther, without in-person opportunities to show choreographers or audiences what we’re made of, we are left to ask important questions. Why are we dancing? Why do we move? Why do we take class? Why do we work tirelessly at our craft, pushing our bodies and our minds to give more than we thought possible?

By stripping dance down to us alone in our spaces, we may remember why we danced in the first place. Whether it be our way to quiet our worries, express our inner worlds, feel bigger than ourselves, experience the fullest potential of our bodies, or just smile while we shake it, dance is more than being good at it. Moving alone can help us remember that. 

— Erin McKay

Photography courtesy of Chris Hardy