Forgetting the Steps

Originally Posted on Shen Wei Dance Arts' Blog on December 5, 2010.

Something people may not know about dance, particularly modern dance, is that we actually work toward forgetting the dance steps. Dancers spend hours upon hours learning material, practicing the intricacies and coordination of the movement and perfecting it. Then we work to forget the steps. This is to say that the mark of mastery of movement is the ability to rise above the technique and work in executing the movement and simply dance it from your heart and your bones. We often refer to this as muscle memory, where your muscles almost remember so your brain can relax and you can experience the movement almost as it is happening to you. This allows you to be in the moment and truly honest, raw and vulnerable in the performance of the work. I myself, as well as other dancers i have known, have even experienced coming off stage after a dance and feeling a sense of “how did i get here,” or “what just happened?” It is a lot like the common experience most people have felt of driving on ‘auto pilot’ where you drive a certain route on a daily basis and sometimes get to your destination without a recollection of the trip. To me this is actually the desired experience in performance. It allows me to feel fully engrossed and invested in the performance.