The Ugly Dance

Yesterday in class we were discussing the idea of “ugly dances” and what that actually means.

Agness said this great thing, which was this:  “Beauty and grace can be natural, but ugly is more natural.”

I love that.

I told you awhile back about being on this “making a dance movie” rafting trip I took in the Grand Canyon awhile back, and how the photographer, the male photographer, kept saying to the dancers whenever we did a photo shoot:  “Extend everyone, I want to see a pretty line”.

Mind you, all of the dances and photo shoots took place on jagged rocks or in rushing white water, or while balancing on a cliff or climbing up the side of a canyon wall, so making “a pretty line” or “extending” was not the priority.

It was not the truth of the experience in that particular situation.

Being the ornery and rather bratty sort of human being that I am, I ended up ignoring the photographer and not getting into any of the photos or the film because “extending my body and making a pretty line”  especially for the male gaze…it’s just not in my DNA, and it isn’t what I care about.

It’s a problem sometimes, for sure.

But back to ugly…

What is ugly, honestly.

Who gets to decide?

And what does that even mean?

Sometimes I think we confuse the word ugly with what’s actually true.

And if it’s true, and if it’s expressed through a spirit of inquiry, then there is no ugly.

The uncharted territories of dance that take us to the edge of what we know and leave us hanging…I understand why we might perceive that as ugly.

Maybe it’s not in the lexicon of our understanding.

Maybe it’s different, or peculiar, or odd.

Maybe it’s a part of ourselves that we have been hiding, the most natural and human part of ourselves, that’s been hiding in the guise of pretty lines and extended bodies.

The teachers that have influenced and shaped me the most have simply provided a space for me to remember who I am.

They have guided me in unearthing those parts of myself that have been lying in wait.

They have helped me excavate and uncover exactly who I am….and that includes ugly, and messy, unkempt, and undone.

What excites me about dance is the humanity of it. 

The sweat, the struggle, and the lumpy mess of it. 

It’s ugly and it’s pretty, it’s surprising and it’s delightful, it’s deep and dark and murky, but most of all, it’s honest.

That’s what I care about in dance, when I’m doing it and when I’m observing:

The honesty of the human body in time and space;  taking on forms that disintegrate and reemerge, again and again and again.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to do an ugly dance, whatever that means to you.

Email me or tell me how it goes here.

With Warmth, With Jivey Vibes, With a toast to the ugly dance in every single one of us,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending