The Dancer as a Conduit

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Sasha Newman-Oktan | @sashanewmanoktan | New York, NY | January 2019 | 3 minute read

The Ancient Greek word “techně” is often translated into modern English as the word “artist”. Some people say this is a mistranslation, the meaning of which entails rather the mastery of any craft. I find the definition very interesting. Dutch painter Piet Mondrian is very right in stating that artists are not creators, but rather channels or conduits of creation. What comes to mind about the role of the artist/dancer is Michelangelo’s views regarding sculpture. He described his statues as creations already existing in the marble, his task being simply to remove the excess rock and reveal these magnificent pieces of art. Dance is similar for me. Through the precise skill of technique and training, the dancer is able to bring to life the potential already existing in the individual. 

Another example to help visualize “perfection” or the epitome of artistic expression is to compare it to “nirvana” in Buddhist meditation. To reach this all-encompassing place of greatness and purity, one must practice many years of discipline and meditation. In meditation, the person in question attempts to let go of all parts of consciousness. When a thought comes to mind, immediately let it go. It is a state of tranquility and purity. An effortless effort in reaching a state of complete oneness.

​The artist is understood as a channel of creativity, rather than being seen as a creator. Just as the statue already exists in the rock, artistic expression in dance is already an existing potential to be drawn forth from within the person. To realize this potential which can become palpable to an audience, it is essential to work through one’s hindrances – be it self-doubt, self-loathing, or comparison with others around you. 

By learning how to let go of expectations and self-consciousness, the dancer can reach this level of dance. It is about working to remove self from dance. The thinking process can simply obstruct purity. This is not to say that a great deal of thought and demanding levels of technique haven’t paved the way. It’s simply that the music and not an idea is guiding one. Acknowledging that the potential is there but is being blocked by oneself is frightening. Although, it is the training in great physical skill and mental mastery that make this possible, the secret is to be found in dance itself – simply allowing self to drop away and dance to happen: the conscious effort to reach a subconscious state. It is then that the dancer gradually becomes the conduit of artistic expression.

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