Dance can sometimes seem a very serious endeavor. Therefore, every once in a while, it is good to step back and chuckle a bit at ourselves and the dance world. Sarah Dahnke has come up with a project that gives participants the chance to do just that. Her website, This Dance is a Cliché, serves as a collection basket of the biggest and most overused, stereotypical, and unoriginal ideas in dance. She invites anyone (not just dancers) to send her their additions – “The ones that plague you when you dance or make dances. The ones that you’ve seen done a million times.” – for posting on the site, and requests that you visually document your submission in some way. She suggests that video (homemade or otherwise) is a great way to share your favorite dance cliché, although Sarah accepts written contributions if, for whatever reason, you can’t come up with visual aids.
Sarah, discusses her project’s inception on her blog,
This project was born out of frustration with cliché. I would work on movement then suddenly find myself paralyzed, unable to think of anything else that I felt was truly unique or really expressed my full intentions. I would be sure that I was just recycling old movements of my own or that I had seen elsewhere. So instead of letting these clichés inhibit my creation process, I decided to embrace them and give them a forum.
One of Sarah’s goals in collecting dance cliché is to inspire the creation of movement. In fact, the first premiere of This Dance is a Cliché is coming up soon! The work will be part of a three-piece performance of works-in-progress which will take place during Movement Research’s Open Performance at Dance Theatre Workshop in Manhattan on February 18th. Sarah is also investigating venues to show the piece in its entirety later in the year. In an email to me Sarah offered that “As a performance, the piece is more about ‘writers’ block’ from a dance standpoint, or in a broader sense, having the flow of creativity endure stagnation.” She plans to continue to accept submissions for the site indefinitely.
Laughing At, Not With?
Before anyone begins to worry that the aims of this project are mean-spirited, it is important to point out that this is a lighthearted investigation and celebration of the clichés most often found in dance. Sarah clarifies on her blog that her desire is not to make fun of the dancers or choreographers that perpetuate the cliché. In fact, she views the project as more of a celebration, recognizing that we are all guilty at times of falling into the comfortable patterns of cliché and that maybe (just maybe) that is not always a bad thing.
As a dance teacher, I’ve seen a lot of recital and competition choreography. And, well, is there a better opportunity for witnessing often repeated and recycled ideas in dance? After all, competition inherently inspires imitation. If something works for one group, of course, others are going to try it or atempt to reinvent it. So, when I came upon this project, I had to look no further than YouTube to document examples of some of my favorite (and most overused) themes and situations in competition choreography. Some of the videos are certainly extreme examples of the cliché they represent, but they are certainly not the only examples. My submission can be found here.
Be sure to take a look at the other entries while you’re there! Roll your eyes a little, nod your head, and have a good chuckle at these truisms. Maybe you’ll even be inspired to submit your own!
Do You Have a Favorite Dance Cliché?
If so, you are also welcome to add it to the comments of this post!