thoughts on dance. (and God).

It’s past midnight and I’m feeling irate.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a great afternoon, evening and night of dancing with old and new friends there to share (shout out to Soul Sessions – love!).  Blessed, I am.  Why?  Because I crossed paths with dance makers, movers, art lovers of many varieties.  I’m inspired.

But still irate.

McKersin’s recent Facebook status inspired to put to words something that’s been brewing in me for ages.   More or less, he said that it irks him when classical ballet dancers preach that ballet is the one and only sole foundation for all dance styles.  A Facebook argument ensued.  “Yes, ballet IS the foundation…” claimed one voice.  “No, it’s not,” McKersin declared with some dance history to back up his stuff.  Similar to his vein of thought, I must state that I LOVE BALLET.  I love the practice and what it does for me, not just as a dancer, but as a human with a body.  And a mind.  And a soul.  It’s my yoga, more than yoga.  And I’m a certified yoga instructor.  But the practice of ballet is where I find my union with my creator.

That being said, I am NOT claiming that ballet is THE single source of any foundation I have in physical or spiritual discipline, or connection even.  It just happens to be my preference.  I have trained in other movement disciplines as well – yoga, West African, Horton, Graham.  I’ve performed ballet, modern, contemporary, experimental dance theater, burlesque.  I have taught ballet, modern, creative movement, improvisation, neo ballet, jazz and more.  I also improvise on a regular basis in which I simply let the chi, that universal energy that lives inside every single one of us human beings on this planet, flow.  I enjoy all of these practices.

I don’t usually perform in front of audiences to music with lyrics.   I prefer rolling around on the floor, or contemporary ballet conceptualism, or even some story-telling.  Tonight at Soul Sessions, I was planning on busting out some piano music with a little beat behind it.  But in that very moment, I wanted to challenge myself to JUST HAVE FUN.  (Yes, that is a challenge for me!)  Yes, I do have preferences, comfort zones and insecurities that inevitably limit my “moves,” if you will.  I’m human.   And I did.  I’d bet a buck or two that you do too.  And that’s all well and good.  But what is NOT well and good is when I witness slander amongst what is to me a very precious and fragile community that needs to support each other.  Stating that your dance style is ‘better’ than mine is just the same as stating that your God is better than mine.  That your style is more necessary than mine.  It cracks the walls of my heart just a little bit more each time I hear an improv dancers talk down on burlesque, when I hear a hip hop dancer remarking that modern dancers lack “joy,” or when ballet dancers turn their noses to hip-hop claiming that hip-hop lacks training or technique.  Um, no.  Let’s cut the hate.

Tonight at Soul Sessions, Sasha shared a lovely, well-executed, theatrical solo.  Brava, I say.  Dance can be lovely, well-executed and theatrical.  She proved that.  Sharon danced for Jesus Christ, her Lord and inspiration.  Amen.  McKersin brought out a thoughtful, hip hop solo that fused meaningful gestures, rhythm and spoken word into a touching piece about the proverbial air that we breathe into our bodies and the need for purity in thought.  Amazing.  The Babes in Boinkland rolled out in their underwear and portrayed the dark side of soul when heroine gets the best of you.  It was short, sweet and got right to it.  Then I came out and let Joss Stone and the spirit of funk take over for a few minutes.  It was definitely not what I usually do, but fun.  And I commend any and everyone who came out to opened their eyes and minds to take a glimpse into what our souls had to share tonight because it was a pretty versatile show.

And that’s what I love about Soul Sessions.  And dance.  And humans.  We are all so unique with a plethora of inspiration as well as bucket loads of fears, vulnerabilities, weaknesses; that’s the way God made us.  I want to see it all.  And praise it all.  Yes, one can viably argue and critique “quality this quality that” and again everyone is entitled to his or her own preferences and emotional responses, but one of the many reasons I wanted to create Soul Sessions was to facilitate a space where we can celebrate any old soul (literally?) who has the impulse to move.  For fun, for theatrics, for poetry, for a challenge, for God.  So praise improvisation – the fearlessness, the trust, the body awareness.  Praise hip-hop – the poetry, the depth, the message.  Praise ballet – the control, the discipline, the coordination.  Praise burlesque – the courageous celebration of human flesh and sexuality.  Praise funk – the primal need for pure joy and release.  Praise Bharatnayum – the classical Indian form that holds sacred meaning in every gesture.  Praise video dance – the moves and grooves that inspire lightness from the daily drone of blue collar society.  Praise the soul that feels the fear of expressing itself through movement, but does it anyway.

And by any way, I mean any way.


  1. Thank you Chienhwe for verbalizing what I felt when reading the FB discussion!

    May I add something (along the lines of) supporting one another will only stimulate growth in the community. Competitiveness will bring us down. The trick is to be conscious of WHY the competitiveness exists and nip it in the bud before it escalates to the point of comparing me and you or saying that one thing is valid over the other.

    I’m always curious as to what moves us to put others down only to validate ourselves. It’s the concept of the only “truth”, validity in only one, or some sort of “there can’t be two (or more) ways to go”. We are all working really hard at what we do and perhaps we don’t feel validated by society as much as we expect. So we turn inward to the other people who care (our peers) and try to validate ourselves. It is truth because it has worked for me, so therefore anything else is not valid.

    I hope this discussion can continue so that growth can indeed be fostered and the internal support (within the Boston dance scene) can be stronger.


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