Letter to Postmodern Dance; How Freedom of Movement is Killing my Creativity

By Terre Unité Parker

September 1, 2007, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

Attention: Postmodern Dance
CC: Modern Dance

August 13, 2007
Dear PMD,

After all our work together I regret that I must register a complaint with you, my dear friend. I notice I am afraid to do certain movements because they might seem to “dancey” to your postmodern sensibilities. I worry your view of me would be lessened if I drop into a movement from my modern dance technique training. I’ve been to enough performances and events with you to fear your quiet, back-biting judgment; you would view my actions as habit rather than a choice. “Look she is not free from her training. Still more work to do. Not that old dance vocabulary thing again,” you’d say. I lust after your esteem. I hope by explaining my impulses you might accept the occasional modern flair. Maybe my ability to integrate classically tainted movements within the canon of experimental choreography actually signals my postmodern enlightenment. But at least, I hope you’ll view me with an accepting, critical eye (I know that’s a lot to ask ).

Justifications #1-4

1. It just feels good. I have found nothing in your strange, quirky vocabulary that satisfies the same urge as moving across the floor. My legs are long, they need gigantic, easeful strides. I move quick and lithe with fluid grace. I admit that watching this movement is not nearly as satisfying as doing it. It is not created with social critique in mind (though I would argue its use as a feminist act of claiming space). It harbors no particular social goals or innovative aspirations. It is simply moving, large and beautiful. Aaaah. Come to think of it, doesn’t that fulfill a basic postmodern urge anyway? That I do not admit the audience’s satisfaction as my raison d’être?

2. Also couldn’t it be just a score, in and of itself. Just as “elbow articulation, close to body, circular, direct” is a valid score, couldn’t “step, leap, wide, swing, grace” be one also? For all you know I could be performing the image of a clothesline or a thread. Pointing with the toes elongates the line just like flexing the ankle interrupts it. It is a choice, I swear.

3. I can’t admit it as the primary goal, but perhaps my prima-donna fantasies of childhood still hold some weight. Were you not ever a little girl? Don’t you know the supreme happiness in a tidy bun and perfect tutu flying as you run with abandon through the room? The dancer- in her classical and modern form- is the epitome of easeful, feminine power. She moves with such grace, beauty and stamina that she must be above the cares of the world. She is as close as you can get to actually being a princess or a unicorn. My mother made me six years of princess costumes for Halloween but on the 7th she refused. “All right,” I said, “I’ll grow up, I’ll be Madonna.” But maybe I want to retain some of my childhood fantasies as I twirl around in the kitchen. You don’t need ballet shoes on linoleum but I’ll wear them if I damn well want to.

4. Not to mention there is something alluring about forgetting my intellectual brilliance. Maybe this doesn’t happen to you, but I get tired of the litany of self-congratulatory thoughts each time I perform an innovative movement. I’d almost rather give up pronating my foot meaningfully just to have a moment of quiet in my brain.

Maybe I don’t care if I’m an innovator. Maybe I would rather be a rock star, a folk musician in a local band, the smart, but still pretty girl in the movies, or to be honest, a dancer in music videos. But unfortunately, I’ve spent so long practicing inward rotation of the hip and meaningful connection with the audience that I’m not capable of those dreams anymore. So I guess you and I, postmodernism, will just have to come to terms.

It seems strange to me that in my quest for freedom I feel so limited. Please suspend your critical, intelligent, self-appraising methods. Let me have a good time of it. I only get to dance this one lifetime. I’d rather be free, if you please.

With admiration and all due respect,
Your friend and colleague,

–Terre Unité Parker

This article appeared in the September 2007 issue of In Dance.