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Stories from the Field- Teaching Artist Alejandro Bahia’s First Hand Account of the ArtWorks Program

My name is Alejandro Bahia and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Arts for Learning for well over 7 years as a Dance Teaching Artist. I love working with students of all ages, and I find it most rewarding when my students discover the “big idea” through participation in the arts.  So when Arts for Learning brought me aboard the ArtWorks/Performing Arts co-op project I was thrilled.  The opportunity to work with young, ambitious artists, who desire to push themselves to the limit physically, creatively and professionally, was too good to pass up.  Maybe, somewhere in the group I will discover the next Alvin Ailey, or Aretha Franklin? Who knows?  However, what I do know is that the artistic journey is fraught with failure, frustration, and occasionally an epiphany that helps get you to the next level. I’ve been there and now it’s my job to push the ArtWorks interns outside their comfort zone and into this crazy place called creativity or art.  I’ve been pushing them in three different ways as artists. We have been studying our instrument, developing and strengthening our technique, and engaging in problem solving through creativity.

A dancer must know how his instrument, or in this case how his body works .  Just as a guitarist would be the laughingstock of his band if he didn’t know how to tune his instrument or restring that pesky high E, it’s the same if a dancer doesn’t know his brain from his gluteus! The body is a marvelous machine.  It can carry a bag of groceries home and in the next moment it can express unbridled joy through a grande jete. Physically, how does this happen? To the laymen, it may just seem like a matter of muscle and will, but the dancer in the Artwork program quickly learns it is much more than that.  It’s a complex system of levers, pulley and ingenious design that make the seemingly impossible, possible. To the chagrin of my interns, they probably can tell you the bones in the leg in their sleep.  However, don’t be startled if they start speaking in a foreign language.  It’s anatomical terminology that they’ve picked up along the way.  So rest easy, for the most part I’ve left their English intact!

Technique.  At times, it seems like developing good technique is one part magic and one part futility.  I can see it in the faces of the interns. Nothing like teaching a combination and then when it’s time to execute, their minds go blank.  Eight counts of blank stares before they realize that yes, I’m going to make them repeat the combination. Again, I’ve been there and understand their pain. It’s part of the process of repeating and refining until the dancers have developed extraordinary control over their bodies.

Masterful knowledge of the anatomy, and technical virtuosity can’t be the only goals.  If it is then all I’ve produced are really good gym instructors.  I believe it has to go beyond that.  I really see the arts as a chance to think out the box.  Again, my interns will probably attest that I’ve been dutifully pushing them past the mere conventional.  In our meetings, there’s no way to google the right answer. I’ve constantly sent back ideas back to the drawing board to be reworked or explored further.  However, I believe the time we’ve spent honing their creations has helped make them stronger artists.  I don’t know if my interns will be able to read this, but I can’t wait to see some of their pieces performed.

As you can probably deduce, I expect a lot out my interns.  I can’t stress how important it is to understand the body, possess stellar technique, and to be able to be creative on the drop of a hat.  So if you hear your son or daughter mumbling under their breath strange words such as imperturbable,  petit battement, or frappes, don’t worry, it’s all part of the process!

This entry was published on June 29, 2012 at 2:59 pm. It’s filed under Projects, Teaching Artists, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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