This post was written by Danspace Director Claudine Naganuma.
In dance, we have a common improvisation exercise called mirroring. In pairs, one person is the “leader” and the other, the “follower”. The goal is to move in unison, so the viewer can’t tell which dancer is, in fact, leading and which is following. We do this all the time in daily life but don’t always notice it. For instance, after the choreography of preparing a meal, the collaboration of setting the table, the coordination of a toast and the clinking of the glasses, there is the commencement of a meal when everyone begins to eat together. In dance, the “ready set go” of it all is practiced so that there is a seamless commencement, a tuning in to others, so that serendipity aligns and we simply begin together without an obvious cue to “go”.
In the mirroring duet exercise, it is a challenge if the leader is boisterous, moves quickly or unexpectedly. A successful leader tunes into the movement quality of the follower to execute movements with the goal of achieving unison. With meticulous practice, dancers get better at sensing each other within the confines of time, space and dynamic quality. Eventually, the mirroring exercises become more complex and involve more risk taking. In ensemble dances, the dancers practice until, when the performance has arrived, they are prepared to execute intricate patterns of interconnected group work.
This combination of tuning in to each other, leading, following and dancing together, is a technique and, like any technique, must be practiced. The synchronicity that evolves can be very fulfilling to achieve and transcending to watch.