ON THE FLOOR: Dance students, led by Ebanks (far left), illustrated some of the ideas explored. Below, panellists contributing to the discussion.
How do choreographers and dancers achieve their vision? How do they use their bodies to communicate? The list of sensible responses is potentially endless, as evidenced by the discussion that unfolded inside the Dance Studio Theatre of the Edna Manley College on Thursday afternoon during a panel discussion/lecture demonstration dubbed "The Arts as Language," moderated by Amina Blackwood-Meeks.
Insightful and captivating, the discussion wove together eye-opening aspects of the performing arts, the concept of beauty in movement, and a sense of psychology to examine that dichotomy between the body's appearances and abilities — and not just in terms of dance theatre.
Neila Ebanks made arguably the most solid contribution to the discourse, rounding up a bunch of her first-to-fourth year EMC students to illustrate what she referred to as "speaking through the body through dance." Much of her exploration revolved around the use of space, time signature and body language, along with various other unspoken techniques that dancers (aka movers) traditionally employ in communicating lucidly with their audience. Choreographic clues, Ebanks also pointed out, go a long way in highlighting motifs, with or sans the benefit of music. "The body is a terrific communication tool," the ace dancer-choreographer-educator concluded, "and as dancers it is always important that we use it to send strong and clear messages."As for the bigger picture, when it comes to speaking through any particular art form, the scope for misinterpretation must be significantly minimized. So argued Blackwood-Meeks. "As an artist, what do I speak? Is it defiance or revolution? What is it that I'm communicating?" she posited, highlighting a line of argument that genuine creative artists have to grapple with all the time. "How can I use my art to contribute to the wider conversation and the possibilities of where that conversation can go?"
The afternoon session, which formed part of a day-long Language Symposium, also drew the participation of visual artist Miriam Smith, musician Andrew Adman, arts management pro Denise Salmon, and the National Dance Theatre Company's Kerry-Ann Henry.