Review: How to Dance Forever
I recently read How to Dance Forever by Daniel Nagrin. This book was published in 1988, when Nagrin was in his sixties and still an actively performing professional dancer. What fascinated me most about this book was not the physical requirements for staying in a physically demanding job, but the practical guidelines and personal philosophy behind longevity. I fully intend to teach yoga and dance forever, so this was a great read for me! I wish that somehow there was a more recent edition that answers some of the questions Nagrin poses about recovery from injuries and training, because I feel like progress has been made in that area, and also some of the nutrition and training information is outdated.
I was inspired to pick up this book when my troupemate, Amy, posted a link to his chapter on "Noise" in a blog post she wrote. Noise is all the obstacles that you yourself generate in your head that prevent you from being a better dancer and a better student. He points out that it's actually really selfish to allow noise to create a false wall around yourself that you claim you can't change. I like this a lot. I have my own bad learner habits that I'm working through and now I am at least not making excuses about it. I recently picked up regular classes again with the super sweet and talented Belladonna, which is a fun challenge for me. I do have to learn longer combinations than I'm used to, on top of that she is asking me to add emotional expression to what I'm doing. I don't have time to get hung up on the fact that this is difficult, I just soldier on through it and DO.
And of course this comes around to yoga practice/classes, too. If you are serious about advancing your practice, there is just no time to get hung up on listening to your inner critic or otherwise let your small mind derail yourself from the task at hand: learning. And if there is no space for that your own judgement of yourself, there is certainly no space to be gawking around the room and seeing what other people are up to. When you stop letting all that Noise affect you, everything seems possible! I'm totally excited by that prospect. Whatever I want to achieve through my dance is there for the taking!
Nagrin's personal perspective, supported by his subsequent survey of dancers, is that spiritual and mental health is just as important for longevity and injury prevention and recovery as is the physical training. I feel strongly about this as well, and that is why I believe yoga is a powerful complement to dancing. Nagrin's voice is encouraging and conversational, and in spite of the fact that it's a bit dated at this point, it's a lovely read that I'd recommend to dancers of any age.