What is Time in Dance?
Time is one of the Effort Actions that are derived from the combination of the first three motion factors (space, weight, and time) . Time is further divided into two elements: sudden and sustained . Sudden time refers to a quick, explosive, and abrupt movement, while sustained time refers to a slow, continuous, and smooth movement.
Sudden and Sustained
The Motion Factor Time can be divided into the two Elements Sudden and Sustained. The expression of Time as a Motion Factor encompasses more subjective experiences of speed and tempo. When exploring the two contrasting Elements, it may be helpful to think about them as expressing either ‘a prolonging or shortening attitude towards time’ or having ‘the presence or absence of rapidity’.
Sudden and Sustained describe Time as a quality, rather than the ‘reality’ of time. So Sudden and Sustain do not necessarily equate to ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. A racing car, an ocean liner and a plane are all fast-moving objects which are Sustained in their movement. They remain on one continuous, Sustained action in order to move through Space. Compared with these forms of transport, a trotting horse or a marching soldier are slow-moving but are both Sudden in their movement. They do many actions to meet the task of moving through Space. It is important for the actor to embody the quality of Time not the objective reality. If you were asked to become a plane, the temptation would be to attempt to recreate the reality of a plane’s movement and move very fast. This would result in Sudden movements of your legs as you ran. In fact, to embody a plane successfully, it is more important for the actor to express Sustained movement than it is for them to move ‘fast’.
It may help to think of Sudden movement as using the breaking up of Time. Sudden expresses itself in short movements, giving a feeling of interruption. It is as if you are doing the beginning and end of a movement with no middle. You reach the end of a movement almost as soon as it began. Imagine an idea popping into your head which you immediately arrest and dismiss, or your hand flinching away from something hot.
For Sudden, it can be helpful to work with the idea that you are breaking each action up into many different actions (i.e. that one action can comprise many different actions, if you identify all its constituent parts). An observer is engaged by Sudden because it never stays the same and constantly offers something new.
Sustained movement is continuous and consistent. It may help to think of Sustained Time as offering a quality of endlessness: it is as if you are doing the middle of a movement, with no beginning and no end.
For Sustain, it is helpful to work with the idea that many actions become one continuous, seamless action. So, the present-tense experience of Sustain is of one move that carries on at the same speed forever. When someone uses circular breathing to play an instrument their breath still has an inhalation and an exhalation, but one is indistinguishable from the other. The actions of breathing become one continuously Sustained cycle. Likewise, when snow gently falls the individual action of each snowflake becomes subsumed into the overall Sustained action of blanketing snowfall.
Sustain can be set at any pace, but once you begin the movement it must remain at the chosen pace without speeding up or slowing down. Imagine watching a rocket. As your gaze tracks the rocket, you will be expressing Sustain at a fast pace. Likewise, a tornado moves at a fast pace but is nonetheless Sustained.
Whether Sustained is at a fast or slow pace, an observer is engaged by it because it is one ongoing movement: they become hooked and feel compelled to stay with it. The fact that it is one never-ending, unfolding move means it is constantly leading to somewhere anticipated but as yet unknown.
Comparing Sudden and Sustain
Sudden relates to the finite where Time is broken into shorter moments; Sustain relates to the infinite where Time is without end. Our fundamental experience of existing in Time is paradoxical, as we experience both the finite and the infinite at the same time: we know our life will end (finite), but also that our molecules will carry on existing and transform to something else (infinite). It is vital for the dancers to be able to embody this paradox. They must know what it is to be in the present moment within an ongoing journey, and also what is offered by the beginnings and ends of actions.
Use of counting skills to control time in dance
In dance, counting is a fundamental aspect of learning and performing choreography. The counts help dancers synchronize their movements with the rhythm of the music, allowing for precision and coordination within a group or solo performance. Each count corresponds to a specific beat or note in the music, and dancers often start counting at the beginning of a phrase or a particular section of the music.
However, it's important to note that counting is just one approach to approaching a dance, and it shouldn't be thought of as the only way to dance. I'm simply introducing a methodology that is easily accessible. Some people dance without counting, relying on their exceptional musical talent, while others memorize rhythms to incorporate into their dance. However, knowing the counting method can be beneficial for analyzing your movements and improving the quality of dance during practice.
Fundamentally, dance is a sequence of connected movements between poses on beats. Dancing well involves utilizing these poses and bridges physically. Counts are a useful way to distinguish between poses and create the movements of these bridges.
If you capture your dance movements like shooting a photo, you'd have one pose at count 1, another at count 2, and a different pose at count 3, and there are bridges between poses.
While poses provide a structure of dance, it is the bridges between them that infuse the dance with its dynamism and fluidity. These bridges, the transitions between poses, are where the essence of movement lies.
pose A--------------pose B--------------pose C--------------pose D--------------...
---------: Bridge movements
It's crucial to pay attention not only to the poses but also to create bridges' quality between them, using the theories we've learned about time, weight, and space. These tasks work together to create the texture of your movements.
The Art of Transitioning: Bridges
Bridges, the transitions between poses, are where the true artistry of dance shines through. These dynamic movements transform the dance from a series of static poses into a continuous flow of energy and expression.
Creating Texture and Fluidity: Bridges infuse the dance with texture and fluidity, breaking up the stillness of poses and creating a sense of continuous motion. They allow the dancer to explore the nuances of time, weight, and space, creating a tapestry of movement.
Dynamic Expression and Emotion: Bridges provide opportunities for dancers to express emotions through the dynamism of their movements. The speed, energy, and flow of a bridge can convey a range of emotions, from the gentle grace of a ballet pirouette to the explosive power of a hip-hop breakdance transition.
Technical Skill and Versatility: Bridges showcase the dancer's technical skill and versatility. They demand agility, coordination, and the ability to seamlessly transition between different movement styles and tempos.
The Interplay of Poses and Bridges
The interplay between poses and bridges is what creates the captivating artistry of dance. Poses provide the structure, while bridges infuse the movement with life and dynamism. Together, they form a harmonious balance, creating a dance that is both technically precise and emotionally resonant.
In essence, dance is a dialogue between stillness and motion, between poses and bridges. It is through this dialogue that dancers explore the infinite possibilities of human movement, captivating audiences and expressing the full spectrum of human emotion.
The counts in dance help you specify these poses and bridges and fill them with different textures. Regardless of the method employed, counting remains an essential element in the dancer's toolkit. It provides a foundation for learning and retaining choreography, ensuring precision and timing, and fostering synchronization among dancers. Through the art of counting, dancers transform the rhythm of music into a symphony of movement, captivating audiences and enriching the world of dance with their artistry.