RETHINKING, RESTARTING & RESETTING OUR AESTHETICS
Corona virus has struck everybody all over the world and left us unprepared, speechless and in shock.
Many plans and projects just stopped abruptly in their tracks. So many people left disoriented and afraid, not sure what the future will bring.
Our Ballroom Dance World, being part of this world, is no different – Not being able to work, practice, perform and improve is interfering with the very core of what we are…
But before going down the path of doom and gloom, we all know that dancers are a very resilient community, quite used of going through rough patches and coming out triumphantly.
It all depends on our reactions to the situations we find ourselves in.
Bad times do happen and when we choose to use them for an introspection, reflection and learning lessons, we will definitely come out as better versions of ourselves – winners.
In every crisis, there is always opportunity for new growth, creating changes and getting rid of ballast that was making no sense and pulling us down.
Pandemic pushed us out of our comfort zones, that most of the times were not even very comfortable, they just felt that way, because of the repetitive routines, where nobody needs to think too much.
Thinking is quite exhausting and takes a lot of creative energy, but now, we are forced to do it, reset our minds and search for better ideas and solutions.
That’s why, in this blog, I am going to dare you to start imagining new solutions, learning old and eternal “rules/physics” of design and use them creatively.
Most of us know it’s time to get rid of overloaded, oversaturated designs that were occupying competition floors in the last years.
Too expensive, too complicated, too exaggerated, bizarre, screaming into the faces of adjudicators and spectators, desperately calling for attention, and trying to intimidate fellow competitors.
Situation is actually very Darwinian and reminds me slightly of the time when dinosaurs ruled the earth.
It took a radical, global, natural event, that changed the conditions so profoundly, that those big out-proportioned, bizarrely designed creatures could no longer survive in a new environment.
They were replaced by mammals – eventually US, and we are The creative creatures, capable of adapting and constructing reality around us.
This is one of those rare Carpe Diem moments where we can seize the offered opportunity, get rid of the things and concepts that are no longer working and start discovering concepts of good design. They are timeless and we are going to need them.
This first blog is going to be about Good Design in general– what are the eternal concepts and guidelines.
In the following blogs I am going to take you by the hand and guide you through these concepts, discovering very useful and hidden rules that will bring more awareness and understanding what really works and what is just plain clutter.
A really good Fashion Design always brings a person into the spotlight, works and plays with body and skin types, proportions, character and charisma.
In the danceworld, it adds a crucial element – dynamic component – type and character of movement.
On the competitive floor, it is always a dancer and his or her dancing that needs to be presented in a best possible way.
Guiding attention TO the good aspects and taking attention FROM the not yet well articulated parts of the dancing.
It is a technique, that designers call Good Design, and illusionist call a “Sleigh Of Hand”. An exciting, interesting and constant work in progress, it takes a bit of work and knowledge to discover its rules.
However, this must not be confused with some of the current trends that are bizarrely camouflaging and desperately trying to hide – even a little bit of good dancing that might be coming out.
To make a comparison, these trends DO NOT bring out the good dancing, they only pile layers and layers of exaggerated elements in order to hide either (supposedly unfortunate) body features, or lack of dance expertise.
How do we recognize this? When we no longer see a dancer and a dance, when we mostly see a dress/image moving around the floor, interfering with our efforts to see the dancing, this is a moment when we know.
Good design is:
– Understandable and readable
A human eye is designed to see a big picture, be able to recognize it and make sense of it.
Which means – the eye is guided/travels from the whole image first and than to the details. If image makes sense, the spectator can immediately understand and “read” the concept of the presentation. Forms, cuts, colour combinations, details need to be “clean” and articulate, not messy.
This is done by knowing the body and skin type, proportions, character, style of dancing, and using the right cut, material and colour.
-Innovative and artistic
Design needs to follow and adapt to the dancer’s character and style of dancing, search new and different ways and techniques to bring out the best features of the body and dance.
This aspect is one of the most exciting, daring and experimental. It is the best opportunity, when failing, to learn precious lessons.
It can only be done when a dancer and a designer reach a point of synergy and trust, where ideas start to flow freely, are exchanged, without being forced.
This state does not happen very often, but when it does, magic is created and trends are born.
Throughout the human history, our eyes/brains have evolved in certain ways – we perceive certain combinations and ratios as harmonious, certain shapes as beautiful, certain proportions as pleasing and natural.
Evolution has installed certain programs in all our senses, that help us perceive and evaluate the world around us.
Because we are intelligent, creative beings, it is impossible for us not to take advantage of these “programs” and use them to produce all kinds of design and arts.
Knowing these “programs” and how they work is what Aesthetics is all about.
First we have to know what the rules are, only then we can use them creatively and with success.
As Dalai Lama says: “Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
– Honest and authentic
The design needs to work with the character of the dance and dancer and search for even deeper personal characteristics.
The source of inspiration comes from within, by quiet introspection and observation. How often do we actually stop, go quiet and reflect? Meditation works.
Being ourselves also helps. It is easier said than done though, because so many people are telling us what to do.
But part of being true to ourselves also means that we make our own decisions and take responsibility for them. It is a longer process and comes with wonderful growth and lessons learnt.
“By being natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.” ― Christian Dior
The design should not “scream” into adjudicator’s, or spectator’s face and it should not appear as though you see only a dress on the floor instead of a dancer)
Good design always stays in our memory long after the event is over – sometimes even for years.
Just try to remember some wonderful images from previous years, that really ‘worked” on the floor and also stayed in our collective memories. Do they have the elements of good design I have written here?
– Consistent in every detail
Good design is also execution – how well is it done? A dancer must forget about the dress he or she is wearing.
In best case, the way the dress is made, it supports and inspires the dancers to dance the best of their abilities, sometimes even better. It enhances the self esteem and this means a lot to the dancer performing. Form should follow the function, not the other way around.
– As little design as possible
Sometimes, with really top dancers it would almost appear as though design gets out of the way.
In these rare cases, design would feel almost inevitable, almost like: “It had to be this way, why would it be any other way.” (words borrowed from Jonathan Ive – head designer for Apple products).
When these rare, beautiful moments happen, they bring even more value to the couple, their dance and the design.
And we need to recognize those moments, cherish and appreciate them when they happen.
These are first general guidelines on our journey of discovering good design.
I didn’t mention personal tastes anywhere, because they are extremely subjective.
Even the Romans have said: “De gustibus non disputandum est”. Meaning that everyone’s personal preferences are merely subjective opinions and we shouldn’t take them as right or wrong – but merely as what they are – subjective opinions.
However, the more we understand, the more we are aware. The more our eyes and minds are open to new experiences and views, the more we become knowledgeable and willing to learn and expand. We even develop greater sensitivity and widen our tastes. People who study design all their lives, lift themselves above subjective opinions and know how to dive into this world, because they have the tools, knowledge and creativity to work with.
Purpose of this blog is to bring more awareness and understanding to dancers, teachers and judges.
It will hopefully help bring better design on the dance floor, it will help adjudicators to better evaluate and see through the “situations” on the floor and last but not least, it will help teachers giving wise advise to their couples.
Till the next blog, stay active, happy and healthy.