Input (restorative): "shapeless without technique"

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Speaking with Christopher Knowlton of ATOM-r before the performance of Kjell Theory
Christopher Knowlton and Justin Deschamps of ATOM-r in perfomance of Kjell Theory
Photos by Grace DuVal:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Grace and I arrived in England on a Friday morning. That same night, we went to a performance of Kjell Theory by ATOM-r ( at Chisenhale Dance Space in London. Grace costumes for this Chicago-based performance art troupe and photographs their work.

We arrived well before the start of the show so Grace could give the performers new costumes for future work and prepare to photograph the show. As she did this, we were also all hanging out and chatting. Each of the members of ATOM-r made me feel more than welcome in these back-stage times. Meaningful conversations ensued.

At some point, Grace and Chris and I were talking about dance - something I have done my entire life. I was sharing my perspectives on the value of formal dance technique, saying I have been involved in performances that were exploratory and improvisational which I thoroughly enjoyed but which ultimately left me wanting to go to a ballet class and work on my technique. Not yet knowing what an excellent, well-trained performer I was in the presence of, Chris said, "Yes, work can be shapeless without technique." His performance, based clearly in strong technique, conveyed meaning and shape throughout the surrealistic show - as did the other ATOM-r performers.

I was struck by "shapeless without technique." I understood what he meant, and I believe that applies in many areas of our life: relationships, parenting, money management, eating, recovery - to name a few. We can put some time and effort into reading and studying and practicing how to do these things well, or we can just "fly by the seat of our pants."

Many times we do have to improvise, figure things out on the spot, take a wild guess, and move forward. This might also include going with our gut feeling or instinct. No problem necessarily. But all of these more spontaneous, on-the-spot decisions and actions are best when they are supported underneath by technique.

Technique comes from an organized study of the topic you are wanting to learn about or improve. It comes from learning from those who already have "mastered" what you seek. It comes from repeatedly "showing up" to your practice so that, as we say in theater, it becomes body memory. Then when life throws something at us, our technique is there to give us strength and balance and form.

What are you doing to develop your technique?

Next: Behind the scenes


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