No matter how proficient one may feel in a subject matter or skill set, I believe that there is always more to learn. We can learn from different perspectives, delve deeper into hidden meanings, break skills down to their simplest form and analyze those components, consider opposing viewpoints, aim to experience a skill as if you were learning it for the first time, compare and contrast, find ways to relate/connect your areas of interest to other things, learn new things, teach others... the list goes on and on.
As a movement artist, I find that every day I learn something new about my art, body, space, time, music, movement, etc. A movement or technique that I have experienced for years can still be so new and refreshing.
Last year, I had schedule conflicts due to being a double major so I had to take a lower level ballet class one day a week. I can't tell you how refreshing and yet challenging it was to go "back to the basics." Slow plie and tendu barre combinations challenged me just as much as the quick and lengthy advanced ballet combinations.
Some days I focused on the mechanics of the movement - which muscles were working, concentric vs eccentric, core, alignment, etc. Other days I focused on the breath of the movement - using all of the time in the music, transitions, the shape of the entire combination.
We often take for granted these simple movements because they are ingrained in our muscle memory from years of study and they seem so rudimentary. But it is important to go back to the basics and experience these movements in a different way, from a different perspective. It can provide insight; it certainly did for me.
While going back to the basics is a wonderful challenge in itself, it is also beneficial to throw yourself in the deep end and try something completely new.
I recently began exploring movement classes outside of my university as cross-training. I chose two classes - Acro Pole Fitness and Aerial. The beauty of these classes is that they are completely foreign to me. I have never studied these styles before and must approach each class with an open mind, accepting that I am not going to "get it" or be perfect on the first try. These are new experiences and new skills.
I was surprised at how much I could really do. I should preface that this is not "pole dancing" but acro pole - there is a difference. The class focuses on building strength and learning techniques for performing different tricks or skills on the pole.
At this particular movement studio, the poles spin with your momentum. Let me tell you, it is fun. We learned basic skills as well as some more difficult tricks. It was a phenomenal experience. Some skills were easy to pick up while others proved more challenging. Interestingly, some skills required an opposition of the arms - one pulling, one pushing - which took some getting used to. I have much to learn.
The next day (really the next week) my body was sore (a good sore). I discovered probably 30 new muscles I never knew existed. I certainly threw myself in the deep end with this class but I came out swimming. I look forward to learning more.
In this class, we focused on using fabrics. Ever try climbing on something that stretches? Yeah, its hard. Smile. We started this class with conditioning which was great and then moved on to basic skills and more challenging ones as well.
I originally thought that the acro pole class would help me with the aerial class but they were very, very different. In the aerial class, I almost felt as if I was dancing with the fabric. A pole does not move, fabric does. It's as if I need to learn how to partner the fabric.
I must learn where the fabric will meet my body; how it will wrap around me and keep me afloat, when it will move with me or in contrast to my movement such as when spinning. It is a dance; I just need to get used to my partner and learn the steps. In this class, I truly have to accept that I know nothing about aerial, I will have to ask many questions, and I will be frustrated, bruised, tired, and yet satisfied.
Yes, these new movement experiences are satisfying. I feel fulfilled. It feels good to challenge myself, to make mistakes, to wake up sore and bruised, to fall on my butt and get up and try again, to not be perfect, and to learn...to learn something new. To learn something new about movement, myself, my body.
First, a challenge to learn. Learn every day as much as you can. Learn, unlearn and relearn. There is benefit in learning new things; there is benefit in unlearning the things you feel most proficient in or feel most strongly about - sometimes you have to let go of the things that are ingrained in you in order to open yourself up to new perspectives and possibilities; and there is benefit in relearning things you know so well and take for granted - look at these things with a fresh eye.
Second, I leave you with a quote by Neil Gaiman:
"I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.
You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
What it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever."