Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Paper Chase

Friday evening I watched a favorite old movie: The Paper Chase. It's about first-year law students at Harvard and the stress they're under.

There's a bit of dialog that struck me as rather profound. I wish I'd written it down, but I didn't. Basically the main character, James Hart, is categorizing his fellow students into three groups. The first are those who volunteer to answer questions. They raise their hands in class, the offer opinions, and they get noticed. The second group doesn't raise their hands, but will gamely try if they're called upon. The third group cowers in fear of being called on, to the point of moving from their assigned seats to empty seats at the very back of the lecture hall. Hart brings this up because he's planning to make the move from the second group to the first.

What does this have to do with dance?

I've observed that the students in my dance classes also fall into the same three broad categories. There are those who are willing to lead, to stand in the front row, and who challenge the combinations. There are those who will stand in the front if they have to, but they don't want to be there. And there are those who fight to be in the back row even when the lines rotate.

Like Hart, I'm in the second group but try to be part of the first when I'm feeling confident.

In class today, the instructor pulled an evil trick on those in the back row. We were doing a combination in the center that moved forward. When the front row reached the mirror, instead of everyone moving back she had everyone turn around and face the back wall of the studio. Suddenly those who had been fighting to be in the back row were in the front row.

It'll be interesting to see if the back row folk try to find a new "safe space" in the middle now.

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