Swing Analogies: The Artist and the Tool-Maker
A dancer, however, is not just an artist. A dancer is both an artist and a tool-maker. For, just as a painter has brushes, paints, and canvas, a dancer creates their art with balance, rhythm, and body awareness. But whereas a painter can buy their desired tools, a dancer has absolutely no choice but to make their own.
And here’s the thing: The tool-maker job is not only as-important as the artist’s job, it’s fundamentally tied to it. The better your balance, the better your rhythm, the more you can do as a dancer. Not only that, but you will automatically do more as a dancer without even trying. This is why, when I practice, I spend a lot of time not working on creativity, but making my tools better — it sounds contradictory, but that’s when I really start expressing myself.
Note: Following a comment below, I realized I had gotten a little sloppy in my analogy, which might have lead to some misleading thoughts and faulty connections. Here is my clarification:
I think there’s a small but important difference between “tools” and “techniques.” Reading over the post again, I confused my own analogy a bit by making this distinction a little sketchy in my own post.
An artist needs a brush to put paint on a canvas. The brush is the tool. The way they handle that brush is their technique in doing so. The picture they decide to paint is their creativity.
A dancer uses their body and the movement of that body to paint a picture. That body and that movement (as well as their shoes and dance floor, as you mentioned) are their tools. (Balance and Rhythm are their tools of movement.) Tools: Good balance. Technique: Mastering the art of manipulating that balance. Tools: Good Rhythm, Technique: Mastering the art of manipulating that rhythm.
(I realize we’re getting into tricky ground here, because the art of working on technique is in a sense getting better tools.)
In hindsight, had a waited a little longer and went back in a day or two to look over my post, I probably would have seen that what I had was two different points:
(1) An dancer has to hone their Tools, Technique, and Creativity. Dancers are a little different in having almost all their tools being a part of themselves physically and mentally.
(2) A dancer should working on making their tools AND technique better to inspire creativity.