Brief Reflections on Teaching Dance
A couple of weeks ago, along with starting up my regular contemporary dance classes for teens and adults at the conservatory, it fell upon me to substitute two ballet classes for 5 and 6 year olds, just for that first week. If you know me well, you will know that this is usually not my thing. It is not that I dislike kids, of course, but trying to control a large classroom full of them is simply not my forte. However, I am quite loyal to the conservatory since they provided me with my first job when I moved here and they needed these classes taken care of, so I figured I could grin, bear it, and make the most of the experience.
I survived both sessions, pulling some basic kids yoga and dance games I remembered from my own childhood out of my pocket to make it through to the end of the hour and actually ended up enjoying it more than I expected. Part of my enjoyment was in observing something interesting among the young girls. I noticed that dance and movement classes seem to exaggerate the personality of a child, giving you a glimpse of their main characteristics and perhaps what they may be like in the future. Shy girls sit quietly, wide eyed and waiting for instruction before tentatively making any move, the extroverts show off their tumbling skills and try to outdo one another with who can do the splits better, and the ones who love to talk and communicate can’t seem to follow the dance steps very well because they are usually chatting with the girl next to them. It is hard for a child to hide who they are when asked to dance.
The thing is, if you watch carefully the more subtle ways that teens and adults move around a dance studio, especially “beginners,” I have noticed that a similar observation is true. Dance asks us to step out of certain hidden parts of ourselves. Characteristics can reveal themselves in a different and more clear light than if you were simply having a static conversation with someone. It is possible to see what people put forth and hold back, what they are willing to be vulnerable about and what takes more time to coax out of them. Some people go wild with the freedom of improvisation and then tighten up as soon as you give them something they are supposed to remember, while others cower in the corner the second improv is mentioned, but do wonderfully with the more rigid guidelines of technical choreography.
I would never presume to know someone down to their core because of how they dance, but it gives you a beautiful glimpse of a human beings’s vulnerability that can’t be seen in stillness. Dance starts to peel away that outer layer of being stoic and put together in all ages. I wasn’t sure in the very beginning if I was going to find any love in teaching, since choreographing and performing are the things that usually light me up, but I have found that these moments of human discovery are exactly what keep me doing this work. Martha Graham famously said “Dance is the hidden language of the soul,” and having the chance to catch fleeting and beautiful flashes of someone’s soul opening up just a little bit more is an amazing thing to see.
Brief Reflections on Cake
This beautiful yet simple cake swirls and dances in its own way, revealing hidden sweet, juicy morsels of pear with each bite. The base of the recipe was inspired by this lovely apple cake by Rebecca of Displaced Housewife, but having several slightly bruised pears and a bar of dark chocolate on hand, I decided to perform my own baking improvisation and create this fruit-speckled marble cake. I brought it to a gathering last weekend and it was enjoyed and devoured to the last crumb, revealing everyone’s irrefutable vulnerability for sugar + chocolate.
Pear and Dark Chocolate Marble Cake
Makes 1 medium sheet cake (my pan is an awkwardly-sized 10x6.5", but you can use 9x9" or something roughly around there), adapted from Displaced Housewife's apple cake
- 2 medium pears, cubed
- 100g dark chocolate
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup (175g) brown sugar
- 1/2 cup greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup milk (I used light coconut, but you could also use dairy or almond)
- 1/2 cup neutral oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
Preheat your oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and grease and flour your cake pan. In a double boiler or microwave, melt down the dark chocolate and then set aside to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar until fluffy and foamy, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the greek yogurt, milk, oil and vanilla. In a smaller bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, then carefully stir the dry ingredients into the wet just until combined. Pour 1/3 of the batter into a separate bowl and fold in the melted chocolate until smooth and dark. Fold the pear cubes into the remaining vanilla batter. Pour the pear/vanilla batter into your prepared pan, then dollop drops of chocolate batter evenly on top. Use a knife to carefully create marbled swirls with both batters.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown on top and a knife comes out clean. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.