A dance teacher full of crap
Each time you pull the vacuum cleaner out of the closet, you have accepted an invitation to a dance class. It may seem far-fetched, but the vacuum cleaner teaches you almost as much about movement as a regular dance teacher. However, it does have a couple of shortcomings in its pedagogy that we must accept.
While the traditional dance teacher invites the dance student to what is often called the ”dance studio”, the vacuum teacher also has a space for his students, which is usually called the ”home”. The “home” can be divided into several different areas with names like living room, bedroom, kitchen and hallway, and just like in dance studios, these different parts of the home offer different physical challenges and movement combinations. For example, the kitchen is maybe the most complicated and eventful part of the home. Here both crumbs and dust is collected fast. Attention, strength and perseverance is required in order to perform the necessary maneuvers of the vacuum cleaner dance, in between chairs and under tables.
The vacuum cleaner dance teacher educates it’s students in a universal vacuum cleaner choreography that includes bends, stretches and lifts, a very characteristic curved back and neck, and above all: sweeping, determined arm movements. Such is the vacuum cleaner dance. But the choreography of the vacuum cleaner dance does not only deal with the physical embodiment but also with the spatial interpretation. The dance is for example often moving methodically from one side of the room to the other. Even the relationship with the “music” is central to a dance with the vacuum cleaner. The vacuum cleaner dance teacher’s music starts humming instantly and immodestly at a high volume and signals to the dance student to get to work. The dance student is then setting off, in between sofa and table, bending and bowing, hunching and stretching in order to perform the choreography as thorougly as possible. The vacuum cleaner is a patient teacher who has understood the importance of allowing the student to take the time needed to by independently embody the movements in the best way. The vacuum cleaner knows that it’s just like Aristotle once said, that “one becomes what one is repeating often”, therefore the vacuum cleaner lets it’s student work at their own pace. There is no need for verbal coaching or feedback, the vacuum cleaner dance teacher knows that by the help of persistent and regular repetition all students will soon master the basic movements of the vacuum cleaner dance.
The dust is the vacuum cleaner dance teachers most important assistant for the planning of the curriculum. A regular dance teacher plans their lessons based on the students’ condition, needs and interests. But the vacuum cleaner dance teacher has a much simpler philosophy. The vacuum cleaner dance training is planned simply according to the conditions of the surrounding environment, that is, based on the dirt’s location in relation to the house’s interior plan. It may seem like a radical pedagogy but it is an effective way to get the student focused into that meditative trance like state that is so characteristic for the vacuuming dance.
That the vacuum cleaner’s dance student gives up before the whole class is finished and the choreography is completed, is not an alternative, dust and crumbs shall be removed from the entire dance floor. And if, against all common sense, it is only going to be vacuum cleaned in the kitchen, at least the whole kitchen shall be vacuum cleaned until the end. Also, do not think that the vacuum cleaning is over until the vacuum cleaner is properly thanked off and put back into the cleaning closet again, cheating in the tiniest details of actions of the winding down ceremony of the vacuum cleaning dance may cause stumbling and injuries.
It is a well-known fact in physical exercise that winding down and relaxation are important in order to mark a mental closure and a ritual shift into everyday tempo again. The vacuum cleaner dance teacher initiates the final relaxation section with a sudden silence that contrasts the choreography’s noisy climax, the silence helps to bring back the dance student and the dance teacher to the present moment and out of the trancelike dance movements. The experienced vacuum cleaner dance student is well aware of this final silent impulse, that is followed by the last ritual bow down towards the vacuum cleaner and the final and critical rolling-in-the wire-moment.
But here we have the weak side of our vacuum cleaner dance pedagogue, because even though the vacuum cleaner dance teacher emphasizes the ritual importance of going through both opening and ending, it is taking less account to other other more abstract qualities in its education.
The vacuum cleaner is completely incompetent when it comes to inspiring it’s students. It is lacking tools for communicating joy of movement, playfulness, physical presence, rhythm, feeling and presence. In addition it has, lets be honest, a terrible taste in music with a sound that can, at closest be compared to some kind of postmodern conceptual form of hard, minimalist electro music. Selection of music, presence and movement qualities are central concepts for most teachers of dance, but not for pedagogues like Volta EasyGo or Elektrolux SilentPerformer.
However, we must not judge our domestic dance cleaner teacher too hard. The vacuum cleaner dance teacher is working under the circumstances that it has: as a simple household machine, consisting of electronics, a vacuum cleaner bag and a plastic cover. It’s very difficult to convey abstract human qualities like presence and joy of movement when you have a hard plastic shell and a void full of crap. Therefore, do not judge Volta or Elektrolux too hard, and do not abandon your incompetent and cold covered dust dance teacher all too easily. Within no more than a month, the dust in the house anyway demands a vacuum cleaner dance again.
But in order to get the most out of your vacuum cleaner’s many future dance classes, I recommend the following little dance task.
Try to think of a moment when you last experienced one of these sensations: playfulness, physical presence, joy of movement, rhythm, presence. Write down at least three occasions or scenarios when at least one of the mentioned feelings came over you.
Then choose one of those moments, close your eyes and let your memory bring you back to that place and that occasion. Try to remember how you experienced your own body at that moment. Did your body feel light or heavy? What body parts where you most conscious about then? How did your breathing feel like? How did your facial muscles feel like?
Then, let your own present body recall the experience of that moment. See if you can recreate the same sensation. If you manage to find an bodily experience that makes you happy or easy at mind you are probably on the right way. This light and enjoyable state of mind is the main ingredient of what we could call “real dance”. Real dancing, that happens through playfulness and joy comes in countless flavors and shapes and you might just have identified your own personal version of that dance just now, at least the beginning for it.
And the next time the vacuum cleaner invites you to its rigid dance, you might take a moment to recall one such positive bodily experience. Then, courageously take hold of the vacuum cleaner with your hand, put your eyes on the dust and let yourself be swopped along in the dynamic swirls of the vacuum cleaner choreography.
Sandrina Lindgren’s project The household’s dance protocol explores the possibilities for dance in everyday life and focuses in the autumn of 2018 and spring 2019 on our relation to vacuum cleaners. In April 2019 her performance “Vacuum cleaning Barker theater” will premiere at Barker Teatteri in Turku.