I am just angry.

November 14, 2011

I’m having a dance study abroad existential crisis. (I also think I’m overdramatizing, but I believe I have the license to write what I want.) The communication issues I had discussed in a previous post came up again today. Yes, I seem to have scheduled myself for a biweekly hour and a half session that makes my blood boil.

I think of this situation in terms of communication. Communication, language, English language, body language, movement languages, foreign languages, the language barrier, learning a language, Hebrew language, dance as a language, secret languages.


The language that comes first is always body language. I’m able to follow the format of most classes just fine, without having to try to translate instructions. Sit on the floor, come forward, let’s go across the floor, take a break… These are things that I come to know, expect, and are easily communicated with a simple gesture. I can always look at others demonstrating movements and simply copy. Even if someone is speaking a different language, the intonation in her language help tell me the dynamic of movement, the depth of the stretch, or the urgency of the moment.

Graham technique is a foreign dialect of this dance language. It’s ornamented and specific. If you don’t know it, there’s no faking it. You can’t fake a correct contraction, hip initiation, directional orientation, or alignment detail. It’s either right or wrong. It’s a technique you learn through explanation; this is where the trouble comes in.

Graham at the Academy is taught mainly in the Hebrew language. Don’t tell me she’ll stop to explain it if I ask. Don’t tell me the woman speaks English. She doesn’t want to be bothered, and the few English words she ever speaks are carelessly dropped when giving a simple correction. Do you hear what I’m saying here?

I am enrolled in third and fourth year Graham. These are not beginner courses, but I could most definitely hang if I could understand the instructions. But alas, the instructions come just as quickly as they would in any ballet class, if not quicker. She doesn’t like to stop and explain, and when she does, it’s in Hebrew. I’m beginning to repeat myself.

I would like to add that one of my fellow Dance Jerusalem students is doing a great job trying to translate for me. She’s basically fluent in Hebrew, and tells me she’s willing to help. However, I don’t want her spending her own class time keeping me in the know when she should be occupied with her own work. That’s not fair to her, and the little translation she’s able to provide isn’t worth the both of us having an extra burden.


I am taking this course because I believe Graham technique is something worth learning. I am mainly frustrated at the situation. The worst part is I don’t think anyone has the capacity to truly understand where I’m coming from, which makes me feel crazy. And it makes me more frustrated. And this is why I’m angry.


On a separate note, I’m positively amazed that I’ve discovered something that could make me feel such vivid emotion. I’m taking this experience to choreography class.


  1. First of all, I miss you and I’m glad you’re doing well.

    I love reading your blogs. I can’t believe I just realized I could leave a comment. I usually read them on my way to work and once I’m done I try to pay attention to the road lol. I’ve never had to learn something in a different language but I know teaching someone (a beginner at Colorguard) was really hard. I’d get really frustrated with myself because I didn’t know Chinese! Needless to say, she quit after field and joined the Chinese club. I can only imagine the frustration you must have.

    I love you and miss you!


    • Louie, thanks for your reply!

      Thanks for your insight. I have tried to imagine what it’s like to be my instructor, which makes me generally forgiving about the situation. I can’t expect her to shift gears into English back and forth to accommodate just me. I am, after all, just a visitor here…

      I had totally forgotten that you were subscribed to my blog. It’s been so long since we’ve actually talked, and we’re probably at such different places in our lives right now. I mean… I obviously am, but we have so much catching up to do.

      • For sure! I miss you so much, Rolo ;-). Shoot me an email. Maybe we can Skype sometime. louie226@gmail.com.

  2. carlo. this experience of culture clash is probably a reality of study abroad and i empathize, from my own experience in germany. while there, most folks were wiling to translate right back into english while i was there. however, this courtesy certainly was not universal. i had to learn to ‘hang’ with it, as you mentioned in your post. also, from my brief experience with graham teachers, their world often seems to be organized around autocratic principles, so if it weren’t the language thing, i suspect you may have come into conflict with other aspects of the course and pedagogy. you are such a conscientious student and i can tell your colleagues recognize this quality and want to help you. perhaps you can take a moment for a brief tutorial outside of class to catch up? keep us posted on how it’s going…

    • After meditating on the issue, it seems I need to learn how to put my pride aside and just do my best with what I’ve got. I just need to establish my resources, as it were… the people that are willing to help. You know, in thrusting myself into Israel, I knew that I could expect certain challenges. I guess I didn’t anticipate them being so… challenging.

  3. I will confess that I feel the exact same way about this class. Its a bit of a relief that you were able to quantify it into words, because I have been feeling the same way about this particular class and teacher ever since we started. Its very frustrating, and yet in a strange way I feel frustrated again that I am so worked up over it, which is providing me with a strange bull-headed determination to see it through until the end of the year.
    I’m trusting that by the end of this year, this situation will have worked itself out somewhat for both of us, and that we will be really happy we saw it through and suffered through the anger and frustration. 🙂

    • Phew! I’m glad I’m not crazy. And bull-headed is the perfect word for the way I feel. I’ll report to you now that I exchanged some words with Batia this morning (don’t worry… they weren’t only four-letters long) and I gave her a piece of my mind.

      We came to a resolution of sorts. I agreed that I need to do the outside legwork to learn the basics. She told me she would offer more English instruction, and I told her not to slow down the class on my account. Having talked to her about this, I’m going to WORK LIKE HELL to catch up in Graham, and not be afraid to request English instruction if she ever forgets.

      You know… I think one main thing that bothers me is that she wishes to move forward in her classes, but her students could use the explanation. I guess that’s why she only speaks in Hebrew—because she wants to work on THEM. But hey… the quality of the other students’ work and her pedagogical approach are none of my concern, right?

  4. I just read this and i had to comment it. I feel that since you taking all theses emotions and pushing them in positive direction is definitely a benefit to this lost in translation moment. I sometimes feel the same way when I’m surrounded with people that only speak Spanish. I used to be very fluent in it but i eventually lost interest in using it to translate to other because of that fact that my parents understand and speak English. I sometimes feel really stupid speaking Spanish because of that fact that i forget certain words right in the middle of sentence. But anyways I hope it all gets better =)

    • Thanks for the kind words… As long as we stay positive and solution-oriented, we can really accomplish anything. This class is a huge undertaking, but I’m up for it.

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