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Ballet as Simple

The more stressed I become with running a business and worrying about money,the more I search for ways to release the stress in my body. It has taken many years to understand the instant relief that dance gives me.

Trying many forms of dance I decided that my body was not going to do what I asked it to do. So I became an improvisational dancer. I learned about the qualities of movement without worrying about precision.

Searching for more control of my body, I studied Pilates as a form of exercise based on Ballet and Modern Dance. I discovered that I do not have the concentration or the memory structure to make ten commands at once to make my body move correctly. Something was not connecting.

Then I discovered that Ballet simplified commands for my whole body into a network of movements. The very beginning movement, the plié, seems like simple movements of bending the legs, lowering the body, and lifting the arms. When I discovered the basis of this simple, whole body movement, I knew this was the clarity of learning I was looking for.

Pilates identified one principle of Ballet that looked hopeful. They call it the Core, meaning the musculature, nerves, blood flow, around the skeletal center of the body, the spine. Pilates strengthens and stretches the muscles around the spine using an exercise model.

When I began to take Ballet, the Core became related to movement of my whole body with simple commands. Those commands were signals originating at the spine. This sounds a little detailed but I had to have a way to connect my movements that seemed to ignore my commands.

The more I studied the simplest Ballet movements I realized three things. Ballet teaches movements as signals that start at different areas of the spine. A network of signals can move my whole body with one command. And third, when several networked movements are bundled as a phrase, I learn how the effort of one movement supports the next movement.

So my study of Ballet is to train my spine to send and receive signals that guide my body movements. This seems to work because my muscles surprise me by releasing to let the signals pass through.

An added benefit is that watching other dancers learn, I am able to identify the networks that should be connecting for me. For me to get to the networks, I have to go into much more detail than the average person. This drives my Pilates teachers crazy with so many questions and requests to understand what connects to what. Ballet teachers move us through the phrases and ask us to experiment with balance and different speeds to get the connections between movements and to build networks of signals.
Tim Hurst 02/07/18

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Dancing the Self

One of the opportunities of dance is to let all of myself come through my movement. Letting all of myself show seems a bit out of control and the surprise of an unknown part of myself showing up can be a problem.

Because of difficulty learning patterns and having to relearn them every day, I developed several approaches that put me right at the center of my fears and my surprise. Every pattern had to be improvised and shifted from different directions, moods, and intensities. Nothing seemed to store in a concrete way so my memory had to be more like a poem of images than a set of lines with precise positions and angles.

This was especially interesting when performing memorized music or ballroom dance with a partner. I would basically enter a feeling state that included a series of experiences. Inevitably I would enter a blank space and have to improvise my way back into the series. Remembering lines in plays was the same issue.

My approach was to study movement exercises for theater and Modern Dance to get an idea of pattern while finding different dimensions of emotion and intensity. I gradually studied more and more improvisational dance forms with open possibilities for creating surprising patterns. I created performances that were so internal that I would begin with only an image and allow my movement to flow.

The results were that I would indeed find surprise that might be a blockage in myself that froze my thoughts and movements or I would create such a vulnerable place in myself that I was dancing my fear rather than allowing my self to come through.

Watching dancers has been my life and standing outside of the world of patterns has been interesting. I watch for how the person comes through the pattern and how alive that makes the pattern. From this perspective I naturally gravitate to dance that has a range of emotions and intensities. If the patterns of a dance do not shift from delight to seriousness, then I look for the individual dancer who allows themselves to experience a variety of intensities.

So my recurring question is how the dancer who experiences a full range of emotion and intensities relates to the patterns of the dance. Since dance is an interactive form, an even more involving question is how their individual experience connects with their fellow dancers and to the audience participants in their dance.

In my search I have discovered how movement patterns and the dance class methodically take a dancer into the realms of making these shifts of experience. Because dance engages every part of the person, each dancer recognizes the unending number of connections in different ways and at different stages of their learning.

So my process of watching dance is to experience each dancer as a unique composite of experience. This is a special delight since I can experience the baby, the child dancer, the professional or the beginner adult of all ages.

Then I have taken those questions to ask how I, a relative outsider in the realm of pattern, can enter the dancer’s experience of shifting perspectives and qualities of movement, emotion, thought, and even interaction with others.

With my round about ways of learning dance, I began to ask how I could really enter the experience of dance as a way of varying not just the emotion and intensity but also the pattern.

Having studied in depth several approaches to dance improvisation, movement meditation, singing, and theater, I came to the science of dance as we know it, Ballet. Taking ballet for the first time at mid-life was a rush of energy I had not felt. Maybe all those years of watching added up to give me a rudimentary structure to build on.

All this clarity of energy made my blocks even clearer. No area of my body would respond to a command and there were so many commands at once. Pull this, lower this, send energy here then there. I had to take one command to one body area at a time. That meant private class which limited my experience of learning with other dancers.

I enrolled in Pilates, in Balance Class, in combinations of Modern Dance and yoga, and finally in Floor-Barre directly related to Ballet movement. I was still caught in the command issue of trying to move this, hold that, and somehow hold it there. Obviously I still had no storage for the pattern necessary to put all this together.

So I started improvising Ballet movement and trying to find a way to simplify the commands in a way I could learn the movement. My desire is more than that. I want to experience what the dancer experiences when that one dancer enters the whole person that can shift from delight to seriousness, from laughter to reflection, from pattern to emotion in all its intensities.

To remember and to clarify all my rambling experiments, I have written this blog. Those who can wander with me are welcome.
Tim Hurst 01/22/18

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Dance as Network Model

Dance as a form of movement and training is a model, a template that networks the entire body.

The model has two basic operations. One is to switch focus from the micro view to the macro view of the entire person as a series of connected networks. Another is to manage the continuous networking of signals within the human system as both directed and surrendered through awareness of both processes.

To assist these operations dance uses two types of imagery. One is the categorization of signals that manage both the directed and the surrendered networks. Another is a master image that signals can pass through to network the entire body brain and to make detailed adjustments to specific micro areas.

To simplify the networks, dance offers an understanding of the sections of the body that can be networked together by signals passing through a master image. These body sections are called diaphragms or platforms. Each section has a purpose as a connector with its paired diaphragm and as a part of the entire body brain network.

It is my belief that dance is the repository of all this information due to the evolutionary growth of the human. Dance as a networking form grew from the earliest humans, from their imitation and communication with other life forms and from their insistence on communication within the unknowns of spiritual experience. I would conjecture that this is the reason dance has been able to contribute to and absorb the discoveries of every movement form including athleticism, martial arts, and religious ritual. I also believe this is the basis for the power of dance along with music to symbolize the experience of entire cultures and entire epochs of human history.

This is also the reason why dance as a form is offering so many innovations in the understanding and managing of disease and rehabilitation.
Tim Hurst 08/24/17

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Signal Inventories

What are signals to me today?
My Basics
System One
I experience everything rising and falling, everything turning, everything stacking top down and bottom up.
System Two
I experience specific signals initiating from my spine, radiating instantly through my pelvis, head, and my limbs.

My Access
I choose today which signals are easily accessible and which ones are nudging me to explore.
I choose how much awareness I can personally accept given my state of mind, body, emotion, and spiritual appetite.
I test my readiness to access every part of myself by observing both slow and faster motion.
I experience my willingness to see and feel and calibrate every motion.
I recognize my sending and receiving of connected signals as my song, my story, my dance for today.

My Challenges
How far can I take my signals today?
Am I willing to spend the time today to follow the signal and repair what I might strain?
Am I willing to drop physical and mental habits that limit my exploration of signals?
Am I willing to deal with a level of disorientation as my discoveries of clear signals conflict with established patterns of thought and body?
Am I willing to observe and respond to my building and rebuilding of my self?
Am I willing to enter states of vulnerability and certainty where my unknowns and errors are as important as what I know as my current level of skill and experience?
Tim Hurst. 03.13.17

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Dance Experiment Yes

Yesterday I tried to describe a daily dance experiment. It became a boring play by play of another exercise system with a now I do this and then this. Unpublished that and spent a day writing about the brightness that is dance to me, to my teachers,and to choreographers and performers that explore the depths of dance every day.

My passion is to share this process of delight and diligence that as dancers we enter every minute of our lives. My 15 year old grandson describes me with the word exuberance that he defines as “overly excited to the point of being obnoxious.” And I have to admit I have been that exuberant when I want every party to be Ballywood with every one dancing and singing. Or when someone says, “I can’t dance,” and my energy fires up. Or when a choreographer has only a small audience to join their performance of excellence and new discoveries about the human spirit.

My search is for a common denominator that we all obviously share when it comes to dance and music. I will walk into any storm to support every person with an inclination to dance. At this moment I am looking at all the storms I have come through. What I see are layers upon layers of interconnected experiences that are obvious and fully described in the art, the lives and in the words of dancers.

Yet to clarify the processes and principles we express, my words turn to mush and I tear my hair at our denial of the massive influence dance has on our lives both as participants and beneficiaries.

The beauty of dance is that each individual samples its juicy delights and digests it in different ways. The nurture of those dance morsels emerges as a person who is more curious, more aware, more tuned to delight and despair. This nurture is available for the dancer and for those who join with the dancer on their explorations.

This is my search, for a place we can all enter this nurturing world of dance. In my life, I follow the trails to dancers who know this delight and who enter it fully. I find this ability to enter dance in the five year old as well as in the professional, in the social dancer as well as the brilliantly dedicated pointe dancer.

Within my search, the questions and the lists read like a composite of restaurant menus from all over the world and from the camp fires of our earliest ancestors. My main focus is, how do we enter what we know as dance, instant connection of everything we are, instant fun, a second wind insisting we dance forever.

As with any endeavor, the range defines the degrees of entry. The range is from a process and a procedure to the individual experience of the process. We sometimes think of dance as learning a form like Ballet or HipHop or Salsa. Yet when we taste the delights of the actual experience, we only want more.

Entry at this point is when the experience shapes the structure of the dance. In other words, the dance becomes yours. You shape the dance to be you rather than the steps and techniques being the only goal.

Dance is unique. The entry point is instantaneous. The first steps of a child instantly turn to dance with music. The beginner learning the waltz can feel the dance within them even if the body is trying to catch up.

The uniqueness of dance is a lifetime study. A particularly interesting point of entry is the activating of the personal monitor. It has something to do with the play between awareness and a generalized sense of everything working together. Dancers confront their internal emotions and traumas as well as their external interactions.

The monitoring is subtle signals or messages or conversations between the person and every part of their life. Dancers often describe their experience as spiritual or as meditative. I suspect that the reason is this aspect of monitoring that is a personal connection with insights, anticipations, and moments of creating new cells and new points of view.

Dance and music ride the line between the known and the unknown similar to religious ritual and meditation. Structure and form are there to develop processes like personal monitoring to navigate these sometimes challenging seas of uncertainty and vulnerability.

As I describe my exploration and experiments, my intent is not to create a structure or a way to dance. My hope is to find an entry way to making the kinds of connections that dancers and dance teachers make every day.

Will these entry points give you more access to yourself and to dancing? Will they give choreographers and teachers clearer ways to state the importance of their explorations? Will more audiences join choreographers to explore new discoveries of themselves? Again, my hope is to give insights for each individual to find the brightness within themselves where dance resides.

All along the way I could say, build your connections, “Do not do as I do.” As a consummate beginner of dance, I am the perfect person to delve into these murky waters that seem so confusing to explain. It takes me years to absorb a structure, relearning each time I return. Learning patterns requires sometimes hours of improvisation and play with the different pieces of a movement. My system sometimes overloads and freezes my ability to move. One of my Pilates teachers says, “You think too much.” My Floor-BarreTM instructor says I need more fluidity as I am learning the movements.

So my qualifications in doing this study are not what I do or can do, they are my passion to find the entry points that bring delight to every movement.
Tim Hurst. 03.12.17

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A Dynamic Vision of Dance

Welcome to a Dynamic Vision of Dance

Dance and music are time capsules from the first humans. These capsules are unique and go beyond our imaginations to explain. Artists say do not explain us because everything is said in our art. Educators or at least politicians say music and dance are extra curricular activities for people who want to become artists.

A Dynamic Vision of Dance is my experiment to find the simplicity of a dance process and a common thread of vocabulary that helps to understand how our dance capsules affect everything in our lives.

The benefits of music and dance are obvious. An ice skater who is a dancer is immediately recognizable. The crowd applauds loudly. On the other hand, it is more difficult to distinguish the influence of dance in a gymnast whose leap suspends her abouve the beam before making an elegant landing.

We experience the fun of dance and music. We become proficient, even exceptional. We connect the power of our capsules to everything from religion to addiction. We label them either brain food or exercise.

We feel the power of our music and dance time capsules or we deny they ever existed. The problem is the contents of these capsules are hard to describe.

We can say our capsules work powerfully. Music and dance can symbolize an entire generation or the innovation of an individual. Yet we are adrift when trying to explain the scope of dance alone with its power to blend emotion and movement, to influence learning, athletic skill, injury and disease prevention, and a full range of personal and body therapies.

In actuality dancers and musicians know the experiences in their time capsules. As teachers and choreographers they share the content of their capsules every day. Dancers know their experience in all its simplicity and complexity. They teach it. They perform it. Even with so much clarity and the ability to capsulize a personal vision and a vision of an entire generation, the benefits of music and dance are explained away as a mystery.
Tim Hurst. 02.03.17

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Double Helix Dance Image

The double helix image is very helpful when I a learning new movement and when I am correcting old habits that create strain.

The problem I have is concentrating too much on one spiral at a time. My mind can conceive of only one spiral at a time unless I conceive the entire image at once slowly spiraling through my entire body. The image is applied only once from head to toe and allowed to move gently and continuously.

My thinking wants to follow a single spiral but that does not give me the agility to adjust. The problem this causes is I have to focus my specific thoughts on one area of movement.

The advantage of the double helix is that I can switch the entire image to a broader focus and allow it to operate as one part of my networking. The image itself does not require my attention or direction.

Rather than thinking the image, I can grasp the image as a whole and make slight adjustments to improve the range of my experience and my movement. Said another way, once the image is an active part of my entire networks, I can adjust a range of actions to affect the quality of my sensations and my movement.

My actions are first to adjust the shape of the double helix. I can narrow the space between the two spirals to surround specific vertebra and clarify signals to different areas of my body. I can expand the two spirals to the edges of my body for a more three dimensional experience and instant changes of direction and dynamic.

I then can add another specific image to the double helix since my focus already conceives of my full self in action. For example I can add the image of spreading and rising to specific horizontal areas of my body and emphasize the action with the double helix with larger and smaller space between the strands. I can connect the body sensations of my breathing diaphragm to the image of spreading and rising.

By adjusting specific areas of the double helix, I can connect platforms and diaphragms from my feet spreading and rising all the way through my body, up each spinal vertebra, through the top of my head. The double helix only has to be widened or narrowed in the areas that I am connecting.

All this is done while the full image is in continuous movement through my body. Any adjustments are making changes to the actions and connections of the double helix image.
Tim Hurst 03/07/18

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The Dancer’s Imprint

I have often wondered why the dancer has been satisfied to create intense experiences that are not recorded well even in photos and film.

My experience of dancers and their choreography is of their imprint as individuals and as groups. The imprint they create is every aspect of their experience as a person.

That imprint can not be reproduced mechanically. Their imprint is created within and in connection with fellow dancers, dance students, and audiences.

In neurobiology, this imprint is referred to as the mirror neuron. The mirror neuron not only records the experience of the dancer but also creates its own version of a sound from music or a movement from watching dance. This all sounds mysterious but it is a process that we respond to and recognize easily.

What the dancer is doing is sharing an imprint of their experience through their creation of dances. That imprint is replicated in many different ways in the fellow dancers, their dance students, their families and friends, and each audience that chooses to share that imprint.

This is of course only the beginning. Each person that experiences a dancer’s imprint reflects their own perspective by building on their excitement with slight variations. These different perspectives and moment by moment growth of delight and intensity are what we see as audiences.

Then as audience we amplify the delight, the anticipation, the excitement of the imprints we are witnessing. We are taking the dancers’ imprints and making our own which can explode into laughter or sighs or sometimes personal distress.

At the end of the performance, no person present is the same. Imprints have been created and recreated, shaped and reshaped. Each person’s experience has been expanded or compressed in some way.

This experience after a performance is often more than we can manage. Sometimes I do not know what to say or what to think about this new person I have become and my witness of new creations emerging before my eyes. What has just happened?

This is not the same thing that happens when watching a mechanical representation in media. In a live performance, I can access the real energy and the varying pathways taken by each dancer’s of their experience.

Basically, that performance with that group of dancers and that audience is a unique experience that will never happen in the same way again.
Tim Hurst. 02/06/18

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Sustenance in Melody

Singing today I fell in love with the overtones that connect a musical melody into a whole.

Since the qualities of dance and music is so close, I wonder what the connecting elements are for dance in a movement melody.

With musical overtones, the resonance of one tone fills the spaces of one note to the other. Their is a continual flowing movement no matter what rhythmic spaces occur for emphasis and anticipation.

Dancers also know how to fill a movement with different levels and qualities of resonance. Each movement, each part of the interconnected body, each cell and organ, fills with a resonant energy that continues like music through any rhythmic space into a melodic phrase.

Yet there is something more basic below the energy. That is the movement of the curve that dancers understand as connecting any transition from one movement to the next. The curve can be a loop that can double back into what seems like a line. The curve can be a continuous spiral that intertwines with other spirals from many areas of the body, the emotions, and the intentions of the person.

The basis is of course the wave that makes up sound and light. The wave like the dancer extends to a peak and rides the curve into a rejuvenating exhale before receiving another inhale at the lowest point to rise again.

Each point along the way connects in millions of ways with the next points changing direction into a fresh movement. The dancer studies the wave form as the sustenance between each movement and the sustainer of the melody creating an imprint of the individual and the group of dancers.
Tim Hurst 02/06/18