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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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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

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Dance Trains the Spine

Dance trains each area of the spine to command horizontal and vertical signals. Two principles seem to be that each section of vertebra engage the nearest part of the body, and that each section networks with other parts of the spine to interconnect the entire body.

My search is for a simple way to engage myself in movement physically, emotionally, and intentionally. The building blocks to simplicity seems to be signals originating at the spine.

With one simple image of a signal connecting an entire area of the body, I can bypass all my thinking about which muscles need to move and which muscles are restricting movement.

Rather than two separate intentions of sending signals and receiving feedback, the spine becomes the instantaneous sender and receiver of information.

Dancers learn this simplicity in the process of a detailed study of movement engaging the entire body at once. I had to go through the back door to understand this simplicity that becomes apparent to the serious dancer.

A common dance image is to send energy from the feet up through the body and out the top of the head. This is one signal. The signal can be varied to activate each area of the body as it rises. The signal can even go beyond the feet to ground the body or beyond the head to extend the sense of lengthening the muscles.

My clue for understanding horizontal signals was the ease of raising the arms in Ballet. The dancer describes the signal coming from the spine between the shoulder blades, traveling under and around the arms, lifting the forearms, and continuing through the fingers of each hand. As the fingers of each hand approach each other, the signals continue making an energetic connection between each finger. A spreading movement of the arms emphasizes the returning signal to the spine.

The signals in each area of the spine travel to every edge of the body, front, back, and side. I loosely refer to these areas as diaphragms because they are interconnected tissue of all kinds muscular, neurological, vascular, Limbic, and glandular.

This is only the beginning of training this area of the spine that I refer to as the dancer’s diaphragm. Signals are varied to spread and raise the arms while maintaining this energetic circle within the arms. The signals are clearly only for the arms allowing the shoulders and neck to be supportive but not fully engaged.

The training extends the range of the spinal area with slight twists, and the rolling of each vertebra forward and back. Engaging these muscles around each vertebra requires specific training to bend and slide horizontally in each direction.

Using these upper vertebra as an example, the next step of learning is to network the signals from this area with other areas of the spine. Networking signals means that the vertebral areas are interconnected through both sending and receiving signals.

The breathing diaphragm, attaching at the lower vertebra of the rib cage, networks signals to the dancer’s diaphragm. The signals are spreading,suspending, and releasing that correspond to breathing.

Receiving signals from the breathing diaphragm, the dancer’s diaphragm opens the upper chest and the back to allow breath into the upper lungs. The arms in any position receive sensations of these spreading and suspending signals.

Signals to the dancer’s diaphragm also network to the pelvic diaphragm. The pelvic diaphragm engages the lower vertebra connecting the support from the inner legs, ankles, and feet. Lifting the pelvic diaphragm also sends signals to the erector muscles along the spine that contribute to the sensation of lifting and spreading throughout the entire back as well as the chest and neck areas.

The lowering and spreading of the pelvic diaphragm also sends releasing signals to the breathing and the dancer’s diaphragms to support the sensations of suspension and continuous lowering.

The value of networking is so all these interconnections can happen at once with the least amount of directed commands. The access to each vertebral,area gives the opportunity to monitor and respond specifically to the areas that need adjustment or support.
See also Spinal Imagery
Tim Hurst 01/23/18