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What are Hands to a Dancer?

When a dancer touches palms together an integrated circuit is formed connecting the entire body.

When the hands are touching and move apart, leaving space between the palms, the integrated circuit continues with signals passing between the palms and between the inner surfaces of the arms.

I love watching babies touch their feet and mouths to establish these circuits.

I experiment with touch as I initiate different dance movement. From my experience as a practitioner of Craniosacral Therapy, I experience touch as both exploratory searching and receiving of information. With this kind of touch, I dance allowing my hands to initiate a movement and catch the movement in mid air.

With dancing I experience a wide range of emotions and qualities of movement. More and more I discover how these experiences build networks of signals. I draw from my Craniosacral Therapy experience to identify diaphragms that cross the entire body and to seek connections between these areas of the body.

As I experiment with the hands, I remember the ways many people use their hands in different situations. This is a review of what I have seen or experience myself.

Touching both knees with my hands, I experience a crouching sensation ready to stalk and pounce.

Hands on my hips is a readiness stance while I straighten my pelvis and pull energy from my feet and pass energy through my body.

Hands to the lower back is a resting pose common to frontier women performing back breaking labor.

Hands to the belly is responding to internal turmoil of some kind.

Hands to the lower ribs in a caving in motion is a response to a blow from trauma, either physically or emotional.

Hands to the solar plexis at mid chest is a sense of surprise and curiosity.

Hands to the collar bone is gasping for breath to deal with a sudden flood of signals rushing from the body to the head.

Hands to the sides and back of the neck is a grasping for understanding and an attempt to stabilize from a flood of new data.

Hands to the temples is a sense of unbelief and a call to all systems to integrate to face what is happening.

Hands clasped at the back of the head is a meditative resting pose that connects to networks for gaining a broader view of our experiences. This is also an important position of the hands in Craniosacral Therapy.

Hands on the brow between the eyes is another call to all systems for help in integrating experiences pleasant or troubling. In some systems this is called the Third Eye.

Hands on top of the head is an anticipation of surrender to new information passing through the body.

How do the understanding of hand movements relate to the dancer?

Each area of touch is a sensory platform or diaphragm that dancers explore to build signal networks. The dancer explores each area being touched as platforms to initiate movement and to gain access to sensory data. Improvisational dance movements will often touch these sites to vary the dancer’s experience of an infinite variety of qualities.

Different qualities of signals within a touch requires a level of awareness and access to sensory data that is not easily studied. My guess is that the child is moving at light speed through subtleties of emotional and physical connections. This level of growth and learning may be overwhelming to us as we get older. This might explain why we relegate this kind of sensory data to spiritual exploration and to the realms of the artist. The isolation and demeaning of these sensory explorers might be just an adult fear of traveling at light speeds within us.

Just a note is that within a light wave are many spectrums and a variety of speeds that produce an infinite range of intensities and qualities that require the human system to slow down in order to process. This experience of slowing down and speeding up may be one of the ingrained phobias of the human.
Tim Hurst 11/01/17

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Whole Body Networking

Today I experiment with a macro view of the entire body moving at once.

Since signals of all kinds move through our bodies all the time, my question is how do dancers network the entire body as one unit with many divergent purposes and directions.

I take my exercise with hips on top of a small ball to loosen my hips. The goal is to lift and lower my legs feeling the heaviness of their weight and using a minimum amount of force. I feel a degree more freedom of movement in my hip joints in this exercise.

I have already discussed my discovery of the dancer’s use of weight as floating up as well as falling down. This image along with my own of the double helix seems to require little effort and increases my freedom of movement.

While moving my legs, I want to unify signals traveling through my entire body. Many variations happen within one dance class connecting movement of the legs and arms, the erect spine, and the head and neck.

First I make specific variations on my leg movements with bent and extended knee. I lower and raise my legs with whole leg and with specific parts such as ankle, arch, heel as I lower and raise my legs. I circle my legs in these different postures.

Then I add my arms extending as a semi-circle out from my body. With each movement of my legs I coordinate the arms out and in. This regulates my breath into an effortless inhale and exhale.

Dance continually trains the two way movement of energy through the spine and out the top of the head. My movements have a new lightness and ease as I send pulses of energy from different areas of the spine upwards and down through my feet. This engagement of the whole body is a different experience from moving only the legs. I feel more liveliness and more anticipation before each movement.

Adding variations of head and neck movement with each expansion of legs and arms became yet another experience. I especially liked my reminder to connect the top vertebra of the spine with a slight bobbing motion of the head. Doing this I relaxed my neck muscles around my spine and even my jaw before tilting or swiveling my head.

All this networking is essential to me with my tendency to clamp down my movements with extra tension. Establishing these networks of connections help me to move more freely and with less effort.
Tim Hurst 10/04/17

Pulsing my outer hip muscles engages the pelvic diaphragm

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Networked Movement

As I experiment with my feet finding a balancing place between all the extremities, I realize how my signals work. Neurobiologist believe that these micro movements in babies are random twitches.

My experience is that signals are always at work connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting networks. That would mean that the many signals I feel in my feet are going in all directions at once doing their work to sort out relationships and functions like weight transfer and balance. These signals may be called random but that does not account for the purposeful relationship with the entire body as a network that includes the brain.

I studied Rewiring movement from Nina Martin, professor of dance at TCU in Texas. We were asked to lay on the floor and to allow signals to come from our spine that would slightly move different parts of our body.

The image Nina used was of a baby just before going to sleep. Often the baby will go through a series of twitches like an adult might do when ready to do something but being very frustrated. As I have mentioned neurobiologists study these flurries of signals as random movements essential to making connections in the brain.

Nina was not dealing with random movement but with the flurry of movements exploring all directions at once. When our brain kicked in to make the movements into patterns, Nina suggested we follow the pattern briefly and return to the exploratory flurry of signals initiating our movements.

My work with Nina Martin gave me ways to experience these signals to gain a perspective on the ways I move and how I can vary signals to affect my habitual and learned movements.

What this means to me is that the signals to and from my feet are always networking using exploratory movement. Patterned, learned, repetitive movement is another layer that can be adjusted with an awareness of how my signals work.

Deborah Hay innovated ways for dancers to disengaged from patterned movement so they can discover the layer of signals beneath. At this layer all systems can be engaged at once with movements that are directed and non-directed, physical and emotional, intentional and surrendered.

The method that Deborah used was the image of the individual cell having its own intelligence. As the dancer tunes to each cell a greater awareness develops of a complete network throughout the entire body. The necessity to plan and execute movement gives way to another kind of inner communication akin to meditation. Deborah can then give an image or a brief movement idea as a template for the cells to follow. The necessity has been transformed to listening to the cells rather than to our thoughts.

So with my feet I first become aware of the micro level of signals at work continually. Then I move into that micro level slowly enough to build awareness of the connections being made as networks. Then I can both follow and direct the networks individually and as full body networks.
Tim Hurst 08/23/17

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Balance Dancing

As I experiment with dance each day, I feel a specific type of signal that comes through every movement. The feeling is subtle. I will move with the awareness that millions of signals are at play to develop internal balance and to grow a clarity of myself and my movement. It came from my study with Deborah Hay and later work with Contact Improvisation and Alexander Technique.

Deborah had us fall down on the floor, rise quickly to the metatarsal of one foot, with both arms raised and pointing two fingers of each hand up. We were to be in this raised position for as long as possible and then fall down. How long we repeated this motion I do not remember.

The immediacy of this sequence, the openness of the results, the tactile sensations of falling and rising. Everything insisted that I enter with all myself and play with each variation I found in my balance, my emotion, my trust in myself.

The principle Deborah uses is that every cell has an intelligence and in this case every cell understands balance. We only pay attention to that intelligence at work and follow wherever it leads.

With Steve Paxton I first experienced my body in a balanced pose laying over another person. This was my introduction to Contact Improvisation and the feeling of balancing on one shared point with another person.

The balance point between two of us was like floating and included so many experiences. Now working with the image of signals, there were millions of signals at once delightfully playing in that single moment of balance.

Studying Alexander Technique with Sumi Komo brought this feeling inside my body. The image of an egg balancing is so elusive yet I came to feel balance points in my feet, at different points in my spine, and with my head bobbing on top of my spine.

Today I imagine every movement as this kind of converging of signals toward balance. At first it seemed complicated but like the balance point in Contact Improvisation, the focus is singular and all the playful signals organize around an area or a shifting point.

All of these experiences I combine into one image of “being in the balance.” Returning to this image with every movement seems to reorganize something in myself. I often feel very vulnerable. At these moments of approaching balance, I feel the challenge of balancing self doubt with clarity of movement.

Well there I am, “in the balance”. By experiencing the vulnerability of balancing signals in my movement, I arrive at a moment of curiosity about myself approaching balance. Subtle maybe but very real to me as I go through my day. Reorganization of myself requires attention and yet allows the balancing forces to work.

This is the lesson I had to learn in ballet, to keep the movement going and allow the balance and the strength to work itself to a steady point.

It seems that being aware has two kinds of focus, one focus on the overall process of the signals working toward clarity and balance. Another focus is on the specific signals to move from point to point.

So my next practice is to take each area of my body and explore the experience of being in the balance. To review, that means to me that I will move with the awareness that millions of signals are at play to develop internal balance and to grow a clarity of myself and my movement.
Tim Hurst 04/25/17