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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

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Dancing the Breath

Dance Trains the breath to be just as malleable as movement of the body, of the thoughts, and of the emotions.

I have a very tight neck and jaw. Dance teachers and some who are Pilates instructors, say to breathe regularly and with more ease. Easier said than done. I enrolled in breathing classes that practiced specific exercises to get me to breathe into all areas of my lungs. I took Yoga to coordinated my breath with specific movement patterns. I learned to follow a counting sequence that slowed down my breathing.

Because my learning curve takes longer I was patient. Or probably I was learning to force myself to do things that were contrary to the source of my tightness.

I changed direction and tried several forms of both sitting and moving meditation. I was looking for a way to get beyond my tightness and to somehow deal with my focus upon commanding myself to breathe. Of course the worst suggestion was to “just stop thinking so much.”

Actually what did help was moving my thinking in many different ways. I found Modern Dance technique as a way to simplify movement into parts and then to practice the movement through improvisation. Then I did years of study of using imagery as a basis for both the technique and the improvisation.

There was a sensation associated with my breathing. The breathing sensation would capture my attention as I followed a Deborah Hay image like seeing only what is above my head or seeing with every cell of my body. My body and my breathing were totally engaged in the image that revealed changes of sensation and surprises beyond my imagination.

Every thing about me was malleable, shifting and changing at every moment. My breathing and my movement were exploring the contours of my conscious and released relationship to the image. Everything was aware or everything was flowing on its own. Movement surprises would take my attention and then disappear into the variation of another improvisation.

I was able to put words to this effect on my breathing after adding improvisational singing to my dancing. Musically I was opening areas of myself with phrases.

Dancing puts together phrases that flow melodically and rhythmically. My breath could be used to begin phrases and continue them as long or short. Musically my breath could emphasize a movement or make the movement a kind of quiet secret. The shifting image could take me to a conscious focus on these kinds of musicality or my focus could shift to my involvement in the phrase with my whole body.

My breathing was able to change with the interaction of my sensations and thoughts. An image guided the discovery of a variety of phrasing that captured the attention of my breathing.

As I learn more about the ease of breathing for singing, I the union of my breath with dancing. Both dancing and singing rely on the rising of a phrase followed by the continuous release of the phrase into a state of receptiveness.
Tim Hurst 01/23/18

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Ballet Ease and Effort

Dancers keep coming back to Ballet. Yes the mom who danced as a child can’t wait to start Ballet later in life. It is also the professional dance innovators who return to the detailed science of Ballet.

The reasons for returning to ballet are that varied. For me and those I observe they return for the experience. So what is the experience of Ballet that is so irresistible? I always go for the global view first. Ballet is full spectrum movement, engaging the entire body at once to network every aspect of the human experience.

Looking at only one aspect like effort and ease brings out a scenario that helps to understand what draws the dancer back to Ballet. Ballet explores the full range of movement from least effort to maximum effort.

The phrase that is often used to describe Ballet is, “It looks so easy.” No one believes Ballet is easy but the word they are looking for is “ease.” Ballet is the experience of ease as an essential part of the full range of effort.

One skill that astonishes everyone is defying gravity, the ability to float at the top of the leap or the jump or the skip. A gymnast that accomplishes this awareness has gone beyond effort into the realm of networked experience. We try to relegate this experience to a mystery by calling it art. What we are trying to say is that it is the experience of engaging all our human faculties at once.

I want to look at this experience of ease with many dance innovators. Ballet masters must take the experienced dancers to the depths of subtlety but also to the extremes of what a person is capable. Like any athletes they test the limits of what is possible. With a science like Ballet this can lead to intense regimentation and forcing of the body that eventually breaks down the body.

For dancers seeking a full range of ease to effort, many innovators took the essence of Ballet and began to study what it meant to use the least amount of effort. The list of innovators is long and each dancer develops their own unique approach to this search.

Modern Dance is the classic break with Ballet searching for imagery to allow effort to come from inside the dancer rather than from the regimentation. Many innovators focused on different aspects of the emotions, on improvisational changes of focus, and on the principles of dance that revealed the uniqueness of each person in improvisational dance.

Then there were the exercise related innovators who studied parts of the dance experience. Mabel Todd wrote the textbook of the body to understand the research of Ballet and Modern experience. People like Alexander, Feldenkreis, Skinner, and Pilates took different aspects of the Ballet and Modern experience to develop complete systems of study of the workings of the body.

Their work would revolutionize the field of athletic training to include the balance of flexibility and strength for maximum performance. In other words the introduction of the image of ease makes a difference in applying the full range of the least effort to maximum effort.

Ballet builds the imagery of ease into every part of the dance class. Each movement is studied as a part of a supportive network integrating the entire body. The pause at the end of a phrase emphasizes the experience of movement continuing with ease even in stillness. The portabra and reverence at the end of class integrates the experience of ease into the extensions used in class.

The innovators breaking with Ballet took this experience to many different extremes. Alexander, Skinner, and Liz Koch author of The Psoas Book all used a similar laying meditation allowing the body to experience the ease of rest. The focus of attention is on releasing every part of the body.

Many exercise programs begin their sessions with Barbara Mettler’s version of this process that is tightening and loosening each part of the body. This is one approach to bringing attention to every area of the body while experiencing a release of effort.

Later innovators like Nina Martin would focus attention using a more fluid approach with the image of light moving through the body. This image she distilled into the study of signals coming through the spine to integrate networks in the entire body.

Another branch of dance has taken the image of effortless movement into new forms like Authentic Movement done with the eyes closed, Continuum which focuses on micro movements to build interconnected movement, Nia that explores the principles of movement and personal expression, and Ecstatic Dance that explores spiritual experience with free form group movement.

Floor-Barre trade marked by Zena Rommett would take this signals study back to Ballet technique. Each movement is a detailed study done on the floor rather than moving through space. This allows the dancer to take an effortless approach to each movement while imagining a suspension of the gravity that affects standing movement.

Steve Paxton created a completely new style of dance, Contact Improvisation. Contact as it is often referred to, can be extremely slow or can move quickly into aerial movement. The dancer studies the ease experienced when one person balances weight with another person. The image is of two bodies melting into a weightless state that is in continual movement. In one performance Paxton blended solo Ballet Movements with instantaneous rolls on the floor and balances on many parts of his body.

Hybrids of Modern Dance and Ballet have formed as well as Jazz Dance and Ballet. The form Contemporary Ballet uses a Modern Dance base blended with Ballet Technique and the gymnastic elements of Contact Improvisation.

Modern Dancers have applied their principles of movement to teaching Ballet. And Modern Dance professionals hold Ballet Classes as an important part of their training.

So by tracing the one image of ease in relation to effort we have a glimpse of the importance of Ballet. And it is telling that many inexperienced dancers and the professionals alike return to a respect for Ballet as the repository of full spectrum movement.
Tim Hurst 01/06/18