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What’s Movement to a Dancer?

What appears to be physical changes of position and poses is for the dancer a refining of complex networks of signals connecting, dissolving, and reconnecting throughout all the systems of the person.

These signals travel in curved pathways that have been understood by dancers for centuries and are now studied as Structural Integration. It is the curved pathways of signals that a dancer experiences as continuous movement of sensation, anticipation, initiation, completion, and transition into multiple directions at once.

The dancer’s tools of compression and extension are related to signals that are continuously in motion. What appears as stillness or a pause is actually another state of movement.

An audience can immediately identify the delight of a dancer’s simple movement. For the dancer also the movement is an instantaneous connection of physical, emotional, and intentional signals.

From the viewer’s point of view, the movement looks automatic as if a body memory has taken over. For the dancer, there is a rapid shifting of many kinds of focus. One type of focus is from the micro view to monitor a specific skill and the macro view of the entire person at once. Another type of focus is in the awareness which shifts the view from foreground to background.

Even though it may seem as if some movements are directed and others automatic, for the dancer patterns are variations of experience that work at levels sometimes called heightened awareness and sometimes requiring less attention. Both levels of the patterned skill are interconnecting with each other, the difference is the focus on foreground or background.

The dancer’s view is more of a malleable system that is in continual responsiveness. Automatic movement and muscle memory do not adequately explain their complex process.

For the viewer and often for the choreographer, the pattern is seen as a repetition, a replica of a specific movement. For the dancer, the pattern is also a malleable experience that is varied by the thoughts, emotions, and energy of the moment. This is one of the reasons that no two dance performances are the same.

Another astonishing perspective is the dancer’s ability to alter the experience of any movement with a set of modulators. A physical analogy is a musicians sound board. Any sound can be modulated and blended with dials that give more or less of different qualities.

The dancer modulates not just speed or duration but also the qualities that bring emphasis, heaviness or lightness, subtlety or boldness, to name only a few. Like the musician the outcome is a confluence of emotion and interpretation of melodies, rhythms, and harmonies.

Imagery is a tool to assist the dancer with the complexity of shifts in focus and with interconnecting the centers of movement, emotion, and formation of meaning. Signals are shaped and managed with imagery.

Also the anatomy of the body is managed with imagery. Physically, the dancer is also working with the body as a malleable system. To do this the dancer has developed imagery within a training processes for understanding the body movement.

Imagery is often indicating the direction of energy flows. Using the image of signals different areas of the body can be viewed as signal initiators and receptors. Rather than commanding a body part to move, the signal begins at a location and travels back and forth to other sites in the body. These specific locations are interconnected into networks.

Signals move between different areas of the body are called diaphragms and platforms. They usually cross the entire body and give the perspective of the dancer as moving three dimensionally and in every direction. Each one is a major sending and receiving point for many nerve endings and flows of energy.

The platforms are the arches and surfaces of the feet, the palms of the hands, the collar bone and scapula that suspend the shoulder girdle, the base of the skull, and the Fontanelles or meetings of the cranial bones at the top of the head.

The dancer makes detailed studies of each platform to refine the nerve and energy flows to and from each area. Then they connect their access to each by establishing networks between them.

The diaphragms are muscular and give clues to the dancer’s detailed training of large and small muscle groups. The diaphragms are the pelvic diaphragm also known as the pelvic floor, the lower rib cage diaphragm also known as the respiratory diaphragm, the mid chest diaphragm also known as the dancer’s diaphragm, and the Centrum Brain diaphragm with one known moving part the soft palate.

The diaphragms are the dancer’s keys to lifting up from feet to head, to spreading the body horizontally to engage front and back muscles, to arching and rotating the spine, to connecting the torso and the spine to movement of the legs and articulation of the knees, ankles, arches, and toes of the feet.

What difference does the dancer’s perspective make? Movement is a springing motion rather than a pounding one. A balance of extension and compression takes less effort and training goes past the desire to try too hard. The shifts of focus bring a sense of delight to movement. Every area of the body is accessible and trained as a supportive network.
Tim Hurst 10/09/17

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Using Signals in Pilates

Returned to Pilates for the first time in several months. It is always a delight to diagnose areas that are more agile and others that are responding less.

Today I felt an unfamiliar sense of ease. It reminded me of a comment by master dance teacher and Pilates instructor Dana Lewis. One of her main goals is to make movement effortless.

Something has changed in me allowing more freedom of movement with less of a forced quality. My instructor is Rebecca, a former professional ballet dancer. I responded to each of her suggestions with less grit and more lightness than usual. I was able to relax my neck, open the focus of my eyes, and take long deep breaths. Rebecca noticed immediately and gave me an image of the rib cage easily opening and closing like a bellows.

What has changed? By exploring the image of signals forming networks, I had to concentrate less on specific actions of pulling up to maintain posture or keeping the motion consistent when pushing or pulling. I applied two actions simultaneously that connected areas throughout my body. For connecting the torso to my pelvis and legs, I activated a single signal from the psoas connection to the mid-spine at the bottom of the rib cage. Along with that signal, I pressed together the sides of the hips at the muscle tissue just outside the protruding hip bones. This activated the psoas at the lower spine connecting the torso to my inner legs and joints all the way to the area under my toes.

To make sure, I am getting the lift and the immediate flow of signals, I pulse both these areas as I initiate every repetition. A network has formed so that I can free my focus to attend to the entire body and to an open attitude of brightness rather than extreme effort.

The results were surprising. I spent the rest of my day in an easy settled state.
Tim Hurst. 03/23/17