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Human or Transformer

When my grandson was a child I told him that when he became a man he would walk like a Transformer. As it turned out he has taken a liking to both Pilates that takes a malleable approach to movement and Weight Training that emphasizes the compression of building blocks in the body.

My interest is the way that the dancer weaves together the two worlds. The exercise and body therapy world has become fascinated with Structural Integration which I have experienced through the principles of dance and through the study of Craniosacral Therapy.

The premise is that the entire body is a network of interconnected fascia or soft tissue and this fascia acts as one elastic system that pulls the bones and organs into an efficient moving whole. This explains what the dancer and many body therapists know, that pain in one area of the body may be related to other areas of the body. See anatomytrains.com.

What fascinates me about Structural Integration is the dancer’s experience of balance and weight. Movement for the dancer is the springing of the entire body, an experience of fascia as a full body elasticity that requires a minimum of effort. The lines of fascia from head to toe are the study of the dancer who has developed an intricate understanding of the spiraling connections of muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout the body.

The dancer’s study is to clarify the signals that travel through the fascial network. With dance, the movement of the body is a delicate interplay of both directing those signals and understanding the way signals move. The dance training process is the interplay of sending signals and integrating the signals into networks that increase awareness. A networked movement can then be called on as a way to increase awareness.

The dancer’s approach to balance is telling in this process. As the concepts of Structural Integration explain there is a continuous compression and expansion of the fascia to organize the movement of the bones.

The dancer brings this process to awareness. Each movement is not a forced compression of muscles to get to balance. Instead balance is millions of movements sensing the placement of bones and the continual adjustments of fascia within the entire body. All movement is thus connected no matter how subtle or how bold.

Dance is uniquely placed to understand this process involving also the integration of intention, anticipation, and emotion. This understanding of the way movement is directed and nurtured brought the dancer to the use of the image

The image gives a way to translate the orders and desires of the person into movement. To do this requires an understanding of the way our networks receive and integrate data from each part of the person.

Basic to communication is the ability to receive data in the way it is sent. A parallel is the way different personalities communicate, by attention and empathy. Forced and directed communication must operate in the context of the entire person. This process is what the dancer has grown into an art form using a combination of feeling and visualization in images.
Second is the understanding of patterns of movement. The dancer has trained movement patterns to integrate into the entire body. These patterns network the body’s fascia and also the communication networks of attention and empathy.

This process is not a static set of movements but rather networked movements that are continually adjusting to a refreshed human system of emotions, awareness, and empathy. This is the process of nature that begins with simple movement and adds one variation at a time so the system integrates a pattern that is both a renewing of what is known and a surprise of a new creation.

Each movement is an interaction of compression and expansion continually adjusting as well as the human self receiving and reforming the experience of known patterns and creations of continually expanding creations.

The monitor of all these processes is the human self. We have mistakenly looked to the abstract brain as what needs to be trained. The dancer has developed the perspective of training our experience that includes the physical body and also all the other aspects of the person.
Tim Hurst 10/06/17

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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

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Balance Signals Spinning

I am curious about how the arms and head affect balance in dancing. Obviously Ballet and Modern Dance have developed intricate use of the arms and head for spinning.

One of my first Modern Dance teachers, Dee McCandless, studied Sufi spinning dances. I love this spinning because I can vary the use of my arms and head as they float above the rise and fall of my legs and feet.

I must also hold an awareness of balance in each movement, in the transitions to an opposite direction, and at sudden stops in stillness.

The sensation of the arms is floating up in the wind created by spinning. The pathway the arms can follow is similar to Ballet in extending outward, one arm raising while the other is extended, or both arms easily raised. The hands can be facing down, up, or one hand up and the other down.

The curved pathway of my arms and head interests me, not a direct forced line but a curve or as the spin progresses, a variety of curves and spirals that grow and subside with the intensity of the spin.

It is at the transitions of direction or speed or stopping that I get to observe the spiral motions of my arms and head. The sensation is of the spirals continuing with slight variations.

I play with slight variations on contrary motion and then return to simple spinning. Observing my balance and ability to allow the movements to grow is an interesting process.

I return to experiment with continuous spiral pathways in all my Ballet and Modern balances. I explore my wobble while learning to balance and ask if curved pathways can give insight into my learning.
Tim Hurst. 04/15/17

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Balance Signals Continuous

I am curious about the adjustments we make throughout the body for balance. In Ballet class I slowly gained confidence to allow a wobble to become what my body needed to balance. I remember many Modern Dance classes when I would locate my most vulnerable places of being out of balance and play with holding a balance. I took a Balance Class for Seniors at Ballet Austin experimenting with the connection of balance to vision, body position, and doing more than one task at a time.

I studied Alexander Technique that compared a human balancing with an egg balancing on its tip. My understanding is that there is not a balance point but a continual adjustment or modification to stay in a balanced pose.

As I experiment with balance, I wonder if every movement is some kind of wobbly stage that becomes more secure. And what does this wobbly stage have to do with coming to balance?

And how would I change my experience of balance from the point of view of signals?

I am aware of a single signal from the center spine traveling up and out the top of the head. Also the continuation of the signal beyond the body as an image for lifting the body. Equal and opposite signals come from the center spine to activate the legs.

Alexander Technique trains specific signals from the spine between the shoulder blades. These fan like signals can initiate a lift in the torso to support balance using the legs. Also signals to the vertebrae at the base of the spine can help to relax the neck and lift the head in any rise to balance.

My goal is to learn how dancers train all these signals to work as a network that are initiated from a single point or points.
Tim Hurst 04/15/17