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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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Brain Body 2X Helix

Today I felt the image process of replicating a double helix in my movement. For the first time I experienced the Chi Gong healing movement of counter rotation following the shape of the double helix. The figure eights of the head and eyes along with the hips travel up and down my body imitating a helix spiral. With palms facing my arms move across my body in counter rotation with the unity of head and hips rotating in the opposite way. The counter rotation is the double helix that meet at one crossing point at the body center in front of me. This crossing point moves slowly up my body and culminates at the peak of my reach overhead. My hands then fall caressing the air on either side of the helix until my hands hang at the sides of my body preparing to rise into another wave motion.

What the experience meant to me was the importance of a macro view of a structure through my entire self.

I experienced the importance of an image being energy and the shape of lines or bands or cloud like vortexes being a quality that I vary. With a micro view I am also varying the speed and the willingness to allow continuous motion to flood me with a fully engaged perceptual experience.

I experienced the importance of the image as a structure that is in continuous motion connecting and reconnecting all of myself. With a macro view I allow all my entire self to join in the continuous motion that brings me into the fully engaged perceptual experience.

I experience the image as a continuous motion internally to externally as well as the opposite externally to internally. My ballet teachers constantly remind me that signals must go down through the feet and through the floor to access the power of rising whether it be a small movement or a leap into the air. Likewise the landing of the lowering is not a crash but a continuation of the lowering of each cell in anticipation of the rising.

This moment by moment shift of micro and macro imagery is integral to the experience of dance no matter my states of awareness. It is what gives the quality of my movement an equal attention to weight in the springing upwards, the floating downward, and the landing in preparation for another spring. This is the dance study of a balance of force at each point of a movement.

The importance of the absolute slowest rate of motion becomes more apparent. My focus wants to skip in order to take everything in at once. Heloise Gold as dancer and Tai Chi Master have taught me that I can train myself to experience the coordination of slow motion of the eyes with slow motion of each part of my body. The Chi Gong healing movement is what I return to often.

Like the wave motion of lowering anticipating the rise and rising to a peak anticipating the lowering, I experience the expansion and contraction like the wave of my breathing. It is the attention on breathing that many meditation techniques and forms of yoga use to experience the wave motion within all the senses.

I experimented with taking my experience of the double helix in this healing movement into a spinning motion used by the Sufi as a form of communication with God. I simply took myself into a slow spin with the semi- circle of my hips to the back. My head and eyes followed my hips while my arms were in counter rotation to the opposite direction. I combined two traditions of entering full engagement of my entire self. The busyness of the multiple movements easily become a full person experience from a macro view.

To shift my spin to the opposite direction, I rotate my hips in a back semi-circle to the new direction, follow with my head and eyes. My arms, palms facing, moving in figure eights across my body. My arms move upwards and downwards imitating the crossing of a double helix.

A visceral experience of the double helix occurs when I stop spinning. This is a favorite movement of children who have discovered the connection of cells in the brain and body within the spin. Stopping the spin, the entire body perception is equalizing and the double helix experience is waves of crossing and recrossing energy.
Tim Hurst 09/30/17