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The Dancer’s Imprint

I have often wondered why the dancer has been satisfied to create intense experiences that are not recorded well even in photos and film.

My experience of dancers and their choreography is of their imprint as individuals and as groups. The imprint they create is every aspect of their experience as a person.

That imprint can not be reproduced mechanically. Their imprint is created within and in connection with fellow dancers, dance students, and audiences.

In neurobiology, this imprint is referred to as the mirror neuron. The mirror neuron not only records the experience of the dancer but also creates its own version of a sound from music or a movement from watching dance. This all sounds mysterious but it is a process that we respond to and recognize easily.

What the dancer is doing is sharing an imprint of their experience through their creation of dances. That imprint is replicated in many different ways in the fellow dancers, their dance students, their families and friends, and each audience that chooses to share that imprint.

This is of course only the beginning. Each person that experiences a dancer’s imprint reflects their own perspective by building on their excitement with slight variations. These different perspectives and moment by moment growth of delight and intensity are what we see as audiences.

Then as audience we amplify the delight, the anticipation, the excitement of the imprints we are witnessing. We are taking the dancers’ imprints and making our own which can explode into laughter or sighs or sometimes personal distress.

At the end of the performance, no person present is the same. Imprints have been created and recreated, shaped and reshaped. Each person’s experience has been expanded or compressed in some way.

This experience after a performance is often more than we can manage. Sometimes I do not know what to say or what to think about this new person I have become and my witness of new creations emerging before my eyes. What has just happened?

This is not the same thing that happens when watching a mechanical representation in media. In a live performance, I can access the real energy and the varying pathways taken by each dancer’s of their experience.

Basically, that performance with that group of dancers and that audience is a unique experience that will never happen in the same way again.
Tim Hurst. 02/06/18

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What’s a Child to a Dancer?

There are many delights in my life. One of the greatest is experiencing a child dancing. My delight is the child totally engaged, no other thought, no other focus. As an adult I have to slow myself down enough to really receiving this kind of engagement.

I have to experience their delight as a new state like none other I have experienced before. Like many dancers, the child is moving through many states, experiencing them, playing with them, trying them out in many different ways until they discover a new state.

I am trying to just juggle a few states to pull them together so I have to stop and breathe to accept the constant flow of information that the child is mirroring right into me. I accept that mirroring and follow it both along with the child and within myself connecting up my experiences with it.

My experience of dancers experimenting and performing is the same. I take a deep breath and slow myself down enough to accept the immense flow of information through each dancer.

Each of us as dancers goes through different stages of focusing on the flow from state to state and going back to sort through the moments of delight and doubt that represent us as unique and as a part of the mirroring we participate in.

We get caught in one phase or another and that is why we go to a teacher or a choreographer to help with the sorting and the cleaning of ourselves so we choose what is the clearest representation of our experiences.

So when I experience a dancer individually or as a group, I look first for their flow of delight that I know from slowing down with a child. The clues are if they discover a new part of themselves and allow me to see that in their dancing.

This is my second greatest delight, to be a witness of a dancer becoming a new person right then and there. That process takes courage to put every part of themselves on the line. To even begin to see that, I have to also put myself there ready to be changed as we mirror each other’s experience in the moment.

That is another level. The dancer and the audience mirror each other’s experience. That means the moment is being transformed by the curiosity and courage of each person present. Could be that is why we are mystified that no two performances are the same even with the same dancers and the same audience.

So I take a deep breath, call up what little courage I can and enter a space that is unique to dancers willing to show everything they are. That space is a toggle between two kinds of engaging, vulnerability and acceptance. The opening of all the stops is vulnerability which is essential to a dancer. The willingness to send all the power available through the body is acceptance. Vulnerability is recognizing doubt and anticipating a fully engaging experience. Accepting is claiming this statement as oneself at this moment taking full responsibility for the experience of mirroring that is taking place.

The child is the example. There is complete vulnerability and complete responsibility. There is no quibble about being loved or unloved, about there being a God or no God, about being skilled enough or approved enough. There is only total commitment and not to prove anything but to be a completely new something.

So I recognize how vulnerable I am and pull my total self into a slow space of being able to accept what will come through me. I am audience and I love this moment.

I see the dancer and the choreographer toggle between delight and doubt, between acceptance and vulnerability, between the known and the unknown. And what I commit to our mirroring process is anticipation of the toggle that will bring more engagement that may result in something subtle or something bold. Always I look toward the curiosity of the dancer for accepting those moments as representations of them selves, refreshed, renewed, recreated.
Tim Hurst 10/23/17

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Pelvic Floor Test

Test one, A ballet class for teachers way beyond my level. I want to see and feel the difference, to experience being in the middle of greatness grown over a life time.

Of course I was inept, searching, following key people. In the later part of the barre my frappe was very small and feeling the rhythm more than doing the movement.

Oh yes, the pelvic floor test. I expanded my focus to the whole body out of necessity. Did not feel or direct the pelvic floor. The awareness of a broadness was there, definitely a floor all the way through my body to the outer edges.

Signals easily passed into my standing leg as the other leg worked outwards. Develope and extensions felt more certain even with my limited agility.

What I did feel in a more full way was the rhythm and the melody as a context of every movement. Watching the center work my body grew a voracious appetite for the delight of melding personality and melody into dance.

Of course the beauty of each person had to be meshed with the struggle between clarity and error. So I saw the “I am not enough” yearning of the experienced dancer reaching for more.

Dear dancer, It is always an honor to be in the presence of your courageous process. You are a delight to experience in the rough and in the polish.
Tim Hurst 05/06/17

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Listen by Tapestry Dance Co

Tapestry performance, Listen With Ears Wide Open, March 30, 2017

Acia Gray of Tapestry Dance Company has her own direction as an artist.
Putting together personalities. Each personality has a melody, their own musical scale, their own unique quality of sound. Each moves into their melody with a little different focus of energy, lightness and heaviness.

Each personality takes a different pathway, some a little more direct with a focused intensity, some with a winding fluid ease that builds its intensity in intricacies, some build a storyline based on their personal power.

Putting personalities together in a unison environment creates an engine run by fireflies, delighting, surprising, personalities more visible at some times, less at others.

The excitement of personalities is when they meet and they create a new personality between them. Of course as audience we form three way personalities as we build our focus, interest, and excitement. Our experience explodes when paired personalities meet, especially tap dancers with a commitment to melody and the anticipatory spaces of rhythm.

Then Acia adds the added twist of improvisation allowing the tap dancers to let their personalities roll on the energy of interaction with each other and on personal intuition. Memory and planning would not be able to keep up with the delight and surprise of personalities bouncing off of each other.

For the audience, the thrill is catching the full on surrender in the faces of the dancers as they juggle between too many choice interactions. For example the ending piece of Listen with Ears Wide Open was called I’ve Got Rhythm. A rhythm was established by each dancer in a sand box interacting with the sand and interacting with the rhythm of each dancer as they added one at a time. Each dancer had a unique sound and movement related to tearing paper that was a part of their rhythm. Each dancer picked up the other dancer’s approach to the paper, their rhythm, and their movement in the sand box. Mix all that together and the audience is roaring with the combinations occurring in the moment. Fun. Synthesis. Catharsis. By whatever name you call it, that is tap dancing with Acia Gray.
Tim Hurst, 03/30/17

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Live Audience

Experienced two dance performances in two days and a third one a week ago. Watching the audiences after each performance was a superb treat in itself. Antique persons like myself walk light on their feet. The rhythm of going to greet each other become a movie in itself.

My experiences covered a dance map, Modern Dance with Sharon Marroquin’s Las Cuatro Estaciones, Tap Dance with Acia Gray’s Listen, and Ballet with Stephen Mill’s The Magic Flute. Each one filled their audiences with a renewal beyond my ability to express in words.

The delight I feel is no mistake. My favorite neuroscientist Daniel Levitin woke up our awareness of mirror neurons “that fire both when performing an action and when observing someone else perform an action.” He says in This is Your Brain on Music” that both music and dance may be the “fundamental messengers…across individuals and generations…through which develop our beliefs, obsessions, and all art.”

How does this happen? Levitin says about music “The multiple reinforcing cues of a good song–rhythm, melody, and contour–cause music to stick in our heads.” This same vocabulary and effect applies to dance, and research is gathering about body-brain networks forming from both dancing and observing dance.

What I observe after these three dance performances is a particular kind of lightness and subtle poignancy that is unique to the combination of dance and music. The dancer is transferring an experience of something beyond our everyday celebrations.

Each dancer is transmitting their unique experience of personal excellence and also their experience of empathy for the experience of other dancers. We tap straight into that experience and into the courage of each dancer as they gather and sort the makings of themselves as a person, a character, and a messenger directly to our cells.

With dance the experience of watching a friend or a child dance is even more poignant. Add to that the possibility of experiencing a dance class with even the fundamentals of dance can be life changing. These are both opportunities to tap in to the very detailed experiences of dedicated dancers. Commercial over.

I take these experiences with me, of each individual dancer and their messages bonded together. I feel their messages. I know them inside of me. These messages are of hope for the next moments as I yearn for a combination of lightness and power. This is a particular kind of power that music and dance transmit. These are fundamental messages that I can now access.
Tim Hurst 04/01/17

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Dance Breakthrough

Finally!  We begin to understand dance from a viewer’s point of view and see how much interaction is taking place in the whole human system.  Here are some links to interactive video of dance with visual annotation of movement lines, cues, and alignments.

From this point, we can really look at a fraction of the information that our brains and bodies are taking in as we view dance.  I want to see the connections in the viewer’s brain as they interact with each piece of information.  And I want to hear the stories of choreographers and viewers as they encounter their own surprises, emotions, memories, wishes, and unknowable spaces where the dance takes them.

Thank you to Deborah Hay for her work that has immensely influenced the direction of this exploration.

 Tim Hurst04/13/13

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Audience, Dancers Explore

Being audience for dance is exploring together.  This is especially true for new choreography of any dance style.  The choreographer is exploring and the audience agrees to go there with their dance.  Together the dancer and the audience build a way of communicating.  Both are in the process of sorting and clarifying the emotions, the themes, and the direction of the communication.

Dance audiences are the most courageous because there are often no words, sometimes no story, and usually no musical refrain to grind the message into our souls with repetition.  We are challenged to follow the choreographer where their exploration leads.  Sometimes we must override our desire to be entertained or our wish to be shown an “in our face’ clarity.

Exploration is exploring and that requires a willingness to look deeper into our reactions and into who the choreographer is.  We enter the choreographers world by exploring our emotions, our confusion, our faint wishes and passionate desires.  We explore our busyness and our worst battles.  We are often asked to explore fears, pains, and agonies that we would rather not talk about, let alone see in graphic movement. And sometimes we have to watch as the choreographer avoids the huge hurtful zones that we yearn to be opened and reconciled.

 More often than American audiences would like, we are sometimes thrown into an unending circle of angst without resolution or transformation.  What is often missed by both choreographer and audience is the insight and laughter that comes with stillness and the simplest interactions of two people.