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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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Dancing the Self

One of the opportunities of dance is to let all of myself come through my movement. Letting all of myself show seems a bit out of control and the surprise of an unknown part of myself showing up can be a problem.

Because of difficulty learning patterns and having to relearn them every day, I developed several approaches that put me right at the center of my fears and my surprise. Every pattern had to be improvised and shifted from different directions, moods, and intensities. Nothing seemed to store in a concrete way so my memory had to be more like a poem of images than a set of lines with precise positions and angles.

This was especially interesting when performing memorized music or ballroom dance with a partner. I would basically enter a feeling state that included a series of experiences. Inevitably I would enter a blank space and have to improvise my way back into the series. Remembering lines in plays was the same issue.

My approach was to study movement exercises for theater and Modern Dance to get an idea of pattern while finding different dimensions of emotion and intensity. I gradually studied more and more improvisational dance forms with open possibilities for creating surprising patterns. I created performances that were so internal that I would begin with only an image and allow my movement to flow.

The results were that I would indeed find surprise that might be a blockage in myself that froze my thoughts and movements or I would create such a vulnerable place in myself that I was dancing my fear rather than allowing my self to come through.

Watching dancers has been my life and standing outside of the world of patterns has been interesting. I watch for how the person comes through the pattern and how alive that makes the pattern. From this perspective I naturally gravitate to dance that has a range of emotions and intensities. If the patterns of a dance do not shift from delight to seriousness, then I look for the individual dancer who allows themselves to experience a variety of intensities.

So my recurring question is how the dancer who experiences a full range of emotion and intensities relates to the patterns of the dance. Since dance is an interactive form, an even more involving question is how their individual experience connects with their fellow dancers and to the audience participants in their dance.

In my search I have discovered how movement patterns and the dance class methodically take a dancer into the realms of making these shifts of experience. Because dance engages every part of the person, each dancer recognizes the unending number of connections in different ways and at different stages of their learning.

So my process of watching dance is to experience each dancer as a unique composite of experience. This is a special delight since I can experience the baby, the child dancer, the professional or the beginner adult of all ages.

Then I have taken those questions to ask how I, a relative outsider in the realm of pattern, can enter the dancer’s experience of shifting perspectives and qualities of movement, emotion, thought, and even interaction with others.

With my round about ways of learning dance, I began to ask how I could really enter the experience of dance as a way of varying not just the emotion and intensity but also the pattern.

Having studied in depth several approaches to dance improvisation, movement meditation, singing, and theater, I came to the science of dance as we know it, Ballet. Taking ballet for the first time at mid-life was a rush of energy I had not felt. Maybe all those years of watching added up to give me a rudimentary structure to build on.

All this clarity of energy made my blocks even clearer. No area of my body would respond to a command and there were so many commands at once. Pull this, lower this, send energy here then there. I had to take one command to one body area at a time. That meant private class which limited my experience of learning with other dancers.

I enrolled in Pilates, in Balance Class, in combinations of Modern Dance and yoga, and finally in Floor-Barre directly related to Ballet movement. I was still caught in the command issue of trying to move this, hold that, and somehow hold it there. Obviously I still had no storage for the pattern necessary to put all this together.

So I started improvising Ballet movement and trying to find a way to simplify the commands in a way I could learn the movement. My desire is more than that. I want to experience what the dancer experiences when that one dancer enters the whole person that can shift from delight to seriousness, from laughter to reflection, from pattern to emotion in all its intensities.

To remember and to clarify all my rambling experiments, I have written this blog. Those who can wander with me are welcome.
Tim Hurst 01/22/18

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CranioSacral Therapy and Dance

CranioSacral Therapy, John Upledger
Notes:
Touch is a common thread of interaction with self and other.
Enter common personal space with another person and persons.
Neutral agenda: purpose to listen together
Gentleness and effortless attention support a neutral agenda for listening together.
Therapist enters neutral space by asking to experience unknown connections
Therapist studies in depth the interrelationships of physical structure, interactive movement of energy, fluid, and signals through the physical system, interrelationship of brain and tissue and intention.
Therapist observes and follows the interactive connections being made by persons present in therapy.

Osteopathy: send signals through tissue
CranioSacral Therapy: Signals sent also return with infinite amount of personal information

Fascial tissue connects the entire body
Dural fluid nourishes and protects brain and the neurological system
Send and receive signals through tissue and fluids

My experimentation is the practice of Craniosacral Therapy on myself and others to discover the sense of neutrality of agenda and how to listen to the workings of the human. Beyond that is the experience of asking and observing the multiple pathways within myself and a client and working with other practitioners. This is not my business so I have taken my time in this process.

Then I began to involve touch with my hands in my movement. Touch to get another sensation of movement internally and externally. Touch to follow a movement. Touch to catch myself at the bottom of a wave form. Touch to encourage a spiral or to initiate a slight loop that returns a movement to where it came from. Touch simply to provide a resting platform in the process of following a path.

Contrary to my inclination to direct my movement with touch, I practiced gentleness and listened for the information that was being carried in my movement signals. All this experimentation is very rewarding, opening new areas of curiosity all the time.

On one occasion several years ago, I performed this process while singing improvised songs which I often do when I will not wake my sweetheart in the early morning hours. The result was satisfying yet terrifying for me to perform and show such vulnerability.
Tim Hurst. 08/27/17

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Dance a Fractal

A fractal is a pathway, a shape the reveals an experience of nature’s beauty as both simple and complex, as direct and intricate.

As a dancer, movement can follow a line or a curve. Since dance is a unique study of the curve, how do we express a fractal. A simple curve gives way to a loop within the curve. Repeating this refreshed pattern gives way to another loop within the loop. The variation continues until a simple curve refreshes itself with all the experience of the previous fractal.

The improvisational dancer is familiar with following one movement that builds upon another. The surrender to the fractal image is allowing loops to recur and vary with every curved movement of any part of the body. The variations then can involve every direction and every level of intensity or color to name only a few possibilities.

Loops upon loops, circles upon spirals, all reveal pathways and different levels of experience.

With the dancer, every part of the body can create a fractal dance, each unique with contrapuntal melodies and interplaying rhythms.
Tim Hurst 08/21/17

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Dancing Fractals

Dancing Fractals 071617. Tim Hurst
Dancing like fractals builds from the simplest premise of a curve and a line.

Dance is the study of this process beginning with simplicity and adding variation. Like the fractal, a curve within a curve creates an alternate contour, an alternate sequence. Movement looked at as an entire network of contours means a new reality is created. A new equation emerges that can be applied to an intricate series of variations.

So dance like the fractal plays with the new contour of one curve substituted for a part of a simple curve or line. Within the new contour, another curve is substituted creating another contour. This process is continued creating an intricacy that we experience as beauty and as a representation of the complexity of life beginning from a recurring simplicity.

Dance is the process of creating these representations of the self and the group. The basic principles of these representations are first the contours that we call melody and second the breaking apart of the contours that we call rhythm.

The dance process from simple to intricate creates the contours and rhythms that permeate all levels of human experience. The representations created through dance variations are integrated down to the cellular level. We have access to these representations that we can experience as networks.

To these networks we can add variations and begin our creation of other fractals of intricacy and beauty. Our experience of life as beauty is the awe of being able to see our part in this process. Gratitude is one response to this awe. Another response is the benefits of survival.

Dance builds from these moments of awe with anticipation of more life, more variation, and more representations of the intricacies on our interconnected networks. The melodies and rhythms of our fractals become palpable both as an individual and a group. We can see ourselves and grasp how simple variations build us a humans.

There are two different responses to the growing anticipation and creation of fractals. From gratitude comes vulnerability and receptiveness. From seeking the benefits of survival comes ambition to perfect the intricacies of melodic and rhythmic bonds.
Tim Hurst 07/16/17

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Dancing Fractals Process

Looking at both dancing and fractals as contours of movement and rhythmic variations, they both become representations of our experience. They both create a kind of equation that can be applied across our entire experience. They both give us access to our experience so we can add further variation representing our evolving experience.

How does this process work? First is the experience of a curve or a line that we understand enough to make a simple variation. In the creative arts, the artist begins with a simple experience that is possible to understand as a person physically, emotionally, intellectually, and intentionally. In a similar process, the scientist creates an hypothesis that can be understood and varied. Both create a representation that gives perspective on experience and can be varied.

One of the simplest ways to understand variation is as a binary process. With dance as with music the contour is a melody. Many binary variations affect a melody and rhythm. For melody the choices are more or less. With rhythm the basic variations are long or short.

Binary variations become basic units of memory that can be networked to recreate the simplest and the most intricate fractal representations of multiple variations.

Binary variations become elements of focus on the micro and the macro view, elements of perceiving and responding to internal and external information, elements of the receptive process to anticipate and integrate experience, elements of the intentional process to enter an experience with courage and likewise release the experience to our unknown parasympathetic experience.
Tim Hurst. 07/16/17

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Dance Imagery/Fulton

Erin Kedze Fulton. January 20, 2017
Imagery is most often noticed/talked about/used within the realm of literature. And as I learned in grade school, it’s an umbrella term for similes, metaphors, and personification. Like or as. Or it is. My generalized finding – from the middle school days of Harry Potter, til today’s tackling of Ishiguro – is that imagery has a way of engaging the imagination in a way that facts can’t. “His eyes were dark,” doesn’t have the effect of “eyes…glinting like black beetles” (Rowling speaking). Something is stirred within the mind’s eye, resulting in slight intimidation. Or the sensation of seeing darkness.

However, there is a thoroughly unresearched medium that imagery operates within, and that is dance. It’s a teaching strategy, as well as a way of absorbing information and emitting it right back out of your body. It is the means by which I learn and move best as a dancer.

Until I was 20, the primary experience I had with dance was ballet, and I attended classes in a traditional school. We used the proper, codified terminology, and explanations were straight-forward and anatomical (“your arm is slightly bent at the elbow, brought in front of you at belly button level”). But there was always a frustrating wall in my body that I couldn’t climb over. Blockages, places that energy was unable to reach, gimmicks that I was either unaware of, or unable to alter.

It wasn’t until I took my first improvisation class in college that I began to find a way to reach the blocked and inaccessible places in my body. We began with simple exercises: assign adjectives and verbs, and embody them through movement. Thick. Sliding. Circular. We would take a word and run with it, improv-ing for minutes on end, and I was delighted to find how much movement my body could produce from the idea of a single image. I didn’t have to think too much, it just happened.

My experience with imagery grew as I was exposed to a wider variety of instructors. When I was asked to “be cool,” my tendency to muscle my way through movement tapered off. Being told to not have “tortilla feet” was a tongue-in-cheek way of getting my feet to keep up with my legs. And in Pilates, the idea of four cups of coffee balanced on shoulders and hips enabled me to keep a steady quadruped.

These mental pictures had a way of molding and shaping my body from the inside out – and like water against rock, it’s an ongoing process. But I sense progress. The parallel is how a reader graduates to more and more sophisticated works – so also a dancer graduates to more complicated images. The most challenging are ones that have to do with an abstract energy – riding the energy particles that rush through my blood stream. To move as if the very act of it is cleansing me.

Beyond the aspect of physical growth, imagery acts as a simple yet intimate language between dancers. I work with a group of performers, among whom three different tongues are represented: most of us speak English, but one dancer is from France, and Chinese is our choreographer’s native tongue. There are times when heavily detailed prompts are counterproductive and confusing. So instead, our choreographer will simply tell us, “Soft.” And we understand him, and soften.

The beauty of an image is that it results in my body moving organically, from the inside out; movement happens to me, rather than the other way around. I find that I don’t need to emphasize the correctness of a movement, but learn its feeling and essence, with the help of a mental picture. “Bones pulling through flesh” looks different in my body than in the dancer’s next to me, but is just as valid.