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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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Networked Movement

As I experiment with my feet finding a balancing place between all the extremities, I realize how my signals work. Neurobiologist believe that these micro movements in babies are random twitches.

My experience is that signals are always at work connecting, disconnecting, and reconnecting networks. That would mean that the many signals I feel in my feet are going in all directions at once doing their work to sort out relationships and functions like weight transfer and balance. These signals may be called random but that does not account for the purposeful relationship with the entire body as a network that includes the brain.

I studied Rewiring movement from Nina Martin, professor of dance at TCU in Texas. We were asked to lay on the floor and to allow signals to come from our spine that would slightly move different parts of our body.

The image Nina used was of a baby just before going to sleep. Often the baby will go through a series of twitches like an adult might do when ready to do something but being very frustrated. As I have mentioned neurobiologists study these flurries of signals as random movements essential to making connections in the brain.

Nina was not dealing with random movement but with the flurry of movements exploring all directions at once. When our brain kicked in to make the movements into patterns, Nina suggested we follow the pattern briefly and return to the exploratory flurry of signals initiating our movements.

My work with Nina Martin gave me ways to experience these signals to gain a perspective on the ways I move and how I can vary signals to affect my habitual and learned movements.

What this means to me is that the signals to and from my feet are always networking using exploratory movement. Patterned, learned, repetitive movement is another layer that can be adjusted with an awareness of how my signals work.

Deborah Hay innovated ways for dancers to disengaged from patterned movement so they can discover the layer of signals beneath. At this layer all systems can be engaged at once with movements that are directed and non-directed, physical and emotional, intentional and surrendered.

The method that Deborah used was the image of the individual cell having its own intelligence. As the dancer tunes to each cell a greater awareness develops of a complete network throughout the entire body. The necessity to plan and execute movement gives way to another kind of inner communication akin to meditation. Deborah can then give an image or a brief movement idea as a template for the cells to follow. The necessity has been transformed to listening to the cells rather than to our thoughts.

So with my feet I first become aware of the micro level of signals at work continually. Then I move into that micro level slowly enough to build awareness of the connections being made as networks. Then I can both follow and direct the networks individually and as full body networks.
Tim Hurst 08/23/17

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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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Dance Signals Soft

How can my experience of the movement change when I choose a soft or subtle quality for the signal? I want to try varying signal qualities such as intensity, emphasis, and amount of force.

I find myself directing and wanting to force all my movements. Then I move into a different world all together. Soft, gentle, or subtle are a challenge. There are as many different approaches as there are dancers. What is it for me?

My first attempts are to move slower but a fast movement can also be soft. I remember to bring the qualities of curiosity, anticipation, and receiving the signal of softness as well as sending. Playing with weight I can vary the quality of softness from heavy yet buoyant like a buoy and floating like a balloon.

I want to try a new image. What if my signals were not direct but were a bursting array of signals? The only image that comes is a waterfall with trillions of different size drops, mist, and lots of sound.

Sending signals from the spine is clear yet I remember Deborah Hay describing sending energy through the Solar Plexis. This image gave me a completely different experience and I can vary the amount of power I use from subtle to bold.

Nina Martin describes sending multiple signals in her study of Rewiring the body. The process is to send many random signals from the spine to all areas of the body. My movement becomes responsive, loose, and unplanned.

Applying this process to soft movement is to send many signals covering a wide area of the body. I can not “think” that many signals and my body gives in to a quality of softness.

For another experiment, I send many signals on pathways with loops and spirals, allowing them to go where they will. My movement is my central focus with the awareness that all the complexity of emotion and sensation can be carried in so much variety.

The way Deborah Hay describes this process is paying attention to trillions of cells at once, each with their own intelligence, perception, and pathways.

Once I have explored all these signals, moving with softness is different and may require only a memory of my self navigating moment by moment from decisive to reflection, from force to ease. Images can occur on their own or be brought up when needed.

Now it is time to receive all this in a Ballet reverence.
Tim Hurst. 04/07/17

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As Holy Sites Go Poem

Deborah Hay brings together two masters of dance to connect the unconnectable.  Adaptation by Jeanine Durning and Ros Warby.  Poem by Tim Hurst

Two Explorers highly tuned to slight movement, to fainter sound, to tiniest molecular modulation.  Two Explorer’s eyes are seismic readers of universes unseen and seen.  Two Explorers in interplay too tuned to toy with thoughts and ploys.

Two side by side.  Two approaching and apart.  Two adjunct and adjacent.  Two pretzeled and knotted.  And afterwards observing, being aware, moving reflections, maybe separation, maybe embarrassment, maybe compassion, maybe exhaustion.

And to say a word about myself as audience with my slight perceptual abilities.  At open, my word was “No,” no to relinquishing my version of personal interaction, no to entering my breath, no to allowing the two before me to become their exploration.

I could not fathom eyes that only explore.  I could not imagine bodies that only respond together.  I was not prepared for the intensity of so many universes in communion.

Yes, points of darkness placed throughout the experience allowed my system to reset itself and the softness of my “Yes’s” slowly overtook me.

And oh yes, the songs came as gentle breezes to my parched eyes as they waited to connect pure joy beneath my lids to the delight of living in the presence of other universes.

Oh yes, the song that only yesterday in the solo performances came singularly across the open plain, today the song comes from two separately unique universes of indeterminate origin.

And the song of two comes once and twice and more, each song’s return caresses yet another layer of liquid that I call my body.  The songs come as if from a canyon rim warm with nature’s touch of life.  Each of two songs tentatively meet finding dissonance as a first caress, then they fly freely echoing and joining and conversing.  Our Two Explorers are embodied in their harmonic convergence and dis-convergence, their sounds in air emulating the touch of their multiple inner and outer universes.

What events propelled the Two Explorers to opposite walls of the space?  Only a magician could explain.  And from where came the dings and dongs tricking the audience with Jeanine’s hot lighted dance at one wall and Ros’ standing dance on the other.  Our eyes as audience dart back and forth to discern the slight of hand that turned to be a foot and a finger involved in clanging metal sounds.

Yes, my “Yes’s” overcame my initial inertia and I became duly overwhelmed moment by moment with Ros’ exploration of Jeanine’s finger pointed into Ros’ eye, with ethereal shoe taps preceding the trail of here to there and to not being here at all,  with the two in free fall, one digesting agony in inverted space while one is regurgitating with lips almost touching the floor.

Almost too overwhelming was the immense multiplicity of Two Explorers interrupting pattern after pattern, embarking again and again to interrupt what must seem like the sheer face of treacherous peaks, crevas after crevas.  And then more overwhelm came for me to accompany the two as they break all bridles and like colts run fleetingly across the great expanses of our minds joined in this journey.

And as I gasp for air to fund this free run, the two are running willingly towards their backs, with the joy of their backs splashing through the air, side by side, eyes and foreheads and hearts in union.

Another free fall must come and a song and three words come spoken deeply.  Our Two stand together facing their universes and ours.  The lights go black.

In the darkness, the memory of Our Two Explorers falling and rising holds us as audience in awe.  The final rise comes from us as we grant the two a long patient silence in the darkness before we exude what inept sounds and applause we can muster.

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What's a dancer's perception?

Deborah Hay choreographed Fire to empty the dancer of previous perception.  Adapted and performed by Ros Warby.  Poem by Tim Hurst

Deborah Hay is committed to countering structure with the structure of infinitude.

Here in Austin, we return with her once again to experience the excellence of her movement, the excellence of her attention, the understanding of the full response of body in space.

Here before me is dancer, Ros, bared to basic white leotard and white head bandeau.  White bare movement carries me where I knew not, to a clarity of line broken and unbroken, bent and rebent toward line of life.  Stripped of intention, the bareness of life glows and shows clearly the stones on which we chew.

Dancer Ros’ eyes seek cells quirky pathways.  Her unity of body quickly spotlight patterns of mind and body. Body parts wiggle out of habitual bridles interrupting movement patterns.  Aberrant noises signal the escape from patterned movements hiding under the wires of dancer Ros’ cared for attention.  Each body part is under examination and in the process mouth and cheeks and face and neck take a long unscripted journey through what must be reminiscent of a hurricane. Falls into a white abyss may follow and certainly songs.

Seeing, feeling, being, the chasm of my brain splays open letting whiteness spill inwards and outwards.  The simplicity of the dancer Ros allowing all to be seen totally disarms me.  Simply speaking these words, I must acknowledge that I as audience am being seen as well.

Sharing the space with the dancer Ros and with Deborah has the quality of the song she sings, an infinitude of clarity riding the moment asking only to see and to be seen.  Where the dancer Ros travels can only be called dimensions or universes yet the simplicity of her sharing every process so visibly is inspiring.  Dancer Ros takes us into the seen worlds beyond the cell to embrace the fractile, into the unimaginable connection of our ancestry with planetary molecules, and into the unseen worlds of which we would rather not speak.

Seems so absurd to say yet the simplicity of the human connection to life is visible here in the dancer Ros as she attends to all these universes within and outside herself.  She assumes nothing, no absurdity, no importance, no comedy, no bondage to past present or future.  And how can it be that all this simplicity can be seen.

The vulnerability of the dancer is complete.  As audience, I the seer enter vulnerability completing some kind of union.  The basis of the vulnerability is not knowing and yet knowing and attending to the complete spectrum of seen and unseen.  The dancer’s vehicles of movement, stillness, and song give us the opportunity to stand in the moment together where our vulnerabilities guide us to listen and to see.

Within this vulnerability, Deborah is committed to breaking the patterns of mind and body.  Dancer Ros moves seamlessly through attending to pattern, connecting to pattern, holding pattern in view, cleansing pattern, celebrating patterns release, testing new clean space, resting in new clean space, collapsing when necessary. 

My memory can not hold the passing processes and grasps only a few images of awkwardness and clarity, moments of regurgitation or satisfied stillness. 

Only songs hold a place in my memory.  Somehow my brain comprehends the songs vulnerability, the open exploration, the balance of courage, fear, gentleness and boldness.

For me as audience, realizations and reflections break through constantly.  The dance is insisting that my attention move through frozen patterns of my mind and body.  In the visibility and vulnerability of the dance, my intentions are broken and I can not hang on to what is frozen and hardened within me.  The dance is asking me to recalibrate at every level.

The feeling is like being on the ocean where I experience myself on one wave at a time.  The memory of the wave melts into the memory of every wave.  The immensity of the entire sea is overwhelming and calls me to recalibrate.  I like the dancer send down echoes to the bottom of the sea.  What resounds baffles me and opens me to vulnerability and exploration.  With each new wave I choose to recalibrate, to regurgitate, or I crawl back in my cave to lick my cherished wounds so that I can reassure myself that I am in control.  Only one look at the enormous waves of the ocean confirms that I am only a speck on a spectrum.  So it is as I see Deborah’s dances.  To cleanse or not to cleanse is always the question.

Dancer Ros as all dancers with Deborah Hay are claiming a necessity to enter life by sampling and savoring all reality known and not known, seen and not seen.  As a willing audience participant, I can only respond with, “Thank you.”

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What's a Dancer's Reality?

Deborah Hay choreographed No Time To Fly as instances of non-linear reality. Adapted and performed by Jeanine Durning.  Poem by Tim Hurst

From the outset of No Time to Fly, I felt the three presences actively expanding the space.  One presence is the dancer Jeanine.  She bubbles upon us in exuberant lightness of a child.  She wears black shorts and black top.  The second presence is a very real sense of Deborah taking each step bold or quiet.  And the third is the tragic comedian slowly and abruptly cracking open the attic chest spilling the ancestry of each person present.

As with any tragic comedienne, the costume plays its character role.  On Jeanine is a luxurious smoking jacket golden and glistening in perfect character to carry the likes of Red Skelton and other truth tellers going back to our earliest caves and cook fires.

Jeanine is the ultimate trickster trained to travel the tumultuous inner rivers of never ending life.  She tricks me over and over to follow what I think is a story when actually the time line is Jeanine and Deborah totally savoring each morsel of this meal we call life.

When I think I know what I have just seen, Jeanine switches; she plays dead; she flips the light switch; or she takes a turn with the swagger of a Durante or Gleason.  And each time as hard as I try to stay awake, before my eyes can refocus, Jeanine ascends from the dead, appears from the dark, or charges through the gates of pity leaving my body aghast in surprise.

And not least of the surprises are the moments of quiet repose, moments held not in performance but in reverence for the moment.  My eyes must unhinge deep within my psyche to allow these moments to enter.  I might as well be floating in aTexas river or languishing beneath a cottonwood tree listening watching its leaves dance in the wind.

And while I am negotiating with myself to allow this ease, Jeanine has moved her focus to follow other cells in other directions and I am called to join.

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Nina Martin to Deborah Hay

Nina dances a response to Deborah’s piece “No Time to Fly” at symposium honoring Deborah Hay’s life achievement. 040810

A glistening orange jester enters reminding of the black and white mime who appeared from we know not where.

The orange dancer takes us into a room with clear parameters, delighting us with nuances and shadings of the path to be studied.  We are pleasantly reminded of the difficult passage we squeezed through as we experienced the black and white mime’s movements the day before.

The orange leg swings with a familiar momentum.  Ahh, we take a sigh of relief to see that swinging friend, a momentum only insinuated by the black and white mime.  It was as if the mime wished only to initiate the gesture and it was our responsibility to complete it.

So I am here mulling over the places the mime took me, human pomp and humility, canyons of grandeur, ancestral tragedy, a delighted commentary on where we are not, and a chronicle of something like the rise and demise of spirituality as  embodied in feeling states.

I immensely appreciate Nina’s personal response and responding in movement.  It is the response I would have wished from her.  I loved that Nina’s dance was asking the question, “What is this? and “Why is it so hard to get?”  I completely concur.

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Understand not Deborah Hay

I understand you not Deborah Hay.  When I start to write your name it comes out Hah and then Hey and I wonder if next would be Hee Hee, before I finally type Hay.

Watching you dance, I am totally engaged in I know not what.  I am pulled close, pushed away, taunted to laugh or cry as if it were all the same.  My brain waits on edge for a familiar momentum that will carry my spirit out of my body.  Yet where I am taken is into the depths of my body where I am asked to own up to something, something I probably know but have long ago buried the desire to know.

Instead of the exhilaration of flight that my body yearns for, I am challenged moment by moment.  Instead of simple reminders of the beauty that under girds all life, you insist that I look at a spirit world where life and death are a constant swirl of positives and negatives.

Your refusal to rely on familiar patterns throws me instantly into a glaring stare into myself.  As with any entry into the self, I am uncomfortable.  I must decide to look and go into the next moment or withdraw into unconsciousness or irritation.

Your dancing brings me every moment to “Here.  Here.  Now here.  Here Now.”  And once I have made the choice to join you for that moment, I am hugely and fabulously engaged.  Engaged in my own life, that is my goal after all.

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Deborah Hay poem1710

Deborah Hay, No Time to Fly, Austin 040710

Take this mind of mine, entwine it with thine, take this mind of mine, find it nowhere there, find a finer strain of place where my body can fail to entwine and finally unspent find no waiting is lent.

Finding no waiting in this darkness here, my mind can run with thee, where un-spun my heavens can run and run.  Forever approaching I ask only to listen to the unbending sound of the voice we both hear, the voice we both listen for even when there is no sound, when the voice is sproken, unbroken, spelled into the yearning.  From the spectacular spoken a song is lent to us, beauty for our mind calling out to the bent of the East, leavening us until we rise, held and rocked until my mind comes willingly to the froth and takes the step on the beat of the beat soothed by the crossing of the feet, pulsed by the rhythm of the open palm and the elbows opened to the coming step.

My mind knows no path now, protruded across with the arch of arms and snapped neck, no armed roadmap, no journey except this one, never blinded yet bright from bold steps bringing fresh inhales into my spine.  I listen to every hand that carries away hunks of my minds clutter, a structure wholly unknown.

Captains and sailors and emperors and fish hung from elbows fluttering away past carriages found on seas exhaled shores.  My mind knows its loss is lost, taken into the breath of the whale where swept hands brand the sand beneath me.  I rattle to adjust the seriousness my mind wishes to lift the frozenness of my kindness to myself.  I must grab my calf and find the most uncomfortable link to my faltering mind before I can twirl a foot not in the least waiting for the end of the fall that takes me to the sudden prophetic thump of my finger where I know no mind can survive the scratching of an unending finger.

Once my mind is returned to standing, gathered to avoid the fissures of the age, then I can sprout and spring and limp, rumple my brain through the entering of unfettered braggadocio, finding flippant offshoots that must be Lego’d together before the turning of the sea salt shores.

My mind wishes yes yearns to listen to the rising song bringing nourishment and ease only to know the cataclysmic restructuring of island and cliff comes with shift and shiss and Magellan’s passage fish.  Again my mind is called to wish until the closing of the lighting reveals an electric being that will not go away, that will be within me and my mind no matter how long I wish for the comforting song.

And my mind sighs willing to move backwards toward any crevasse that may portend my mind to its shallow end.  Holy only holy only as long as water runs, my mind runs as the river runs.  Yes my mind sweeps the sweet song along with the river rising over and under the land and rock that I call myself.  My mind is the river and my body listens and speaks asking even if it must back into this life if it may look up into the sky, scratch open any scabbed wounds, make new braids to accompany each step turning round and crossing over the world where knees may meet and hips may rub and claws may scratch and wings my swelter passing unfettered while my mind finds itself outwitted and swung, while a whetted tounge spits across a blue legged horse, hoofed across a half sided mount, rattled across an unbridled age.

Upended my mind can only listen for the edge of the journey.

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Deborah Hay poem1810

Deborah Hay, No Time to Fly,040710

We have spilled into the ancient flooded valleys of our ancestors.  We must travel by boat across slow waters to carefully tended temples sitting above earthquakes that will lead us into unending journeys through fissures of the earth beneath and the glandular plasma within.