Posted on

Ballet as Simple

The more stressed I become with running a business and worrying about money,the more I search for ways to release the stress in my body. It has taken many years to understand the instant relief that dance gives me.

Trying many forms of dance I decided that my body was not going to do what I asked it to do. So I became an improvisational dancer. I learned about the qualities of movement without worrying about precision.

Searching for more control of my body, I studied Pilates as a form of exercise based on Ballet and Modern Dance. I discovered that I do not have the concentration or the memory structure to make ten commands at once to make my body move correctly. Something was not connecting.

Then I discovered that Ballet simplified commands for my whole body into a network of movements. The very beginning movement, the pliƩ, seems like simple movements of bending the legs, lowering the body, and lifting the arms. When I discovered the basis of this simple, whole body movement, I knew this was the clarity of learning I was looking for.

Pilates identified one principle of Ballet that looked hopeful. They call it the Core, meaning the musculature, nerves, blood flow, around the skeletal center of the body, the spine. Pilates strengthens and stretches the muscles around the spine using an exercise model.

When I began to take Ballet, the Core became related to movement of my whole body with simple commands. Those commands were signals originating at the spine. This sounds a little detailed but I had to have a way to connect my movements that seemed to ignore my commands.

The more I studied the simplest Ballet movements I realized three things. Ballet teaches movements as signals that start at different areas of the spine. A network of signals can move my whole body with one command. And third, when several networked movements are bundled as a phrase, I learn how the effort of one movement supports the next movement.

So my study of Ballet is to train my spine to send and receive signals that guide my body movements. This seems to work because my muscles surprise me by releasing to let the signals pass through.

An added benefit is that watching other dancers learn, I am able to identify the networks that should be connecting for me. For me to get to the networks, I have to go into much more detail than the average person. This drives my Pilates teachers crazy with so many questions and requests to understand what connects to what. Ballet teachers move us through the phrases and ask us to experiment with balance and different speeds to get the connections between movements and to build networks of signals.
Tim Hurst 02/07/18

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

Clarify Double Helix

Today I feel the double helix as an image that sustains my movement. What I see in dancers is what I feel in me as the image moves with a delightful agility from area to area in my body.

I change the position of the double helix image at will. I send any signal through the image, fast or slow, intense and large or subtle and small, floating or carving space. The image is the structure for expansion or compression. The spiral shape is perfect as instantly responding as a spring or as an undulating mass able to articulate any area of my body in multiple directions.

I send signals from my spine outwards to both arms with two ends of the helix as a structure. The signal can continue beyond my body with an extended helix image or allowed to disappear into space.

I can make sense out of ballet images for crossing signals in the back from hip to shoulder. The double helix image can follow those pathways and bring sensation to all the edges of the body, front, back, side, internal and external.

The signal has a structure to return to my spine or make a curved transition into another direction. The ending of the helix can be shaped as a figure eight image to make this returning signal instantaneous.

Tilting and banking my body at the different horizontal diaphragms becomes totally different from directing myself to bend backwards or pull my abs in to roll over. The helix has only to be rotated slightly for tilting and angled for banking motions.

Applying the double helix to my feet is an exploration in itself with the many combinations of arches and joints.

The double helix image carries any variety of signals to the smallest area or to my entire body and psyche at once.

The shape of the double helix is two intertwined spirals. The image of two spirals define a circular space between them that can activate and manage interactive fields of energy in small or large areas. A double helix image around the spine interconnects both sides of the body. Likewise an image of a horizontal double helix can activate at least eight cross sections of the body. Combining the vertical and the horizontal images provides inter-connective networks through the entire body and a way to change to many diagonal pathways.
Tim Hurst 09/14/17