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Dance Experiment Yes

Yesterday I tried to describe a daily dance experiment. It became a boring play by play of another exercise system with a now I do this and then this. Unpublished that and spent a day writing about the brightness that is dance to me, to my teachers,and to choreographers and performers that explore the depths of dance every day.

My passion is to share this process of delight and diligence that as dancers we enter every minute of our lives. My 15 year old grandson describes me with the word exuberance that he defines as “overly excited to the point of being obnoxious.” And I have to admit I have been that exuberant when I want every party to be Ballywood with every one dancing and singing. Or when someone says, “I can’t dance,” and my energy fires up. Or when a choreographer has only a small audience to join their performance of excellence and new discoveries about the human spirit.

My search is for a common denominator that we all obviously share when it comes to dance and music. I will walk into any storm to support every person with an inclination to dance. At this moment I am looking at all the storms I have come through. What I see are layers upon layers of interconnected experiences that are obvious and fully described in the art, the lives and in the words of dancers.

Yet to clarify the processes and principles we express, my words turn to mush and I tear my hair at our denial of the massive influence dance has on our lives both as participants and beneficiaries.

The beauty of dance is that each individual samples its juicy delights and digests it in different ways. The nurture of those dance morsels emerges as a person who is more curious, more aware, more tuned to delight and despair. This nurture is available for the dancer and for those who join with the dancer on their explorations.

This is my search, for a place we can all enter this nurturing world of dance. In my life, I follow the trails to dancers who know this delight and who enter it fully. I find this ability to enter dance in the five year old as well as in the professional, in the social dancer as well as the brilliantly dedicated pointe dancer.

Within my search, the questions and the lists read like a composite of restaurant menus from all over the world and from the camp fires of our earliest ancestors. My main focus is, how do we enter what we know as dance, instant connection of everything we are, instant fun, a second wind insisting we dance forever.

As with any endeavor, the range defines the degrees of entry. The range is from a process and a procedure to the individual experience of the process. We sometimes think of dance as learning a form like Ballet or HipHop or Salsa. Yet when we taste the delights of the actual experience, we only want more.

Entry at this point is when the experience shapes the structure of the dance. In other words, the dance becomes yours. You shape the dance to be you rather than the steps and techniques being the only goal.

Dance is unique. The entry point is instantaneous. The first steps of a child instantly turn to dance with music. The beginner learning the waltz can feel the dance within them even if the body is trying to catch up.

The uniqueness of dance is a lifetime study. A particularly interesting point of entry is the activating of the personal monitor. It has something to do with the play between awareness and a generalized sense of everything working together. Dancers confront their internal emotions and traumas as well as their external interactions.

The monitoring is subtle signals or messages or conversations between the person and every part of their life. Dancers often describe their experience as spiritual or as meditative. I suspect that the reason is this aspect of monitoring that is a personal connection with insights, anticipations, and moments of creating new cells and new points of view.

Dance and music ride the line between the known and the unknown similar to religious ritual and meditation. Structure and form are there to develop processes like personal monitoring to navigate these sometimes challenging seas of uncertainty and vulnerability.

As I describe my exploration and experiments, my intent is not to create a structure or a way to dance. My hope is to find an entry way to making the kinds of connections that dancers and dance teachers make every day.

Will these entry points give you more access to yourself and to dancing? Will they give choreographers and teachers clearer ways to state the importance of their explorations? Will more audiences join choreographers to explore new discoveries of themselves? Again, my hope is to give insights for each individual to find the brightness within themselves where dance resides.

All along the way I could say, build your connections, “Do not do as I do.” As a consummate beginner of dance, I am the perfect person to delve into these murky waters that seem so confusing to explain. It takes me years to absorb a structure, relearning each time I return. Learning patterns requires sometimes hours of improvisation and play with the different pieces of a movement. My system sometimes overloads and freezes my ability to move. One of my Pilates teachers says, “You think too much.” My Floor-BarreTM instructor says I need more fluidity as I am learning the movements.

So my qualifications in doing this study are not what I do or can do, they are my passion to find the entry points that bring delight to every movement.
Tim Hurst. 03.12.17

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Question Placebo Effect

Professional athletes say that when two people are highly trained and have superior talent, it comes down to a confrontation of the attitude of one individual against another.

What if Lance Armstrong did not benefit so much from the physical effects of drugging. What if he benefited more from an attitude change due to a placebo effect? What if his belief in his advantage and the proof of his previous wins was the deciding factor in his winning his races? Which ever is true, the issue raises a question for me.

Could the instantaneous connection of signals throughout the body give access to more strength and flexibility through a kind of placebo effect? Would this access make it possible to develop skills with a clear sense of confidence?

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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.

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Dance as Wonder

Dance is an essential connection to wonder. Wonder is essential to curiosity. Curiosity is essential to delight. Delight is essential to momentum. Momentum is essential to life.

Dance is a gift left with us in the early formation of the brain. Coming along with dance was singing.  Both dance and singing use the human body as the instrument of communication. Both share the capability or rather the necessity to connect inner experience with physical experience, to connect areas of the brain and body for thinking feeling anticipating planning  and synthesizing. Even more than that dance and singing became major entry points to wonder  and a way to build curiosity about ourselves and our world.

The results are visible.  Simply watching a child respond to rhythm and to music is proof enough of the importance of connecting.  Even professional athletes learning to dance for the first time say, ” Dancing has changed my life.”  Only in moments of extreme crisis is the human body as connected as it is in dance and singing.

Dancing and singing are entry points to essential aspects of living, curiosity,wonder, momentum, even memory. In early humans, the entry point was cultivated in group ritual often daily and periodically lasting days or weeks.

The question arises about how dance became an entry point to these essential aspects of life.  In the rituals as they began each human must have been in earnest for their very survival. With such total commitment of breath and body and voice, the result was a bonding of the community also necessary for survival.

In this kind of group dance and singing, the quality of excellence came from the daily practice and from discovering  artistic principles we now understand as forms of repetition and variation.   They were discovering rhythmic structures and at the same time experiencing a range of mind states and feeling states that they related to the wonder of life.

How are dance and singing an entry point and how does a person enter?  An entry point is a state of commitment. Physically we enter a doorway. Alice entered a Rabbit hole.  Behaviorally we enter a conversation. We enter meditation. To enter dance is to commit all faculties, thinking feeling anticipating. The result is a state of curiosity and perpetual problem solving.  Some prerequisites of entry are vulnerability and a willingness to surrender to momentum, to the changing ebbs and flows of life’s currents.

Entry in this way can bring creativity and delight to any academic or athletic pursuit as we’ll as building organizations and commerce. Dance and singing embody all the principles of entry to connect personal inner experience with physical experience, to connect all areas of the brain and body, and to experience the connection of wonder and delight to every part of human life.