Wednesday, February 5, 2020

THE POLITICS OF DANCING


The meaning of movement is both cultural and personal. Where we come from and what we believe will explain much of how we react to human bodies moving.

                                                                                                                   photo - Nicole Rivelli

Here are some questions to consider how we look at, participate in, and interpret movement from a culturally biased perspective.
            Where did it come from? 
            What part of the world and what social group of people?   
            Who participates in it?
            Who is empowered by it?
            Who is disempowered or threatened by it?
            Does it emphasize fluidity or rigidity?
            Is it inclusive or exclusive?
            How do we perceive the participants?
            Is it from a marginalized community? Like strippers, POCs, or immigrants?
            What are the benefits?
            Does this movement build community?
            Have perceived health benefits?
            Does it feel good or make us feel uncomfortable(to do or to watch)?
            How do we look at it? Where are we seeing it? On stage? In the streets? In a                          studio? At a half-time show?
            What stories does it tell?
             What are our judgments based on?

Answer the above questions for some of these dance styles and you will learn a lot about yourself and the world we live in…
            Salsa
            Belly dancing
            Pole dance
            Hip Hop
            Capoeira
            Tap
            Jazz
            Modern
            Post Modern
            Ballet
            Swing Dance
            Hustle
            Contemporary
            Lyrical

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Secret laughter set free during jumps in 1st, 2nd, and 5th position...

                                                                                                                    Photo by Nicole Rivelli


Recently, while teaching at Manhattan School of Music, my pre-college dance class dislodged some internal hilarity during small jumps.  Somewhere betwixt counts 16 and 24, close to the transition between jumps in 2nd and jumps in 5th, the laughter began leaking out, bounding into full contagion within 8 more counts. 

Thankfully, it didn’t grow into an outbreak of mass psychogenic illness like the Tanganyika laughter epidemic of 1962, which began initially with 95 girls. The girls were afflicted for periods of up to 16 days and the laughter spread to neighboring villages, ultimately shutting down 14 schools and affecting close to 1000 people over the course of 18 months. In the Tanganyika case, there were other symptoms that accompanied the laughter including fainting and flatulence…

The MSM kids' movement-initiated release of laughter reminded me of a time when I was being Rolfed (a.k.a. Structural Integration- deep tissue bodywork). The Rolfer was digging into one side of the lower front section of my ribcage below my costal cartilage and inadvertently liberated a trove of laughter. It wasn’t tickle laughter. It felt like the funniest thing I’d experienced in ages. The deep touch to that part of my torso made me laugh so hard and it took a while to fully express. I was laughing for several minutes. Later when discussing this with my chiropractor, she said, “Oh that is so sweet, you uncovered some hidden laughter.”

We know laughing and crying are huge releasers and relievers of the bodymind. They massage and shake up the insides, joggle the heart, jostle lungs, and generally jangle the organs. If you laugh or cry long and hard enough you will also likely enjoy the benefit of a decent core workout. The kind of shaking and contracting expressed during laughter and tears can be wonderful medicine: squeezing, then plumping up, releasing tension in the organs and tissues, thus bringing life to your systems. Movement is equally vital to your vitals.

Our insides benefit from movement in multiple ways: it strengthens and hydrates the slippery tensegrity of our fascia, lubricating our joints, and improving blood flow, it also mobilizes our lymphatic system, which has no pump of its own. Our lymphatic system is a detoxifier of the body and is stimulated by movement and deep diaphragmatic breathing (like intense laughter or tears), in fact, therapies for the lymph include vibration and rebounding. Regular vigorous motion is helpful in avoiding the build-up of the vascular plaque that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Spontaneous laughter used to erupt in my Pilates/Bartenieff Fusion classes when we did the shake-out with a yell. The exercise consisted of lying on our backs with arms and legs up in the air, taking in a deep breath, then yelling and shaking our limbs on the exhale.
It usually took about three rounds to achieve the full effect. This phenomenon took place in an upscale gym in the West Village full of adults. It was not as successful on the Upper East Side, however. In exercises like this, it is important to really let go.

Every experience we’ve ever had is stored in our bodies, our response, expression, or lack of expression is stored in our tissues.  It may translate to tensions held within our shoulders, hearts, stomachs, etc. In Laban Movement Analysis we call them holding patterns. As we experience the world we take in and take on our form through our interactions with our environment, this includes cultural influences, family dynamics and the physical world we inhabit. 

As a mover/artist/creative person I believe expression is vital to the health of the bodymind, so when laughter breaks out in my classes I like to allow it to run its course.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Crystalline Luck




                                                                                               Photo Mónica Lou

If you are incredibly fucking lucky there will come a time in your life when all the disparate events, studies, passions, and fascinations will miraculously line up like the moonlight on Stonehenge at solstice and make perfect sense of the great tangled web of experience that points to your purpose on Earth. All of the seemingly disconnected tangents, roadways, and rollercoasters somehow come together and suddenly it becomes clear who you are and why you were drawn to each strange person, place, idea, and situation that makes up the bedazzled fabric of your particular existence.

It is as if the veil of confuddled uncertainty and bumbled striving has been hydroblasted into total clarity. And then, all too soon, this clarity crumbles away and leaves you feeling dazed and bewildered, yet ever so slightly lighter within.

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