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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Friday, September 6, 2019

Simple Movement Meditation Practice



This is a simple movement meditation offering drawn from somatic practices such at Laban Movement Analysis/Bartenieff Fundamentals and Continuum Movement. It may or may not be for you at this point in your life. Try it if you are called to do so. For me, this work supports living with more resilience as a human being in this world.  I am writing this for people who are interested in exploring dogma-free embodiment.

                                                                                                       artwork by Anthony Sunseri

Preparation

1. Cultivate a Safe Space for Exploration

In this context, I am talking about the internal space within yourself as much as the external space surrounding you. Inner and outer boundaries can create a sense of freedom. It sounds like a paradox, but often having some structure allows for greater freedom.
The obvious boundaries are:
·      A space with some privacy that will allow you the freedom to enter your own exploration fully.
·      Give yourself some uninterrupted time- commit to as little as 20 (or more) minutes of device-free time.

 2. Baseline in Stillness

Find a comfortable baseline position in stillness that can be returned to regularly as a check-in.

This may be seated on the floor, a block, or a chair, or lying down with knees bent or straight. 

Use this baseline as a starting and finishing point. It is also a place to rest and process at any time throughout your movement meditation. Return regularly to this still place to discover what new things have arisen.

Lying down or sitting still will help you become aware of small changes.


3. The Safety of Familiar Movement

Use comfortable familiar movement as a safety net for your bodymind.

Establish a relationship with a familiar form that you can come back to if you begin feeling too far out or disconnected. This might be yoga’s cat/cow arch/curl of the back, or a shakeout, maybe just returning your awareness to the rise and fall of your breath.

Exploring new territory may be scary if you are storing a lot of unresolved trauma in your tissue and in the holding pattern of your system. It is helpful to approach this in a way that is nurturing, freeing, and supportive. If you feel as if you are becoming untethered return to some familiar patterned movement.

Slowly scanning the horizon with your eyes (open or closed) will let your brain and nervous system know that you are safe. Take some time with that.

Get up and walk around. Any movement that is “normal” should work to bring you back to your comfort zone and using your eyes to orient yourself to your surroundings will also bring you home.


4. Permission and Access

Use the map as a guideline and starting point then trust your own body to express whatever feels interesting and nourishing.

Turn off the inner critic.
This is not about looking good or pleasing someone else, this is not about learning someone else’s truth. This is about turning on your own interoception, kinesthetic awareness, and proprioception, bringing awareness to sensation and tuning into the innate intelligence embedded in the living tissues and fluids of your bodymind.

Following internal movement trails and patterns of energy or tension can be enthralling. You are moving toward this internal attending. So let go of your critic, let go of the need to please, let go of the need to be beautiful or look good, or even be creative. If you can open up and allow yourself space to become interested in the sensations of being, something will happen. You are opening a portal into yourself- your inner world of sensation and inquiry

Give yourself permission to explore sensation through micro movement.  Small free-flowing movements in any direction.

The slower you go and the smaller your movement, the deeper you can cultivate your sense of connected awareness. Sometimes you will want to move bigger and faster that is ok too. Give yourself full-blown permission to move in any way that feels nurturing and supportive.

Allow your body to speak and say whatever it has to say for as long as necessary.

Drop into presence within yourself and open into a PNS (parasympathetic nervous system- rest and digest, soothe and settle, healing/processing) state.

No editing in movement- listen, allow, ask, nudge.

If you come across anything that is interesting follow it as far as it draws you.

The Meditation Map-
Playing with the Midline

A very simple map for your dive into movement meditation:

1. Begin and end with your baseline in stillness. Return to it whenever you want to rest or process on a level of silent stillness. 

2. When you feel you have arrived in your bodymind bring your awareness to your midline. This is the imaginary central line inside your body from the top of your head to the base of your pelvis if you are seated, or to the ground if you are standing, or to your feet if you are lying down. Your midline divides your right side from your left and front from back. Imagine it in the center of your body.

3. Take a moment to bring your awareness to this deep internal place. Give your midline some volume by breathing into it. Bring awareness to the three-dimensionality of your breathing. Feel the up/down-ness, the side/side-ness, and the forward/back-ness of your breath.
Take as long as you like with this. This may be the whole exploration for today.

4. When you feel ready invite your midline into motion. It can be very small, maybe it is still just sensing the breath or maybe slightly bigger. Imagine the motion of sea grass growing from the ocean floor, swaying with the movement of the surrounding water.
Allow your midline the freedom to sway, to rise and fall, to circle or follow any freeform pathway. This movement may be tiny micro-movement that is virtually invisible from the outside, or it may be bigger. Initially, it may be easier to sense movement when it is bigger. As you hone your ability to tune into movement and sensation in the bodymind you will be able to bring your awareness to miniscule movement and it will feel like a lot is happening.

If you are a structure junky use the three dimensions as a starting place. You can play simply with the movement of the breath rising and falling (vertical dimension- up down), widening and narrowing (horizontal dimension- side to side), bulging and hollowing (sagittal dimension - forward backward), and the general growing and shrinking of your whole organism as you inhale and exhale.

If you are interested in more free movement, allow the sensation around your midline to move any way that it wants, let go of symmetry and become fluid like a drop of water intermingling with a lake, or the ocean, or a river.  Water imagery is very useful in sensing and creating flow in your bodymind.

5. When you feel you are ready to end your movement adventure return to your baseline in stillness.


Here is a link to a video that is similar in practice


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