We are living in a society whose rhythm is shaped by space probes, smart phones, digital images and laser surgery. Guerlac (2006). Paul Valéry has diagnosed our post-modern age as being in a crisis of speed. As our race has evolved we have become ever more dependent on the invisible algorithms which structure our virtual and physical realities. Dancers have transformative experiences in daily practice, and my aim as a teacher is to create the conditions for students to grasp a greater awareness of the body-mind relationship by integrating somatic and improvisatory principles into every classroom situation. As a teacher, I facilitate an experience in which students may access what the Germans call ‘leib’ which is the sense of lived, experiencing body/mind/spirit, through the physical body in motion and stillness. 'Leib' may be understood here as 'embodiment'.
The reign of Cartesian dualism has reached its end. Western philosophy, and a notable number of cognitive scientists as well, have begun to embrace the riskiness of separating science and soul. It is my philosophy that a teaching practice influenced by Eastern perspectives can be helpful toward binding back together body and mind. For we, in Western societies, must unlearn what we have been taught by surgical dissection: that movement happens through separateness because, in fact, we exist in the round - in a dynamically fluid interplay of systems which are constantly evolving and in which movement happens globally. Fascia weaves together all of our known physiological parts, is our largest sensory organ and plays a role in perception, which plays a role in consciousness. Schleip (2003), Thomas (2014). “If there is going to be a science of consciousness it is going to be about the brain’s function as a part of an embodied dynamic entity that relies on interaction with environment to achieve consciousness.” Noe (2013). The very concepts of wholeness and integration on the mental and the physical levels underpin most Eastern philosophy. Through the integration of aspects of yoga and meditation into daily movement practice, it is possible to address global implications of connectedness in an effort to combat our culturally conditioned blind spot when it comes to the body: separateness.
In my teaching practice, I guide students to understand how physicality can be used as the means whereby to enliven the body and the mind simultaneously by “turning our developed intelligence inward to better understand how we live through our bodies, or outwards to understand our symbiotic relationship with the natural world”, inviting them to access the deeper levels of creative consciousness, away from the kinds of analytical arrogance which have steered us directly into an “ecological tipping point”, with regard to the environment of our earth and the health of our bodily selves. Clarke (2007).
I use dance as a means to bring forth the “deeper, passionate self” associated with notions of inner life and qualitative experience; to break through the crust of the “superficial layer of consciousness” which is ideologically produced through language and social constraint. Bergson (2001). It is from this particular state of mind that one may fully activate one’s whole-hearted interest in what one is doing. The student develops a deep proprioceptive awareness of her physical self, a redesigning of neural networks through an evolving neural plasticity, which is necessary to realize her full, embodied movement potential.
Getting into the body, listening to it, observing channels of bodily awareness opening, and taking the time to register one’s own, unique, subjective experience of dancing is to “reawaken the basic experience of the world of which science is the second-order expression.” Baldwin (2006) I give my students a set of tools that my own years of practice have given me, which I call on to help me ‘let go’ of reflective thought in order to function more deeply in the present. Mihaly Csikszentmhalyi writes of people engaged in ‘optimal experience’ or ‘flow’ that ‘ they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing’ and Gill Clarke speaks about the importance of this kind of self indulgence in training. It is through attending deeply to oneself that one may unravel habitual patterns of mind and movement, making way for new pathways. It is my view that this approach is absolutely vital, regardless of the technique or discipline being explored.
I think we need to have this depth of understanding about our bodies and minds in motion to make a case for the importance of dance on a grander scale: to help dispel the dated notion that dance is defined by its form, cultural heritage, or competitive nature… nor that its primary purpose is to entertain or make you sweat, but that it involves and expounds upon the most essential of human function: presence or states of consciousness; body and mind in motion enact our perception of the world around us and the world within us, and define our realities. I, and many others, believe that it is amplifying this perceiving by awakening the soma (my work and teaching utilizes principles of yoga, improvisation, and meditation as a base) that authentic movement potential is realized whether it be into and out of form or not.
Abramovic, M. (2012) The Artist is Present
Baldwin, T. (2006) Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Basic writings
Bergson, H. (2001) Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience
Clarke, G. (2007) Mind is as in Motion
Csikszentmhalyi, M. (2002) Flow
Guerlac, S. (2006) Thinking in Time: an introduction to Henri Bergson
Noe, A. (2013) Why is Consciousness so Baffling?
Schleip, R. (2003) Fascial mechanoreceptors and their potential role in deep tissue manipulation
Thomas, B. (2014) Why fascia matters with Brooke Thomas
somatically informed ballet
somatically informed modern technique