Monday, February 8, 2010

Physical Research

In preparation for the time I was going to spend in the studio with my dancers, I did a lot of reading about the body: energy pathways, grounding techniques, the ways that thoughts effected the body and the ways the body effected thought...

Could I observe what other people claimed in their writings in my own body without superimposing their theories?

One evening, my thoughts drifted to the loss of a family member. I felt a rush that I can still only describe as a waterfall pouring in from above my rib cages. The "water" poured into the space of my sternum and carved out a space above the back of my rib cage. I was surprised at the intensity of the feeling and am still surprised at my inability to put words to the sensation. Although I can describe the feeling according to my anatomy, the sensation moved beyond my bones - as if my structure was formless and completely pliable. Even as a I write, I have a hard time recreating the memory without cupping my fingertips into an arch about six inches in front of my sternum. My elbows extend outward and my chest contracts, bringing my clavicles slightly above my shoulder joints. I can feel my breath shorten and my intercostal muscles (the muscles in between our ribs) tighten. In describing this, I am creating a shape. I am moving in order to recreate a memory that had no physcialized shape. But the sensation was very real.

In one of our first rehearsals, I asked my dancers to pay attention to their bodies. How did their bodies feel throughout the day? Did a certain part of their body always hurt? Could they identify why that part of their body always hurt or was there an emotion or event that accompanied the physical sensation?

There are words for these sensations: butterflies in the stomach; a lump in my throat; a brick dropped in my stomach.

Each of my dancers returned to rehearsal with stories that their bodies revealed:
"My sacrum always gets tight when I'm nervous."
"I was overwhelmed - I felt like I had a blowfish with all of its spikes inflated in my rib cage - where my heart was supposed to be."
"Every time... I got a knot under my left clavicle."
"I would get nauseous."

As they spoke, their bodies told more than just their words. Seated on the floor, her hands went to either side of her body to stabilize herself. Another stroked the tops of her quads with a meditative, rhythmic quality. Another rocked her palm against her sternum, as if to soften some tension. I asked my dancers and my composer, Chris Farrell, to continue to pay attention to their bodies and to continue to share these sensations. I believe our bodies can reveal truths to us, if we only pay attention. In paying attention, we better learn how to take care of ourselves.

These gestures became part of our movement vocabulary and therefore, part of the language we use to share our stories through the dance.

How does this relate to my original research on the chakras? I'm not drawing any definite conclusions, but many of the sensations my dancers described centered around the mid-line of the body. It seems that many people feel similar sensations in similar places. I need to do more research to come to any conclusive data, but it seems that there is a pattern of felt experiences within the body that correspond to emotions.

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