Monday, January 7, 2013

Back in ballet... (and some thoughts on fear)

... and it feels sooo good!

First ballet class of the new year this morning. Sigh...

I was nervous. Yes, I will admit that even though I LOVE dance and I find that no other activity engages me so deeply physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally... and while I teach and preach that dance is a wonderful way to understand the self, I too, get a bit freaked out when taking the road less traveled. I understand the fears of being judged by others and the scarier fears of judging yourself (myself). There's always a risk of being not accepted when you're (I'm) around other people and that's even scarier when trying something for the first time or returning to something or using your (my) body.

Because our bodies tell our stories. "The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music. Bodies never lie."~Agnes de Mille.

So, maybe that's the scary part. My heart is revealed when my body dances. Vulnerability. (EEKK!!)

But, dear readers, do you know what?

It's exhilarating!

To open my eyes, but to really see the space with my whole body.
To carve out my kinesphere with my port de bra.
To play with the rhythms of my petit battement within the structure of the music.
To change the consistency of the air around me with my energy and tempo.
To really charge through the space and swallow my pathways.
To feel grounded on my leg as my upper body whips around her central axis in a clean pirouette.
To play with the speed of the transitions...

My analytic mind laughs at myself when I feel my pelvis begin to anteriorly tilt. This is a common mis-adjustment in dancers, as it allows an increase of rotation, but puts an enormous amount of stress on the lower back, reduces the strength and effectiveness of the abdominal muscles (and core) and while it might visually increase rotation in the hips, there is an equal and opposite rotation being experienced in the knees and ankles. Ouch! To prevent this, a dancer must be aware of her natural lumbar curve, engage her abdominal muscles to support her back, and strengthen and engage the muscles around the joints to support proper turn out (rotators, inner thighs, pelvic floor...).


I know all this and aim to keep my core and rotators engaged. But I also carry my stress in my low back. When I'm worried, scared, stressed, (insert other less-than-positive emotion here), the muscles in my lower back tighten (perhaps its the fight or flight response kicking in), causing my pelvis to tilt anteriorly.

In class, I notice my alignment shifting when I'm confused over the sequence or musicality or intention. My lower back is tensing shifting my pelvis and my spine, and if left unattended, setting me up for injury.

To address this, I do take a moment to stretch and give my back a little extra heat (through a gentle massage or extra layers) but, for me, what I really need to do is take a deep breath and calm my heart and my mind (and ask the instructor the question that is causing my body to respond).

Once I've released the stress from my mind, my pelvis returns to its natural alignment - which also allows my rib cage to drop, increasing my lung capacity, and letting the natural curves of my spine exist as they were formed to support my upright (sometimes upside down) position. My (your) body is most efficient and effective in her natural state (which, contrary to what some might think, is not stressed out).

Action follows thought. When my mind is stressed, my body responds. Likewise, when I let myself be in the moment, the movement becomes effortless.

Where do you hold stress? How does it manifest in your body? Pain in your shoulders. Tight low back. Headaches. Weight gain or loss. Exhaustion. How do you address these? Our bodies tell our stories and bodies never lie.

Perhaps that's why it's so scary to dance. Perhaps we're scared of listening to our bodies and what they might say to us.

Graham said:

There's so much passion in the moving body! We see this on stage, but also at the club, the wedding, the prom, the gym, on the street (both with people who are running or walking but also with people who dance wherever they go)... Why should we be scared of that which brings so much joy and togetherness?

I'm sure there are a lot of excuses... (insert yours here). And then I'll see you in class! (or at the club, the wedding, on the street...)

Here's to a New Year full of dance and allowing passion to triumph fear!

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