Friday, January 25, 2013

Goosebumps are just contractions

It snowed today.

Beautiful! Really. Crisp, white, fresh snow gently blanketed the grass, sidewalks, streets, train tracks... (The transit hour wasn't as beautiful...)

But, snow means cold. In my bones. In my joints. Even after several hours of dancing and several layers of warm-ups and things not intentionally designed to be warm ups for dance...COLD! brrrrrr.... I struggle with finding a full range of motion in this environment that seems much better suited for blankets, fireplaces, soup, tea, and "snuggling down" as my soon-to-be-three-years-old niece would say. My muscles feel like they're hovering intensely close to my bones, my body feels smaller, shrunken. My skin contracts.

My skin contracts. Ha! Despite the frigidity and the weather putting a damper on my ability to get warm (did I mention I don't like being cold?) MY SKIN finds a way to dance! My skin contracts.
Fanny Gombert

(For those of you not familiar with dance history, the contraction is a keystone in the Graham Technique. Martha Graham was one of the founders of Modern Dance).

Of course, with the contraction follows the release. As I realized that my skin (and entire body) was contracting, I experimented with releasing. I was still cold (it's really difficult to heat a large studio effectively for several hours at a time, and the heating process is expensive). But I found a new movement pathway by not fighting. I recognized my body's state and accepted it, and then tried to work with it, instead of against it.

I've often tried to work against my body, as a dancer and performer. I've tried to force her into doing something, looking a certain way, being a certain way. In effect, I'm really fighting myself and creating this whole process of dance much more difficult than it already is. No, when I'm cold, I'm not going to be able to developpe as high as I'd like (there should be an accent over the first and last e's), but if I breathe deeply (see earlier posts), and accept the state I'm in, my body surprisingly releases into exactly what I wanted her to do in the first place. (All this bickering and tension was getting us no where...) Being cold was just that... it was an environmental factor, but it didn't have to be a mind state that in turn effected my physical state. I can/could/did/will continue figuring out how to release into the moment so that the movement can be efficient and effective and therefore, prevent injuries.

Interestingly enough, a fellow dancer expressed the same sentiment to me after a rehearsal. "You know, I think I was so stressed out about being perfect that I couldn't move. I'm feeling more comfortable now and I think I'm getting it. My body is relaxing and I'm able to understand the energy and movement."

Yep... it so often seems that we are our own worst enemies and we create our own tensions. (and therefore, often create our own injuries, headaches, heart aches...)

I'm not saying that the cold is a safe place. It's not. The body needs to be properly warmed up before executing anything challenging or difficult. The body needs to be protected and needs to be kept safe, especially in the current dangerous temperatures, and especially when out-of-doors.

What I am saying is that through this process of working in colder weather, I'm learning how to break habits of tension that could potentially cause me injury. And that release in the face of frustration and tension is what I'm taking away from today's work. I can still move fully and with intention, despite my environmental factors as long as I continue to approach my work with mindfulness, awareness, respect to the situation and to the Work that demands I continue.

(Although this picture seemingly has nothing to do with dance or the cold, I'm sharing it because I love the "release" of the turtle. And it looks like this is a warm, weightless place where one could move free from tension...) 

(On another note... the transit hour was a wonderful opportunity to practice the skill of releasing in times of stress.)

And a Public Service Announcement:
Philly's been in a Code Blue - please take care of those around you who might be suffering from the cold:

Stay safe and warm, friends!

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