Yesterday I was chatting with another Dancer/Yoga teacher I just met and in 5 minutes we were already talking about how much "easier" it is for us to teach Yoga rather than Dance, how we feel the first is a much more emotionally safe place for us to be, while the second is just so personal, as what we transmit is really coming from the depth of our creative expression and the material carries a sense of attachment.
But I felt like adding, it doesn’t have to be necessarily like that..
One of the most significant encounters of 2018, Naomi Absalom and her Liberate and Elevate mentorship program, really has been an eye opener on how it makes no sense to hide ourselves when we are in the role of teachers and how we should actually treasure the uniqueness of our experiences and make sure we communicate in an authentic way, surrounding ourselves with people who can appreciate what we have to offer (and don’t expect from us something we cannot give them).
So my experience in a nutshell.. after 15 years of highly codified and shape driven training in Ballet and Modern Dance, about 15 years ago Release Technique blew my mind, asking me to momentarily forget everything I knew about movement to rewrite my habitual patterns. To be still and notice the most subtle sensations, to work on my sense of presence and explore different states of consciousness. To reduce effort to a minimum and move in a more organic way, to relearn how to lift a finger like I have never done it before. To literally find out all the possible ways my joints can move. I remember clearly the feeling of being lost, at times irritated.. How can I and why should I move like I have never moved before? From a selection of aesthetically pleasant and well known “words” to the realm of the infinite possibilities of expression. Then things started to make sense again, but, I have to say, it took me a good 10 years to get there..
I think I have been living a similar journey of expansion in the last 3 years with Yoga, but in fast forward mode: in the beginning the more contained vocabulary, the apparent more confident affirmations about alignment, the more prescribed structures that you would learn in a 200 hours Teacher Training gave me a sense of safety and clarity I had been missing while immersed in the beautiful confusion of dance improvisation.
But this didn’t last long, not only because Yoga is far from being standardised and, luckily, knowledge is constantly questioned and reshaped, but also because personally I started to feel very frustrated and unfulfilled when I took Dance out of my daily life. So, I welcomed back complexity and started deconstructing “poses” to focus on sensations, intentions and explorations inspired by my Somatic Practice training.
(I believe journeys like these are necessary in every field, we need to study what is more codified for a long time to be able to ultimately appreciate freedom and know when to switch from one mode to the other or how to let them dialogue in an intelligent way).
Today I came across a website I used to visit very often and found an attempt to describe Release Technique; it was very meaningful for me to realise how the following “principles” still summarise my approach to movement and really inform my classes, so I wanted to share them hoping they make sense if you practice with me (or if you think dancing is just about learning steps and making shapes).
Use of images (associative concepts or idealizations of physical actions) to produce or awaken new kinesthetic experiences and awareness. For example, imagining that there are marionette strings attached to our knees that pull our legs; imagining that we move inside water. The images are supposed to facilitate movement execution.
Incorporation of elements from the psychology of growth. The movement patterns of the baby, while developing the force to stand up, are used to produce an assorted floor work. Lying and going to the fetal position are widely spread, for example.
Understanding of the human being as a unity in which there are energetic flows, instead of the idea of the mind-body duality.
Belief in the existence of an unconscious intention that defines each person’s movement. Use of the notion of the body's ‘image’, which would be the deep root from which each person’s movement arises.
Importance of perception and subjective kinetic experience.
Learning of movement through its relationship to physical laws more than according to aesthetical judgments.
Search for the potential of human anatomy, instead of trying to modify it. The neurological system is considered as being as important as the musculoskeletal system in the execution of movement.
Alignment of the body in such a way that weight is supported through the center of the bones and thereby re-patterning the flow of energy so that movement is started by the muscles that are closest to the body’s center. This fact gives Release the nickname of ‘technique from the bones’.
Consideration of stillness as a starting and ending point, through the use of the so called ‘constructive resting position’. This position is understood as a generator of a wider disposition, both for the new kinesthetic experiences and for creativity.
Interest in the creative process. Use of improvisation as a way to generate new ways of moving, composing and stimulating creativity.
Understanding of the dancing experience as a dynamic experience and constant process in which unconscious control can occur.
My intention for 2019 is to remember more often that all these ideas are a deep part of who I am and I should never neglect them to align to external (or internal) expectations.
I truly believe that moving with this understanding can bring our practice to the next level, I hope you want to join me in this journey with an open mind and open body!