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Meditate to dance better. The Dance Thinker, Issue #30
March 22, 2021
The Dance Thinker
Issue # 30, March 22, 2022
Heloooooo. It's been such a long time since I don't appear, I know. Life has kept me very busy, but contemporary-dance.org is available for us all, as always. Today I decided to share a short reflection on a practice that's giving me wonderful fruits in my dancing and non dancing life. As time for reading is so scarce nowadays, I´ll be short. Find the surprise in the article below:
MEDITATE TO DANCE BETTER
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Some months ago, one of my old students asked me to give him and a group of colleagues a lesson about what I am currently working on. Among the options, I offered him to share a restoring routine that I practice for about twenty years now. He chose this option and we decided to give the workshop the following title: “Physical and mental restoring routine based on traditional hatha yoga”.
During that workshop, the student commented that he found the practice useful for daily life, as if he did not find such a utility in it for our professional activity. I insisted then that I have come to understand that it is as important for dancing too, even though I know that this realization is something that may take a long time to occur.
Many of you may be well familiarized with the postures, stretching and breathings that are taught nowadays and worldwide in the so called ‘yoga’ classes. As contemporary dancers, the benefits of these types of workouts are usually obvious for us. However, the practice of observing our mental activity is something that we, as dancers, usually underestimate and disqualify because its effect over our dancing skills does not seem to be a notorious thing. Yet, being conscious of our mental activity is fundamental in yoga.
¿Have you ever asked yourself where your expressivity comes from? ¿What does construct it and how does this expressivity influence your projection on stage? Or ¿have you ever asked yourself what is it that builds your own experience while dancing (for example what you emotionally feel or think)?
I would like to propose here that our expressivity as dancers is rooted in our mental configuration. It is not in the extension of a leg (for example) that an audience will perceive authenticity, joyfulness, or tragedy. Neither from there will the dancer that executes that extension perceive the whole dancing experience. The ‘extended leg’ creates only a shaping framework where the dancer’s mental configuration resides. Therefore, to completely work over a dancing score, there should be a mastery of both the ‘body’ and the ‘mind’.
Now, I am not stating something new here. But, let me ask you… how are you, as a dancer, working this thing out? ¿How are you teaching your students to work over their mastery of mind? ¿How many hours a week do you spend on physical training? ¿How many hours a week do you spend on mental training?
¿Mental training?... Yes, mental training. Following the thread, my idea is that just like we work for years to master our physical skills, we should also work to master our mental skills. And it is with the knowledge of our own mental activity that we can start shaping it to fit the needs of a certain piece. Moreover, thanks to that knowledge we can also modify our own experience while dancing, making it joyful, relaxed, or customized.
(I must make a stop here and say that all I have written till now has a theoretical framework, off course. As I mentioned above, I am using traditional yoga ideas. These root back into Vedic scriptures. For this text, I will just clarify shortly that I am using the word ‘mind’ to refer to the flow of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and memories that we can perceive within ourselves.)
So… how to train our minds?
This question takes us back to the title of this article…: ‘Meditate’.
¿Meditate to dance better? ¿Are you kidding?
Now, at this point you may be thinking of leaving out to do something more amusing… or useful. I know... This is a widely recognized problem among yoga teachers. Think it twice. That is why I mentioned at the very beginning of this text that the realization of this knowledge is something that may take a long time to occur. A common reaction towards the idea of meditating is to think that it is a waste of time, to feel that it is boring or to believe that it is part of a superstitious something. Whichever your evasive idea is, you should know that there’s people who went through your same experience and it is just because they persisted in observing that mental activity that they can tell you know what you are thinking, feeling, or predicting.
Accepting that the mental activity is there and that we do not pay attention to it is something that takes humility. Only after doing that you may have the patience and strength to start your mental workout. Compare it to your physical abilities. ¿How many years of practice has it taken you to acquire your dancing skills?
Other than your own mental excuses, you may have other obstacles to meditate. I know. The universe that surrounds the practice of meditation is wide and it is important to dive into it to get the full benefits of the practice. There are different techniques and there’s ideological content that needs to be understood. But this text is not the place to expand on that. I am only knocking softly on your door to make you remember that there is something that may be of great help out there.
Just think a bit now. All huge things start with a first step. The first step I propose you today is to consider starting the practice of meditation. There are free classes on the internet. Some may be fake. But try until you find the teacher that convinces you. Just as you have done with your dancing career. And this would be like a complementary training: body workout + mental workout.
So, just to finish, I want to tell you that meditating is not necessarily an easy enterprise. Just like learning to dance, it may take hours and hours of practice. But, as you go, it will become ‘easier’, and you will discover unexpected things.
And all techniques are not for everyone. But, if this one fits you, believe me it will be a huge tool. You will see. I wish my teachers had taught me this at a younger age. Maybe they did… but it was me who did not pay the attention it deserved.
Remember to feel free to answer this e-mail. Let me know what you think. I’m always opened to comments, suggestions, ideas, wishes...
Editor and Webmaster of contemporary-dance.org
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