Horses in a Barn

KVOne thing that most teachers don’t comprehend is that the psychological and physiological aspects of a person are like two horses in a barn.

If either one of these elements is disrupted or spooked, the other one will be pulled into a panic and join in the fray of confusion.  They can be spooked by traumas, events, or accidents that affect both the mind and the body and have severe ramifications if not cared for properly.  These experiences often create concepts in the dancer’s mind that prejudice them toward a certain way of interpreting a teacher’s instructions or of understanding a particular movement.

This creates very limited attitudes, such as over-simplification being the only understanding an individual has of a particular concept.  For example: breathing is controlled by the brain to keep us alive = oversimplification.  Far more relevant would be to understand our current perceptions of life and how they really contribute to the quality of our breathing, and how that will affect us through time.

I share a particular concept in class, which (if the students choose to do the work), will liberate them from many barriers that impair progress. I simply state that you must assert yourself to let go or inversely you must let go to assert yourself.  If you look at this carefully you will see that this forces the dancer out of linear dead-end thinking and into a psycho-spiritual wheel of action.

Only dealing with the bio-mechanics of dance would be an example of a gross over-simplification.  Like breathing in and breathing out to stay alive, it is just survival.  It does not enable a student to realize that art and life are rich and vast with the potential to illuminate and fundamentally change the soul.

To put it another way, suppose you have a student that comes to class with all sorts of hidden abuse issues.  On the outside they look calm and composed, so you instruct them with an over-simplified, purely mechanical approach.

How do you think they are going to interpret that, and how will it translate into their body over the next few years?  Don’t forget our spooked horses, always on edge and ready to escape at any given moment.  The instructions they receive will affect their physical as well as psychological being, which could end up with a distorted or survival-like transcription of the lessons given.  This will in time contaminate the information that they will one day impart to students of their own.

It is not mere bio-mechanics that create awareness for a person that somehow transforms them into a dancer.  Muscles and bones are there to interpret the concepts and ideas of everyday life, to include dance.  What compels a dancer to move a certain way is not restricted to their anatomical structure.  It is more a result of their state of mind qualifying their state of movement.

A purely bio-mechanical approach says nothing of how a deeper understanding can inspire movement.  It only encourages a limited, oversimplified view that ends up conspiring against a dancer’s ability to interpret movement in a way that relates to the true being that they are.  The dancer is constantly “fussing” with “technique” (such as the platitudes of turn-out, pulling-up, and finding your center), instead of understanding how they can facilitate and create ease of movement. It robs the dancer of any chance of the poetry of fluidity.

By the miracle of what I call the “genius of our design,” the dancer manages to survive.  But like any bad food, over time, it will take its toll on their immunity to harm.

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