Updated: Aug 6
This blog post is originally written for Northernism
Lately I have been reflecting and thinking about my relationship with my body (not to say me and my body are separate matters) and dance. There's a few ideas that have changed, a few that I have learnt, and a few that I want to keep exploring. They will probably keep evolving and when I look back on this very blog post 5 years later, I will be laughing at myself about these epiphanies. But this is where I am at now and I'd like to share my process, and maybe, it might somehow resonate with you.
"Our body is our tool", as I would often hear dancers or teachers say. I took that phrase literally, therefore "sharpened" and "polished" my tools, stretching and strengthening so that it is at its best performance state. This is all without thinking about what purpose that would serve. I've come to realise that this is not at all a healthy relationship with my body. To say that "my body is my tool" proposes that MY BODY is to be USED for a purpose (again reinforces the mind body separation/dualism, hmmm...). I can see how this approach can be helpful, thinking about all the muscles required for our bodies to perform a grand jete, and how we can strengthen or stretch particular muscles to do a "better" grand jete...from the perspective of, frankly, a piece of meat. But we are not just pieces of meat doing grand jetes, unless that is what you strive for, then you have my blessing.
Maybe it is not as linear or definitive as 2+2=4, not the idea of "if my body is in a "good" state, it will perform as I wish it to be", but a constantly improvising, thinking and communicative body.
I am learning to unlearn saying:
"Today, I will do a grand jete perfectly."
"How can my body adapt to the idea of a grand jete? What does that feel or look like today?"
For me, someday I do a jete that smoothly glides in mid air, other days a grand jete is the release of soft tissues around my spine, opening up space between vertebrates for my feet to find the floor.
I find this to be a more adaptable way to approach movement, which brings me to my next little epiphany.
"Fix it" was the mindset I was stuck with for a long time. As I was treating my body as a tool, naturally I would want to maintain it at its best condition. That way I can do all the flips, turns, jumps that my heart desires. Fabiano always encourage us to "be curious" when pain arises, I used to understand it as "think about where the pain comes from so that you can figure out ways to fix it". Now I understand the phrase differently, but as I was desperately trying to do everything in my power to fix these problems, it led me down a rabbit hole.
I was hopelessly devoted to the idea that if I do everything right, my body will get to the state of a healthy dancing body that allows me to move however I wanted to.
This approach led me to the toxic mentality of that these bodily conditions are somehow ISSUES that stop me from dancing, that I need to take myself out and simply allow time for healing.
Don't get me wrong, this is absolutely not a toxic idea in itself. Resting, gentle, mindful moving is essential for wounds to heal, tissues to regenerate, movement to integrate. But the idea of healing slowly became a fear of dancing, fearing that dancing will push me back to square one of rehabilitation. Sitting out became the default when pain creeps up, adapting movements in class somehow made me feel less than capable, that I'm not worthy of dancing. A rejection that swallowed up my enjoyment from dancing.
Truth is, I have hyper-mobile joints, a chopped up meniscus and a rebellious immune system. The symptoms or effects it has on me aren't just going to magically go away, however, they are not problems to be fixed. I am my body and my body is me. This is the body I have to work with, to dance with, to enjoy hummus with.
SO NOW I ASK MYSELF:
"How do these qualities in my body make my movements unique? "(From the body)
"How do I fix my body to do unique movements?" (From ideals)
Demanding myself to do all that bouncing, flouncing and falling all around doesn't mean that I can. It only makes me a self-destructive asshole who doesn't listen to her own body.
We are so obsessed with training and bettering ourselves by overloading, stretching ourselves to the limit. But as Kirsty Alexander have wisely said "you can't make a leaf grow by stretching it"(also the title of her wonderful article which I will link at the bottom of my rambles), growing doesn't always mean that we need to turn into beast mode. Maybe training for "mind over matter" isn't a training to be a human after all, but a machine.
So this may or not resonate with you, but I hope this finds you well in whatever journey you are on.
NOTE TO SELF:
Consider softening, releasing, and being mindful to be options of growth.
Train in listening, to what you need, right here, right now.
Don't beat yourself up, you don't need to prove to anyone that you can or can't do something.