Utilizing Energy in Movement
posted June 17, 2009
Sometimes, it feels futile to write about dance, or even to talk about it. If we could express concepts in words, we wouldn’t need to dance them. Much better is the danced moment than the spoken word, yet as a dance educator, I must cast for words and images that help open pathways with which others may connect. Between the remote reader and myself, that’s all that exists, really. In a physical group, there are visuals and music, but more importantly, there is also an energetically charged, affective atmosphere that aids understanding in subtler ways. In the flesh, we can explore our intent for dancing;
- Why do we dance?
- Where are we reaching with our gestures?
- What are we trying to say?
- Are we speaking, or are we listening through our dance?
Dance can be the corporeal miming, shaping, and manifestation of the soul’s intent. It can transform the body from a mere physical organism going through the daily motions of survival – work, feeding, caring – into a vessel for Divine Nature of which we are all a part, and it can draw that nature into us for multiple benefits – art, healing, transformation.
We take our earthly vessel and refine it, shape it, open it in a way that draws down our higher essence, to reside in us, fill us, make us overflow, recharge us, and move us in ways that spark transformation (not only in us, but in those who witness or participate in our craft).
In my own practice, I have found it highly productive to ritualize my dancing, in order to work this process more consciously. Through a daily series of exercises in breathing, focusing, centering, opening, receiving, transmitting, and circulating, I draw closer and closer to something extremely vital. I have begun to see that there is nothing our bodies can do that the Universe is already not doing. Each step, each motion and shape that we execute carries within it universal implications, and has the potential to connect us to Earth, self, others, and the Universe in a vital, rhythmic cycle of energy.
The practical use of imagery and breathing aids us in accessing this. I stand in the shape of a vessel, my feet balanced, comfortably connected to Earth, arms and sight reaching to the Universe, with my chest open and lifted. The highest point of my gesture coincides with the fullness of my inhalation. Then slowly, the breath is released and plexus center contracted while the hands draw the energetic image down the center axis. For me, that image is a golden ball, a sun that I reach towards, grasp, and then like Lady Pac-Man, draw down into the vessel just like a cosmic energy pill! Through one image, I have worked a breath and stretch for my body, a mental picture to focus my chattering monkey mind, and a gesture that clearly defines my intent—to reach toward something higher and nobler, and to draw it down into the vessel of myself.
Additionally, there are so many other movements that can be extended into this form of practice! Consider your undulation, for example. Where does it start and where does it end? We tend to train our undulations from the abdomen and chest. It can be localized right there, but what if we were to reach further? Using the state of dancer-as-vessel, raise one hand to the Universe while the other gestures to Earth. One foot is grounded while the other is posed in a demi-toe position. Begin to take a deep breath, casting your sight along the runway of your raised arm, experiencing the fullness of your gesture as you connect to that universal energy source. Execute your undulation on your exhalation, imagining that energy traveling down your arm, energizing your body, and then grounding itself via the lowered hand. To me, the undulation movement always seemed to have the quality of a swallow, so why not work this image with the intent of drawing down, “swallowing” cosmic energy?
Consider the reverse undulation—so often compared to a cat passing up a hairball. It seems funny, but how could we use a reverse undulation for the intent, for example, of cleansing, or releasing (or bringing something up from below, from earthly realms to universal realms)?
In my daily practice, I go through a series of these layered exercises. Bit by bit, breath by breath, I feel myself slipping out of ordinary reality into a fuller experience of myself as a vessel. The attention to breathing clears and calms my mind. The mental image shapes each movement danced more fully while the intention adds emotional and intellectual texture.
Let me leave you with one more image/intent exercise with which to have fun: You are an actual vessel now, the kind that the alchemists of old used for their experiments in transmutation of base elements to noble. There is an issue in your base Chakra from which you would like to free yourself. Begin by lighting the fire!
Start to shimmy, lightly at first, your hands framing and aiding your hips energetically. No fire can live without air; so breathe in rhythmically to stoke the flames higher while your hands and arms gently ebb and flow at your sides. Inhale and expand; exhale and contract. Feel the heat rising, see the flames increase. Begin to mimic the flame-like motions with your hands and wrists.
Now you’re cookin’!
As the heat rises and your mental and spiritual state begins to change, imagine your “issue” melting, breaking up. It starts to release impurities, and just like an actual physical substance reacts when heat is applied, it releases steam and particles into the air. So get rid of them on your exhalation. Use your inhalations to charge and energize, and your exhalations to release and cleanse, as the constant
heat of the shimmy-powered earthly fire keeps the process going. Notice how your body begins to respond to this exercise. Let your arms “conduct” the energy as they will, listen to your body and take note of what it begins to tell you, keeping your mind focused on the breathing and imagery. You will begin to feel an amazing lightness of being, of transcendent refreshment. All the while, you’ve practiced your shimmy for—Heaven knows how long!
For me, this exercise can last up to a half hour or even forty-five minutes, depending on my mental and physical state. However, once again, I’ve worked a stamina-dependent dance move for my body, a mental picture for my mind, and I’ve merged it all into an intention for the movement, using my breath to aid my meditation and extend the stamina—one image with myriad benefits.
I hope these exercises will help you unlock some of the secrets of your own vessel: May you stand in the full grace of your being, your vessel open to the bounty of universal energy, your breath clear and focused, and your entire self renewed through the application of conscious intent to your dance movements.
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