"The only place where he is happy is on a dive, the deeper the better. "When I'm on the bottom everything is so right" Sitting alone on the bottom of the ocean I've witnessed the holy presence of God"
"You mean God like Jehova?"
He says, "No, I mean God like physics".
-The Pugilist at Rest, Thom Jones
Anybody that has spent much time with me knows that the body is my bible. Pretty much all of my spiritual development and much of any psychological progress I make comes from what I learn from a long-term regular engagement with physical practice. The struggles, triumphs, setbacks and failures of ‘dance life’ have provided me with all the relevant metaphors for becoming a better human. If you’ve ever rehearsed with me or indulged a movement geek out session of mine you know I turn to lessons in technique how one turns to biblical parables. Sometimes though, I get disconnected from my practice, disconnected from my body, I lose myself. When I find my way back it’s always with awe that I rediscover the wisdom embedded within us. Everything I learn about my body correlates and supports everything I need to know about living. Than I get so filled with gratitude to have stumbled into a life path that enables a non-joining skeptic like me a way to experience grace. So pardon me while I testify.
Last Sunday I went to a class called Dance Church at Velocity Dance Center in Seattle, WA, USA taught by Kate Wallich. Its basically an all fun, all welcome community cardio party. When I reached my aerobic euphoria state I remembered a lesson that I’ve learned before. Dance is the constant. The thing that can be relied upon. Jobs come and go, houses come and go, people come and go, dance will always be there waiting if you want it. It doesn’t care if you’re broke, or broken, or confused, or ugly, or even injured, the music, the breath, the movement is free and yours for the taking. It is there at anytime, to free you from yourself. To free you from the world. To remind you that you’re actually still alive and that’s pretty good.
Last night I shared a work for old and new friends at Studio Current’s Saloon in Seattle, WA, USA. A friend and colleague described my work in terms of a hurricane. There was chaos and in the center was me. She said that my work created a sensation similar to when they eye of the storm passes over you. This is an amazing observation and a perfect metaphor for my relationship to dance. Dance is the primary way I navigate the storms of life. I truly do not think I would still be alive today without dance. For real. Life is hard and I’m a delicate flower and honestly…. I’ve found myself in some crazy places, both within myself and also out in the world. Dance holds my hand and lifts me out of it and gives me a reason to go on. Dance is the eye of the storm. The world is heartbreak and chaos but dance is that small window where everything settles and slows and you catch your breath for the next fight.
Today I completed a 6 day course in the Gyrotonic Leg Extension Unit. It was a struggle. I have some real heartache in my life right now, grieving deeply and completely adrift in life. I’ve been feeling broken, weak, inadequate. Going in every day feeling small and powerless as I do and focusing in and tackling very difficult physical tasks, at times even with the elegance I’ve spent my life working towards, reminds me not only of the physical strength I possess but also of the strength of my will. After completing the course I feel I can do anything.
And now for the parable. While I’ll be grieving what I’ve lost for some time, the chaos of my recent life has subsided. I’m on the other side of the storm, but like a bird I’m circling for dry land. Wondering if I should land somewhere known and ‘safe’ or if I should, even in my current fragile state continue as I have been for sometime and travel further away from my home, continuing in new life experiences vs nesting in the familiar. The LEU machine is an amazing bit of equipment. At first it took quite a lot for me to manage it. Many of my joints are a little too loose and it is easy when working with my limbs extended against weight to feel as if I’ll be pulled apart, and having had quite a few injuries, I like to feel my joints solid and aligned. However, I’m also an artisan and I crave that full extended expression of the length of my limbs at the max. Over the 6 day course I eventually learned how to hold my bones in socket while also letting the weights of the machine draw me into my fullest range of movement. This magnificent feeling of being completely within oneself while also being completely extended past what I previously perceived to be a safe and comfortable place to be. The parable. I’m emotionally stretched beyond a place where I feel ok. I’m also soon going to be leaving my ‘home’ to expand my world again in an unfamiliar land. My fluid and explorative identity has often taken me beyond the limits of myself. Like dancing in the edge of your joints this is exhausting and wearing to the spirit. Sometimes it blows out entirely. But like the body that can learn to reach beyond itself while still holding together, I think it’s possible that I can also learn to stay solid in my heart, solid in myself while still extending my life past the boundaries of what is reasonable and expected.