October 8, 2010

Dance the Paradox

A Reflection on Life, Rhythm and Movement Theory.

Somehow, someway in the midst of relentless travel, during my eager and curious pursuit of educational, recreational and vocational experiences and the dance between inward folding and outward opening that has been characteristic of the past 4 months for me, the summer fog and chill of San Francisco has released its grip to let October in. The coming days of sunshine, blue skies and warm(er) nights bring with them some of the most lively events of the year – an unfolding on a city scale – as residents and non-residents alike flock to the streets one weekend after the next in full fantastic finery for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Lovefest, Burning Man Decompression and more. It’s a great time to be in San Francisco. Perhaps next year I’ll stick around.

I flew out this morning to Hawaii from the Bay, a quick turnaround from Hoop Camp in Santa Cruz where 250 hula hoopers gather to geek, give and grasp the what’s hot and what’s not in the hoop dance community. Here in Honolulu I wait for my plane to depart for Maui where I’ll spend the next week before moving on to Kauai until the end of the month. I can’t help but feel the draw of the final push, the finale of months of movement. A twinge of underlying exhaustion explains the red in my eyes and the empty cups (yes plural) of coffee at my side.

In my workshops at Hoop Camp I recounted in retrospect that the more opportunities I had to be extroverted and available – teaching classes, performing, working festivals and participating in yoga trainings, the more I utilized latent space for complete and total withdraw into my inner world. Into a state of self-reflection, cocooning and journaling that became not just desirable to maintain the steady pace, but absolutely necessary. And if viewed on a meta scale the proximity of days or moments ‘on’ and ‘off’ pulsated in paradoxical extremes, folding in, to unfold out. Introversion. Extroversion. Like inhaling and exhaling, like the beating of my heart, the rise and fall of night and day – like San Francisco in the sleepy summer fog waking to days of street-festival-fall sunshine.

Douglas Brooks says “life is a paradox to be embraced,” a dictum which, truth be told, I seem to have little need for reiteration. This summer I have learned that plugging into this paradox – the spanda or creative vibration – this dance along the spectrum that invites all experience and excludes none, the surrendering into the rhythms of nature, becomes that which allows us to participate in the world as it is offering itself to us. Not in some abstract philosophical way, but in each and every moment. In a tuning in, a release of excess over-efforting and doer-ship to make way for the ‘real.’

In my dance classes I seek to help people act, live, and dance from our greatest authenticity. I certainly hold myself to the same. To move without expectation of outcome, self-judgment and inhibition requires seeking out the truth of the moment. Awhile back I read a quote: “Dance is the language of movement.” If dance is the language of movement and language is the means with which we make our internal experience external, then we ask, “what is authentically arising from the core of my being?” And move to tell our stories from that.

We’ve all seen a dancer or a musician whose technical skill is unquestionable but nevertheless reads as dry as an instructional manuscript or passionless drill, but a dance (a painting, a conversation, a yoga class) that is wrought with inner meaning will always be relevant and beautiful. It seems we all are more intuitive than we stack ourselves up to be and our radar for detecting falsehood and force has proved in full functioning order occasion after occasion, performance after performance. Authenticity is the bees knees.

In dance I understand paradox or contrary compliments as two points that define a spectrum of shade and nuance. Two bookends delineating our range – a metric for greater awareness of our comfort zones, movement patterns, warp and weft – a container that holds our vocabulary, which allows us to tell our stories with greater skill and more articulate impact. Our embrace of that spectrum is communicated in our fluency or flow of the moment – a release of the thinking, analytical mind to drop into the space of the heart, where spoken word fails in its ability to express the ineffable, where the life-force comes at you in waves – sending you jumping and diving in sometimes playful, sometimes panicked anticipation.

On the Big Island of Hawaii a local once told me that in order to swim with the greatest ease, we first tune into the ocean’s greater harmony with respect, tentatively touching like nervous new lovers, and once fully submerged we surrender to Her pulsation, if we don’t, we tumble.

In the last 6 months of travel I have learned a lot. More than anything I have learned to tune into myself in these times of self-reflection and feel a part of the larger whole, ‘rocking with delight’ as John Friend says. In Therapeutics training here on Maui John taught us that the most simple movement in the body is pulsation. Like the ebb and flow of the tides and wax and wane of the moon, our bodies too, our cells too, know the dance of polarities. It is only within paradox that we can find balance, that we can find the freedom of movement that breaks us out of our thinking mind and into our fluency. The secret of health is pulsation and variability, he said.

So the method is simple really. My dance is a reflection of my inner world. It tells the story of my heart. My heart beats in rhythm with the macrocosm, with the natural world – unmesha, inmesha, out and in, on and off, yes and no-for-now. To feel held in the space of greater harmony is to surrender, fall back and be danced.


We breathe, we move, we live life, with full awareness, with total authenticity, moving along the whole spectrum of possibility, participating, and co-creating (not efforting) the dance.

Make every moment an embrace of your Truth, and make it relevant, make it beautiful.

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