Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Eight Elements of Movement, part II Psychological Well-Being

A resiliency walk on a sacred labyrinth, a holy path or in a tango embrace
leads to the same place:  Psychological well-being.
Dancers often have the sense that dance is the highest pinnacle of movement.  I have no doubt that it truly is.  I am convinced that music and dance remain in our DNA as the thinking animal's way to process critical events (psychological trauma), oppression, and catastrophic conditions.  Dance also celebrates our highest of joys, which words cannot touch.  Dance makes us resilient--yes--but all movement can help our resiliency to some degree when they are done with grace. In Part I of this series on the Eight Elements of Movement, I suggested that grace is NOT for aesthetics.  It is primarily for survival. The graceful gazelle outruns the lion better than the clumsy one.  Also, I argued that grace serves all animals for their psychological well-being.  Grace of movement needs space and feels good.  A caged animal feels terrible.  I then focused on dance's special role.   Now here in part II of the Eight Elements of Movement, let's look at the practice of grace on all Elements. 

Each element can be applied for psychological well-being.  The earlier table on the Eight Elements of Movement in Part I now has a new column on resiliency (below).  The purpose here is to add to the dancer's awareness of how all Eight Elements will give one balance to the need to move.  Many think of dance as "addicting."  Practicing a balance of the Elements will make it clear how movement itself is our need, not running, swimming or dancing. How many of the eight do you practice?  My own well-being practice consciously includes all eight and is what I use to help combat veterans, struggling with PTSD.

The Eight Elements of Movement
by Mark Word*
The Eight

Resiliency of Grace
Child development examples

Life spawns in the seas.
Swimming creates weightlessness and forces discipline of breathing.  Some people do not feel well if they do not swim regularly. Swimming brings resiliency. Swimming is our return to the womb, the return to the seas, our last freedom of movement in our old age. Relearn to be a master swimmer now before you are forced into the pool in your old age as a beginner.
(1) In-womb swimming.

(2) Natural or taught swimming.

(3) Swimming becomes the last and best exercise modality for the elderly.


Evolution: Amphibious Life.
Crawling around is usually only practiced with children. Try crawling on a rug like a snake but on your back.  It’s a great back rub and regenerates the mind.  Here are some more ideas on crawling.

The first freedom of movement for a child.

Climbing to safety.
Climbing has been shown to help adults have far more short-term memory and focus after a climbing session.  

Toddlers climbing up before walking.

Breaking from our primate ancestors.
The walking meditation can be a spiritual practice or a simply a way to deal with stress. Many rely on a walk to regenerate their mental capacities, to make decisions, calm nervousness, renovate the soul.   Chan Park writes about tango as being a walking meditation for two in his book.  Zen Tango.

The most important development for independence/ mobility for children.

Survival through the ability to evade danger or hunt by rapid synchronization of movements.
The "runner's high" is the term we know about psychological well-being.  Much different than walking, now synchronization creates a new level of need for grace. 

The runner’s high, I believe, may not have anything to do with exercise but with the power of graceful movement!
I have completed 14 marathons, and I am now certain that movement and not exercise per se--is what brings well-being.

Coordination of multiple motor abilities.
The Eight

Resiliency of Grace
Child development examples
Survival Movements

Hunting, defending, eating, preening, making/using instruments (tools), self-/other-care.
Tai chi and other slow moving martial arts are now mostly practiced because of well-being. Even yoga, includes “Warrior stances 1-5” and other movements, which create a calming of the racing/worrying mind.  Tai chi is a great "cross training" for tango by the way. My friend and master tango teacher Daniela Arcuri, suggested that students of tai chi who started tango were automatically ahead of all other beginners. 

Playful fighting develops to self-protection. 

Being cared for develops to self-care in hygiene, eating, preening, etc.

Communication through social intercourse, including: Gestures, posture, stances, courtship, and sexual communication.
Movement for purposes of conveying meaning create resiliency for those interacting. Perhaps the most powerful social communication is the embrace, but can include even a light touch on the arm, a hand shake, even a stance that shows positive communication to another person.  People who hug and are hugged more often have more robust immune systems.  (Also explained here.)  Facial movements create   hundreds of messages for those near you.  A powerful research with teens showed that they were remarkably better off with their parents once they received light touches when communicating with their parents.

Movements that convey with increasing sophistication how   to be a part of a group and to convey what one wants.

The somatic response to internal or external musical stimuli. The thinking animal, needs music to survive.  Unlike what many (non-dancing?) scientists believe, I think our need to process great sorrow or joy is why we have retained this apparently "unimportant" skill and capacity that other animals do not possess.

This is it. The pinnacle of resiliency movements.  It is therefore worth every bit of your effort to dance with grace.  But do it for yourself.  Much of “graceful” movement is focused outside of the body through performance--a focus on others watching.  Grace belongs to you and how it feels.  Opening the embrace opens possibilities in movement, true, but have you lost your internal reason for grace? 

Learn more about meditative dance here. I highly suggest dance resiliency that does not require a partner or a milonga.  It is highly unlikely that the milonga you love will be around in thirty years, but your need to dance will not have changed.  Meditative dance will survive any popular dance style, including (sadly) tango.

The child’s unlearned somatic response to music.  Pure dance, at times started in the womb or early experiences with rhythm.  If hands "dance" on the drum or fingers on a keyboard, then music and dance are inextricably the same connection to the music.

Dancing may include symbolic movements from any of the 7 elements above, especially social communication, survival movements and walking.

In closing, let me share with you this video of a toddler-lead dance improvisation.  The video gives us all a sense of how the elements can be combined in dance.  No other baby animal responds to music like this.  The child uses nearly everything we have.  She just needed some water, and she would have had all eight.  The adults are inspired by her movements.

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Photo credit:  Walking meditation labyrinth at Grace Cathedral.

* The Eight Elements of Movement are categories that I have created.  I have not found them in research literature.  Perhaps you can find more?  I see eight.

**Survival movements are hunting, defending, etc.  Many dance movements are symbolic of preening, hunting and defending.  For example, these movements would be to jump, spin, throw, kick, spin, grab, and swing.  Survival movements also in tool/instrument making.  Stances (paused movements) are also important for survival.

***Social behaviors included, gestures/stances depicting meaning, sexual intercourse, other non-verbal behavior.  A subcategory is Self-/other-care: Touch, rock, preen, food preparation, embrace, carry. spin, throw, kick, spin, grab, and swinging.

A note about stances: These paused movements are, for example: standing, sliding, lying down, crouching, siting, swinging, diving, and with inventions and tools--riding, flying, biking, surfing, skiing, skating, etc.  The stances are a "meta-element," pauses of apparent non-movement found in all of the 8 Elements.