Saturday, March 21, 2015

How to hone down a "square-pegged" body

Your body was born to dance.  Our bodies are sometimes like square-pegs, not fitting into the roundness of the music.  But if we let the music in, the music can transform us. This transformation is the natural bodily response. It rounds us, hones us down.   Dance-like movements (called steps) are often merely square holes, which also can be rounded by the power of music.  

For the last month or so, I have had private tango lessons with master teacher, Michelle Lamb, who has been visiting Washington, D.C. from NYC lately.  In our first lesson we danced at a private home.  But lately we have met at a crowded dance studio with multiple groups and couples "learning to dance."   In this crowded studio with music in the background, perhaps few of us are truly dancing.  I learn a lot, but we are often not truly dancing.

Let me explain.  I think I have stumbled upon something essential about what dance truly is:

Dance is the somatic response to music. 

Although this sounds like a simple truism, it makes much of what people call "dancing" into "dance-like movements."  Doesn't it make sense that if you are working out a nice bodily movement and the music is not playing, that you are
not dancing?  What I think is radical about this simple definition is that many people who don't think they can dance are truly dancing and "dancers" at the highest levels may not be dancing at all!  Now, that is radical! 

If it is true that dance is the somatic response to music, this spontaneous, instinctual response to music may be blocked psychologically or culturally, but it is still there. The little child inside of each of us is dying to be set free to dance at will.

My lesson with Michelle has great value.  Making "dance-like movements" have their place as a preparation for dance. Musicians have their scales and etudes, and we dancers have our dance-like movements.  But when does dancing truly begin?  When does the music truly begin?  My piano teacher at the University of Nevada, got jobs as an organist in a Pentecostal church from time to time. He told me he would not stop playing until people were falling in the aisles, slain in the Spirit.  Was he manipulating them, or did they teach him how to play until it permeated their bodies?  As a musician, I can tell you that it goes both ways:  The music molds the audience, but audiences clearly over time mold what we do.

At the studio last Monday, it is true, that when I heard chachachá playing, that I caught a nice groove to the music, which informed my body how to apply the movements I was learning.   But I have a pretty good idea that the couple practicing the quickstep had mentally tuned the music out entirely.  

How is it for you?  Perhaps we all can back up a bit, and let the music hone our square bodies, because the music is the perfect round hole that your body slips into. Babies dance in their car seats with delight to the music.  The world is full of people who feel the music, but have convinced themselves that they cannot dance because their "round-peg" bodies did not fit into the "square-hole" definitions of dance.  Perhaps their round bodies don't feel that a walz should be back-side-together/forward-side together--a square!

Feel the music.  The music transforms our bodies, and we naturally dance:  Round pegs in the roundness of music.  We fit together so well.

Photo credit of "Feel the Music":  Learn English with music (and maybe dance too?)

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