Do you want to express where you are or where you are going? Do you want to embody a coat from the outside in or be your naked self?
While watching a dance performance a few months ago, my friend sitting next to me asked me if they were good dancers. After having watched many professional ballet companies from around the world perform my response was, "Well, not as refined as they could be." After taking a breath, I found the following words come out of my mouth, "But then they would not be as natural in their movements."
After noticing many of the young girls from my ballet studio transform from what they called an "ugly duckling" to a beautiful swan, I have since changed my mind on that response. Once we line up with what we are trying to become, it will become natural.
The ballet dancer who is confident in her/his step, balanced on her toes, and naturally graceful in her movement is a relief to watch. At one ballet performance I noticed myself relax in my seat when the soloists switched from a new company member to one of the most seasoned performers of that company.
At a master workshop a few months ago with a modern dance teacher, he caught me off guard when he gave me the feedback to be more asymmetrical and not to always come back to center. He wanted me to express more of what really happens in life. He took me by surprise because for the last few years my life has only been about coming to and from center, both in ballet and in the spiritual path.
In some of the ballet classes in big cities the teachers advised students not to be so polite or graceful; "be real and let your passions and sexuality out," they would say. Because what do most people want? They want the real you, that is if they can handle it. Then they have energy they can work with to help themselves transform as well. If one is hiding their full self or being fake, there is no connection with other people. I am not saying we can't be polite or graceful, but audiences will feel it if it is true. When you truly feel that, you will take others there with you.
Since then I have been paying attention to people's reactions to different types of dance presentations. I have noticed many people have expressed a great sense of healing from dance that expresses their emotions of the moment. It helps them get in touch with themselves, understand themselves, express themselves, and accept themselves. For someone to be able to display other people's insides is a great skill. The ability for people to connect with themselves right where they are is very healing.
“The function of art is more than helping us to “get in touch with our feelings,” as the popular expression goes. It is to help us to refine those feelings.”—Swami Kriyananda, Art as a Hidden Message
Every once in a while I used to drive all the way from Nevada City, CA to San Francisco, CA (about 3.5 hours away) early on a Saturday morning just to take a dance class that offered the opportunity to fully feel and express my present reality. It released all of the emotions I was feeling better than anything else I was doing at the time. Any stuck energy was moved and disappeared.
There is so much more than words can communicate and the mind comprehend. Yet the movement of the body can flow through the full spectrum within us. Leaving an experience that gets me to the heart of presence empties me out so I become clear, strong in myself, and a blank slate ready to move in any direction from there.
And where would one want to move from there? First, with full understanding of where and what we are working with, we can make choices of what we may want to shift. We can shift our emotions or behaviors by shifting the quality of our movement.
If our movement tends to be soft because we are passive, we can consciously move with more firmness until it happens without thinking. If we tend to move in curved lines and have trouble achieving goals in life, maybe we want to practice moving in straighter lines.
Besides the desire for balance, it is helpful to have the ability to cultivate all qualities of movement and character. This way we have choices in life to call on what we need to meet any moment.
Transformation of body alignment and the way I move has been so helpful for balancing out my emotions and giving me more options for handling life. There is an even greater more lasting joy that comes from adding a spiritual dimension.
There are specific body movements we can do to generate a more spiritual feeling. If we feel sad, raise our arms up and uplift our energy to uplift our consciousness. If we feel tired maybe our energy has been too scattered going outwards or being defined from the outside. In that case we can try to move from the base of the spine and up from there as if mimicking how we channel our energy in meditation.
I would encourage one not to even stop there. Dancing is my favorite thing to do yet I have gotten bored or been dissatisfied with the energy of many dance companies and quit over and over again. It never had enough meaning to me.
After a couple years of being serious on the spiritual path, I brought dance into it. I have focused on feeling the Divine presence and dancing for God. I have wished for others to feel God while performing. There is a soft, sweet, and light quality I have never felt before from dance. There is a great love in my heart. It is like being taken to another dimension where you really do feel like you see God and forget you are dancing.
I have carried this feeling into all forms of dance I have been doing in any environment. All the cares of this world drop away while I go into that true joy within. I have walked out of dance gatherings feeling my energy rising and having my hand stuck to my heart.
This is what I wish for you all; to completely feel the essence of yourself in the moment, to have the ability to transform that as you need to, and to feel the great joy of God.
You can have the opportunity to be guided through such a process October 23-25, 2015 at The Expanding Light Retreat in Northern California in a program I am putting together called The Dancer as a Channel: Using Dance and Movement as a Therapeutic and Healing Tool. For more information and to sign up, please visit: The Expanding Light Retreat
“There is in each of us a special song to be sung. None of us is more important, or less so, than any other. Our simple duty is to find our unique song deep within us, and to sing it to perfection. That perfection will come only when we have learned to sing our own soul-song to God, offering back to Him the inspiration of His love.”—Swami Kriyananda, Art as a Hidden Message