Monday, April 16, 2012

Loosening Up

Before I get started here, I'd like to introduce myself.  My name's Alex, and I am currently an administrative volunteer for Frenetic Theater.  During the day, I work as a business analyst for an educational nonprofit in town, but outside of the office, I spend quite a bit of time taking classes and hanging out with the fine folks at Frenetic Theater.  I danced with FrenetiCore for a year ending last August, and while I'm currently on hiatus from performing, I am as passionate about dance as ever.

I'm not a very flexible guy.  In particular, m y hamstrings and lower back have always been pretty wound up.   It's not something I'm particularly proud of, and in my day-to-day, as I sit at my desk, it's pretty easy to avoid thinking about.  It's less easy to ignore in dance class.  Oftentimes, it's like the tightness in my muscles is static on the phone line between my head and the rest of my body--I feel disconnected.  I think a lot about the movement, and I forget to let my body learn it.  My movements feel anxious and lifted, as though I'm kicking at the ground while being picked up by the back of my shirt.  I often fight this feeling by focusing on a wrist or a foot or a hip--while not a holistic approach, it helps, and it makes it so that even in dance class, I can still avoid thinking about the tightness.

Not in Afro-Brazilian Modern, though.  This is a class about connectedness, about grounding yourself from head to toe.  It's about getting out of your head and into your whole body, about convincing your conscience to trust your subconscious.  It's about tackling disconnections directly, so for me, there's no avoiding this battle.

At the beginning of  class, I'm always a long way away from feeling good.  As we go through warm-ups and learn the first combination,  I'm lost in thought, and the rest of my body stumbles along blindly.  A bit frustrated, I ask a question about counts. Stacey replies, with complete sincerity, "Forget the counts.  Just move." 

Something in me lets go a bit.  We repeat the combination, and as I move, I feel a little different.  My mind draws a blank on an adjective to describe it, and I feel oddly comfortable with this loss for words.

After we finish the combination, I stand there staring into the distance, puzzling over what just happened.  Stacey looks at me, laughs, turns to the mirror, and teaches us the next part of the combination.

Direct orders aside, there are other aspects of Stacey's class that leave me feeling more connected.  It's the imagery with which she describes movement; she likens steps to those of Brazilian orishas fanning fires on the ground and summoning wind from the skies. And it's the way that she moves--released, relaxed, grounded.

For me, wrestling with this tightness is more than physical.  It's not just an effort to connect my head to my body; it's also an effort to remember that there's much more to movement than thinking about it.

In that sense, this class is more than a dance class for me.  It is a lesson in harnessing overanalysis.  It's a lesson in complimenting self-critique with laughter.  It's a lesson in seeing through the structure of the movement to the spirit of it.  Perhaps, most succinctly, it's a lesson in getting to the heart of things.

And that's what keeps me coming back.  This class is a venue for me to connect to something deeper than my immediate thoughts.  Every other week, I walk away from it with a tired lower back, but also with the confidence that at some level, I'm finally learning how to loosen up.

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