dance as creative practice (an exhaled breath)


spent eleven hours on set today with a turkish director friend of mine. brilliant cast, crew, and i was tired at the end, but i had to go to dance class because, well, i just had to. spending days on set, the only way i can keep still that long is to move in what (little) free time i have left over. so i took nia love's class at dna--it's called modern roots, a mix of modern dance and african forms. nia speaks of the pelvic drop, the feminine root we so often deny ourselves in (upright) American modern dance and ballet. i love ms. love's movement--all sinew, undulation, rhythm. came a bit late to class so they had already stretched and were getting into the viscera of the movement when i joined in. shifting between art forms is not unlike being pulled from a hot spring and jumping full force into ice cold water, the brain peeling back, shuddering, then finding itself--these are my legs, arms, face. shifting is also like traveling to a distant country full of people who speak a language you do not know, having to make sense, saying, perhaps i have not been there before, but i remember. i am no good with transitions. after a day of talking, or thinking, going to dance class is rather mind bending (i prefer mind fucking), or like cracking an egg wide open and letting the yoke fall between your fingers. what is there cannot be encapsulated or contained, it simply is.  and it takes the brain awhile to catch up, and you want to tell nia that you have been up since 6am and cannot process, can she please slow it down, but you know she won't and really why are you making excuses about the mind when the body is right there? it is waiting for the mind to let it go. so you tell yourself to let it go and just move, let your body find itself, and then it does and you realize that your body is much smarter than your mind, that it has garnered a substantial physical intelligence after years of training and performance and actually nothing of what you did today really matters; the movement is already in your body, it simply must be released.  and then you think (to yourself, again) that you are at times a mind or a body or a mind-body, or a body-mind, and tonight you are somewhere in between them all. and your body surprises you, and you are grateful for it. and you find yourself, after class, on the subway ride home, staring at your flushed reflection in the glass and wondering who that is sitting there because for a moment your mind has actually let itself go, left your body, and it is flying free somewhere. and on the way home you find yourself singing because music was really your first love and dancing (after 11 hours on set) has opened your third eye, or maybe the past, and you are able to remember and access certain parts of yourself that were hidden mere hours before. and you think, i need to dance more; it helps me live. and you realize how it helps you be present, breathing, alive, and thus more available to your creative work. and you think, someday, when i teach a writing (or filmmaking) class it will begin with movement. or perhaps i will teach a dance class and have people write, or anything to show how opening oneself to being present and grounded will at once open oneself to the work of creativity. and so you chase it, saying, i will dance more and more and more and more. it makes me happy. it's freeing. it opens me to the present, to the process. i am reborn again and again through movement. it is a spiritual experience (trust, flow). it is a mental experience (letting go). but most importantly it is a physical experience (the body, the earth). and among other art forms, dance is the one that best allows me to give thanks for breath, for being. --AL.

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