One of the first things I say to my beginning dance students is: “If you can breathe, you can dance.” After I make this statement, they look at me in shock and disbelief. For a new student to understand this radical idea, they have to alter their perception of exactly what dance is. So let us examine this question now.
What is dance? Dance is movement.
OK, so what is movement? Movement is change – it is the changing relation of body part to body part; it is spatial relationships; and it is energy exchange. When do we move and change? A better question may be: when do we not move and change? Even when we are not moving or changing on the outside – moving in a way that any observer can see – we are still moving on the inside: blood is flowing, the heart is beating, lungs are filling and emptying, cells are receiving and expelling. The only time we are ‘still’ — not moving and changing – is when these functions are no longer present…when WE don’t exist anymore.
Dance is movement, and movement is change. For change to be a lasting experience, we need to feel and sense the changing body-part relationships, spatial relationships, and energy and idea exchanges. When we are present in our bodies, when we sense these relationships, when we are clear to sense physically and feel emotionally – that is when we learn.
We learn through change. We learn about change. We learn about ourselves. We learn about our surroundings: its affect on us, and our affect on it. We exchange energies and ideas with our environment and with those around us. Through all of this, we develop a kinesthetic – or physical – awareness; a way of knowing and learning about our self, our body, that makes us more responsive to our surroundings and to others. Our personal physical connection, our awareness, affects our outlook, our perceptions, our reactions, and our relationships. If we are not aware of, or do not have, this physical connection, we close off many opportunities for expanding our lives.
Change teaches us; movement educates us. Through this ever-present breath and awareness, movement leads us toward a deeper understanding of our world. We find our connections to the earth, the sky, and everything and everyone around us. Movement becomes learning. Movement becomes knowing. Movement becomes knowledge.
Those who are present in their bodies and in the moment – who are willing to sense and feel – are open to learning. To be a true student, you must be open to exchanging ideas, thoughts, and experiences. Though I am a teacher, a guide — first of all I am a student. I learn from my students: from the discoveries they make, and from the discoveries I make though our exchange.
We are all students. We are all teachers. We all move. We are all in a constantly evolving dance. Indeed, we are all dancers.
So, I believe: “If you can breathe, you can dance.”
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