Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Joy of Movement. Dancing from the Inside

Today, Sunday, June 26, was a day of dance. For me a day of joy.

Though I spend most of my days moving as I teach my yoga classes, and believe movement is an essential, elemental and primeval part of our earliest development, dance is the movement that gives me the greatest fulfillment, that nourishes my soul and allows my body to speak. It infuses my yoga; I love creating and teaching vinyasas.

From my years as a performing arts reviewer I know dance is the most difficult of the arts to express in words; but dance also gives my body words. Words that sometimes it did not know, did not know it needed to say.

Margie Gillis
In Moncton professional dance workshops are not as frequent as in several places I have lived. So it was with happiness I bought my tickets for two workshops that were part of the Atlantic Dance Festival.  So this morning I found myself flowing through a session on interpretation with Margie Gillis, one of Canada’s greatest contemporary solo dancers.

“Found myself”. The words came straight out of my body, and express exactly what happens when I move spontaneously and come out of my mind into my body.

That of course is what we try to find in a yoga practice. I say it many times a week. Margie Gillis’ dance philosophy is “dancing from the inside out”, which also resonates with what yoga is about. This also connects with my Iyengar yoga training; the focus on being internal, aware of how the body feels underneath the skin, and letting the energy within flow.

Among Margie Gillis’ works to enjoy are Thread – about aging and the connections we weave; Voyages into the Inner Landscapes, and Fluid Stability. As well as being a wonderful performer, Margie is also an eloquent teacher. The two do not always co-exist; it is her passion for dance that she communicates.

It was an amazing 90 minutes of letting go, of listening within and feeling; very improvisational. We worked in pairs, we moved swiftly, we moved slowly, we arched to the sky, we released to the floor. At the end Margie was complimentary about my movement and I floated home for lunch. Not really needing actual nourishment.

In the afternoon I experienced the Bharatanatyam style of Indian dance, taught by Atri Nundy from Toronto. This is a classical dance style from Tamil Nadu in Southern India; comprising 64 basic steps and communicating through facial expression and many mudras or hand gestures. Not surprisingly it takes years to become a professional.

These pictures show just how beautiful it can be. Certainly we were so far from this.

When I was studying yoga in India a few years ago we saw several performances and were privileged to see male student dancers preparing for a career as Kathakali performers.

To my surprise, loving most aspects of Indian culture, I did not find this style of dance nearly so satisfying or joyful. As you can imagine it takes a lot of intense concentration to master the intricate foot movements – lots of stamping – and the mudras. In contrast to the morning it was all in the head and very little in the body, as it would hopefully eventually become after years of study. Of course nothing happens instantly - how often do I say that? – but after the freedom and inner expression of the morning I felt constricted, a little overwhelmed by a bit too much information and wanted so simply curve my arms around my torso and flow freely across the studio.

But my body welcomed both experiences and is the more open for them.

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