I was in my early twenties and drowning in the boredom of a degree in sociology. I signed up for a 6-week dance program for credit in the summer after my second year. I had never danced before. That summer I studied jazz, contemporary and Spanish. I fell in love with modern dance, more specifically, with Graham technique. There was something about it that intuitively made sense for me. When I was immersed in the classes my mind and body were truly functioning as one. I had never experienced anything like it.
There is something tremendously empowering about the idea that movement begins at our core and translates, explodes and releases out of our extremities. What I didn’t realize until now was how much Martha Graham’s life philosophy resonated in my mind as well as my muscles and bones. I recently watched a Tribute to Martha Graham narrated by Gregory Peck on youtube. She says that her vocabulary of movement is a “how to of how to move through life”. It studies the relationship of the body to the mind and the body to the spirit. Her technique focuses on the breath, “to breathe life in or expel it, it is intrinsic to the body and to movement.”
This is what the body remembers. My body remembers the language of the movement, and it has absorbed the underlying philosophy. And now it makes complete sense to me, our wisdoms are housed in our muscles and bones, in our blood. “How many drops of blood have gone in to the making of you – how much memory is in the blood.” She translated her life into a series of movement; I have translated mine in to words.
“I do believe in the sanctity of life and of energy. Life isn’t giving up, it’s moving on.”
I went to The Toronto Dance Theatre to take a class. I inhale my youth as I enter. My body doesn’t realize it has aged, and my inner dancer takes over. Perseverance. Commitment. Determination. Lots of deep breathing. I find a piece of dance floor real estate far enough away from the mirror that my reflection is respectable.
Five, six, seven, eight, the piano accompanist find the melody on the keys and my body miraculously finds the rhythm and astonishes me with it’s memory of the moves. My inner core is at one, and I close my eyes, which proves to throw me off balance, but I quickly re-group. And then, the across the floor routines, this is where you line up, individually or in small groups and leap, jump, chasse, triplet, scurry or glide across the floor. I was floating, prancing, breasts flopping up and down, three four, across the floor, sucking in my stomach, five, six, remember to breath, seven, eight, how ridiculous do I look, and again…
The truth is I enjoyed it. My knees not so much. It felt good to dance again. And, sometimes when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I could actually see the dancer in me, a little fuller and my lines not as elongated, but still co-existing. And, I realized that dance is just as much about my head as my body.
Dance is a metaphor for our lives. Thanks Martha. It’s about being in alignment, and it starts at our core, one, two, and reaches up one vertebrae at a time, three, four, and lengthens to root us at the ground, five, six, inspire, inhale, and release the energy as it emanates from us, seven, eight.