laban movement analysis

Snippet Blog #4 - It Can Do A Backflip, but Can It Hold Down a Desk Job?

I am excited to share this fun article written by one of my classmates in my first Module at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies. Amy is a unique woman, combining her love of dance and robotics to bring a unique perspective to both!

I love how, in this article, she brings to light the complexity of what we think of as the simplest of our everyday human movements - from unsticking a label from itself to choosing how to respond to an inappropriate joke!

She asserts what I too know to be true: you, yes, even you who do a desk job and believe you avoid any sort of exercise or physical activity can make claim to the quite incredible and complex things that you do EVERY day with your body. You are often doing intricate amazing things that you may not yet understand or, often, even value.

I especially love the line "this requires leveraging your full mechanical complexity to indicate shades of approval and disapproval simultaneously." Yes, folks, the way you express yourself is also movement.

Living one’s life as a moving, functional, expressive being requires a set of skills that, for the most part, we developed through responding to biology, reacting to the environment and practicing patterns and conditioning in our every day interactions! And while, like robots, we can simply follow our programming without question, as humans we have the capability of exploring the possibilities beyond what we have learned in the past. As humans, we have the capacity to develop consciously an extensive range of versatile competencies that we can choose to explore, refine and challenge as we live our daily lives fully. Unlike the robot programmed for a specific task, we (and our lives) are complex . You could say that we are “programmed” for growth and change!

We get to choose. Being human means we can be like the robot, adept at functional, repetitive, patterned movement that requires a narrow set of rules and conditions. Or we can be fully complexly human, taking risks, making conscious our habits, exploring the places where we are no longer or not yet competent, playing with options and possibilities! As humans, we have the capacity to continually deepen and expand our expressiveness, our variability, our resilience! Unlike the robot, we always have the option to be curious and to question our “programming”…and sometimes this can mean, simply, taking the time to be curious and to notice what is involved as you pick up a paperclip or negotiate an uncomfortable moment in a conversation.

A New Year, a New Dawn

Here we are, folks, at the end and beginning of another cycle of the human-created year. A segment of time based on the real travels of this planet Earth as it moves around the Sun, the greatest star in our universal body (at least from our everyday perspective here on Earth.) A new dawn, a new Year.

Consider this for a moment, if you will: as I write this and (possibly) as you read this, our planetary home returns back to approximately the same place in its orbit of the Sun, the same general place in Space that it was a year ago as we ended 2017 and began 2018.

This cycle by our home planet, around and round the Sun, is a glorious and dependable pattern on which we rely, often without any thought to it. The planet is constantly in motion and, as its residents, so are you and I. The Sun and our relationship to it is a powerful force in our lives and each day - whether with intention or not - we interact with this great being from different perspectives as we dance around its metaphorical throne in the middle of our solar system. As far as most of us are concerned, the Sun does not change course: it is stable and constant. It is the basis on which we measure time. The relationship of the Sun and the Earth determines our seasons. We need its light every day just as we need time to recuperate in the darkness that our spinning in orbit gives us. And it is gravity, the thing that supports us and keeps us grounded, that allows us to maintain this orbit.

As you absorb all of this information, I invite you to add this to your thoughts as well: imagine yourself as a speck of cosmic dust riding on this body of Earth orbiting the Sun, and remember that even as you sit still, even while you read this, you are always moving through Space. Notice the sensory experience of this. (This exercise can be ungrounding, so before you move on please take care to return your attention to yourself as a physical presence resting on this big planet, securely held in place by gravity.)

Now, I invite you to layer in this idea: you, as an individual, started your personal dance around and with the Sun at the moment you emerged from the womb and have been doing it ever since. At that moment in time and in a specific place on the planet, you moved from your watery confines and entered into existence at a unique placement somewhere on this great elliptical pattern that is the Earth traveling around the core of our solar system!

When we each celebrate our individual birthday, we are not only celebrating the date of our birth, but we also have the opportunity to celebrate the unique place where we initially landed on the wheel of the year and started our cosmic rhumba with the Sun. Our birthday can be our individual relationship within this cycle of the Earth’s year dance, if we choose to consider it this way.

Likewise, when we celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day on Dec 31 and Jan 1, we are acknowledging the beginning and ending points of this annual cycle as determined by some human (a Roman guy, if my memory serves me!) Observant astronomers had determined that the length of this cycle was 365¼ days but it was Caesar who decided the point in the cycle on which the year would end and, as a result, begin.

In movement work we call this type of conceptualization a “phrase.” A phrase always has a From, a Through and a To. In other words, I can describe the movement of this new year as coming From the time and place of 12/31/18 and moving Through the 365¼ days To the time and place of 12/31/19 when we will once again find ourselves approximately in the same place in Space in relation to the Sun that we were previously…or, in this case, are now.

Within this phrase of a year, we have many phrases because all movement has phrasing.

Phrases that are general to all of us as part of this cosmic dance are those like the moon cycle of approximately 28 days, the day cycle of 24 hours, the hour cycle of 60 minutes and on and on.

In addition we are always living and choosing and moving phrases that are specific to us such as the unique phrasings of our daily tasks and events, of experiences we have, or actions we take, of each breath.

Within all this movement we are constantly invited to recognize where, when, what and how we are moving From some experience or place, Through something and Toward yet some other place, experience or thing. We are invited to recognize that we can choose how we conceptualize our movement, whether it is how we relate to the phrasing of the larger cycles of the Earth moving around the Sun, or other similar cosmic scale patterns or how we attend to the smaller, more personal phrases like how we move in our everyday life, in relation to our Self, in relation to Others and in relation to our environment.

Some folks consider the Sun as a metaphor for our Soul’s purpose such as in astrology where we have something called the Sun Sign based on the date and placement of our birth (as I described above). Regardless of whether you believe in astrology or not, I invite you to recognize that we all have patterns that often relate to or orbit around one Core issue or theme throughout our lives, even while we are also dealing with smaller, everyday challenges and joys. As humans, we get to explore, choose, resist, consider and/or engage this metaphorical Sun around which we orbit. Unlike the planets in their orbits, we get to choose about how we move our own bodily universe in relationship to itself and to its world. We get to consider whether and what we orbit as well as how and when.

For example, when I tell my story, when I wake in the morning, when I show up to a meeting, when I become aware of a conflict or any of the other things I do in a day, I have the ability to ask myself, “what is the core issue around which I am dancing or around which this group is dancing?” “what do I bring to this moment From the past or do I have an intention I am trying to get To?” “Is there a larger phrase that I am also moving through?”

I can wonder: Is this the beginning of a new cycle and if it is, then how was I as I moved Through the place or experience that I am coming From? Is this the end of something? If it is, where and when did this cycle begin?

We can, if we choose, attend to such questions as:

Is this where and how I want this body or this body part to be in this moment?
Am I using a pattern of movement, reacting in a familiar, safe way?

Is the quality, mood, or attitude of my movement in tune with my intentions?
Are my movements communicating what I desire to be experiencing or sharing in this moment?

Am I carrying a story or belief with me from the past into the present moment?
Is there something I desire to change in how I am moving in my thoughts, my emotions, my energy and/or in my physical body?

The reality is as living beings we are always in movement. Life is movement. Change is movement. Breath is movement.

The Earth moves through the Solar System. Autumn changes to Winter. December turns to January. Your birthday will come around once again. Yesterday becomes today and today becomes tomorrow. You wake from bed. Your return to bed. You live one day at a time. You breathe one breath at a time. All movement.

Things - such as body parts, bank accounts, traffic, your mind, your belly, your concept of time, trees, tulip bulbs, the electric bill, your anger, your satisfaction - grow. They get larger. They extend or widen, lengthen or bulge. They advance or rise!

Things shrink. They get smaller. They flex or narrow or shorten. They hollow, retreat or sink back to the Earth.

This is movement at its most basic.

Movement is what tells us we are alive. And as humans we can attend to the movement, to the phrases of each breath. We can notice our actions From the moment of a thought Through To where that thought takes us. We can be conscious of our choices as we phrase a moment, a day, a month, a year, a lifetime. We can ask ourselves the questions like the ones I listed above or below at any time:

Where am I in Space in this moment?

Who or What am I interacting with?

What pulls or pushes me to move from Stillness?

What parts of my delightfully complex and physically, spiritually, emotionally, cognitively-able body am I using to support me as I move?

What is the timing that works best for me?

How am I moving?

Why?

These are the kinds of questions we can use at any time to deepen our relationships with our Selves as living beings on a living planet.


We can ask these questions as cosmic specks of dust, sitting in stillness. Even as we attempt to be motionless or even passive, we can, if we choose, let ourselves wonder about our unique place on this big glorious ball of energy and substance as it dances it way around and around its bright-fire ball center.

And we can ask them as we move like we are our own universe, on it less predictable path through its own solar system with other planets, stars and cosmic dust! Dancing, spinning and moving our way around our metaphorical Sun, through our days of Light and of Dark, we can ask at any point as we journey and return, each hour, each moment, each breath, each phrase.

We might be tempted to believe, when we find ourselves in what seems like the same place once again, that nothing has changed and that we are stuck in an endless cycle, but this isn’t really possible. Something has changed because there is movement. When we find ourselves in a familiar place, following a well-known pattern and we recognizing all that is the same, we can also be curious and ask “how is this also different?”

Consider this: the dancer never does the same dance twice. The choreography might be the same, with actions and placement on the stage consistent for each performance. But each time the dancer moves that known series of phrases (s)he brings something unique and different to the experience in that moment - sometimes intentionally and sometimes not - because, simply, the body has no choice but to be only and always in the precious, always changing present moment supported by the planet Earth as it rotates it way around the Sun.

Happy New Year’s Day...on whatever day you might be reading this!


To view the source of the image used, as well as for more information on the motion and cycles of bright objects, please click here!


Eco-poesis:  A Journey to NY and to my Self

Good morning, my community of Embodiment seekers, to all those who invite, strive, welcome and savor being more fully in their bodies and in Life!  This is one of, I hope, several posts about my journey to the 40th Anniversary celebration and conference of the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies (LIMS).  I hope to be writing more in the days, weeks and months that follow, about the people I met, the inspirations I’ve experienced and the ideas that I’ve touched or caught these past few days.   To extend my felt-sense connection to this incredibly empowering experience and to share this valuable wealth of knowledge with you my plans are to write often about what I have observed, learned, felt and explored. My goal, dear reader, is to also share with you as these experiences become more deeply integrated and embodied into the rhythms of my more routine daily personal and professional life.

In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of this educational institution, LIMS invited the Laban dance community to reflect on what role dance and performance art might play in shaping appreciation of cultural differences and creating equality between humans, other species and the natural world.  They adopted the term Ecopoetic as the inspiration.  This term combines “eco” from the Greek “oikos”, meaning family or house, and “poetic” from “poiesis”, meaning to make or to create.  This term was intended as an expression of the legacy LIMS represents, the care for the movement field that we as Certified Movement Analysts (CMA) all share, and the desire to collaborate in nurturing escapes from standardized modes of behavior.  Although this was the umbrella term used for the comprehensive collaborative multi-centered movement art performance in Washington Square during the conference, they also invited us to consider, conceptually, ecopoetic as a practice. Ecopoetic practice being one that relates to “an ecological way of thinking with a multifocused and open-ended perspective”, a practice that invites us to dialogue with our environment, its activities, and the other living beings in it in non-standardized ways without imposing ourselves over the surrounding spaces, or hindering their normal uses.

The material about the performance art piece ECOPOETIC (conceived and directed by CEO of LIMS Regina Miranda) explained that it was evoked by the concept of the early 20th century Movement Choirs created by choreographer/movement theorist Rudolf Laban (1879 – 1958) who believed that this collaborative structure promoted and satisfied core needs of human society: “sharing, relating and creating together.”   Some of you may recognize the influence of Laban on my own endeavor, the Mandala Community Movement Project, which was "birthed" on Earth Day of this year in Columbia, MO's own Peace Park.

Being in Washington Square on Friday evening, observing my professional peers immersed in their individual and collaborative creations of their unique ideas of ecopoesis, was profound.  I hope to be sharing pieces of video from these performances in the coming days so that you, too, can get some chance to witness this experience.

I also am having a resonant and very personal response to this concept of Eco-poesis, this idea of actively acknowledging the value of an activity in which a person brings something into being within their home space that did not exist before.  This resonates so strongly because it describes the drive within me that has always and continues to compel my work with Embodiment, a passion to bring to my community a way of exploring and being with movement in ways that I have not experienced in my time in the space that I call home.  I speak to this a bit in my previous blog post "What Do You Do and What Can I Expect?"  

The two ideas that really stepped off the page and jumped into my body when I read the material from LIMS about Ecopoetics are these: the action of caring for the movement field and the action of desiring to “collaborate in nurturing escapes from standardized modes of behavior”.  These  both speak so clearly to my heart’s desire that fuels my offerings.  Eco-poesis. Creating within my body, my home, my community, my family something which did not exist before  - and support the act of living life more fully.

I look forward to sharing more as it unfolds!

What Do You Do and What Can I Expect?

The title of this blog is a question I have heard in various forms over the last year.  "What is it you do?"  and "What can I expect if I come to one of your events?"  It is not uncommon for me to hear from folks that they find my work interesting and intriguing, but are reluctant to take part because they aren't sure what will be expected of them.   I understand this hesitancy to show up for something that seems new and, possibly, foreign.  I also know well that those who have overcome this fear and joined me in my various workshops have reported to me that they have had valuable and unique experiences that have then rippled through many aspects of their lives.   

SO, if you are one of these folks, intrigued by me and my work, but a bit hesitant to join in any of the many events I offer, please know that I have created this blog and the list of guidelines shared at the end especially for you.

WHY IS WHAT I DO CONFUSING?

My theory is that what I do is confusing because I do NOT offer a recognizable structured movement modality.  Movement opportunities offered in our culture, especially in the Mid-West, tend to be more structured and formalized like Swing Dance, Yoga, Belly Dance or Tai Chi or they involve some sort of sport or exercise regimen.  People seem to understand movement classes as a way to learn a specific movement modality for a defined purpose. For me participating in these practices is similar to putting together the contents of a Lego kit that was designed by someone else and has all the necessary parts to build a specific thing like a rocket ship or a barn.  In this sort of movement experience we are invited to learn the pieces and how to put them together in a fashion to get the end result specified by the modality or the teacher. This can be very rewarding.  Each of these movement forms I listed are all great opportunities to move!  I enjoy doing all of them. I know many wonderful people who practice and teach these forms.  They can be fun and valuable exercise, wonderful to watch and to be a part of.  All of this is true, however, this is not the kind of movement opportunity that I offer.

WHAT IT IS I DO

My education and the underpinning of all I offer is based on Laban Movement Analysis (LMA). LMA is a framework of movement, rather than a specific movement modality.  With the tools of LMA I can observe, analyse and explain any movement.  Because of my intensive training with instructors who are highly trained professional dancers, performance and martial artists as well as yoga and pilates instructors, I have the skill to create and teach structured movement with specific consistent actions, but this is not the way I generally choose to share my extensive training.  As Embodiment, I create and facilitate opportunities for you to explore yourself as a mover.   Because in my workshops the movement is about you, your choices, your desires, your attitudes, your environment, your abilities and your limits, it makes space for the experience to be uniquely rich, healing and exciting as well as unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable.  My workshops are intended to support you as you LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF IN MOVEMENT, not teach you any specific actions or set of actions.  To continue the Lego metaphor from above, the movement events I offer are more like showing up to an event to discover Lego pieces from hundreds of different kits in piles all around the room.  Imagine being invited and supported to create something from all this possibility!  As you select and build and try things out, imagine being led to notice the themes or possibilities within the piles, and then invited to notice and be curious about the patterns of your choices within all of this!  Imagine then being invited to notice your experience of the act of making choices, noticing patterns and of creating something new with the information you have received from me, from the other participants and from yourself within the experience!  Imagine what you might discover!  This is a more apt metaphor for what I offer as Embodiment LLC.  My workshops are opportunities for you to practice in a safe, supported environment different ways of moving and being in your life! 

To help understand the diversity of the possible experiences you can have if you choose to work with me, let me give you a brief overview of some of the movement forms that I have created and currently offer: 

  •  Express Yourself and Wild Women Wednesdays are more concept-driven events in which a criteria, intention or direction is given as a guideline.  This intention determines how we will explore and what we will create together.  As the names indicate these forms are more about exploring your personal creativity and expressivity.
  • Mindful Move Groove and Movement Fundamentals invite you to more closely examine and explore your physical movement choices - what are the parts you tend to use, how do they fit together, where do they go in space and how can you most efficiently move in the way you desire.  In these forms I offer a blend of education, exploratory movement and choreographed movement sequences.
  • Tranceformotion and Meditation for Every Body offers opportunities to explore Spirit and Embodiment using different healing traditions, such as mindfulness and trance work.
  • In some of the movement forms I have created and offer we start with a more formalized structure, like Yoga, meditation, drumming or Tarot, and then together we take the structure apart piece-by-piece to learn more about the whole.   
  • In the individual sessions I offer, we can explore any and all of these routes, depending on your needs and interests.

I hope that this helps to answer the question of what exactly it is that I do and what you might expect if you show up to one of my offerings.

Please know that I am also willing to take time to meet with you to talk about what I offer and what might be valuable to you personally; however, know that what I offer is experiential, so words will only give you a limited view into the experience!  For you to understand what it is we do in an Embodiment event will require you to join in, (and also be aware that your unique presence will, in turn, influence the experience of the event for all involved!)

GUIDELINES FOR TAKING PART IN AN EMBODIMENT EVENT

If you are still feeling curious but hesitant, I have shared a list below of guidelines established by me and some of my regular participants.  I regularly update these guidelines because I believe that curiosity and learning thrive best when we know the boundaries and social "rules" of our environment and those can only be determined by the folks involved.  Below is the most current list of what is asked of those who take part in any of the various Embodiment events:

  • Suggestions offered or prompted by the facilitator or other participants should be viewed as invitations intended to INSPIRE and SUPPORT you in deepening the process of you of being you, rather than as demands or commands.
  • Be curious.  Ask questions - of the facilitator, of yourself, of others.
  • Allow yourself to experience your sensations for the sake of the sensations.  Be with them. Move with them. Try to not make a story about them. Be with them.  Move with them.
  • Remember that PERFORMING is NOT being AUTHENTICALLY you.  Be curious and share with yourself and with each other, but if what you are doing begins to feel like performing, the suggestion is to stop, sit down, make it smaller, take a breath, decrease the intensity, find gravity or take whatever action you need to shift back into yourself.  The act of not knowing what to do next can be powerful.
  • Remind yourself that the act of Breathing IS Movement!  Sometimes being fully present with our breath is the most powerful action we can take.
  • Notice if you have a persistent desire to express yourself through verbal communication and invite yourself to resist it, to check in with your experience of your sensations and allow the desire to express connect into and out of you without words.  This might be movement.  This might be sound.  This might be stillness and silence.
  • If you start to experience exhaustion, frustration or demoralizing thoughts, change something.  Change your position. Move yourself into a different level or place in space. Find a new body shape. Adjust the size and/or intensity of your action.  Stop. Breathe. Find your support. Allow yourself time to recuperate.
  • If your experience of being in the present moment has become difficult, uncomfortable, fatiguing, irritating, or overwhelming and you are unable to transition or transform the experience on your own, communicate your need for support to the facilitator or to another a trusted person in the room.
  • Don’t:
    • Push through it just to accomplish it.
    • Ignore sensations and internal information.
    • Fake it until you make it.  
    • Apologize for having your experience or being you.
  • DO Notice.  Notice. Notice:
    • your relationship to your Breath
    • your places of support
    • what is happening withIN you
    • what is happening OUTSIDE that you can see, hear, smell, taste or feel on your skin
    • what is happening INSIDE of your mind that is not actually happening in the present moment
    • your curiosity.  your joy. your reluctance.  your desire
    • your patterns - of thought, of response and of action
  • Give yourself permission to be curious, to take a risk, to be safe, to inquire, to try new things, to say no.

FINAL WORDS

Please join me.  I am passionate about this work because movement IS life.  My own experience with LMA has given me so many tools to be more present, to experience and move with my life, in dance and in every day activities, with the glory and the challenges.  I look forward to sharing this framework with you in whatever ways interest you and in supporting you as you move more fully in the ways you desire to move in your life!