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3 Dance Healing Activities For Every Body

Written by: Lake Angela, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

You don’t have to be a trained dancer to benefit from the therapeutic aspects of dance movement. As modern dance has demonstrated in its departure from the rigidity of classical forms and the embracement of weight, rhythm, and rootedness to the earth, dance is for every body—inclusive of all shapes, abilities, and ages. The following three activities are Dance Healing exercises you can try from the comfort of a small space and experiment with their efficacy by noticing and developing your personal movement patterns and preferences.

1. Dance Breathing

In this exercise, the objective is to provide breath to the whole body by consciously breathing movement into one part at a time. You may start at any point that moves you, but if you are new to the practice of listening to physically-embodied knowledge and need more direction, I suggest starting at the head and working your way “down” and “out” until you develop your own intuitive understanding of the practice.


Begin moving in any direction with the crown of your head, and sustain this movement for as long as possible or for the length of one very deep breath. Inhale in stillness, and as you exhale, allow the head to move in slow motion in an intuitively chosen direction. Simply observe the body’s natural preference. Repeat the inhale in stillness and exhale with the same body part until you develop a sense of your natural rhythm, then move on to the next body part.


Depending on how much time you have to devote to the activity at the moment, you may choose to move through the head, each shoulder, elbows, wrists, chest, lower back, abdomen, hips, pelvis, and so on down to the arches, heels, balls of the feet, and toes. If pressed for time, you will still benefit from moving through just three or four parts. I recommend choosing the places that feel most stiff or sore to increase breath and blood flow. Soon, you will feel noticeably invigorated and calm through this close awareness of movement through the body.


If you require more structure to allow yourself to delve into freedom of movement, you can introduce a timer to the exercise. An hourglass or a gentle tone from your cell phone are good options. This structure may help you to interrupt less with intrusive thoughts as you focus on sustaining your current motion, direction, and breath until the timer cues you to move on and connect to another body part. Moving part by part will focus your intentions and help you to integrate the whole, as dance disproves the perceived dichotomy of mind and body.


2. Points in Contact: 4 Paws, 3 Paws, 2 Paws, 1 Paw

In this exercise, we focus on connecting with the floor and sensing the way the body’s weight in different formations and structures is supported by the earth. I prefer a wooden surface, but you may soften your floor as needed by adding blankets, yoga mats, or padding. You may choose to move to music or perform the exercise to silence.


First, connect with the surface at four points. Depending on current flexibility and strength, these points might be hands and knees or they could be hands and feet. Slowly, begin to experiment by moving with all four paws on the earth. From four paws, switch to three, which will require more balance and center strength. From three, change to two. This development may seem easier, as we are used to moving on two feet, but try also moving from two feet to one foot and one hand, two hands if only for an instant, forearm and shin for increased support on two points, and any combination of two points you can imagine. Next comes one point at a time, so, if possible, experiment with balance on each leg, hand, hip, or any other single point upon which total body balance is possible. You might need to move more quickly at this time until you develop increased strength. If you find yourself falling more, it means you are succeeding in the goal of experimentation and observation of your current limits!


These limits also will change, and at any point, you should make sure to congratulate your body on your current capability and creative achievement. Optimizing your opportunities to fall, which really is considered a move in the right direction in modern dance, is another reason you might want to soften your surface if that makes you more comfortable losing balance.


Here is an example of Points in Contact for further inspiration and guidance.


3. Leading Parts

Similar to Dance Breathing, Leading Parts focuses on one body part at a time as it works toward total integration by maximizing each part’s dexterity and creative capacity. Building on Dance Breathing, this exercise adds the components of travel and varying speeds. You may simply start at one side of your room and progress to the other, or you may mark your “start” and “finish” lines, depending upon the size of your space.


I recommend playing music with a slow yet strong current that will help to propel you across the floor in strong pulses of movement. For beginners, it can be difficult to travel with large or varied strides, and music with a conducive sound or pulse will help.


Choose your leading body parts in any order this time. If you lead with the head, for example, you move from the starting line leading from your crown, ear, nose, mouth, tongue, eyes, back of the head, etcetera. Experiment with all aspects of the head as its weight leads you across the floor to the other side. Repeat this as many times as feels good or interests you.


Body parts like fingers or feet might seem easier for us because we are used to reaching for what we want or leading with our feet to walk. In these cases, try to think of new ways to lead with your feet and hands. Imagine your eyes are on your palms or your feet are more like hands, for example. You will find that there are many ways to use the hands and feet creatively after a few experiments.


On the other hand, pelvis leads seem to be a great challenge for many with whom I have worked, if only because our cultural context frowns upon pelvic freedom as lewd or inherently sexual. This is a cultural bias. Movement of the hips and pelvis is not inherently sexual, and sexual movement also is not bad. It might take a few trials, but you will experience immense freedom and joy in a movement when you allow yourself to lead with the pelvis.


Here is a video of Leading Parts to help you.


After moving through the Dance Healing activities, observe and repeat:

Once you have experimented with each of the three exercises above, you might want to note your movement preferences, making sure to use a nonjudgmental tone when describing your body and your movement. For example, even with my first foray into dance, it was already clear that I was most comfortable near the ground, in low positions with expansive bases, with all four limbs in contact with the ground and moving with abandon rather than control. Many others prefer higher planes of movement, torsos upright, only two feet in contact with the floor. Cultural factors also influence our habits. If you come from a cultural context in which upright movement controlled from the abdomen and pelvis are the norm, you might be surprised to discover through Dance Healing that you actually prefer to lead with the pelvis or the hips.


Increase your creative vocabulary:

When you have advanced in your dance movement practices and noted your preferred movement patterns, you can advance your embodied knowledge and cultivate creativity by experimenting with the opposite of your preferences. For example, since I prefer to be near the ground and enjoy inversions, I might choose to experiment with high planes of movement, including leaps and extensions. Consciously practicing the opposite of my preferences will expand the movement vocabulary at my disposal as well as my physical and creative potential.


Your habitual postures and daily interactions will change for the better:

Once you command more knowledge about yourself derived from Dance Healing practices, you will feel more confident and joyful in moving through your daily activities because your body retains the movement memory and new awareness of the emotionally-connected preferences you have observed even when you must sit at a desk or push a cart through a grocery store. Even during regular, repetitive tasks, your posture will change. Adjusting from rigidity and discomfort to increased physical freedom will influence your feelings of comfort and enthusiasm in all your actions. From others’ perspectives, you also will appear more confident with the posture dance movement practices develops. I wish you these kinds of life-changing discoveries in your movement experiments!


Dance Healing is for every body

The Dance Healing activities detailed above are just three examples of those developed or advanced by Companyia Lake Angela. For more creative movement prompts and Dance Healing activities for individuals, pairs, and groups of participants, please feel free to get in touch! Whether you experiment to develop creativity stemming from your embodied thinking, to develop methods of choreography, or just to relax, dissipate stress, and experience the joy of intentional movement, these three dance-driven lessons will serve and inspire you on your way.


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Lake Angela, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lake Angela is a poet, translator, and dancer-choreographer who creates at the confluence of verbal language and movement. As Director of the international multimedia group Companyia Lake Angela, they offer sessions in guided healing through poetry and movement and provide a platform for schizophrenia spectrum creativity. Their full-length books of poetry, Organblooms (2020) and Words for the Dead (2021), are published by FutureCycle Press. As poetry editor for Punt Volat, they select and publish innovative new poetry in four languages with co-founder Kevin Richard Kaiser. As co-founder of Poetry Midwives Editing Services, they help aspiring writers polish their manuscripts for publication. Lake holds a PhD from The University of Texas at Dallas for their intersemiotic translations of German Expressionist poetry into dance and their MFA in poetry.

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