Friday, February 22, 2008
How to dance with branches-- Hanging
One of the first actions I investigated with the branches was "hanging" off the branch. Hanging is an illusion, one cannot really hang off the non-attached branch, at least not in the way one hangs off of a jungle gym, for example.* But you can sort of hang. You can set up an intention for action (I will hang off the branch), or pose a question or an investigation (Can I hang off the branch?, How can I hang off the branch?). These can open entry points into a particular somatic experience that is born from the idea or intention of hanging. In this play of of the imagination and action the work "branches" into the realm of meaning. (More on that at another time.)
For your first attempts you will want to use a fairly long and sturdy branch , one that you can hang most of your weight off of when vertical to the ground (although after a while you can do this with almost any branch you wish to handle). Its easiest to work outdoors on soil or grass or other surface that can anchor the end of the branch into the ground so that it doesn't slip, but you can also work in the studio and play with the delicate balance of the unsupported branch or with supporting the end of the branch with a body part, for example a hand or foot. You will want to work slowly so as to sense the angle(s) and position (s) of the branch and body, and amount of weight you can release and the force of the grip at any given moment in your journey.
Place the branch vertical to the ground. Hold branch gently with one or both hands sensing the shape/line/flow of the branch. Sense the vertical line of energy moving into the ground. Test dropping your weight into it as if using a walking stick to support your weight. Let your elbow (s) drop and s l o w l y start to hang off the the branch. Follow, experience, the pathways of movement the hanging initiates in the body, allowing other parts of the body to hang: the head, the legs. Don't rush. Notice the giving into gravity move sequentially (branching) through the body.
As you work, you will find multiple ways to hang. You can hang forward as if supporting yourself on a walking stick. You can hang back using the vertical branch to support the arch. You can hang from different stances, lunges, squats, even sitting. You can even "hang" off the branch while at the same time lifting it vertical or horizontal to the ground.
You can use two branches to hang. You can even hang from the branch while resting on the ground.
Each approach poses different opportunities for exploration, understanding, connections, and meaning.
Try not to get ahead of yourself. Stay in the moment. As you begin to hang off the branch find the sense of the weight dropping through the legs. Let the feet open to allow the energy of the legs to move back into the ground, into the earth. Receive, sense, the upward thrust of gravity through the legs. Shift the balance by moving between the action/sense of hanging off the branch and/or off your skeletal structure. Notice the potential dance/drama that lives within the shifts.
Go back to the hand, top the point of contact. Where does the grip end and the hang begin? Can you soften the grip? Can you balance the energy in the rest of the body to match the energy of the grip?
Stay with whatever you are feeling at the moment. Feel the emotional content or potential of the action. Magnify it. Let this inform your dance.
This work is a marvelous aid for releasing the joints and sensing the bones as support structures from which muscles can hang. There is a way you can release the joints of the hips and legs and drop into the bones that heightens the action, sensation, and experience of the bones holding you up while the muscles release. As we use upper body strength to lift off the the legs we can allow them to "hang", an experience that supports the exploration of dynamic alignment in weight shift, and which increases efficiency and fine articulation of movement and our ability to "fold" the legs.
* You may want to try hanging off different surfaces such as a jungle gym, or different body parts ( for example hips off the sofa) to experience the sense of clearly supported hanging before moving into the illusion.