We All Dance

Inside each of us, there lives a dancer. Just take a close look at infants and babies.  As we watch, we see that they are in constant motion: wiggling their legs and toes; waving their arms and hands. Observe crawling: when babies first start to move forward on their hands and knees they often rock back and forth, playing with the feel of weight moving them forward. The same is true as the child takes his first steps. We human beings are meant to move and our movement is the dance of life.


If an organism doesn’t move, it doesn’t really have the need for a brain. Rocks, trees and plants are essentially stationary features on the earth’s surface; they do not generally move of their own accord. They therefore have no need of a brain such as animals and humans have. As Rodolfo Llinás states, “That which we call thinking is the evolutionary internalization of movement.” (2002)


In the pursuit of food, our ancestors had to move to gather or hunt for sustenance. Learning to gather and hunt in groups caused humanoids to learn to coordinate the actions needed to be taken for a successful result. What these ancient peoples were doing in those planning sessions was choreographing and collaborating. They were creating the dance of the hunt, the dance of gathering and, eventually, the dance of farming and cultivating. All of these functions required stylized movement vocabularies designed specifically to utilize the bodily motions that best fulfilled the task at hand.


This is exactly what present day choreographers do when they are creating a new piece. They are taking stylized movements and fashioning them into a long combination of actions that best fulfill the emotion, shape, narrative or dynamic that the choreographer wants to express.


We are always moving, unless we are dead. Even if we are laid up sick in bed or in a wheelchair, we are still breathing; blood still flows through our veins and arteries; chemicals swirl throughout our brains and bodies; synapses are making connections; eyes are observing and darting from one place to another and, at the most basic level, cells are decaying and being born.


Because we are individuals and, therefore, have unique perceptions and thought processes, the way that we move is also individual. Our experiences define us and color our movement vocabularies. Whether we are conscious of it or not, our movements tell our story. We all have signature ways of expressing ourselves through physical actions.


We can scan the people next to us when we are in a line at a store checkout desk; note the posture of our fellow cube mates at the office; look at the crowds passing by us on a busy sidewalk; witness the way a couple interacts as they sit at a restaurant table. We don’t need to hear the words that are spoken. All of these human beings are telling us how they feel about themselves, the people they are with and what they are doing through the rhythm, shape, space, and energy of their movements.


Each of us is dancing and choreographing all the time. There are no exceptions. We are all dancers.


© 2011 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.

Being in the Moment

Traveling is a lot like dancing. We have to be in the moment to fully appreciate the adventure. If our mind is not focused on what is immediately happening, we miss out on what is right in front of us. We may misinterpret what others are saying or doing; take a wrong turn and get lost; or become disappointed because we envisioned something other than what is actually in our sight.


Expectations often create false concepts or perceptions. I recently watched a woman bitterly berate an airline ticket counter clerk because she was asked to check her luggage in rather than carry it on the plane. She spent 45 minutes arguing about the matter while other passengers waited behind her watching her behavior. Those of us witnessing the scene knew what the inevitable result would be: the suitcase would be checked in or she would not be on the plane home. Rather than be in the present moment and readjust her expectations, this woman railed against what she determined was a policy expressly made to persecute only her. The rest of us quickly changed our thoughts of carrying on our own luggage and the lines resumed a quicker pace.


When we dance, we also must be fully in the moment. Where exactly does that leg need to be in order to execute the jump or turn or lift? If we find ourselves in a slightly different position, we must be aware of the adjustment that is needed and we must take it in order to perform the movement. Thus, if we are thinking about a past or future appointment or event rather than what is happening immediately in the class, we lose out on the experience.


Being in the moment helps us to more deeply experience traveling. For example, I knew that the Dead Sea would support my weight. However, I hadn’t realized that if I put my head under the water that the salt in the Dead Sea would sting and burn my eyes. In order to prevent that, I found that I had to exert more effort physically than I had expected. I had imagined the sea would completely support me effortlessly. By paying more attention to how I needed to maneuver to keep my head out of the water, I experienced something unexpected and delightful. I began to roll in the water in a way that I had never done before.


Traveling and dancing. Isn’t that really what we are doing each day as we go about our lives? We are always moving in space somehow whether we are in a foreign place or just going about our everyday routines. As we move down a busy street, we are adjusting and dancing with the others that are in our path. If we pay attention and are in the moment, we notice and can appreciate the richness of life. It is a richness that comes from catching the cues that we don’t expect.


© 2011 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.