March 11th, 2005
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I just had to post this fabulous photo of Martha Graham, while we are on the theme of capturing the wind. (link via Blueberry Moon’s journal, forwarded by Fern) Image from the New York Public Library archives.
As you may know I am a huge Martha Graham fan, and have been studying her technique off and on for a while now, (she is certainly one of my creative mentors). My dance teacher, and friend Helen Jones studied with Martha for many years (as well as dancing with the company). Many times during class Helen will share some of Martha’s phrases, which cause me to feel excited and giddy. She attempted to bring the dancer our of her body and into her imagination through the use of imagery. The whole process becomes not so much physical but instead more like creating a painting. Movement through a concept. Very hard to explain with words, it is something that must be experienced. But to give you an example, instead of saying “tilt your head down and to the left”, she might instead say, “listen to your shoulder, it is whispering something.” It sounds a bit trite, but the effect is dramatic, I’ve watched it with people who have little training. The first is mechanical and awkward, the second graceful and soft, with much more feeling. She helps us to cease thinking about how to move because most often we think too much, too much control, with too much force.
You may be surprised to hear that one of the most difficult tasks in a dance class is walking. Even with experienced dancers. Because it is something we do without thinking. If we are asked to do it consciously it becomes mechanical and uncomfortable, one becomes unsure of where to place their foot, when to step, how far a pace should be, etc. You begin to worry about falling, or about how it looks to others. If you allow yourself to contemplate that walking is actually a process of falling and catching yourself you can really get yourself into a mess, (try it and you will see what I mean). Walking works only when the mind is free to drift to other things, when the body can forget that it is walking.
The message here is quite simple, stop thinking, allow yourself to feel. Let the movement happen naturally.
I come up against this again and again in class. I dance much better when I really feel and enter into the music, when I stop worrying about doing the steps correctly. When I smile the whole time because I remember how much I like to move and how grateful I am that I can.
“I am absorbed in the magic of movement and light. Movement never lies. It is the magic of what I call the outer space of the imagination. There is a great deal of outer space, distant from our daily lives, where I feel our imagination wanders sometimes. It will find a planet or it will not find a planet, and that is what a dancer does.” –Martha Graham

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