May 13, 2016

Applied Alexander: Dance!

Hello my friends,

What it is about the Alexander Technique that matters? Underneath it all, why do I do it? Why should anyone?

I was practicing dance with a partner and his take on it is that Alexander Technique helps with body mechanics and alignment.

I said, “Of course, everything works better; you’re better aligned and can move with less effort.”

Alignment matters! However, that’s still not why I do it.

It’s not only your position being in alignment, it’s quality of movement. It’s smoothness and ease vs. pushing and force. Power to move by a controlled release…ahhh….what a feeling…. slide018th.jpg

And that’s it.

It’s the way it feels….really, really good. The inner sense of my body is open and electric and it flows. It feels like all the channels are open from my head down my body through to my toes.

You know how you sense your body if you close your eyes and think inwardly, like an inner vision of your own structure?

This work changes my inner vision and also how it feels.

It’s much lighter and freer than muscling through movement from the outside in! Release outwardly along the lines of your body and then stretch; you will have longer reach. Sense your own head weight more clearly and fine-tune that precisely over your toes; you will have better balance.

My exploration is to use this in movement and to share that with other dancers. Applying Alexander’s discovery to movement for ballroom dance.

If Dance is a feeling, what feeling is that dance for you?

I want to feel my body electric and alive. Seamless and open inside; I don’t want to feel anything really, but flow….

How would you like it to be? Please me know in the comments, below!

Namaste,
Dana

P.S. If you're enjoying following along on my journey, you can subscribe to my blog via the link in the upper left corner of this page.

Bookmark and Share

May 5, 2016

Skydiving and the Alexander Technique

Hello my friends, thanks so much for stopping by :).

Tonight I’ve been questioning the nearest person around; myself.

I wonder; why is it so hard to talk about what I do?

Maybe that’s not the right question; I talk about it all the time. Drilling down…

Why is it so hard to transfer the sense of what it is? What IS the Alexander Technique, and why does it matter?

This is the frustration of the Alexander Teacher; no one knows what it is and it can feel like the best thing on earth...a glass of cool water on the hottest day…a wonderful sense of aliveness…

Yes, you say, and skydiving also gives an amazing sense of aliveness and I love it, it is like that?

Well…maybe it is, in the sense of jumping into the unknown, but here you have the bonus of a safety line; your Alexander teacher. Except Alexander Technique can be strangely familiar when you feel it, like something different but very, very right.

I know this because I have gone skydiving and I also dove into the Alexander Technique. For me at least, it was not at all familiar. It did wake up my awareness! Cessna.jpg


What if we take a smaller step today, and say the Alexander Technique is like water?

I can speak of the results, but that’s like trying to explain water by saying, it’s useful for washing dishes and your hands will feel wet. Sure, it works that way but that isn’t what it IS. Soap also cleans dishes and feels wet…now we have to say it isn’t like soap…

Water has the lovely quality of wetness and also the power to wear away rocks and create the Grand Canyon. Does that say what it IS?

The Alexander Technique likewise has the quality of peace and renewal as well as the power to eat away at a lifetime of unconscious tension so you can feel at home in your own body. It chips away at the knowledge within ourselves that we are “right” because it feels right when we are standing or moving “this way,” the “normal” way.

It brings us to new possibilities in movement; something unknown, but wonderful and good. Or... maybe it was once known in a lifetime long ago when we were children and life flowed like water.

It’s about consciousness, which is ultimate and endless. It's not something you can buy in a box at Costco, super-sized. It’s not red like ketchup and not blue like the gorgeous orchids just inside the door at Costco, today.

It really is more like water; it’s what is IN the river that feels so cool in its wetness and invites us to swim.

It's awareness both within the body – the swimmer –
And without – of the water that is around us.

How do you describe water?

Maybe the best feeling there is.

In life.

In movement.

With JOY.


P.S. Thank you for visiting; thank you even more for your thoughts. Please comment!
I invite you in to swim.

Also, if you’d like to receive these in your inbox, the sign up is in the link to the left :).

Namaste,
Dana

Bookmark and Share

April 25, 2016

Celebrate the moment!

Hello my friends,

Thanks so much for stopping by! Diving right in today. Here's something nice from a lesson that I'd like to share.

Working with a student today, her leg released at the hip. It moved freely and she smiled; it was a shift into freedom.

She was ready to ask about using her leg in movement.

I suggested that she just enjoy a breath and noticing this nice feeling of ease for a moment. I said, celebrate the nice feeling of release right now. Just for this one breath in time.

Celebrating the small moment now, then moving on.

We worked this way all through the session, finding small things to notice and pausing just for a breath of time.

Especially when thing are tough, your mind can be caught up in anxious thoughts. If you’ve got an injury, it’s natural to think about it and feel where it hurts, and to check in and notice it again.

I think we’re wired up in an animal sense, for our bodies to be alert to danger and to react to protect us.

It’s so important to take these moments right when they happen. Not tomorrow, not next week, but just a mini-celebration.

Like now! 853035_harvest_freedom_2.jpg

How many times when you dance, do you achieve some improvement, and then immediately push to add the next level?

We do that, and that’s okay, but it’s also good to take tiny moments to celebrate the day. Celebrate staying up on toes and being stable. Enjoy the progress and also keep working.

It’s like an endless treadmill of never getting there. It’s like climbing to one pinnacle and not stopping to look at the view. Sure, you go on, but life has many small moments and not so many big ones.

It’s like decisions. One of my professors in college, who was my advisor, taught this to me. He said that in life, there are many small decisions and very few large ones. He said that when I have a large decision to make, often I’ll find that it’s more like a discovery of something I decided, long ago. It’s just coming to a peak moment, now.

If you celebrate enough small moments, life goes better. It automatically creates a positive habit of noticing good things and letting out a breath. I believe that it’s healthier for the body, too. Breathing while enjoying something is a happy habit to have!

We are all wired up to be protective of ourselves and to react quickly to danger. That’s all good, but in a world that stimulates us constantly with traffic lights and email beeping, with constant thoughts about work on the current project and planning for the next one, it is ever more important to cultivate habits of happiness.

Did you tie your shoe? If you’re five years old, that’s a celebration.

Even if you’re not, it’s a marvel to look at fingers flying with such precision. Enjoy the movement. Enjoy the small things of life. There are more of them, and if you enjoy many small moments throughout your day, you will have a happier life.

Creating habits of happiness is a worthwhile endeavor.

Big decisions happen but they may also be made up of many small actions, getting there.

Celebrate them.

Celebrate every little moment of your life.

Namaste,

1002547_daisy.jpg Dana

Bookmark and Share

April 12, 2016

The Way Back to Dancing

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by again. Here's news!

Saturday, I took my oldest practice shoes and went to the dance studio.

It’s been four months of recovery and oddly enough, it was hard to get myself back on the dance floor. I didn’t know what I’d discover. The doctor released me on a Monday and it was Saturday before I got on the floor.

I found my ancient practice shoes, the rejects that are so worn out and loose, they live in the back of the closet for emergency use only.

Old faithful shoes, I fished them from the back of the closet. They were happy on my feet, like old friends that are still glad to see you even if years have passed.

Shoes in the dance bag, notebook, water, a soft towel and a tennis ball, I took off for the studio.

I was afraid that one wrong move would hurt my foot again. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I noticed the fear.

Fear is good! It keeps us safe from danger.

Fear is bad! It holds us prisoner in the past, projecting trauma from the past onto the canvas of this moment, right here, right now.

I put on my shoes and make a command decision to monitor my feet but not to live in fear. What is fear of pain? That is a ghost; it is worrying about something that doesn’t exist and may not come into being. What is so, in the now?

I rise up on my toes and lower down.

No pain.

Slowly, lining myself up before the mirror. My warm up exercises were out of mind until I was standing on the floor. “My body will remember if I start to dance,” whispers in my ear. “Try this,” comes to me from my feet, feeling the floor. Maybe the memory is in the shoes. After so many hours and years of practice, maybe the shoes and my feet will talk to me. They do...

I like to play with the weight of my head on top of my feet. It’s a little game I made up and it’s fun. Standing tall, I release my ankles and move my body as a whole on top of my feet. It’s like stirring myself on top of my feet, sensing my head weight on different parts of my feet as finely as possible.

My feet feel frozen and odd but they don’t hurt.

I begin some basics, but my balance is off. My head isn’t fully over my foot and my body sways, fighting for stability. There is pressure on my foot. I stop and check in; does it hurt?

It does not.

I practice for some time, but I’m impatient, going so slowly.

Music is playing; Viennese Waltz, and something snaps. I dance one wall without thinking and it feels good to move. I’m not precise, my frame is off, but the music fills me with joy. There is no pain.

One more wall of dancing and it’s time to stop. 20 minutes is normally barely a warm-up; today it is the whole game.

As Charles Selzberg, my old fencing master used to say, “Retreat! Retreat! He who runs away lives to fight another day.”

I take my shoes and go home.

This time, they are resting outside the closet, waiting to dance.

Thank you to my shoes for letting me dance. They will bring me back.

Soon.
Shoes.jpg

Would you like to read new posts in Dana's Dance Diary as they come? Sign up at the link to the left!

Bookmark and Share

April 3, 2016

A Special Place of Freedom

Hello my friends,

Thanks for stopping by. I’m dancing in my chair again, waiting to be on my feet and thinking about freedom. My feet may not be ready for the floor but my spirit is free and my mind is practicing non-stop. Mental dance practice may work; I will let you know!

What we see and think goes into the body. I’m watching the best dancing I can find; all types. Argentine Tango and Swing, Ballroom and Ballet. I feel it in me, I feel my body wanting to stretch and move. Keeping the dancer inside alive...

Everyone has a little bit of dancer in them, but they may not believe it.

It’s our thoughts that limit us, “I can’t dance,” “They’ll laugh at me,” I’ve got two left feet,” “I’m shy.”

That was me; shy. I was too shy to dance with boys at a birthday party when I was eight years old. I didn’t know how to dance and was shy of boys, so three of my girlfriends took me into a private dance space; the bathroom. They taught me some version of the latest dance. We danced in the tiniest space, three or four girls in a phone booth sized bathroom, bobbing up and down. I relaxed and laughed and was happy now that I knew how to dance. I danced with my girlfriends at the party, but I was still reluctant to dance with boys. I held onto the chair with all my might when a boy asked me; shy.

I was just afraid of looking bad, and not knowing how or what to do.

I learned…

Continue reading "A Special Place of Freedom" »

Bookmark and Share

March 28, 2016

Freedom of the Head in Ballroom Dance

Hello friends,

Thanks for stopping by again and checking in.

I’ve been waiting for my foot to heal and impatient to be back on the dance floor. In the meantime, I feel my body jumping inside, eager to dance, needing and wanting to dance.

I am waiting to dance but inside I am very alive, very Dancing Dana and I can almost feel the blood zooming around, dancing inside of me.

To keep it all going, I visit the dance studio just to watch the dancers and be in the environment.

I was watching some friends. The lady was turning her head not quite in time with her partner, almost mechanically. I don’t think she felt it. It’s the movement we can’t feel that does us in, isn’t it...

Her head should move as a reaction, turning freely and easily as her body rotates and the spine moves. Yes, we already know that, but the question is, the how-to. How do you get your head to turn if you’re not supposed to turn it? What makes it “go?”

Continue reading "Freedom of the Head in Ballroom Dance" »

Bookmark and Share

October 28, 2015

Releasing Stress, Finding Joy

Hello my friends,

One of my students came for his lesson this morning.

I asked how he’s feeling. His reply was the same as always:

He’s stressed.

He said a new project began and he’s stressed.

He hasn’t danced AT ALL in awhile.

He’s been coming for a good couple of years, not too often, but very regularly.
I wonder, sometimes, why he continues to come.

Clearly, it is his choice. He gets aches and pains as we all do, but it doesn’t seem to be the deeper reason.

Continue reading "Releasing Stress, Finding Joy" »

Bookmark and Share

October 28, 2015

Coordination of the head and neck in Dance; Secrets to Balance

Hello my friends,

Today as I was teaching, my student was speaking. I noticed her neck tighten and grab as she spoke.

Stay with me; this applies to dance, as well…

She couldn't feel it, but it was visible in the mirror as well as evident on a tactile level, as I gently laid a hand on her head and neck.

We worked with the idea to leave her neck quiet as she speaks.

That was the take-away from the lesson – to leave her neck and shoulder quiet and do an activity, in her case, talking.

It’s not achieved by stiffening the muscles.

It’s done by not adding something - in her case, not adding tightening, while she talks.

It’s important because she gives talks, often 1 to 1½ hours in length. Tightening up her throat impacts her ability to speak well with a clear voice and not get hoarse.

It also shows up in dance; the head being balanced is critical to being balanced on your feet and tightening the neck often puts the head out of balance.

Let me share some secrets of coordination with you...secrets of balance on your feet.

Continue reading "Coordination of the head and neck in Dance; Secrets to Balance" »

Bookmark and Share

October 6, 2015

ABC of Changing Movement Patterns in Dance

Hello my friends,

I learned something about changing my bad dance habits. Hope this helps you!

In a recent post, I showed a video of a backwards bicycle and talked about how you need to think differently to use it.

How can you use this thinking process to move differently than your habit, in dance?
What does it take to UN-learn a pattern of movement?

In theory, it's simple:

A - you have to realize what you are doing, and decide that it is not producing the result you wish.

B - you really need to stop doing whatever that is. It's not easy, because we tend to move on auto-pilot.

C - put in what you DO want in terms of movement.

Children can do this more easily than adults. They haven't had as many years to learn wrong movement habits

It's also because children are willing to play! They'll try things that feel different and they don't always take everything so seriously.

Changing movement patterns takes thinking into your body, and in addition, it takes truing up your body awareness so what you ask your body to do, is what it does.

You have to convince your MIND that your BODY is wrong, because our inner sense and habit is usually what rules.

In my case..."Dana, don't twitch the free leg." Shh...telling my secrets…

I have to THINK it very strongly as well as get used to a different sensation, because it happens before I know it, underneath my sense register; I stick out the free leg to reach for a step and interfere with my dance partner. Not good!

So I have to think and think and think, till I’m retrained.

Have you ever felt pain in your foot? I have a sensitive area at the ball of my foot. At some level, I anticipate pain in my toes and unconsciously avoid putting pressure in that area. Then I move incorrectly and I feel pain which reinforces the anticipation of pain, the next time…

Oddly enough, when I'm perfectly aligned, I can be up on my toe and in a huge shape and not even feel pressure on my foot. My partner puts me on my toe in readiness and there is a pause…the delicious moment before movement…

It may not feel "normal" but it does feel good.

I want to help dancers find this place and feel something wonderful in their body that feels…like no words can say…amazing…

...to give them a sense of peace as well as control that lets you direct both line and movement... to feel a sense of space in the body ...the ability to release on command, but not to collapse... You can control the letting go, too, you know...

..it’s an amazing sense of expansion; I don’t even have words…

The Zen of dance, a non-doing-ness yet all is in flight.

Namaste,

Dana

*Alexander Technique is about connecting thought and muscular activity. It increases your body awareness and gives you the power to change how you do, what you do, as you do it.

Bookmark and Share

October 5, 2015

Quiet the Body and Mind Workshop/ Alexander Technique

Hello my friends,

Please join me in a special workshop to Quiet the Body and Mind

Bring a friend and share a wonderful gift of peace that you can take home and have forever.

at the Palo Alto JCC - sign up HERE
Monday, Oct. 12th
11:30 am - 12:45 pm
Leslie Community Meeting Room (D129)
$25 Center Members
$40 General

Learn a simple process to renew your spirit and restore ease and comfort in your back. Constructive Rest is a guided, easy to learn practice that quiets the body and mind, resulting in less back pain and an overall sense of relaxation and expansion in the body.

Bonus: Participants will receive an audio recording to help them continue this practice at home. This is my gift to you. 1076955_vibrant_gift.jpg

PLEASE BRING A YOGA MAT AND A COUPLE OF PAPERBACK BOOKS TO PLACE UNDER YOUR HEAD

For more information or to register, please contact
Bonnie McLaughlin at
fitness@paloaltojcc.org or
(650) 223-8719.

Feel free to CONTACT ME (contact form on the blog page)

Give yourself the gift of peace,

Namaste,

Dana

*Alexander Technique (AT) is about connecting thought and muscular activity. It increases your body awareness and gives you the power to change how you do, what you do, as you do it.

Bookmark and Share

October 1, 2015

Dance Frame from the Inside-Out

Hello my friends,

Sometimes it feels as though I'm dancing inside...even though I'm standing still.

Welcome to the inside of my Dance Diary, again...

Today as I was teaching,* I was also conscious of balance in myself as I worked with my student. There's nothing new about that, but I was very aware of space today.

I opened the window to see gray clouds and feel soft, tropical moisture in the air. That air was the space around me, touching me.

Then I turned my thoughts inward, to the space within. I started noticing the space within my joints and thought about how the bones connect at the joints.

In each joint there is space and there is also, connection.

It's like a healthy relationship that has space to breathe and also, connect.

And as I thought about the space where my head connects to my neck, I felt my neck and back releasing down and out from my head.

My head felt as if it was floating.

Then I thought of my shoulders, both of them, right and left, and how they go away from each other in opposing directions.

From the left shoulder my arm releases out, out from the shoulder joint. It goes away from my body, down to the elbow.

From the elbow, I sensed my forearm releasing away from the elbow joint. I bent my arm and the hand was towards my middle, my elbow pointing wide, away from the body.

My arms were going away from each other, the elbows wide, the hands coming in, and the fingers releasing out from the hands.

There was space inside the circle of my arms around the inside of my wrists and hands to my chest and stomach. I thought again of the space behind me and allowed my back to expand in that direction.

I looked like I was hugging a huge tree made of air…

I left my back in place and took my arms, my elbows forearms, wrists and hands, away from my back in big movements, out and around.

There was a pleasure in the sensation of the freely moving arms and essential stillness of my head, neck and back.

Then I thought about how this applies to dance, taking my frame into connection with my partner, bringing my body to connect and my frame to remain open and wide. Head releasing up and out, legs releasing down, arms to my partner.

Like a bird, poised to fly.

We dance a spin turn. I feel nothing-everything spinning yet the same, my frame is constant relative to my partner. Me, giving energy to my partner, him, redirecting it to spin.


Effortless action.

Namaste,

Dana

*Alexander Technique (AT) is about connecting thought and muscular activity. It increases your body awareness and gives you the power to change how you do, what you do, as you do it.

Bookmark and Share

September 7, 2015

Learning about Freedom and Control in Ballroom Dance

Hello my friends,

Welcome to the inside of my Dance Diary, again :).

Last Monday, we were learning head rolls in Viennese Waltz.

I had to focus to keep my frame open widely and yet fully release my neck, to keep my arms toned, yet allow my head to roll. Letting it go… all the way to the end … not to push it around and stop it muscularly. A discipline of freedom and control.

There was something a little bit scary about releasing my head, but it also felt good. My neck literally was free!

One roll, two rolls, three rolls, done.

And again…and again…

It was tempting - and all too easy - to relax everywhere when my neck released, and let the body collapse along with my head rolling.

As my head rolled to my right, my whole body really wanted to go with my head…that’s natural, that’s the way head weight works, but in this case, the demand was to isolate the action of the head and neck and still maintain a beautiful frame.

The head leads and sometimes the body is not allowed to follow.

I released the back of my neck and let my head roll with the movement from my partner, down and around, stop! Down the other way and around to the end, and back again.

I used my thoughts to control my body.

Inside of myself, thinking: WIDE out the arms from the center between my shoulders, WIDE in opposing directions out the shoulders, out through the elbows and beyond. AND release the neck AND let the head roll and breathe, no fear, just enjoy.

The freedom of my neck is a very happy thing

Thinking into the neck, down to the base, finding it within my body. Feeling the inner space and having a different kind of sensation as my arms extend out.

My body sense has developed into a kind of internal vision through my work with the Alexander Technique.* It’s a kind of internal awareness that can find the right place and direct my body from the inside, out. Of course I make mistakes...lots and lots of them...but I also learn. It helps me to learn faster. That awareness, that freedom and control is what I want to share with you...I see people dance and want to transfer that feeling to them....in classes...in a lesson...to feel the essential freedom as your body moves through space to music...almost boneless, effortless, yet with form...

Trying to describe the feeling is like telling someone how good it tastes to eat a delicious honeydew melon at the peak of perfection.

I would love to share a taste of that sweetness with you.

Namaste,
Dana

*Alexander Technique is about connecting thought and muscular activity. It increases your body awareness and gives you the power to change how you do, what you do, as you do it.

Bookmark and Share