“Your head is too slow”
In a lesson with my partner, we were working on Reverse Turns in Slow Foxtrot. His teacher told me, “Your head is too slow.”
My immediate thought, of course, was to turn it faster.
But how? Is it just – try harder? Put more activity in the muscles so it goes zoom-zoom?
That part was left up to me.
I thought about it. It seems that it was a timing issue, but was it the movement that was too slow? Was it the moment of the initiation of the turn that was off timing?
Was it both?
I puzzled it over. I went off on my own to experiment with turning sooner, turning faster, any permutation I could find.
My first instinct was to try harder to turn my head faster.
“A little faster,” was her comment, and I guess it was faster, but it didn’t feel “better,” to me. I was working harder and even though my head turned faster, it felt tighter and a bit uncomfortable. I tried again.
“Better, but still too slow.”
I rubbed my neck and let out a breath and tried again.
“Dance isn’t comfortable,” came to mind, something I'd heard in various forms through the years.
Why not? Why should it not be comfortable in the body, even if there’s a lot of muscular activity? I never find working out to be uncomfortable at the gym. Even feeling the burn when I lift, it’s a good, healthy kind of effort. It’s not a bad feeling at all.
So why then, should dance be any different?
Why shouldn’t it be natural movements that fit in the design of the body perhaps taken to an extreme? There’s effort. There’s work, the muscles may burn, but it’s all a healthy coordination, some parts working in one direction, counter-balanced by opposing and correlating areas in another. And it happens as a Whole, dynamically in movement and in coordination with a partner.
That’s the dream.
I tried again to turn my head faster in the Reverse turn and realized something.
The problem was the verb tense.
Because it isn’t about “turning” the head, I realized. No matter how hard I move the muscles to turn my head, it’s too slow. I cannot think and then move fast enough to turn my head in the exact, precise, micro-timing that makes for really great dancing. I’m not even close to good-enough.
Active verbs for turning the head make me move my head actively.
I let my brain quiet down. I thought about not doing the turning, so not “turning” my head but “letting the head turn,” when it does, as my body moves under it.
Letting my head be free on top like it has a ball bearing joint and the head spins freely.
An image came to mind, a feeling; like the pinnacle of a swing. You pump your legs to get there and then there's a floating moment of change and....
I thought into my body before I moved. I breathed and released way up high inside my head, that tiny place I’ve come to know,
And moved my body and let my head be free on top.
My body wound up under my head, winding up one way, and just at the point of change, that freedom allowed my head to move...to just..let go and there it was. Not turning, but turned.
What is faster?
Pushing a ball down hill manually? Or letting it roll downhill?
My neck released and my head rolled down the slope created by my sway.
Faster than thought.
That’s what I learned in myself, to find that place inside my body and use it, and it is what I teach:
The inner workings of the body. It is both freedom and control.
Translating words into actions without effort.