Be Like Water.
I hear a lot of mumbo jumbo when I attend dance festivals and classes, which make sound everything very spiritual but sometimes fail to promote good technique learning or awareness heightening.
Let’s take an example to make it vivid.
You go to a dance class (God forbid, let’s call it a movement class) where the focus is placed on rolling on the floor (for a change). The class is mixed levels, and slowly everyone is invited to roll sideways on the floor (if I lost you here, it looks like this).
To create the mood for the drill which is going to last anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, you are being taken through a very elaborated visualisation drill, in which you are invited to picture yourself as a seaweed at the bottom of the ocean being pulled and pushed by the different currents.
Great, but painfully, as I open my eyes here and there to make sure I haven’t fully morphed into spirulina, I watch the beginners in the group missing the basic technique, because their attention hasn’t been brought to the right things. Now, that’s not a very fruitful class, is it?
Don’t get me wrong, imagery can have an underestimated effect on technique and acquisition, some of the people I look up the most to can use it skilfully, and it is actually at the base of many dance /somatics-based techniques. I’m just saying – if you are a beginner in that playground, put the Osho book down and try to learn your alphabet first. Teachers failing to do this, if their focus is on technique, are not doing beginners any favour.
Since I deal mostly with adults who didn’t attend any dance school or
hippy free-spirit festival, I personally use very little imagery in my classes unless we are working on exploration or improvisation drills. My hierarchy of priorities in that regard could be summarised as follows:
- The basis for technique is laid down in plain English first, with deconstructed, clear, simplified explanations.
- We may or may not add a layer of imagery to increase awareness for the sake of serving the technique, when relevant.
- Once technique is mastered, or in a context where technique doesn’t matter, indulge, if you want, into lucid dreaming for whatever purpose it may serve.
Critiscim for the sake of criticism is pointless, especially when dealing with something as casual as movement or dance. Noticing that imagery was, to my taste, overused in some contexts and with the wrong crowds, I decided to make 2018 about structuring what I think are major technical concepts of Floorwork. As an ex-linguist, and often referring to movement terminology and the similarities and differences between language and movement acquisition – I decided to call it the Floorwork Grammar.
This grammar is an expanding set of rules designed to help you improve your game fast without wasting months on that seaweed till you finally figure out for yourself what the teacher really meant. It’s meant to give you shortcuts into skills acquisition. I will go over a few of them in blogs and Youtube videos with the hope that it can help you too – and see how well you resonate with them.
Let’s start with a simple but powerful one – stepping vs gliding.
Stepping is basically lifting your foot or hand off the floor and placing back on it.
Gliding is sliding said hand or foot across the floor.
Stepping is great to generate momentum, linear movement and breaking patterns.
Gliding is great for spirals (more on spirals soon), softness , efficiency of motion – and more often than not increases dramatically the aesthetics of the flow.
Every beginner’s default mode is to step when they don’t need to.
So your mission is to start figuring out whenever you are stepping when you could really reorganise the structure of your body to make way for your hands and feet to keep sliding as long as possible, and to make stepping a conscious choice rather than a default lack of awareness.
Have a look again at that video to see what I mean, and see how dramatic the difference is on this kind of very obvious isolated movements. Practice this principle and try to notice what flavours sliding or stepping brings in you as you watch other people move.
Although it is extremely hard (and beneficial to practice) to be fully aware of what each support foot and hand is doing at all time, grasping and articulating the whole thing wasn’t THAT hard, right? Conspiracy theorists would argue that this was planned all along to delay your progress.
Now you can go and become the most beautiful seaweed you want if that’s your thing.
- They are rules, not golden rules. They are exceptions everywhere which make them even more interesting to study, and the exact scope of the rule may change over time as I discover better and better ways to make them resonate with my students. I think they can be a game changer and that they are valuable as fuck, but this was a disclaimer for the keyboard warriors out there.
- I will post of these rules on blogs or through Youtube, but if you are super nerdy about it and want to dive into the details, check out the next workshops / events.