Week 10 – post sharing reflexion and analysis

Looking back, it feels like the connective tissues between audience and performers/researchers have been created over the course of the research and the sharing. Starting a journey that meshes, threads, and creates connections and bridges between people, between dancers/researchers and observers, between bodies and the architecture, between moving and theorizing.

In order to understand the various sections of the sharing, the reader can go back to week 8. I describe there the scores we have been working on. Some of them have slightly changed and evolved since then.

The ‘in-between’

What I wanted to emphasize in this sharing is the ‘in-between’ in opposition to the ‘indivual’, what the anthropologist Tim Ingold calls the ‘meshing’. Meshing seen as a process rather than a fixed entity. What are we meshing here? Meshing the silence and its resonance, the fascial matrix inside the body and the invisible fascia between people. The question for me is: are we creating this fascial space between people out of our imagination, or are we making the unseen more palpable?

Modes of connection: with elastic bands, with touch, without touch

In one of the rehearsal while playing with the elastic band between partners and emphasizing changes of levels while keeping continuous tension, Josephine went into a ‘helical pattern’, referred to as ‘helix’ in Contact Improvisation and more specifically studied in Material for the Spine by Steve Paxton. In Contact Improvisation, a similar swirling helical movement can also be born out of a wrist to wrist connection between partners, when one mover stands and sends the other one spiraling onto the floor.

Josephine reproduced this movement later on in the ‘Living matrix section’ (week 8), while the dancers were keeping the distance between each others, but intended to make the transmission of forces between bodies concrete and physical without touch. By this I mean they intended to bring forth a tactile attention that is grounded in physical sensation, and not only born out of imagination.

It is interesting to see how this initial ‘helical pattern’, a tangible connection produced by the response of the tension with the elastic band between Josephine and Olivia, was found later on in our process in the non-material-continuity practice (the non-touch practice) of the ‘Living matrix’ section of our sharing.  It is interesting to observe this helical pattern is also a component of Contact Improvisation as a touch-based connection.

We are dealing here with three non-hierarchical modes of connections: 1)the connection via the elastic band,  2)the connection through space and between bodies without touch, and 3)the connection between bodies through touch. I argue these three levels of connection as being not only metaphors for what fascia would stand for outside of the body, but embodiments of laws of physics. The inherent laws of tensegrity and biotensegrity.

Quoting the father of biotensegrity Dr Stephen Levin, Avison (2015, 67-68) sums up three laws of biotensegrity:

-‘A tensegrity structure is a continuously connected , tensioned network supporting discontinuous compression struts.

-A biotensegrity structure is an essentially self-supporting structure that is pre-stressed under tension, which means it can maintain its shape independently of gravity.

-A biotensegrity system is a self-contained , non-redundant whole system. All components are dynamically linked so that a force exerted on any part of the system (i.e a change) is reflected throughout the whole structure: “forces are translated instantly everywhere”.’ 

Let’s have a look in which way these laws may find a resonance in our practice and may have found some visibility in our sharing.

The non-touch practice

The mode 2) seems to me the most interesting and understudied, and has been especially relevant within the context of the pandemic having to work without touch. Nita Little writes (Sarco-Thomas, 2020, p.265): ‘Attention is tactile in receiving as well as extending’. She uses the terms ‘casting attention’ as possibilities to receive and extend tactile awareness in geometrical forms and patterns, either as a point in space, as a pathway or as a volume.

This geometry of attention, when casted and extended to bodies in space both moving and observing (dancers and audience potentially having both roles), can in itself be said to form the living matrix the dancers are manifesting in this practice. Thus creating a fascial network of attention within the volume and architecture of the space and the bodies in space. Little goes on to write that attending to a room or a partner ‘involves being somatically engaged with them. It means “casting” one’s attention into/as the volume, like casting a net or a spider web that is exquisitely sensitive to anything that happens within it’. (Sokol, 2017). The spider web to me represents the fascial web, often compared to a spider web within the scientific field. The exquisite sensitivity we found within our practice has been a form of attention called ‘listening’, in contrast with ‘doing’. I will further expand onto this listening later on.

The invisible threads as a somatic experience

Fascia is mainly made up of  fibres, as well as a jelly-like structure called the ground substance, and cells called fibroblasts (Lesondak, 2017,p.8-12). The fibres are mostly collagen fibre, elastin or reticulin, having more or less tensile and elastic properties. These fibres are found everywhere in the body, link every structure and give shape to our body. They are also involved in repair, remodeling and scarring in the event of an injury. These fibres could be likened to tensile threads or invisible threads creating the meshing of our bodies. Within the non-touch practice, we intended to find the threads between bodies in space.  Hereunder describes a way in which these threads are at play from an audience perspective.

Sandra Barefoot who was in the audience refers to the Living matrix section of the sharing as ‘the unexpected ‘knowing’ of threads connecting across the space’ (week 9). She uses the term ‘knowing’, as if what unfolds under her eyes is tacit knowledge made explicit, something her body knows already.

She writes: ‘There were moments in movement toward and away from one another, in partnership and yet not in physical contact that revealed an openness for I to imagine myself walking through the dancers – feeling as if they would be looking through me to reach another – simply threading themselves in contact with movements that mirrored images of relationship, as if at times they were in direct physical contact yet were not.’

We can here clearly sense the invisible threads reaching between bodies and even through bodies, involving the somatic experience of the audience. The fascial awareness gained by the dancers in this research seems to permeate the audience’s embodied experience.

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Pete Guy Spencer has been involved in the research and was present as an audience member at the sharing. He writes, referring to the dancers (week 9): ‘[…] the more they were listening – also and especially to their own momentary inner experiences – the more this experiencing became palpable and made me being involved.’. 

I believe Pete refers to the particular type of listening we have developed in relationship to listening to our own fasciae and to the particular attention we brought to the ‘in-between’. This listening has therefore a quality to it, it is not about listening to the sound, but more about the experience of tactile attention.This comment again testify of the permeability of the fascial experience to reach beyond space and through the flesh of the audience members.

Directions of pull and audience’s role

These processes of audience’s embodiment and feeling part of the group of dancers can also be explained by what Little articulated earlier as somatically engaging with the object/subject of the attention. In this sense the audience, by the simple act of casting their attention into space onto other bodies in movement, take part in our non-touch practice. We can question here their role in creating this living matrix, not only as bodies, but also as sensing and attentional beings.

The same way we experienced in our research how one dancer would be metaphorically and physically be pulling onto the elastic band more than others (see week 3, 11/06/2021, 4), the audience’s attentional practice seems to be pulling new strands of connections in the dancers’ direction, that is reciprocated from the dancers’ to the audience, and ripples through the whole performative ensemble. This form of communication is therefore not unilateral or bilateral, but multidirectional and multidimensional.

This multidirectional interaction reflects the attributes and laws encompassed by tensegrity systems. Indeed the smallest geometrical units of tensegrity structures are triangles, that are assembled into icosahedrons. Icosahedrons are ‘omni directional in form and function’ (Levin, http://biotensegrity.com/resources/tensegrity–the-new-biomechanics.pdf).

Avison also describes the geometry of tensegrity structures that she defines as bars in a closed linkage system: ‘They acquire a shift in stability and enter a state of potential mobility at different angles and position, at higher frequency’ (2015, p.125).  She explains here above the mechanical functioning of such structure, in opposition to our common understanding of biomechanics established by Borelli in the seventeenth century. (Lesondak, 2017, p.23). This older way of understanding our body encourages us to see joints working as levers, separately from one another. In contrast, in what Levin calls the new biomechanics, there is multi directionality and the whole body works synergistically to assist any movement. ‘Any change is communicated and transmitted kinematically.’ (Avison, 2015, p.125).

My question here is: can we perceive our architectural social configuration as tensegrity systems where the roles of each individual or part of the whole has a role and a function, that has a certain agency and interdependency?

Interdependency and roles

Early on in this research (week 1), the practice amongst the dancers we touched onto this interdependent system. Embodying our knowledge of fascia brought up a sense of cohesion within the group, a feeling of the group as a whole organism, a body. This was accompanied by a sense of safety and trust while being held by the space. In this configuration explored in week 1, we found out there was no need to force or create the connection, no need to create a common vocabulary. The dancers could co-exist, have different activities and still be in relation.

The time limitation of this research didn’t allow us to dig deeper into this question of interdependency explicitly, although we started to touch onto a very interesting concepts that sheds a light onto the roles we take, and the patterns we form. Questioning the role of each dancer/researcher within the practice, we came to find that differentiation and plasticity came into play.

In biology, cellular differentiation is the process by which cells have the potential to change function and specialize. Within the fascia field, researches start to acknowledge the role of fasciae and biotensegrity in this process. More specifically the transmission of forces through the body creates push and pulls that transmits signals to the nucleus of the cell via the cytoskeleton (the skeleton of the cell). This in turn activates different genes to express in response to the forces applied to the cell.

The same way we started to find ways of acknowledging differentiation within our practice. Shortly before the sharing, we made some changes to the living matrix section. At first this section saw everyone having the same role: being a floating compression element within the continuous tensional awareness created amongst the dancers. With the elastic band practice, we started to notice how one person would pull more than others, and the rest of the group would accommodate that person (see week 3, 11/06/2021, 4).

As a non-touch practice, this developed by adding the possibility to call out names of dancers that the rest of the group would accommodate. As we experienced this change, a real clarity appeared instantly within the group, it was like finding the eye of the storm. From an external point of view, I could also  see more clearly the spatial dynamics within the group. Indeed before that, the listening or tuning to the group would sometimes be overly passive, non-daring, and create a sense of inertia and even confusion amongst the dancers.

The politics of differentiation, synergy and hierarchy

On another level, the dancers seemed to also have found satisfaction in having the possibility to express themselves in their unique way without feeling they were doing something ‘wrong’. I don’t have any written evidence from the dancers to back this up as we only found this on the last couple of days, but I can tell from my experience as an observer at that point.

The last two weeks building up to the performance, we started to shape up a structure, edit the material, and clarify the scores. I then became more involved with observing rather than dancing. Even though my role as a dancer, facilitator and choreographer was clear from the beginning (as stated in the information sheet I initially gave to the dancers), this stage of the research may have started a process of increased differentiation of roles amongst us.

I was aware within this research of my wish to work synergistically, in cooperation within the group, mirroring the action of the fascia. I believe some dancers interpreted this step of differienciation as one of establishing a hierarchy and telling them what to do.

An increasing level of doubts, anxieties and questions arised from the dancers, revealing a sense of ‘right-doing’ and ‘wrong-doing’ I may have unconsciously set up. Some dancers even looking at me within the practice to see if they were ‘doing the right thing’.

It was difficult for me to deal with this sense of unintended hierarchy, but to fully take on this role of choreographer meant also finding clarity, direction and intentionality in the research, offering possibilities to narrow down, trim away and give perspective and angles from which to see this practice.

Looking back, I believe the pre-existing cultural conditioning of the dance training and the role of the choreographer seen as a higher ranking position within the professional dance field is still present. I was surprised by this turn of event, especially as I decided to work with experienced contact improvisers I know from the Contact Improvisation community. Indeed Contact improvisation can be seen as a non-hierarchical practice, when first set up by Steve Paxton, the non-defined-yet form really wanted to break away from having a leader. In the book Sharing the dance, Novack finds Contact Improvisation as an emergent form that has more similarities to community based folk dance practices than traditional modern and post-modern dance professional dance settings (Novack, 1990). This non-hierarchical and non-discriminatory aspect has been questioned these past few years, and some critical work can be found in Keith Hennessy’s book ‘Questioning Contact Improvisation’ (2018). My personal experience of CI and jams, even though questionable from a post-colonialist queering perspective, is one of the few dance form I experienced, apart from urban dances and breakdancing, that is communal and non-hierarchically based in its ideals.

After the sharing I had a short written based discussion with one of the dancers regarding this topic, as she felt there was a sense of hierarchy implied my role as a choreographer and decision maker.

I wonder in which way perceiving roles as differentiating rather than scaling up or down can offer us possibilities of a more horizontal hierarchy? Can this awareness or change of perception invite us in more conscious responsible choices? Can fascial awareness and embodiment supports this?

We only started to touch onto this topic and the scope of this research may not enable us to have more developed and concrete findings.

Going back to the sharing, introducing calling out names, and differentiating roles amongst the dancers created a clarity in the space and a sense of relief. It felt that the dancers did not have to guess what was happening but could rely on their own choices of deciding to ‘express’ or not, the same way a gene would express or not.

Un-differentiation

The section ‘witnessing trio and quartet’ is another part where both the distinction and intermingling of roles were at play. Indeed in this score, there are two observers within the quartet, and one observer within the trio. The dancers defining themselves as observers initially go back to the circle formation where the audience is. After a while the roles can shift and blur.

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Architecturally and spatially, we expanded the possibilities of interaction as we went along. At first, the two formed lattices, the trio and the quartet, tended to be spatially proximal. We then explored the possibility of connecting through distance, and crossing the two lattices. The dancers reacted quite temptatively at first, as if territorial and not wanting to cross the invisible borders created between the two formations. Once the possibility (which felt like an authorization) was given to cross path, a sense of freedom and connectivity took place amongst the group. The sharing with the audience really made it apparent and I was pleased to observe the beautiful architectural composition of connections accross the space.

The possibility of shifting roles and spaces enabled in some ways the democratization of space and roles. It offered possibilities to expand territories while keeping the listening quality and attentiveness to the set formations. I would say the audience formed another lattice, holding the space with their presence. As I mentioned at the beginning of the performance, the audience would ideally be standing and have the possibility to walk around the circle. This ideally would create more agency. Although within the pandemic context all audience members had to be seated.

In week 5 we explored the Round Robin formation where the idea of circle came from:

‘The Round Robin structure is often used in Contact Improvisation. Its circular formation gives a sense of a balanced, supportive and non hierarchical setting.”

In Engaging bodies (2013, p. 228)  Ann Cooper Albright talks about the Round Robin as a space creating protection, focus, group responsibility, a space where the energy is cohesive.’ (week 5, 23/06/2021, 4).

In this rehearsal we found out the surrounding circle had the important function of holding the space, and the dancers would often organically readjust to balance out the space.

If the audience members were standing, I am curious to know how they would have reacted to the possibility of moving around and shifting space within this circle. Would have they balanced out the space? Would have they worked collaboratively to create a spatial and relational harmony? Would have they been inspired by our fascial composition?

Gaze as a connective tissue

The first section of the sharing that I call ‘Fascial gaze’, is another way we found to use gaze as a connective tissue between our ‘inner-sphere’ and ‘outer-sphere’. Not only creating this bridge within ourselves as movers and observers, but also between observers and being observed, between dancers and audience members.

Sandra writes: ‘ […] their gaze seamlessly in motion internally and externally – and moments where their gaze arrived in me – interlocking in softness of recognition I was there, with them, weaving connection to my own bodily fascia’. 

In this score, the dancers had the possibility to move freely between eyes open and eyes closed. They would open the eyes to see  while keeping an awareness of the mass of their eyes into their eye socket. As soon as they felt they lost sense of this mass, they would close their eyes as a way to resource back into their interoception.

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Listening- proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness-the extended ‘small dance’

Another connective thread is what we call the listening. Pete Guy Spencer comments on this (week 9): ‘[…] the listening within the group is beautiful and shows their ability to expand their awareness beyond their bodies through the space and – who knows – even to the architecture […].’

As stated here above in the invisible threads as a somatic experience paragraph, listening doesn’t only refers to the sense of hearing. In dance improvisation and in CI, listening has become a term that implies a variety of senses that have the potential to be developed. Melinda Buckwalter articulates listening in CI as bringing attention to the shift of touch and weight of the partner, involving kinesthetic receptors located in the skin and soft tissue (2010, p.79). As previously seen in this research (week 4, 16/06/2021), the proprioceptors are deeply interlinked between the tissue, fasciae, tendons, muscles, and inform both our kinesthetic awareness and sense of proprioception. Throughout the research, we have been working on proprioceptive and kinestethic awareness in a particular way, since we had to limit our tactile interactions due to the pandemic restrictions. We have be coming back to this sentence by Helena in week 2: ‘To include someone in your kinesphere is like expanding your proprioception.’ From there we have evolved our listening skills in expanding our proprioceptive awareness to the whole group and the space around. This practice also had its limitation, in the possibilities and span of our attention. Being aware of all these shifting factors at the same time is not possible. We had to decide to scale in or out our attention, from oneself to others,  from oneself to the space and to the connective threads in-between.

When using the elastic band, the listening was especially made palpable. In the score of keeping the continuous tension, and not allowing a slack in the band, the dancers really had to slow down in order to not only initiate movement, but to also perceive how their action rippled throughout the group and how it was received or not by the other dancers. When focusing too much on their own movement, the tension between the dancers got lost.  This relational practice therefore suggests a focus on the in-between and meshing taking place between the movers, in contrast with the emphasis on the individual virtuosity of the dancers. For the sake of this research we discussed how virtuosity was to be found in the listening rather than in the portraying or demonstrating skills.

The dancers were also in a highly receptive state, that can be compared to the state gained by doing the small dance by Steve Paxton.

‘This configuration reminds me of the ‘small dance’ by Steve Paxton, but instead of focusing on an individual dance, we extend it to the whole group, making an ‘extended small dance’. Indeed the small dance involves reducing movements taking place within the body to a minimum in order to access to a deeper lever of sensing and tuning in. In the ‘extended small dance’, a listening and tuning in is taking place.’ (week 4, 16/06/2021, Score 2)

Connection through touch.

The last section of the sharing encompasses two different scores:

The first score is embodied by the duets of Josephine and Jan-Ming as well Zoe and Maya. 

It deals with the transmission of forces through touch using compression forces. Compression force in physics is a force considered to be perpendicularly going towards the object upon which the force is applied. 

Refer to the score 4) in week 8.

Both scores deal with fascia plasticity, personal boundaries and body integrity.

Fascial plasticity 

Plasticity is a combination of viscosity and elasticity, that enables the fascia to lengthen and change shape. ‘Fascial plasticity refers to the tissue’s ability to take on a new shape more permanently, which happens in morphogenesis and growth, as well as in wound healing’. (Myers, 2020, p.211).

When applied a slow and sustained stretch, the fascia will deform, the same way a plastic bag would when receiving a similar quality of stretch. This plastic property is different to the elastic property of muscles that has the ability to lengthen and contract and return to its original shape.

While working on this last section of the sharing, we used a similar quality of touch in order to dive into the plastic quality of the fascia. We used long, slow and sustained movement with a medium level of tonicity that would still enable the bodies to move.  

The here above mentioned scores imply not only the plasticity and malleability of fascia, but also how the force transmitted has the potential to open up pathways within the body, forcing the body to adapt and remodel its own configuration. 

The focus and quality created then was very different to the rest of the piece. Hereunder is an account of that experience. 

Compression forces and remodeling

During the sharing, the long sustained moments of applying and receiving the compression forces offered an inward focus, as well as a focus inside the duet that was counterbalancing the moments of breath, while watching others and listening.

The touch became a skilled one, infused with a sense of listening, communicating, transferring forces. 

Unlike in CI, the dancers had to stay very precisely within the score to be enable the body to adapt to the compression forces while keeping the body integrity and avoid any injury.

The response to the touch became an unravelling of the body’s ability to adapt via the fascial network. Here we were concerned with allowing the body to reshape and remodel rather than allowing it to go into the usual dialogue of leading/following experienced in some contact improvisation exercises.

When the touch was too fast, the receiver of the touch risked to reject the force being applied by tensing and blocking. In this occasion we noticed it was more injury prone. The same way when there is an accident or a shock, the body does not have time to process the information in an integral way and rupture and bodily injuries may occur.

As discovered in week 2 rehearsal 2, slowness is also linked to bodily integrity. 

Integrity here is meant in terms of safety and injury prevention. It also comes as a contrast to collapsing inwardly within the body. 

In order to achieve that understanding and embodied sense of integrity, we worked with slow sustained movement both given and received with a higher level of tonicity. We also restricted the possibility to reconfigurate spatially and move into the space. We allowed the body to figure out ways to receive the touch within its own tensegral structure. The analogy would be the difference between moving an object that has plastic properties, or playing with the plasticity of that object and allow it to remodel or reshape. 

In week 3 then in week 5, Zoe, Helena and Tara discovered the helical response taking place within the body, wherein the body organises itself triaxially, or around three axis.

Tri-axiality and helices

This triaxial motion is studied in axis syllabus (Frey Faust, http://axissyllabus.org) and resonates with the tensegrity structures of the artist Keneth Snelson (http://kennethsnelson.net), as well as the structure ‘All along the watchtower’ by the project Bunny Rabbit the dancers and I helped constructing over the course of this research (see week 3, 11/06/2021). These structures are based on clockwise and anti-clockwise arrangements of the compression elements, which creates a DNA-like structure.

Indeed, while helping out the construction of the bamboo structure with Project Bunny Rabbit, I noticed there were always three poles floating in a clockwise or anti-clockwise  direction, while the next set of three poles would go in the opposite direction, therefore creating a helical pattern. 

Copyright, 2021

On the other hand, Snelson refers to his tensegrity structures as ‘space-frame weaving’  in which helices go alternatively in opposite directions: ‘Weaving and tensegrity share the principle of alternating helical directions, of left-to-right, of bypasses clockwise and counterclockwise.’ (http://kennethsnelson.net/Tensegrity_and_Weaving.pdf). This architectural arrangement is energy efficient and enables the forces to spread throughout the structure. 

A similar pattern was also explained to take place at the level of the fascia by the anatomist John Sharkey during the online fascia hub conference (The fascial heart, Fascia Hub conference, 16/01/2021). The fascia sheets slide on top of each other, going in opposite direction to each other, clockwise and anti-clockwise, which creates a glide inside the body. The gliding of the layers of fascia is what causes movement. 

So in this sense, this tri-axial mechanism can be understood as an architectural functioning of the body as a biotensegrity structure. Based on the artists’ work named here above and Sharkey’s understanding of fascia anatomy, we can say that the helical pattern inherent in our fascial web enables the forces to spread out evenly, ensures gliding within the tissues of the body, and prevent from an inner collapsing of our body structure. This in turn offers stability, adaptability and efficiency. 

On an experiential level within our embodied practice, we found out this helical pattern came back few times in the form of drawings by the dancers. (drawings by Josephine and Helena in week 3, by Helena, Zoe and Jan-Ming in week 5, by Helena, Olivia and Josephine in week 6). Our findings also mirrored the sense of adaptability and inner organization of our body in response to touch.

The compression exercise makes me go in spirals as a way of compensating. I feel the edge of my contours, and the resilience that allows to bounce back instead of collapsing.’ (week 3)

There is a sense of buoyancy, coming back to the original shape or structure. It is about tuning into the spread of the forces through the body and into the floor.

When a force is applied in one direction, the body will naturally create helixes and rotations as a response. This is what is called tri-axial movement or involving three axis. (Faust, 2011)’. (week 3)

Shearing forces and ways to respond

Most of the dancers’ response to the compression task was at first to move into space and let the compression force travel them through space rather than allowing it to work with the ‘plasticity’ of their body.

Some dancers even transformed the force into spiralling movements, using the momentum that emerged from the kinetic impulse. 

When the forces applied were rotational instead of unidirectional, a sense of momentum was created, an unravelling of kinetic energy. We called this force shearing forces instead of compression force, as it is applied tangentially to the point of contact rather than perpendicularly. 

Although this was not present in the sharing, this exploration revealed how the direction, intention and quality of the touch influences the way the partner responds. In week 5 Tara felt the movements she produced were echoing the touch received by the partner. An energy was generated that needed either to be released or dispersed. She writes: ‘I could feel the reverb. My body wants to twist and release and move in the way the touch is felt on my fascia and skin’. 

Staying within the parameter of the research on biotensegrity meant studying more in details the plasticity of the body and its ability to remodel and reshape. This intense and narrowed down focus was strenuous to maintain and necessitated an awareness of breath, a lightness, as well as a connection to the proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness in relationship to the space and  others.

Boundaries 

A sense of trust between the partners needed to be built. Going too far into the unidirectional force could lead to tensing instead of yielding and potentially generate injuries. We added the option of saying ‘stop’ to state our respective boundaries. The responsibility of respecting these boundaries was shared between partners. Throughout the score, the person applying the touch became also tuned into their partners’ body organization and limits. The person receiving the touch had to wait and listen to the touch rather than anticipate it. This brought a specific quality of presence and attention between partners that required practice and communication.

One of the dancers has a scoliosis and felt she could not go very far while receiving the compression force. I encouraged her to use the rest of the body to compensate and allow the body to respond globally to the local touch. This global response was quite key in finding the inner remodeling and adaptability of the body. 

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

To me, it also tells a lot about how perceiving our body influences the way we move. My interpretation of this particular response in correlation with my embodied experience as a dancer and my knowledge of fascia as a remedial soft tissue and massage therapist, is that this particular response testifies of the body’s ability to generate inner pathways. These inner pathways are generated within the body and are supported by the fascial web. 

They can be more or less functional, and can be called in the scientific jargon adaptive or maladaptive compensatory patterns. 

With this task of exploring the transmission of  compression forces, we noticed how allowing time, listening, a certain level of tonicity, trust, and an awareness of boundaries combined with an understanding of the whole body working synergistically, can help dancers be aware of their own inner pathways and compensatory patterns. This in turn could potentially support finding new and more functional inner pathways.

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Pete’s finding in week 1 supports this:

‘If we apply forces from outside to an integral structure:

– it can only go to a certain extent to remain sustainable and bounce back

going too far leads to collapse and adaptation to a new structure

– the range of response is more limited the faster the forces applied do arrive

slow application leads to bigger range and bigger variety of responses (repetition)

If the structure goes to its edges:

– watch if you can only sustain with muscle tension somewhere

=> find more ways to adapt fascially to reduce the muscle tension

=> this will most probably be spreading out / reaching out / allowing the whole structure to integrate’

Tension forces

There was also the possibility to create tensional forces, translating as pulls between partners. The duet between Zoe and Maya was mainly portraying these forces. This created counterbalancing in which both partners tested out their tensegrity as a duet structure. 

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

The two bodies create a single tensegrity structure, keeping the continuity through touch. 

This configuration also required a sense of listening, trust, tonicity and acknowledgment of each others boundaries.

The connection as the protagonist

As an observer, I found the transitions were key for maintaining the quality of movement and focus. There were slow sustained and strong movement, in Laban efforts’ theory’s terms. 

I could also observe their connection as a real ‘trait-d’union’, a French term that literally means ‘linking dash’ and is generally translated as hyphen. 

 I could see the difference between when the dancers got into this relational awareness, and when they lost it. 

Because we had limited amount of time to develop this, and due to the fact that some dancers are less experienced and skilled in listening through touch, the duets navigated between both: making us clearly see the in-between at times, and at times making us see individuals trying to figure out the task. 

Something really beautiful and magical happened in these moments of showing the in-between. It may also be only visible through more expert eyes, but the connection was becoming the protagonist, and the dancers seemed to be the medium through which that connection was made visible. 

Josephine and Jan-Ming’s head to head connection was beautifully achieving this in-between as a primarily protagonist. While hanging into that formation, one could see the transmission of forces made palpable through this invisible connective bridge. 

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

Layers of fascia

The last duet with Helena and Olivia follows a slightly different score. They apply a particular touch that intends to be in contact with the deeper fascia layer.  

We have been exploring over the course of the practice the difference between the superficial fascia located just under the skin, and the deeper myofascia surrounding the muscles. (week 3 and 5)

Making the difference between the two layers takes time. As a massage therapist I know how to read and get to that layer, but for the dancers it took a bit longer to grasp this nuance. 

In this score, their touch is slow, strong and sustained, a requirement to enter the visco-elastic quality of the fascia.

In week 5, we found out that it was not easy to make the difference between emphasizing the connection and the touch at the level of the bones and at the level of the fascia. It seemed that connecting at the level of the bones was the easiest, because the most used in dance. Tuning into the level of the fascia and the visco-elastic property of the extra cellular matrix seemed to happen halfway through the layers of touch: the touch goes from skin to skin, to fascia, to deeper fascia, to muscles, to bones. 

As we developed the practice, the touch became more confident and gave a clear direction. This was materialized by Helena and Olivia’s duet in the sharing with the audience.

Photo by Pete Guy Spencer, 2021

We can also observe in the sharing the spiraling movement created by the touch, in opposition to the unidirectional forces of compression and tension. A dancer gave the image of a wringing cloth, involving the torsion within the touch. 

 

 

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