Body image, emotion and dance

Recently I strained a tendon in my foot and need to see a physiotherapist.

I was lucky enough to find someone who practises holistic physiotherapy – muscle activation, treating fascial tissue and so on.  In other words, a physio who wants to get to the root cause of the injury, beyond the surface symptoms.

As a result of her work, my body is working better than it has in years, better than I ever thought it could.  I now have calf and hamstring flexibility, I can stretch further, my spine is better aligned, my shoulders looser and more.  As a result, my shimmies are sharper, my shoulder rotations more serpentine and my undulations stronger.

As well as the physical effects I am enjoying, there have also been psychological effects which I hadn’t anticipated.  The main one of these has been the need to completely re-write my own definitions of my body.  For years, I have talked down my dancing as ‘my body wasn’t flexible enough’, ‘I was physically incapable of dancing any better than average’, ‘tight hamstrings ran in the family’ and there was little I could do to improve the situation despite my best efforts.  Now I’ve found that’s not true.

I’ve found instead that what’s true is that my body stretches just fine when my calf and hamstring muscles are working properly.  My shimmies work well when my gluts are awake.  My rib circles are sharper and faster when my shoulders and chest are open.  My stamina is greater when my muscles all work together.  My body is, in fact, capable of dancing well, and of improving its skills to dance even better.

One particular area of dance performance I had always had  issues with was expressing emotion through dance.  However, with the freeing of my body and the re-writing of my mind, I am finding it so much easier to draw on the deep recesses of my soul and let them into my dance*.  I feel so much less limited in the range and strength of emotions I can dance.  I am very much looking forward to seeing how this translates into my performance.

*My thanks here, also, to Asharah, the Bellydance Paladin, for her thought-provoking posts about emotion and dance, which have helped me dig even deeper.

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