Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Contact Improv

          My relationship to the world is a contact improvisation. 

          How I use a space is affected by my level of comfort with physical interaction. This is why I frequently misjudge doorways and inadvertently hit my hip bones or shoulders on door frames. And why I often find myself in an opposing trajectory of oncoming pedestrians and inevitably imagine I am engaged in a square dance. "Do Si Do" I'll call out as our shoulders pass each other and we circle back to back.
          It is why I preferred Twister and Hop Scotch and jump rope, as a child, to board games which bored me silly.

          I carried and maneuvered furniture last week using my body's structure as  scaffold and support. It was something I learned to do at University when we'd carry, drag, and lean into other dancers, testing our strength and our trust.
          The body is all about energy.  The way that I hold myself tight or clench my jaw is a visible manifestation of trying to brace myself against fear and vulnerability. Conversely, freedom of movement speaks of comfort with self.
          My movement energy comes in dance form, usually, and sometimes as poses. Mountain pose feels grounded to me. A serpentine spine reminds me to remain fluid through strength. Dancing with children is one of the best aerobic thrills I can think of.
          What does it mean to self-soothe?  It means calming the body's reactive tensions. To do this, one needs to know what level of activity or passivity allows the body to let go.. It could mean breathing deeply and attending to one's spirit with kindness. An easy sway. A soft waltz.
           I love periods of solitude when I can enjoy the magnificent quiet of the house. I've begun to chant, to om, and to sing. At first the sound of my own voice breaking the silence startled me. Then it emboldened me.
           It is a remarkable and sometimes difficult thing to keep one's own counsel. It is empowering to hear one's own voice verbalize the problem, and it is humbling to ask the Power out there to send signs of guidance.  Sometimes, your inner voice will tell you what you need to do.
            It is possible to follow an inclination or hunch in the same way we did in dance classes, following the impulse to move according to what feels like it might work. Moving with and within my environment tests my impromptu choreography; and asks me to go with my gut instincts.
            When I am outdoors, in the weather, noticing nature, I am drawn to the forms in flight.  The local geese fly in patterns or at the least, in pairs, synchronized with each other in graceful approaches. Hawks returning after winter utilize my backyard power poles as perches. They glide in circles around my air space and make precise and focused landings. I notice the delicate steps deer take and delight in watching them trot tenderly on lean legs, even as they cause trouble by eating foliage in front yards.
            We chose to build a house in a small town rather than a big city or a rural outpost. I suppose we wanted the opportunity to create a network, an ideal neighborhood, a physical space that was easy to navigate.
            A big city might have more opportunity for change, but a small town can have more potential for community, and consequently, more need for conformity. It's a reasonable trade-off. Besides, we like visitation by deer, hawks, hummingbirds, bees, and neighborhood cats.
            A small town also has space for privacy without necessary isolation. There are people moving in the space with you and you can have as much contact as you want if you're willing to interact.  There was a time when my primary interactions with other beings were conversations with coyotes, snakes, scorpions, and owls. Now I walk down the street and people say, Hello. Sometimes this takes me by surprise and, as I respond in kind, I feel uplifted just to have a moment when I realize I am a member of humanity.
             If I were to create an ideal neighborhood for my body's need for balance, I would imagine a scene very similar to my fantasy of Heaven. Enough peace and quiet for solitude, a library for reading. Healthy food and clean water available. Plenty of girlfriends to play and talk with. Plants and trees, stepping stones and bird baths to attract all variety of wildlife except rodents. Raptors, which would help with rodent control, would be especially welcome any time.
            An ideal community would include worthy newspapers delivered to the door. Trash and recycling picked up for me. Neighbors who are pleasant and happy. Theaters available and easy accessibility. Public transportation and bicycle paths. Some diversity to enliven spontaneous conversation and encourage interesting friendships.
             Deaf culture would be a part of that diversity and be a welcome addition to community. Learning to sign was a life-changer. Sign language communicates a depth of feeling through movement and expression.  This makes me love the language and the people who use it.
             An ideal home and neighborhood would prune the family tree, removing any toxic branches, making the trunk and roots more solid and healthy. The support network would be a family created by choice,  including close friends who contribute humor and camaraderie.  The family of choice would be multi-generational made up of maturians who can offer perspective as well as young folk who bring energy and fresh skills.
            Contact improvisation is not limited to dancers, nor does it require music. It does, however, by its nature, require full participation. It accepts the reality that interaction with environment, neighbors, wildlife, even furniture and doorways, does not have to look pretty. Nor does it have to work all the time comfortably. Sometimes participants drop each other or trip over another's feet. Sometimes things get awkward and everyone has to stop, regroup and start again.
             Unless our time is up, we usually have the chance to try again at balance, mutual support, navigation, release, and even trust.