Does the Mind or the Body Lead the Dance?

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My experiences learning Reggie Wilson’s choreography and Akram Khan’s choreography were different. There was an emphasis on manipulation of time in the Khan choreography that was absent in the Wilson choreography. In the Khan choreography my movements were informed by the counts. The goal is to hit the movement at the same time as the count, not before or after. This creates tension in the movements followed by bursts of sharp or smooth energy. This also forced me to be extremely present in each moment. I could not dance the Khan steps on auto-pilot. Both the mind and the body are equally exerted, but the mind is the leader in this choreography.

There is more focus on finding the true movement in the Wilson choreography. When I was learning the steps, rather than manipulating my form to fit into time, I listened to my body to find the form. The body is the leader in the Wilson choreography.

A similarity in my experiences of Khan and Wilson choreography is the importance of the mind and body connection. I felt that both forms of choreography required attention to my own thoughts in relation to my body, or my body in relation to my thoughts. For example, in Wilson choreography the pelvis is the key part of any movement. When I danced the steps, I tried to listen to my pelvis to determine how long a movement should take. It takes a given amount of time to transfer my weight from my left foot to my right foot. I can calculate this amount of time by listening to my pelvis. 

In my experience of Khan choreography I learned to manipulate my body using my mind. I determined what time I wanted a certain movement to happen, then performed that movement by manipulating my body in time and space. For example, first I decide that I want to shift my body from my left foot to my right foot on the third count of a phrase of four. Then, I count: one, two, shift-three, four. I do not shift at the beginning or end of three, but in the middle of the count.

Both of the ways I just described of shifting my weight from one foot to another require a strong connection between the mind and body. This is what connects all of my experiences of dance. I believe the connection of the mind and body can only be explored in the artistic art form of dance.

2 thoughts on “Does the Mind or the Body Lead the Dance?

  1. Dalton

    “I believe the connection of the mind and body can only be explored in the artistic art form of dance.”

    This is a rather interesting response to two forms of dance! The above quote suggest athletic sport is dance. Athletes are masters of mind-body connection in action! Athletes, like dancers, are trained to think motion. The preparation for a major athletic competition requires performers to develop a sound understanding of what the body is required to complete, namely to WIN the game! Dancers on the other hand, are required to remember extensive choreography, counts, rhythms, lighting queues, movement, etc. To imply the art of dance is the ‘only’ process of exploring the mind-body connection is not entirely accurate, unless all forms of bodily movement that involves coordination is dance. I’m excited to think dance is given such a precedence, mainly because I am a dancer, but I’d not like Usain Bolt or any other Olympic athletes to read this post! Although some world-renowned choreographers have included athleticsm as part of their creative processes and stage performances. And dance is used in parts of athletic training programs. So dance is NOT the only way to explore the connection.

  2. Roger Gietzen MD

    I agree with the above comment. The arenas in which one can explore the mind body connection are endless. Dance is clearly an excellent one, as any imbalance between the mind and body will be detrimental to the performance.
    In fact, motion of the body is not even needed to explore its connection with the mind. One of my most powerful practices for increasing awareness and bringing balance to my system is a sitting meditation. And what we do in part of our life, effects our balance everywhere else.
    A simple example from my life would be how the adoption of hatha yoga only 1-2/week had a huge impact on my balance and endurance with athletic activities such as mountain biking and skiing. Another example, but this time of a negative effect is that while going through a divorce I lost many of my previously gained athletic skills. It also had a negative impact on the quality of my relationships at work and at home. That news isn’t all bad though. I maintained a spiritually open attitude going through the divorce and the many challenges that it presented (and still presents years later). As a result I have learned a lot of ways in which to improve myself. I have regained the balance I had before and this time it is on a much more rock solid foundation.

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