The Body Has A Language
“Language is rich, and malleable. It is a living, vibrant material.”
I don’t speak Spanish.
I suppose I can understand and communicate the basics and catch a couple words that sound similar enough to French, but overall, it is not a language that I have had the chance to really sit down and study. Despite this barrier, however, I found it surprisingly easy to follow the teacher in each class. I was not at all hindered in my inability to understand everything said and in fact, learned some new words and phrases in the process of it all.
My understanding was partly because on the first day, I listened closely and got down the basics- the words for right and left, simple body parts, the words “go,” “faster,” “turn,” and “change” (some of these terms previously picked up from Spanish pop music, hah). However it is also because of one simple thing:
The body has a language.
I was able to pick up cues, directions and nuances from careful observation of what each instructor was saying and how they moved as they said it. Details explained in slow motion and quality expressed through example. Language is not a barrier when our physicality can speak multitudes.
The body has a language, whether we are aware of it or not.
Our hands describe the details of stories. The flurry and the moments of calm.
Our angles speak of confidence, or lack thereof.
The different ways in which our feet move us across the ground signal how connected to the earth we may be.
Rooted, middling or airy.
(I knew a girl whose head was always in the clouds and she walked on the balls of her feet, up and down, light and springy as if her toes were constantly poised for lift-off)
The body has a language, and it has the power to move others.
A touch on the right soft spot can cause a monumental shift.
I am always in awe in dance classes when an expert hand laid on a single vertebrae of the spine suddenly focuses all of your attention to that spot. You feel the heat, realign, and find newness in an old movement.
A solidly placed palm on a shoulder can provide the exact necessary amount of comfort.
Never underestimate the power of communication that you have within you, without words.
We don’t need to fear foreign languages, miscommunications, misunderstandings, when we hold all of the tools we need to make ourselves deeply understood. We simply have to learn how to harness them and find a personal awareness of how we can best use these tools to move ourselves through a more connected world.
My fascination with the connections between language, words and movement is something that not only have I been working with in my own training and with my students, but I have decided to share in the form of improvisation tasks. If you are a dancing being (which technically, aren’t we all?), you can follow along with the words + text improvisations that I created for Dancing Cards. Go take a look, have a try, and please share if you do. I love to see what this process of exploration looks like for each individual mover.
Let's have a dancing conversation.
(Photos by Marouan Ben Larbi)