I think that the most impactful way that this class has affected my life inside of class is in the holding of my body. In ballet, for as long as I can remember, I have been taught to hold my core muscles, and that everything in and of the body should to spiral outward to the audience and to the space around the dancer. Twyla’s work has you hold your core, just like in ballet, but seeks to drop the tailbone all the way down into the floor. Not even a slight release in the tailbone is allowed in Twyla’s techniques, which is unlike what is needed in ballet to attain a proper fifth position. A slight release in the tailbone is perfectly fine in ballet to be able to achieve a certain position or to have a certain appearance, but Twyla’s work is a straight up and down of the spine with as little curvature in it as possible.
This new way of holding my body feeds into how it performs. In ballet, the performances I have given always sought to spiral outward, away from the self and to the audience or into the space of where I was performing. Twyla’s work has no such clearly defined energy channels; the same combination can be danced with my more familiar outward focus, like with ballet, but it can also be danced by focusing on myself and moving through space. My body could be spiraling inward while I’m dancing, and yet I could be taking up the space around me, where I am performing. A hard concept to explain perhaps, but one that I’d never really tried before taking this class.
Theories are all well and good, but Twyla believes that her works and ways of thinking—not to mention the rituals that one creates to go along with them—are powerful tools I can apply to my life outside of the dance studio. That’s the goal, anyway.
For me, the most useful way of thinking or moving that I have learned thus far in the class can be summarized as follows, “Taller, more confident, stronger.”
The act of making myself “taller” feeds into my feeling more in control, which, because I am engaging more muscles and focusing attention on my surroundings, makes it harder to be surprised by something and helps prevent mistakes. “More confident” becomes easier when I feel in control. Simply having the body language that I am in control makes it easier to deal with people or things that are not in my control, because they can only see or hear what I show or tell them. I can take up more space and engage more freely with people if I have a spiraling bodily sense of confidence, and this makes me stronger. “Stronger” in that if I have the self-assurance and confidence, I can display more of me. Not in a physical sense, although I suppose that this is a minor consequence of the self-building—I mean the real me, the inner me of my own choosing. This class has helped me remember that it is important to have the ability to show the real me. People cannot see the real complexity of anyone unless they are shown, and “Taller, more confident, stronger” helps me remember to do just that.