Monday, October 12, 2015

Learning to Dance: The Pause

Dancing La Marinera in Tularosa, New Mexico. San Francisco de Paula Festival 2013.

Last year, at the Feed 'n Seed, I danced with an older gentleman. A slow-ish song. About 30 seconds into our dance, he said quietly in my ear, "Slow down, we're not in a hurry to go anywhere."

This centered me right then, and for the rest of the dance, I could be in the moment with where my partner was going and which rhythm line of the song he was choosing.

Holi Festival 2014, Lafayette, Louisiana.

Earlier in the year, before the Feed 'n Seed experience, at a Vermilionville Bal du Dimanche, a woman generously tutored me on a zydeco movement. I had taken zydeco lessons a month or so before, and I'd learned a basic zydeco shuffle in which every beat of the eight-count in zydeco was accounted for with a step or tap. But this woman was showing me something different. I didn't see the eight counts in her steps, I couldn't replicate her movements, and it confounded me.

I asked her about the step count, and she said - bless her generous heart - "don't worry about counting, just move with the music." I couldn't do anything with that information, so I asked her to keep demonstrating her steps until I could solve the mystery. She graciously complied.

Finally, I saw it.

On the third and seventh steps, she PAUSED. The fourth and eighth step were there, but "silent." Ohhhhhh.

When I excitedly shared my newfound understanding, the woman looked a little puzzled, and then shrugged, as if to say "whatever," apparently not excited as I about my tremendous breakthrough in understanding. I'm guessing she had so internalized her step movements, she didn't even notice the pause, and thus didn't think to explain it.

Feed n Seed, Lafayette, Louisiana.

These two experiences planted seeds in my neonatal dance mind, but they didn't stick until I took a new round of zydeco dance lessons this month.

The instructor informed me several times that I was going through movements too quickly. He EXPLICITLY directed me to pause. He hammered these points when I struggled to make turns correctly, so that I'd finish on the right foot at the right beat.

Finally, I got it. I have to PAUSE when I take that first turn-step.

The pause makes all the difference.

There is a maturity, an elegance, a sensuality, in the dance pause.

It's gratification delayed, it's listening and feeling, it's a breath.

Related posts: 

Learning to Dance: Solving for X
Learning to Dance: The Tao of Following

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