Embryology for Dancers by Julie Forsey
Aaah, Bliss! Two days of dancing down deeper into the body on the shore of the Tasman Sea, dancing the Wave in a sunlit room to the sound of waves massaging the shore.
Our first dance was followed by a warm-up exercise with partners, looking at the quality of attention that we give to another and then giving the same receptive, permissive attention to our own selves as we explored deeper into the body.
We danced our body parts, in true 5Rhythms style and then took the insights from this exercise into art, drawing with oil pastels on paper.
There is a moment in our development, as tiny embryos when our future body is arranged in three simple layers: the mesoderm in the middle, the endoderm and the ectoderm. The mesoderm develops into our bones and muscles, the endoderm into the hollow internal organs, held and protected by the bowl of our pelvis and the fingers of our ribs; and the ectoderm folds all around us creating our skin to provide a sensitive membrane enclosing our whole beautiful self, as well as folding in on itself to create a hollow tube that will become our central nervous system.
We took these ideas into our dance, and moved with the qualities of these different aspects of our physical being, ending in Stillness with the dance of the life-force energy itself.
It seems to me that Flowing lends itself to the expression of the muscles and Staccato for the bones. And they are deeply interdependent in the body, just as Flowing and Staccato are interconnected in the dance with their aspects of awareness and expression being a thread that runs through the whole wave, just as we need our bones and muscles to dance through the whole wave.
We danced our warm, juicy internal organs in a soft rippling Chaos, shaking loose any tension deep in these invisible and normally taken for granted parts. And in Lyrical we expanded our awareness out to the skin, and our senses, receiving impressions from, and interacting with our surroundings through movement. It is quite a thought that there are only basically two types of nerves in the spinal cord – those that bring sense impressions to the brain, and those that take movement instructions to the body.
It is human to divide up the body like this – but we are each, of course, one unified organism! The tissues of the body interconnect so perfectly that it is a marvel to imagine. The nervous system arising from the ectoderm sends branches to every part of us, and so does the connective tissue of the mesoderm – it forms the collagen framework that supports every cell in our body and connects with the delicate fibres inside each cell even down to the strands that hold the array of our chromosomes. The endoderm communicates with the rest of the body with hormones produced in some of its glands which influence the whole metabolism of the body through the bloodstream. So each part of us is completely in touch with every other part.
With the impressions gained from dancing the body in this way, our dancers then painted pictures of their body, perceived from inhabiting it, into beautiful alive, moving flowing, inspiring works of art.
Enjoy your dances this week, and every week, and have fun bringing the dance of your sinews, or your liver, or your skin into expression…. You never know what you might learn about yourself!