Thinking Out Loud

Seeing and Feeling the Dance

Derek had a ten-year dance career, and now at age thirty-two it was time for him make a change. Clearly he was in transition and wanted to find a way to include dance in his life in some form. So we explored his interests, ideas and strengths.

When we talked about choreography, I asked him how he creates a dance. I was curious partly because I can’t image doing something like this, considering my difficulty with visual memory and sequence. As Derek described the process, he became a little dreamy-eyed and began moving his head rhythmically from side to side.

First, Derek gets an image of the dance in his mind’s eye, but not a vivid image of specific movements—an image that communicates the mood and tempo of the dance. It’s a little dreamy but forms the foundation of his creative process. With the basic idea in place, he then begins to feel the movements unfold in his body but moves very little. It’s more of a step here or there, some shifting of weight and arm movements. “Nothing that looks like much to an outsider,” Derek explained.

Next he needs to be in the studio with a mirrored wall, so he can actually move and watch himself. This is a tedious process because he experiments a lot, changing and refining specific positions and movements “until it feels and looks right.”

When he completes a sequence he likes, Derek makes notes and sketches notes for future recall. Often he doesn’t need the notes, but it’s what he’s always done and it’s just part of his process. His basic memory kicks in as soon as he begins moving is body. The ability to process kinesthetically is second nature for Derek. As we talked, he also realized how important it is for him to get up and move around when he’s trying to “think something through.” He joked about how he “moves something through.”

For those who are strongly kinesthetic, I often advise them to experiment with different kinds of movement to discover how they can best use it for managing stress, thinking, communicating, and creating. And for those not so kinesthetically inclined, it’s also good to experiment with movement. Brain research shows that much of the body (yes, including the brain) needs/requires movement for efficient and healthy functioning.

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