This is an excerpt from Attention and Focus in Dance by Clare Guss-West.
If we approach an attitude as if for the very first time, with fresh eyes, we might see a beautiful, arcing suspension of continuous, circling energy that surrounds the human body like a golden orbit. With familiarity, it’s tempting to pay less attention to its circling movement intention and try to fix and hold the attitude or control the desired form with muscle-led effort (li energy, IF). When we initiate an attitude with an IF control approach, however, limbs are held and foreshortened, and the shape becomes fragmented, simply a series of individual angular, body parts. The sense of the cohesive, expressive, flowing movement is lost.
Exploration 4.6 – Attitude – A Glorious Circling Orbit
Suspend any disbelief you may have, and let’s defamiliarize ourselves and take a fresh look at an attitude. Expand, make space and breathe as you have done in previous preparations. Gather fresh energy into the lower energy centre. Send spiraling energy en dehors into the earth, connecting and respecting the standing side. Substantial, revolving energy in the lower energy centre, or power centre, rises and suspends the upper body, extending it towards the universe. Sense the powerful, supporting two-way pull of the earth and the universe. Distance the ‘playing’ side (top arm and gesture leg) from the standing side, making space and curving far away from centre. Allow the standing side to breathe. Continuous energy flows from the lower energy centre, through the heart centre, through the top arm and out through the fingers. The energy jumps the void between the top fingertips (fourth position) and the ‘playing’ foot, like arcing electricity, to connect powerfully through the gesture curve and continue onwards and upwards in a golden orbit of continuous motion. Feel the energy orbiting the body, buoyant and suspending it in space between earth and universe. Sense the dancing energy within the orbit, filling the space made by the arc of the body (figure 4.10). Feel the generous circle of energy as it embraces and curves around the space. ‘Surf’ with the circling energy a moment and see clearly the two separate movement intentions: the verticality of the two-way pull between earth and stars on the standing side and the dazzling, orbiting energy of the playing side. Place your attention in the generous space created. Embrace and curve around the space as you catch dancing energy in your attitude circle.
If guiding and connecting energy to the surrounding energy field in explorations 4.5 and 4.6 seems intangible or inaccessible as your chosen control approach, there are plenty of alternative real, sensory and imaginary EF that can be adopted. Perhaps start by introducing a proximal EF in the arabesque such as sensing the pressure of the floor or imagining the five directions reaching out into space. Or you can choose from any number of metaphoric images. Choose images for the supplementary information they promote such as a suggested form, dynamic or quality – for example, an exploding firework or star might promote a brief, yet expansive, arabesque, or a more earthly, majestic oak tree with deep roots and reaching branches might promote a sustained, stable arabesque (figure 4.11). For an attitude, you might, for example, focus clearly on just the circle created by the top arm and attitude leg. Any appropriate image of your choice will guide the mind and focus the attention and send energy, oxygen and nutrients in the direction of the intention: where the mind will go, blood and energy will follow (Quian 2017). There is always the option to experiment with a progressively distant external focus later. The distance effect increases the physical benefits of stability, consistency, optimum energy and minimum muscular engagement, improving stamina. The mental benefits that result from the free cognitive reserve are also further enhanced such as improved management of performance stress and anxiety and heightened artistic listening and expression. In Eastern movement practice, we learn to progressively harness the benefits of this distance effect to intensify the energy, oxygen and nutrients sent to the extremities. We take advantage of the two-way, magnetic-like pull of earth and universe to stabilize the movement (figure 4.1). Then by sending energy further with the mind and continuously drawing it back into our lower energy centre, we charge the surrounding energy field. This increases the volume of the flow of energy through our movements and develops our capacity to direct energy. The energy field surrounding us becomes condensed and compact, enhancing powerful, effective movement.