Warming Up to Sensation

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As we come together in our warm up, our bodies negotiate the spaces between each other. We twist and twirl like slow graceful maggots.

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The more partner dancing I do, the more I am both desensitized and sensitized to touch. “Tension masks sensation,” say the instructors at EDAM studio where I have begun practicing contact improvisation.

When I started dancing, I was more aware of who I was touching and I felt self-conscious. I was still stuck in a world where one’s contact with strangers is limited to handshakes. I did not know my body and I distrusted it. In a way, I was fearful of my body and the bodies of others. In a tense body, communication is halted, creativity is stifled, and knowing is concealed. When I can let go of the tension, I am aware of my body as a valuable place of knowing. I can more freely play and create. Awakened connection springs unexpectedly.

Every week we begin our contact improvisation practice with a floor warm-up. As I massage and reach and push my body into the ground, I become more aware of the tension that has built up from hunching my shoulders, from holding my jaw and from tightening my chest. I feel myself moving into motions and positions that I didn’t know I could do. It feels wonderful. When I live with bodily tension each day, what kinds of sensations am I missing?  What kinds of ways of knowing am I blocking?

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