Surrounded by brilliance….and neuroplasticity.

    Don’t you just love it when the gifts keep coming? Just as I am still marveling at my Sensei’s brilliance two weeks ago in martial arts,  I got another blast of brilliance from my ballet mistress.

    Dancers are visual as well as kinestetic in our learning experiences. We use our eyes as well as our bodies to learn choreography in our technique classes. We look in the mirror to check our placement as well as our movement patterns. However, sometimes we depend on the use of our eyes and the mirrors too much. For example, if we know we can look in the mirror and follow the other dancers, there is less pressure to learn the combinations. We can become complacent, and fall into the habit of watching each other instead of paying attention to the choreography.

    Last week our teacher gave us a specific constraint. She had us turn away from the mirror and dance facing the wall. The results were disastrous! Half of us couldn’t remember the combination, and the other half were running into each other in a bizarre rendition of ballerina bumper cars. It was extremely confusing, but pretty funny. And incredibly revealing. It seems that some of us depend on our vision (and each other) a little too much.

    The dancers who had embraced the choreography as an authentic, internal expression of themselves regained their composure relatively quickly. The others never recovered. Some of them actually stopped and simply stood there, adding to the confusion. It became obvious which dancers were trying to do what they thought they should do, rather than feeling what they could do.

     As dancers we often talk about flexibility. Sometimes we become consumed with the idea of having a flexible body. Perhaps instead of being preoccupied with having a flexible body, we can instead focus on developing a flexible mind. If we did that, who knows to what heights we can climb?

    When our teacher had us turn away from the mirror she challenged our nervous systems to quickly adapt to the change. And we all discovered a little bit more about ourselves. Sometimes all we have to do to is turn away from the mirror to see ourselves more clearly. And sometimes, out of confusion comes clarity, flexibility, strength and grace. Not always….but it is an intriguing concept, isn’t it? And well worth exploring.

    Oh, and one last thought. Don’t you think I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such brilliant teachers? Or maybe their brilliance has been there all along, but now I have the awareness and flexibilty to appreciate it. Hmmm….it’s just another idea to consider.

Be healthy, and flexible!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP