I think I can. I think I can.

Mind-body research, performed by ahead-of-her-time psychologist Ellen Langer, concludes that when our brains believe something our bodies respond accordingly. Is this not the best thing you have ever heard?! I have a love obsession with anything that claims the power of our mind can make our dreams and goals happen, whatever they may be.  Being a dancer, I have experienced the power of this belief system every day.  So Langer, wherever you are, consider me your number one fan and proclaimed advocate.  Revealed here is more one piece of tangible proof of this magical work first hand, and some details about how you can apply it for your own benefit.

When I first started doing David Parsons’ work, I had challenges with some of the advanced lifts and partnering that happened nearly every 16 counts in most of his pieces. Yeah, it was officially time to conquer that aspect if I wanted to advance myself in the company, or more simply, take my dancing to the next level. I fully believed I didn’t have as much partnering experience as I believed I should. Yes, fact – in my formative college years, my ballet pas de deux training was at a definitive zero and my modern partnering was pretty post-modern basic (share my weight while I lamely lift you with the entire half of my body in the most predictable way ever). Yet another fact – I was no less experienced or educated than anyone else in that room when in came to coordination and movement comprehension.   

Another asinine belief I convinced myself of at the time – I was “bigger” than the other female dancers, you know, “big boned,” stronger than I was petite and svelte. Real fact – I am indeed a strong woman (strong and proud I might add), but there is zero about my frame that would prevent me from doing the most flawless, airy lift with supreme grace.

I watched as these petite nymphs quickly, playfully bounced off their feet and into the man’s arms high overhead with an heir of “light as a a feather”  Then I would be heavy footed into my prep and apologetic (eek, that’s cringe-worthy to type) about plowing my body mass into the man’s arms in his attempt to muscle me up to a full press lift.

My approach was all wrong.  When it came to lifts, I noticed that feeling light and airy helped me be quick on my feet. Feeling good about my body, affected the spring in my step – metaphorically and actually.  Being quick footed in my prep helped to coordinate with the man into the lift. Importantly, if I felt good about my body, I had a lighter touch to my step. My thoughts on my body directly influenced my dancing.

Mind-set manipulation is the dancer’s daily state. Every day we enter the studio we get the opportunity to put into our brains into whatever imaginative state we want our bodies to work. When we create a piece of art, we get to imagine the floor as filled with grains of sand, and it alters how we step, it alters our sensations of the floor. Then the next moment we could be slipping and sliding on wet pavement and the sensations on the balls of our feet are completely different. The sensations we receive then in turn effect how our body moves and reacts. That’s why choreographers take the time to paint the picture of the piece with their artists. There are conversations about what the space smells like, looks like, what time period it occurs in, etc., because it shifts the intention of the dancers’ movements.  And it legitimately shifts the dancers’ experience in the piece and therefore, the quality of the piece itself.

And what if we take Langer’s mind-body research and take it a step further?  She proved that women who did housework for a living and were told, and believed, the housework they accomplished was indeed a calorie-burning workout, shed more calories. The women who didn’t view their cleaning as fat-busting, consequently didn’t shed as many pounds. Craziness. But despite the craziness, I’m a firm believer. When I feel more like a dancer, and know that the stretches and exercises I am working on are actually reaping physical benefits, then I do them with a certain level of precious dedication; my movements become more focused, more involved. And that minute difference in stretch, strength and intention separate the good from the great, and our bodies from being physically fit to having a capacity we couldn’t necessarily foresee.

So, let’s ask ourselves, what are we doing to ourselves by holding a vision of a super skinny ballerina in our subconscious?  Or believing that our physical efforts won’t ever amount to weight loss? What are we doing to ourselves by being distracted by thoughts of a critical artistic director/boss or critical fellow dancers/colleagues (so lame, but in certain companies this competitive nature stupidly still exists. Who are we competing against by the way)? What if the words we spoke to ourselves were only the sweet words of making our dreams happen? What could we obtain? Where could we go?

I’m not quite sure, but hell, I love a good surprise.

Leave me a message! What thoughts get in the way of your physical results?

Leave me a message!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *