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by Shuli Enosh

When I first approached the project, I decided to focus on the subject of unison and the connection between the external unison – the mirroring imitation – and the internal unison of the body, and more than that – as an inseparable part of the emotional and sensory world of a single person both being a part of an environment and community and also being apart from it.
Internal synchronization – as opposed to external one.
Unison – Off unison.

I used different images in order to examine the influence of movement while being focused on a specific feeling. For example, the difference between hands when the left one is imagined as light as a feather and the left one as heavy as a rock. In addition, I used emotional images and metaphors such as a “happy” hand and a “sad” hand. I was interested in the interpretation of movement that we experience and express, and the challenge of maintaining two conditions that are perhaps in contrast to each other – this requires concentration and coordination to establish two inverse worlds almost separately but still simultaneously in both sides of the body.

In the meeting of dancers and scientists, I opened this subject even more and examined the synchronization of emotional change while maintaining a previous physical condition that encouraged a different emotion. For example: we skipped around in the studio (skipping is a physical action that releases positive emotions and is usually connected to happiness and may lead to laughter). After the skipping, I asked the participants to remember an event that saddened them greatly, and while connecting to his event and emotion to continue skipping in the studio. It was a very challenging experience, like maintaining a paradox, a feeling of a ‘bug’ in the system.

In the meetings with the Parkinson’s Dancers I have mostly used Folk Dancing. The Hora circles were a repetitive element – a defined and clear form of movement, familiar and unifying, having repeating steps and choreography. The Hora itself is very nostalgic, a known symbol of Israel. Energy and happiness is washing and bonding the participants of the Hora circles even if not all of them know all the steps or the pace. Inside the group there were very different levels of ability and it was challenging to search for the unison as some of the individuals in the group were unable to match the rest because of hardships of the Parkinson’s disease. As part of the repetitive process, we found a constancy that helped the group remain synchronized and eventually the Hora circle worked. What we did is create two circles, an internal one and an external one (a common practice in Hora dancing actually). In the internal circle were the Parkinson’s Dancers that were unable to move backwards or do rotations, and then they were given steps they can do and repeat without rotating or stepping backwards. In the external circle were dancers who enveloped and ‘guarded’ the internal one, dancers who could and wanted to do the full Hora routine. In this way we could maintain a balance in the new constancy, which created a new meaning for the unison while maintaining its principle – a collective synchronization. Before establishing this, we had had a challenge maintaining the solidarity of the group because the dancers who had a challenge moving didn’t want to be an obstruction to the others and thus they left the circle to sit and watch by the side of the studio.

In the meetings with the scientists, it was very intriguing to examine the effects of Hora dancing in a unified circle while employing emotional manipulations on the dancers. The instruction was to imagine that the person holding our hand in the circle is either someone very loved or someone we have a difficult time with, and then the combination of this with the rhythmic music and the circles and exhilarating dance was very challenging. There was new feeling, a feeling of heaviness in the circle which is very unfamiliar in Hora. This exercise connected a lot to an experiment the scientist Hila did, which was about the empathy and identification of two people with one of them being manipulated emotionally. She examined the level of synchronization coming into play in the movement of two people, one of them being emotionally manipulated and the other instructed to be empathic for a part of the experiment and not to be empathic in the other part. I’m very curious about synchronization and connection as part of collective emotional transitions with the entire group, i.e. – the group goes through similar emotional manipulation. This happens both in Hora and in free dancing.

One of the moments that surprised and excited me was when a Parkinson’s Dancer with the tendency to fall or lose her balance, managed to walk backwards in a crowded circle while I was giving several instructions simultaneously, like stepping forward and shut your right eye. When we walked backwards slowly it was, as expected, challenging for her and she was insecure and tripped and nearly fell few times. The surprise came when I added another instruction to walking, to point a hand to the center of the circle. I was amazed and excited to see her so focused on the new instruction, to point the hand, she stopped tripping and was very stable walking backwards! She was very excited to discover this and very happy and surprised as well! This unique moment and more like it, have strengthened the thought that there is a strong connection between our mood – be it affected from our emotional or physical state – and our ability to remain in unison.

The short meeting with the scientists Anat and Hilla was fascinating and inspiring. The way each of them chose to approach and examine the joint subject of unison and synchronization through various manipulations, brought a broad spectrum of questions around the same point of interest and also brought up interesting conclusions, while not being absolute and dichotomous in their nature. 

The meetings with the Parkinson’s Dancers was very meaningful for me – their open mindedness and their will to move without giving up or feeling embarrassed or ashamed for the way they feel, even being quite the opposite of that, simply being open and honest and free. That’s really not taken for granted by me, and I’ve met through this project some very talented people, who are strong and brave, and I can see the progress they have made and how much they love and never give up on the classes and on moving! 
I feel this taught me how to be more sensitive and attentive to the group dynamic and to the way I look at the group unison. It’s a privilege for me to discover these new abilities for listening and synchronizing with other people that I never knew I had.

 At this point, I’m interested in how I can maintain the effect of unison from the movements of Hora while moving into other forms and locations in the studio, to try and open the basic form of a Hora circle into lines and diagonals, and to see Hora existing as a solo with personal interpretations of the formal Hora choreography. I’m also curious about emotional transitions as well as the physical ones, using images and metaphors and connecting to our imagination, using this as another tool to examine our emotional state in a given moment, being aware and in dialogue with ourselves and our environment.

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One thought on “Unison – Off unison

  1. Shuli, thank you for sharing this. It enriched the experiences and memories of many of moments that you describe. I just have to say that I found the internal unison exercises very challenging, and I wonder whether for professional dancers it becomes easier and easier to compartmentalise the body, in a way.

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