by Clint Lutes, Blog Post written during final residency – October/November 2015
Without attempting to understand or claiming to have any similar intensity of suffering and frustration as someone with Parkinson’s, I have had the urge throughout the project Störung/Hafraah to draw parallels between occurrences my own body and those of the Parkinson’s Dancers. As of late, I have come to understand the temporality of body, of time and of life. I understand better how it feels to give over a certain level of control to that body. And I feel blessed that this has come so late in my career as a dancer.
For 2 years I suffered intense recurring lower back pain, resulting from years of high-intensity physical activity. From a young age, physicality has been an important outlet for expression, early on in the form of sports and later in the form of dance. Both have left their marks on my body, which now finds itself very capable and bursting with information, but showing signs of wear.
My dance career has included years of lifting, jumping, slamming, rolling, running, falling and other such deliciously violent actions. I believe the lifting in particular has been particularly violent on my lower back and has left me searching for answers and treatment. It has led me on a voyage that has helped (forced) me to understand what my body needs versus what my brain wants and how to accept and indulge in this updated body-mind-soul relationship.
My body’s rhythm is slower, but more constant, steady, but less violent. It requires more attention and is very persistent. It is attune to itself and others and ready to pounce, but also ready to wait. It is calmer, clearer and more precise, as is my mind. It asks more questions. It is more playful and broader in its interpretation of information. It is willing to work harder, and it really wants to relax.
I’m beginning to understand the separation of body and soul. My soul wants to run obstacle courses, rock climb, dance for several hours then go out and drink a couple of beers every night. My body needs yoga, massages, gentle jogging, minimal and healthy food, and wants sit in the bath tub.
My mind is the referee between body and soul.
And it’s in this position of referee that I find great sadness and excitement. The sadness comes from the realization that this balancing act will never end, just as household chores will never end. Just as learning never ends. I am now stuck with the physical makeup of my body as I am stuck with doing laundry every week. If I don’t do laundry, I will stink. If I don’t do yoga, I will have back pain. And it’s okay. And simple. And I find these limitations exciting.
Because of these limitations, I now dance better than I ever have. And now it’s all slowly falling apart. And I’m still learning and getting better, and I’m having more fun. I feel that learning my weaknesses and accepting them has allowed me to engage more honestly with myself, my body, my students, my audience and my collaborators. I have developed skills throughout these 20 years to finally feel capable of being present and patient with my own and other bodies, minds and souls.
Which brings me to drawing parallels. I feel that the Parkinson’s Dancers have developed a skill set over the last one and a half years in the dance classes with which to understand and engage in movement. And through movement, they are learning vocabulary and experiences that helps them better work with their bodies and question the limitations set on their bodies.
They are now capable of entering an improvised situation and play in an uncertain frame, all the while staying present in their own bodies and maintaining awareness of their surroundings. Their bodies respond to community, to each other, and they come alive when confronted with play that connects them outside of themselves.
This outward connection and play has the same affect on me. I don’t come from a culture of communicators, and I often felt terrified of being wrong or not being smart enough. I didn’t feel like what I had to say was worth hearing. And I would shrink back into what is comfortable and known.
Luckily, I found myself in situations that forced me to explain, where people encouraged expression. I was with people that wanted to know not only what I was thinking, but why, and how I got there, and wanted to talk about it and engage with it. And they were patient and would help ask the right questions to help me be more patient and get better at explaining.
And I’m still working on it! Störung/Hafraah has given me another outlet to exchange, research and discover through explaining and engaging, moving and talking. I’m at a new beginning that will go deeper into nonverbal communication, benefitting from an expanded toolbox of methods of exploration, development and questioning.