It’s been a while since I had a minute to do much thinking here on the blog. The making I’ve been doing has been in-the-trenches work, hands-on and non-theoretical. We talk about the movement we make, but mostly so as to make more movement, though the talking’s awfully good in itself. In the studio, I’ve been thinking with my body, not with my mind.
But what is this body-thinking? The single most persistent question of my life.
“I believe the body takes us to the edge between the known and the unknown,” said Sarah Gamblin, in town last month for a performance at New Genre. (This post is my thanks to her for being the clearest window I’ve looked at, looked through, in quite some time.)
There can be nothing more “known” than the body. I’ve lived in mine my whole life; it’s my one consistent interface with the world and everything in it. I never leave it. It’s the most known thing to me, and it’s the neuro-motor-sensory instrument through which I know everything else.
But the body is also my deepest conundrum. It speaks in its own language of pain, hormonal rushes, insulin spikes, heart palpitations. It operates without my conscious thought. It’s so often a dark place to my mind, but it knows things that are unknown to me.
It knows to contract and tense when I am under threat. Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen tells me the skin knows the nervous system intimately, and vice versa (in fact they begin from the same embryonic tissue layer), so that comforting touch becomes neurocellular information. The body knows that the throat holds disgust and that anger and love and happiness make my hands want to do something.
Anatomy, physiology, group dynamics, physics: unknowableness challenges my knowledge. Its knowing teaches my unknowing. This is the poetry of bodies in time and space, the tender tragedy of us. The just-so angle of the head that makes me choke back tears. The laughing leap in the dark. We humans, we are always on the edge; it’s the dancer who shows us it’s a sweet spot.