Encountering Continuum: When Granite meets Liquid

I had my second encounter with Continuum Movement last weekend with Beth Pettengill Riley. We were at the second dance salon (see my post “A Meeting of Extaordinary Dancers” from Feb. 5, 2010) and had decided to learn about one another by sharing our dances. Along with Alexander Technique from Rita Rivera, Polynesian dance from Lorraine Kinnamon, and a little ATS from me, Beth demonstrated and encouraged us to experiment with Continuum.

I’d tried this once before in 1996 at the Greensboro, North Carolina Congress on Research in Dance. Typically, these conferences offer lots of scholarly papers along with direct, experiential sessions, a chance for kinesthetic learning. I remember lying on the floor in a large studio wriggling around, mostly in imitation of everyone else. I didn’t really feel any impulse to move. If I’d waited for inspiration I’d have nodded off. But I’m always game for a second try so I joined in with Beth et al and attempted to connect with my spinal fluid.

Continuum Movement is an esoteric body practice directing our attentions to both cosmic and corporeal fluidity. Its goal is to decompress joints and release old body habits. Beth began with a brief history and I was surprised to hear that its founder, Emilie Conrad, found some of her initial inspiration from Afro-Haitian dance. Have you ever seen Haitian dancers? Their spines move like natural vibrations rather than an acquired techniques. And so did Beth’s spine when she demonstrated a body wave. On knees and forearms, she initiated a slow wave rolling across and down her back. Like a sleepy serpent, she swayed and uncoiled her torso with such fluidity that I was mesmerized. Watching that was a meditation in itself.

After we all had a chance to explore Continuum ourselves, we sat in a circle and shared our experiences in single-word descriptions. I heard words like release, freedom, fluidity. I finally said my word: “Compressed.” Elementally, I am a New England landscape: small, slow to change, still and solid as the granite. I’ve got some fire in me but air and water sometimes disturb my psyche. I don’t like airplanes or boats all that much. Yet the sound of water—ocean waves, a moving river, a gurgling brook, or a water fountain—are a balm to my spirit. What would happen if I submerged my self in the moving water itself? I don’t know.

I am trying, though. This blog for example, started out as an opportunity to educate my readers on the arts and histories of each of the dance forms we played with on Sunday. But I thot about something Beth wrote on her website: to explore our own movement and selves as “a living process.” To put aside structures for a little while each day. To invoke process rather than demand conformance to rigor. (I still double checked the date of the CORD conference, studied up on Continuum, and made sure I spelled everything right. I can’t help it. Facts are important to.) I may not be able to connect with my synovial fluids, but I can try to write with more freedom than my scholarly self insists upon. Its risky to give over to the fluid cosmos. I am reluctant to give up my granitine ways, to succumb to the wave. Where will I stand? What will support me? Where is the beginning and the end? What if I drown?

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