art & yoga :: off like a prom dress

A number of sketches have been pasted to the wall of a tunnel that leads from street to subway in Manhattan. I love this one especially (cell phone snap). It gently nags me to write down my thoughts about the connections between art and yoga.

The connections between dance and yoga are seemingly more obvious than other forms of art, given that both are movement oriented, and there are many dancers in the yoga world. I know nothing about dance (or opera or theater or any of the performance arts, really) but I’ve always gone out of my way to see it. Not knowing is where my bliss comes. I’m not tempted to analyze or judge. I’m simply absorbed by the beauty of moving bodies in front of me. This absorption in the moment is yoga, and it is also art. It’s also, I imagine, where the performers need to be to pull off a powerful show. No more thought. Only the execution of what’s been learned and internalized.

I was talking about dance titles recently, which brings to mind one of my favorites: Off Like a Prom Dress (which reminds me of a fantastic Aussie saying, “a gownless evening strap.”) Friend and yoga teacher, Jessica Dixon Majka, was in this performance last month (choreography by Kara Tatelbaum) at Dance New Amsterdam.

“Off Like a Prom Dress” (2010) excerpt from Kara Tatelbaum on Vimeo.

While the physical practice of yoga might be easier for dancers, the relationship between body and mind might not be. Because dancers are trained to use their bodies as instruments, learning to be with the body rather than guide it can be difficult. Depending on training, a dancer might be inspired to move through the asanas easily, without connecting, in a way someone entirely unaware of his body might not. In this way, learning a different relationship of mind, breath, and body can be transformative. I wonder what effects this has when taken back into dance.

3 thoughts on “art & yoga :: off like a prom dress”

  • I’ve been around a lot of dancers in the last three years, and most of them love yoga. My guess is that it’s delightful to be working within the physical comfort zone for a change — dancing is working at the edge, like all true art. And like everyone, they are trying to find the way to reach the tranquil space that yoga brings. It’s interesting to have dancers in class for the first time. They look like experts, but have as many questions at the end as anyone.

  • Dance an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting. Wikipedia

    As a dancer and yoga practitioner, yoga allows me to develop awareness of the mind/body/soul connection in a way that isn’t always smiled upon in the studio. While in a studio or class setting, dance that is, we often feel the need to push, push, push with out notice of what is actually happening within, around and to the body just so long as you “get it”. Got it? Yoga has transformed the way i look at or feel a body in space by teaching me not to push but to notice the subtlety within the movement and radiate from there and more importantly the space around it. When i move/dance these days, it is about feeling the space around my body, ingesting or embodying it within and then setting it free. Free….ahhh that brings us to another topic where yoga influences dance, Freedom. Freedom and peace within yourself about where you are in your life, freedom from a negative, warped body image (huge in the dance world), and freedom to express yourself without judging yourself or fear of being judged, freedom to be free, freedom to be perfect just the way you are and freedom to feel everything as one.

    What is dance again…dance is movement and what initiates all movement…the breath. At the end of the day dance is yoga, yoga is dance (everything as one) and whether it is the obviously physical movement of the body which can release and offer a spiritual experience or the dance of the breath within the subtle realm to bring oneness, it is dance it is yoga. So go out and dance, go out and breath with the purest clear & clean intention and then share your light. For we all breath, therefore we all dance.

    • Thanks for these beautiful comments. I’m reminded for some reason of my undergrad thesis about health reformers. One tended to be very, very uptight about the dos and don’ts of the body. But he was a big advocate of dance. I should look it up as his prose is quite funny.

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