DeMon / Curadores Feridos / AMtro

Trespassing of Boundaries and Unification of Differences Through Art

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Move with Thy Neighbour

I wrote the present paper based on another one written about 10 years ago for a master in Religious Studies. It dealt with movement in the inter-religious dialogue. After reading it again, I decided to write another version of the original paper without focusing so much on the religious aspect of a dialogue. While in the process though, I could not keep from recalling the many cases of religious, ethnic, gender and cultural-based violent attacks that, unfortunately, abound everywhere in the world since time immemorial. I could not forget the strengthening of far-right parties, the burgeoning of white supremacist groups, or the growing diffusion of hate-speeches. What about the killings of women just for being women; the persecution of indigenous peoples; the slaughter of LGBTQ+ people. Could I ignore them? Could I overlook the bullying of kids in many schools around the world as well as in the social media? Actually, for me they all are difference-motivated. So were the Christchurch mosque terror attacks in New Zealand that shocked me a lot. Alarmingly, humanity has not had enough of these and more is sure to come. Then I asked myself what I could do about this state of things, and here is my humble answer to this question

Embodying the Unity That Binds Us All Together

Man is alone before the incomprehensible: anguish, fear, attraction, mystery. The words are useless. Why call it names like God, Absolute, Nature, or Fortune? The necessary thing is to get in touch. What man seeks beyond comprehension is communication. Dance springs from this need of uttering the unutterable, of clearing the obscure, of being in relation with another. Maurice Béjart

Physical movement is the normal first effect of mental or emotional experience. John Martin

What Christ is saying always, what he never swerves from saying, what he says a thousand times and in a thousand different ways, but always with a central unity of belief, is this: “I am my father’s son, and you are my brothers.” And the unity that binds us all together, that makes this Earth a family, and all men brothers and so the sons of God, is love. Thomas Wolfe (THOMPSON, 1977)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Globalization brought us religious, social, and cultural encounters that one cannot avoid anymore. In Lieve Troch’s words, “To be able to engage in dialogues is the only way we can truly live in this reality…” (PIERIS, 2008, p. 12.)

Thanks to my basic training in The Art of Movement and a lifetime fascination for non-verbal communication, when I ruminate on the above I remember Maurice Bejárt’s excerpt quoted above.

It came from the choreographer’s experience during a holiday trip to a Mediterranean Island, when he had the opportunity to live the fishermen’s lives for some weeks. He points out: “when after the working day the men got together and started talking, they ended up quarrelling; however, when instead of talking they danced, they celebrated life without the need of words. At these moments, opposite to what happened in the former situation when incomprehension and heated debate took over, the keynotes were harmony and union”. (GARAUDY, 1973).

This experience suggests the importance of movement to the harmony and union among people. In addition, it also hints that motion may be even more effective to achieve them than the words themselves. I believe it is true because the interaction through movement enables a dialogue based on feelings and emotions rather than on rational arguments; therefore, such an exchange can go smoothly and fluidly.

I substantiate my statement by saying that there is nothing more natural than to follow the approach of ancient civilizations, as they never detach the verbal and rational from the non-verbal and inexpressible through words [ ]. (AMARAL, 2003; GUERRA, 2007).

Chatting, Not Bickering

We consider a dialogue not only any verbal conversation, but also any conceivable means through which a person can establish an equal relation with another. Thus, we believe that through non-verbal exchanges in movement-based workshops, one can develop abilities such as to truly look at, listen to, and physically, spatially, emotionally and spiritually relate to a person from a different background or with a diverse physicality thanks, mostly, to the momentary suppression of any logical argumentation movement allows. To root this approach, we link the integrative power of movement and non-verbal communication to Lieve Troch’s, Maurice Béjart’s and Rudolf Laban’s thoughts.

Troch is a feminist theologian based in the Netherlands that has taught in many countries, including Brazil. Béjart was a French choreographer, who created and directed one of the most important dance companies of the day, and Laban, a Hungarian architect, a dancer and a choreographer as well as a researcher of the human movement, was one of the pioneers of modern dance.

The Art of Movement

Created by the Hungarian researcher and artist Rudolph Laban (1879 – 1958), the Art of Movement was based in his method of movement analysis and practice called Effort/Shape. Laban’s compatriot Maria Duschenes, with whom I had the privilege to study, introduced both developments in Brazil during WWII.

E/S allows the description, recording, and analysis of the physical, spatial, and dynamic features of movement so that through their observation new possibilities of action can be suggested. This method has been used to coach athletes, business managers as well as to interpret politician’s and religious leaders’ non-verbal communicative styles and even to examine the behavioural patterns of animals such as planarian worms, dolphins, bears, and wolves.

The Art of Movement, the artistic and educational version of the E/S system can also be applied to a number of different situations. Could it also help what we understand by dialogue?

Inner organization

The Art of Movement offers ways to organize one’s body, feelings, emotions, and thoughts

by enabling the person to relate internal attitudes with external shapes of movement, by increasing their expressive movement vocabulary and eventually by giving them the ability to transform their actions into emotional symbols through ordered patterns and rhythms (MIRANDA, 1980, p. 12).

It also believes that

movement considered […] — at least in our civilization — as a servant of man and employed to achieve an extraneous practical purpose, was brought to light as an independent power creating states of mind frequently stronger than man’s will (LABAN, 1975, p., 6).

Words Versus Action; Movement Versus Quietness

Together with some Eastern and Western foundations of theatre such as the Noh theatre and the Commedia dell’arte, and with some contemporary development of theatre as well, the Art of Movement bases the actor’s craft on actions rather than on spoken words. It does so mainly by focusing on how a movement is performed since it gives their expressive qualities. As an example, just imagine the same movement being performed quickly or slowly. By exporting this concept to the ordinary world, it sees neither actors nor dancers nor ordinary people as very different from each other.

The Art of Movement, then, tries to capture the human purposes that are always expressed through actions whether they lay visible or not. Therefore, although the moving or acting body fuels contemporary dramaturgy, stillness and quietness (pause) are also embedded in it considering it believes pauses are crucial for one to catch one’s vital impulses.

We expand this idea a bit by saying that to do it, contemporary theatre and the Art of Movement require performers to get in close contact with their inner selves by emptying, quieting, and silencing their minds. Paradoxically, one of the ways of meeting this aim is by keeping the focus on the outer body. Eventually, one gets through, and those impulses show off by means of physical and expressive actions.

Metaphorically, we can say that these actions take place because the muscles “sing” a song that is a physical expression of the soul. By listening to this song, the actors reach the state of introspective quietness and reach their very souls, the utmost source of all physical actions.

Just like them, the ordinary people depart from the concrete and profane body to reach the spiritual, the transcendental and the sacred one. (JANÔ, 1986; MARTIN, 2007)

Non-Verbal Communication: A Transgression of Frontiers

In her article Exercises on wonderment: frontiers and transgression of frontiers (Exercícios em maravilhar-se: fronteiras e transgressões de fronteiras) the feminist theologian Lieve Troch (2007) writes about borderlands, empty territories, and no one’s land. She tells about the pleasure she felt every time she went to the beach in her childhood. At those occasions, she enjoyed “staying for hours in the shoreline where sea and sand meet” (idem, page 50). She says that this line never stops moving. Therefore, the frontier it designs is continuously being recreated. In this ever-going movement, both sea and land get a bit of each other.

In other words, movement can turn solid and isolationist boundaries between distinct bodies into fluid and flexible ones so that they can blend. For Troch, to walk along the waterline is the same as to find out “the empty space between two different places, or a third country, or to walk between two worlds” (ibid.). This place “has a different face than either land or water” (ibid.).

Dance: An Experimentation of Relationships

She further refers to ballroom dance and says that in this game of the sort “the partners meet in the act of playing with the space between them and with the rhythm of the music in “a balance that must be re-established over and over again” (idem, page 51). This ever-changing space is an intermediate territory where they experiment with their relationship. (ibid.). She continues: the dancers may have the impression that space itself moves as their moving bodies constantly transform it. Therefore, when dancing, they play with this intermediate territory, with their role as leader and follower, with their singularly, and with their co-operation.

This way, Troch talks about the existence of rigid frontiers that need to become flexible to enable the parts to define equal terms. A dialogue would do that as it supposes a meeting in an intermediate territory or in a third country that may not even physically exist. In that case, its creation depends on the will and predisposition of each party involved in the exchange of ideas, and in this territory it is mandatory to look at just as to listen to one another.

If a dialogue is a dance of the sort, and vice-versa, I believe that there is nothing better to promote it than dance itself, or rather, a movement centred practice able to turn rigidly traced lines, limits, and frontiers into flexible ones.


This approach

  • fosters one’s contact with one’s emotions, feelings and thoughts,
  • provides one with a tool to concretely organize them,
  • helps the development of individual and group identity,
  • enhances self-esteem, and
  • empowers voiceless persons.

Finally, by making positive use of one’s differences and abilities it

  • makes one aware of the advantages of any difference.

As all the interested parties wholly obtain the above, the Art of Movement enables a rich non-verbal dialogue.

Final Considerations

My experience with the power of movement was very different from that of Maurice Béjart’s. Over twenty years ago when a friend showed me a video from a company of Deaf American dancers, it became clear to me.

As a hearing person, I could note the respect for their partners’ body and movement in the way they moved together. I believe that it was because they knew movement enabled contact, organization, communication, and expression of something they could not express through words; it was, then, their way to get through to their audience, either Deaf or hearing.

Their lifelong experiences with movement allowed them to express and truly share something from deep within their souls that they could not express through words nor , to share it with anyone regardless of the language they spoke.

Thus, I believe that whenever emotion and feelings partake in the communication, I think they do not need — or should not need — be conveyed through any spoken language or words. In these cases, they pass from person to person, soul to soul, and everything that separates people ceases to be.

Would we need to become unable to communicate verbally to understand the power of non-verbal communication and movement? Are we like some hearing people that paradoxically are deaf to the voice of many of our brothers and sisters?

Then, instead of talking, thinking, and discussing dogmas, we should emulate the brilliant Mediterranean fishermen and dance. Maybe, by doing so, we could experiment the true union that we cannot experience from the top of our intellectual knowledge, and through dance and movement truly relate to the other and feel we are part of a whole. This way, perhaps we could say — not necessarily with words —, to whoever is beside us: the God in me greets the God in you. Namastê!


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A Dancer’s Brain Develops in a Unique Way?

Music activates our deeper brain areas, but what happens in a dancer’s brain? Movement can trigger a flow state which makes way for an intuitive neural network.

As technology takes over more areas of our lives, interest in more natural ways of life has also increased massively. One example of this desire to reconnect with nature is the upsurge of yoga and meditation retreats.

Music and dance have been fundamental parts of the human experience for millennia. They have enabled interaction which has given rise to close communities and rich cultures. 

Neuroscience has studied music for decades. It has been found to activate the deeper brain areas in a unique way. Deep brain areas are primarily responsible for emotions, memory and social interaction.  They evolved in the human brain much earlier than the cognitive functions in the cortex. 

Deep brain areas are primarily responsible for emotions, memory and social interaction.

My doctoral dissertation developed methods for understanding the processes that dance generates in the cortex. 

I compared the brain functions of professional dancers and musicians to people with no experience of dance or music as they watched recordings of a dance piece. The brain activity of the dancers was different from that of musicians and the control group during sudden changes in the music, long-term listening of music and the audio-visual dance performance. 

These results support the earlier findings indicating that the auditory and motor cortex of dancers develops in a unique way. In my study, the dancers’ brains reacted more quickly to changes in the music than those of musicians or members of the control group. The change is apparent in the brain as a reflex, before the dancer is even aware of it at a conscious level.

I also found that dancers displayed stronger synchronisation at the low theta frequency. Theta synchronisation is linked to emotion and memory processes which are central to all interpersonal interaction and self-understanding.

In dance, the basic elements of humanity combine in a natural way.

Touch and cooperation are integral elements of dance – without them, there can be no dance. They are as important to dance as movement and music. 

However, the neuroscience of dance is still a young field. Consequently, the brain processes of touch and cooperation have not yet been studied through dance specifically. 

We do know that in dance, the basic elements of humanity combine in a natural way. It combines creative act, fine-tuned movement and collaboration, much like playing music. The movement involves the whole body, like in sports. There is touch, like in gentle interaction. 

Dancing is also associated with “flow”, a well-researched phenomenon in which the person becomes fully immersed in an activity. Flow experiences have been found to increase the general contentment and productivity of the person as well as the quality of the activity. It reduces the activation of the neural network which is responsible for logical deduction and detailed observation. 

This makes room for the creative neural network which also has an important role in generating a relaxed state of mind.

Practicing an instrument requires extreme precision. It has been found to shape motor processes in the brain in many ways. Meanwhile, studies conducted on dancers reveal how their brains have specialised to process dance motion. 

Certain areas of dancers’ brains have specialised precisely to observe dance movements. The brain structures of musicians and dancers have also been found to differ from the general population in the areas responsible for processing movement and sound.

Brain synchronisation enables seamless cooperation.

Studies on producing music and movement show how during cooperation, the brains of two people become attuned to the same frequency. This is apparent in how the low-frequency brain waves of the participants become synchronised. 

Brain synchronisation enables seamless cooperation, and is necessary for creating both harmonic music and movement. The ability to become attuned to another person’s brain frequency is essential for the function of any empathetic community.

Lately, researchers have gained fantastic results regarding the role of exercise as a mood enhancer. In addition to drug treatment and psychotherapy, exercise is currently even being recommended as a form of treatment for depression. Exercise releases hormones that create a sense of wellbeing, which in turn boosts positive emotional processes in the brain. It also lowers the activation of the amygdala, the brain’s fear and stress centre. 

Finding the right dance style can make dancers euphoric, and make them forget the drudgery of official exercise recommendations and step counters.

Dancers who pursue graceful movement must practice being aware of their bodies and (being aware) of wordless communication. These skills are particularly important today, when we spend so much time sitting and in virtual realities. Our way of life has taken us further from our own physical experiences and the understanding of the wordless emotional messages of others.

For example, contact improvisation makes the dancers to listen attentively to the body of their partner. Touch is known to reduce pain, fear and anxiety. 

Functional brain imaging has shown that these effects of touch are also apparent in the brain. In one study, a touch from a significant other reduced the intensity of the pain activation in the brain during an electric stimulus when compared with pain experienced alone.

Pain, stress and anxiety often go hand in hand with depression. Dance, music and related expressive forms of therapy could help lessen mental fluctuations even before the onset of full depression. Promising results have been gained from treating depression through music therapy. 

Dance therapy can help with many disorders of the mind and body, from anxiety to dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Dance is a highly subjective experience. However, neuroscience can help us understand how people can use dance to feel more connected to each other in our technology-filled world.

Hanna Poikonen

The author is a Master of Science (Technology) and a dancer, and is writing her doctoral dissertation at the University of Helsinki’s Cognitive Brain Research Unit.

Hanna Poikonen at Twitter @WiseMotionCo

From the Researcher’s Pen is a series of articles in which researchers describe their work. This article was produced by Uutistamo in cooperation with the University of Helsinki.

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How to Use Maori Weaponry

Em vez de traduzir os vídeos, “Como usar as armas Maoris, partes 1 e 2”, preferi falar só do que me chamou a atenção neles: a integração que algumas vezes ocorre entre o bélico, o estético e o espiritual.

O filme já começa mostrando que há um grande cuidado artístico na confecção das armas maoris em geral.

Depois, focaliza a taiaha, salientando que ela passa por diversos artesãos, cada um especializado em uma arte.

Eles, então, a levam a lugares e rios sagrados para a impregnarem de força espiritual.

Como ancestral do guerreiro, a taiaha fala com ele, vê o espaço em volta dele e entra no campo de batalha com ele. Enfim, o protege.

A carranca nela esculpida, bem como a maneira de utilizar essa arma, têm uma razão de ser. Mais do que simples olhos entalhados na máscara que adorna a arma, eles veem. Veem o espaço em torno do guerreiro que a empunha e que está com o olhar fixo à frente.

Vendo o que o guerreiro não está enxergando, eles ajudam a taiaha a protegê-lo. Por isso, ele “varre” com ela todo o espaço em torno de si. A brande o tempo todo e a gira para todos os lados. Assim ela o transforma no homem de seis olhos.

Isso é invariável nas diversas ocasiões em que é usada, seja nos combates ou nos discursos rituais, como na arenga de boas-vindas feita a um visitante. Ali, ela apoia a fala do orador e amplia o seu domínio sobre o público.

O filme segue para o patu, uma arma curta, como o rakau. Mas entre uma e outra, não deixa de abordar o tewhatewha.

Esse também tem espírito sobrenatural, ancestrais e corpo. Instrumento de guerra afim à taiaha, nele o guerreiro carrega consigo a força e a essência de seus antepassados.

Em relação à exibição artística, um dos entrevistados do filme diz que a sua experiência em mostrar as artes e os rituais maori no palco, o preparou para se tornar um guerreiro na tribo da qual faz parte.

Por fim, o cineasta conclui que todas as armas são imbuídas de força vital, poder e espírito e que elas devem ser respeitadas por isso.

Assim, não é, por vezes, também estética e espiritual a arte da guerra?