Motion, as the medium of dance, is the basis of its technique and artistry. It includes within it all the dimensions related to time, space, as well as the additional companion dynamics involved in laws of motion. During the process of moving, one can explore separately all the components involved. One can taste the nature of gravity or momentum, the mathematics and sensations of time, the volume or length of space; these in all their known values or mystical implications. But for now, we are concerned with the sense of the motion itself -- where all else gives innocent support to the qualification of action.
If we could reduce the human instrument to its motional capacities along with the most elemental control of the psychical stimuli to move, we would probably gain a wonderfully primal experience of the meaning of action.
The human body is predominantly an axial instrument. Bones, tied joint to joint, are pulled into action by muscles which in turn receive their explosive power from the nerves, which in turn receive theirs from message impulses from the brain.
We cannot relieve ourselves of all motional censorship, nor would it be safe to. We have learned to stand upright and to walk by means of the censorship which experience brings. The child, after learning the disasters of falling, finally learns what not to do as well as what to do. On the other hand, many motional inhibitions stem from fear sources which are not kinetic but psychical restrictions -- so many of which must be unlearned by the dancer.
However, in this exploration we are concerned simply with mobility and the basic feelings of mobility -- devoid of the literal drama of mad, sad, or gladness.
By no means the most simple act of mobility but the most fulsome one is that of propelling the entire body through space.
Dance as the art of motion is subject to the same physical laws of action as all moving objects.
Man enjoys unique privileges of motivation because of the nature of his physio-psychological energies. However, his physical action itself, aside from these energies, is as liable to gravity, momentum, centrifugal force, centripetal force, aerodynamics and friction as any other like body of physical matter.
From the cradle the baby learns subconsciously as well as consciously to cope with these laws of motion. His first walking steps are precarious adventures in which he strives to control and direct his body into harmony with these external powers.
He learns to loose his balance purposely into the direction of his interest and to ply his feet in that direction in time to prevent disaster. He learns to lift his feet high enough to overstep obstacles. He begins to compute his will of action with space and time. His every waking moment employs him in refining that skill until he encompasses a control within the normal range of maneuvering required in his society.
His learning process involves the energies of his mind as they direct the energies of the body as these in turn compute and utilize the energies of time and space. He acquires special recreational and work skills, yet his skills need never reach his ultimate capabilities.
In dance the skill of motion is challenged to the highest, not the special skills of manipulating instruments outside of the body, but the skill of handling the body itself in action. Ultimately the dancer makes the motional forces serve rather than dominate him.
Motion is the result of a particular kind of phenomena. It is that which occurs when energy displaces a body of matter. It is change of location in space. The nature of energy, the nature of the matter plus the laws of motion governing the change is that which gives us the realization of life. Since varieties of motion are infinite, motion as the medium of dance provides a limitless scale of kinetic possibilities.
Motion, of a body of matter, involves three elemental phases: "passivity", "disturbance", and "outcome".
Passivity refers to the still object from a relative point of view. The object particularly an animate thing, may have motional life within itself. Yet as a passive entity it remains within its own space. The dancers use this as inaction, although the body itself is alive. Inaction in the human instrument is highly complex and variable. But for the moment we can conceive of it as being in stillness, pause or stasis.
All physical bodies in the passive stage have certain properties which condition the manner of its motion. The properties of a rubber ball makes its reaction to the impact of a blow different from the reaction of a wooden ball or a balloon. The size, shape, weight and nature of the physical properties predetermines to an extent the nature of the object's action.
The physio-psycho-biological character of the human body adds its complexities through its muscular ability to change the body's texture. Muscles can be hardened or softened or divided between the two in their arrangement of textures. Through the axial facility of the body it can change shape. Consequently the physical properties of the body unlike the inanimate thing, are endlessly variable. Therefore stillness or the passive phase is predetermined by the state of mind and varies in qualities and shape the body assumes.
The second phase of motion is disturbance, i.e., the direction and force of the power which activated the thing. Direction refers to where the object receives its impetus; and the logical consequence. Disturbance is further qualified by whether it is expended immediately or varied in its release, distinguishing the force as percussive, push, pull, sustained, held and released or the like.
In another form of action out of stillness, a position is held and then simply released into gravity and its companion forces, no energy is expended to cause action but rather the reverse; energy is removed. Falling, dropping and swing actions result from this nature of doing. In this instance, it is gravity which supplies the driving power. The release is the disturbance.
It is in disturbance that motion particularly defines itself as dance. Previously the word dance was customarily applied only to those actions which resulted from the energy arising and determined in the body of the moving thing itself. Furthermore this thing must be neuro-physiologically endowed, all other moving objects being said to dance only metaphorically.
The human instrument, for the most part, offers its own disturbance, delivers its own impulsion, by way of motivation.
The third stage, outcome, brings into greater play the laws of motion; gravity, momentum, centrifugal and centripetal force. In the inanimate object the nature of this stage is predetermined by the properties of the object plus the direction and degree of the disturbance source. Thus the rubber ball will respond to the friction and degree of force according to its properties of resilience, its size, weight and shape and the laws of motion governing such an object.
In the human instrument the psycho-physiological endowment and conditions make this stage infinitely variable.
For example, motivation may stimulate certain senses which may cause reactions that change body textures in such a way as to affect the motional result. Or more precisely it may change its shape or textural properties while enroute. These varient can effect actions within the body which in turn can affect the motion as a whole.
The human being is such a multidimensional instrument that he can assume metaphorically, any kind of form, therefore his first decision is to determine what nature of thing, res or gestalt his instrument will be.
If we now inspect this figure in terms of the three phases of action we again find a considerable change.
In the passivity or stasis stage the metaphoric figure need not necessarily represent mankind either specifically or generally, both his physical and psychical attitude are free. The human instrument in this state is akin to a musical one, one finely tuned to motion but not limited by action normally associated with human psychological life, abstract or otherwise. A whole other realm of actional language becomes possible. Instead of being the human being in a particular space, the metaphoric dancer may be the nature of that space instead. In this case instead of designing himself as a human creature in space, he must create the means whereby his literal humanism is subdued. His body becomes instead an instrument directly revealing the quality of his space idea. Like a musical instrument, instead of seeing the piano being played we hear its sound.
More specifically, in the still or stasis state the tensions the dancer sets up on his body do not necessarily relate to a human mood, instead he sets up tensions which relate metaphorically with his subject. His tensions are not representative of emotion. In the arms of a boy who plays at being an airplane the tension of the spread of his arms is the stress of plane wings. This example is quite literal, unsubtle, but the analogy serves to illustrate the difference of relative dynamics. If we were to dance not an airplane but a state of space or time, or anything non-concrete, the poetic challenge is apparent. By this metamorphosis all physical barriers are removed and dance becomes the art of motion in the same way that music is the art of sound.
Proceeding to the second motional phase, that of disturbance; the impulsion to move relates to the logic of the established stasis. The qualitative nature of the body will dictate the nature of the movement. A metaphorically tense body moves in consonance to the tensions and stresses which characterize it.
The third motional phase, that of adjustment or outcome follows the same principle, in terms of its identity. That is, the bulks and tensions of the subject refers to their identifying Gestalt and to the resulting logic of their dynamics in space and time. Such tensions are no longer considered bias or restrictive to action, but compatible to the action. The arms of the airplane boy are tense because they represent a thing which has that tension as a reasonable and necessary fact of its being. Consequently such tension is not a hindrance to his act but a necessity. The boy's actions take into account the holding and manipulation of tensions essential to qualify his subject.
The arms of the airplane boy are not stiff because of fear, anger or the like. Redundant tensions or other forms of bias are as unwanted as they are in the other forms. As a matter of fact tensions of emotional derivation are more likely to destroy a metaphor because their chance of obliterating an illusional subject are greater than in an actual dramatic context. Tensional manifestation of emotion are very powerful and the slightest appearance of any of them will cause all other action qualities to be relatively subservient to it. (This is often why the contemporary dancer may seem to be dead-pan. The tensions of the face are now obliged to match the tensional structure of the whole body and as such are much more subtle in appearance than the emotive face of the traditional modern dancer.)
In dance the figure may transcend its humanism and, like music, become anything. The dancer may be abstract or concrete. He may be the essence of a character without being the character itself. He may be a sound or a color. He may be an emotion without being the emoter. He may be the quality of a time or a space. He may be a thing of nature or an invention of the mind. In the act of transcending himself he utilizes the most powerful and valuable thing of humanism, that is his power of change, of becoming, of full transcendence. He can reduce himself to the microcosmos or expand himself to macrocosmos. Instead of only the world, he can now encompass the universe.