This week in Neuro Dance, we talked about different types of movements. Once upon a time, there was a man named Rudolf Laban who decided to study how people move. He separated movements based on three categories: weight, space, and time. Basically, some movements seem to weigh much more than others. A weary college student trudging underneath the weight of a heavy backpack looks far different from a little one skipping in the spring grass. (Oh, what a different fifteen years can make.) Movements also take up differing amounts of space depending on what the movement happens to be. Other tall people will know what I’m talking about: no matter how hard we try, we always end up bumping tables or hitting our head on things. Finally, some movements just last longer than others. As I’m typing these words right now, my fingers are moving fairly fast, but certain dance moves can take minutes to complete, depending on the skill of the dancer.
Mr. pink-nosed Rudolf combined these different movement types into eight distinctive types of movement – their names are fairly self-explanatory – floating, wringing, pressing, gliding, dabbing, flicking, slashing, and punching. Under his framework of thinking about movements, any specific movement can be tied back to one of these eight. For instance, typing on my keyboard would be considered a dabbing movement. It’s quick (time), light (weight), and direct (space). Alternatively, I could get angry and start typing REALLY HARD on my keyboard. Then, I would be punching it. My movements would be direct, quick, and strong. The other movement types can be separated in similar ways.
Another one of Laban’s ideas focused around the perspectives that we use to look at movements; we shouldn’t just look at the body as a whole, in other words. We often open and close different parts of our bodies depending on what we might be doing. For instance, when we sit down on the ground, we sometimes cross our legs. Other times we spread them out in front of us. Ruddy-faced Laban specifically talked about how people act in conversations. Often, you may see people close themselves off from a conversation by crossing their arms or legs. However, much more often, you’ll see someone open and close parts of their body simultaneously. For instance, someone might uncross their legs while sitting and fold their arms. Or, someone might cross their arms while standing but widen their stance. In this way, they’re still open to the conversation, just not as open as they could possibly be.
Having watched (and been in) a fair number of conversations, I can say that most are of the half-open, half-closed variety. Even between two comfortable friends, one or both participants are usually closed to some extent, but this isn’t always the case. When two people are having a deep, engaging conversation, you feel it, even if you aren’t one of the participants. You see both of their open postures, you see the looks on their faces as they talk with each other, and you feel something deep in your stomach. It’s quite amazing.
I’ve often felt there’s something hard-wired into us that lets us understand other humans, and I think this phenomenon is a fundamental part of it. I don’t think it’s simply learned behavior or just the mirror neurons in our limbic cortex (I mean, physically it is, but I still think there’s something more.) I think there are some deep connections in our brain that have been passed down through our genetic lineage. Some people ignore these connections, but everyone has them to a certain extent. It’s these connections that we strengthen by having or seeing these conversations.