It came to me today why I am being drawn towards learning Tai Chi.
Dance has always been a strong ‘language of the body’ for me. A way of expressing emotions that were always bottled up – even though tears were ever near the surface. An energetic release that I could control without tears or words.
Ballet requires the ultimate control. It takes great strength of body and mind to make movements that are so very controlled down to the smallest of muscle fibres, appear fluid. It takes knowledge of the deepest and highest of emotions to be able to capture the emotions of the audience and make them weep or rejoice with you – without ever saying a word.
Within my fitness world it was about controlled strength. When pushing the kind of weights I pushed, control and understanding of your body is absolutely essential in order to break the barriers you set for yourself without causing injury. There is also a very intense mind-game in play in order to constantly push your body into giving just a tiny bit more.
Bellydance is more of the same – or could be. I had come to the knowledge that my body would never again attain those lofty heights previously achieved. Body control was definitely needed in order to execute movements such as belly rolls, flutters, shimmies and balancing a sword on your head! But with the acknowledgement that I would never be an A-level performer came relaxation and enjoyment. For the first time, my body became an instrument that could express itself freely and without the high ideals I had set for myself within ballet and fitness. It was fun!
With age comes reality.
These things are all of my past. The knowledge of my body and the experiences are all still with me, but the stories are no longer important – other than they are part of what makes me me.
I still need to hold my body in control. My muscle memories demand nothing less. I can no more slump and slouch than I could cut off my right hand, but age also has a way of taking away that intense pressure of upright, balletic stance – it hurts to maintain that now! Injury has resulted in loss of the ability to balance that was demanded by ballet.
I am still, very much, an analyst of movement. I automatically break down each movement into muscles used and in what manner – isometric, eccentric or concentric. I automatically check and adjust my posture and I cannot help but look at those around me and analyse their posture, and how that could be affecting their health and what long-term issues they are likely to experience simply because of how they stand or sit or walk.
From where I am now, embarking upon this journey, and after analysing what little I yet know of Tai Chi, I see this is a way of movement that holds the control and minutia of the muscle memory; the demand of core strength and body-balance; and the inner knowing of mind and body required by ballet and fitness, and, through these things, the bringing to the surface of one’s very soul.
I will never be a Master of Tai Chi – I have discovered this too late in my life – but I see that, for me , it brings the discipline of body and mind that I crave, and eventually, (once I have mastered the movements), the spirit of the movements will emerge as I allow the Energy, the Qi, to flow freely through me.
And then there is the philosophy and history to learn…
This is a journey that will take me through the rest of my life.
I see that in Tai Chi, I will be able to relax the mental and physical control I have always moved under and allow my Soul to emerge – and not with any idealism of performance for others. This one is for ME.