Have you ever been ‘touched’ by a piece of music? Do you prefer to hug or shake hands? Why is it that touch is one of our least understood senses?
When you make contact with another person, you are completing an energetic connection with a physical one. And while the mechanics of the interaction are relatively simple, the myriad ways that human touch can manifest are infinite.
Think about it. A man and a woman are having a heated argument and he reaches across the table and gently touches her forearm. In this situation she might recoil and respond with harsh words.
In a different scenario, the same man and woman are having a kind and loving conversation. The same hand touching her forearm with the same gentle pressure elicits an entirely different response. They hold hands, leading to a warm embrace.
So touch is just touch, and when we interact with inanimate objects it is neutral. An ice cube or a hot pan is what it is, and we automatically drop it or hold on tighter accordingly. But when we connect with another sentient being, be it human or animal, the consciousness and emotional content behind the gesture is inseparable and every bit as important as the touch itself.
We humans thrive on touch, it’s like nourishment for our souls. Growing children deprived of touch become developmentally handicapped with emotional problems. A warm touch or heartfelt hug releases oxytocin, the feel good hormone that’s vitally important for our well-being.
And so it is with music, movement, and the human voice as well. The sound of a vocalist with musicians playing live or the electromagnetic resonance of a vinyl record has a way of touching our heart and enlivening our soul from a distance.
The human voice is an incredibly nuanced instrument. While the number of commonly played musical instruments and commonly heard electronic sounds might be somewhere in the hundreds or low thousands, there are literally millions upon millions of distinctly unique vocal expressions throughout the world and the history of recorded music.
Our weekly Dance Jam in Berkeley is a living laboratory where we study touch and the effects of music first hand. Unlike many so-called “ecstatic dances” we play a wide variety of vocals in our mix, and always provide organic analog sound. From Letta Mbulu to David Bowie, we make a point of observing how the different textures and tones invite interaction between our dancers.
The next time you have an opportunity to experience live music, pay close attention to how it touches your heart. If you, (or someone you know), has a turntable, vinyl records, and a decent stereo, take some time to listen to something that you really love, and ask yourself how it feels and notice how your body starts to move.
We understand that touch is an important reason that people choose to connect with themselves or others on the dance floor. We intentionally provide several different genres or textures of music throughout the course of each dance. It’s fascinating to see the effect of different records on people.
Certain music will have people meditatively holding their hands on their heart. Some will have folks connecting in pairs or small groups doing contact improv. And there’s always a few tunes that invite people to swing around playfully in partner dances. At some point during the night a steady grounding beat where people can individually connect with their roots is what’s called for.
You may have plenty of healthy touch and connection in your life, or you may feel like there is room for more. We don’t have the answers and can’t really explain why, but the evidence we see over and over before our eyes is that live music or the analog sound of vinyl records provides that nourishing touch that our souls crave so much.
The secrets of consciousness remain a mystery, yet our experience of it is with us every waking moment. Henry Rollins made this famous observation some years ago. “Sitting in a room, alone, listening to a CD is to be lonely. Sitting alone in a room with a turntable, listening to an LP crackling away, is to enjoy the sublime state of solitude.” Somehow, analog audio touches our hearts and keeps us company in a way that digital sound simply doesn’t.
You can easily explore the difference between loneliness and solitude in your own life. Sometimes it’s worth taking a step back or a new approach to get perspective and to make sure you’re getting the nourishment you need. The feeling of a beloved artist touching your heart through the magic of analog sound is an experience worth seeking.
Have a great dance with your world this week! May your heart be touched and love light your way!
Dance First Member Spotlight Fred Sugerman and Medicine Dance!
This week’s Dance First member spotlight shines on Fred Sugerman and Medicine Dance!
Fred is the host and driving force behind Medicine Dance , a weekly conscious dance event happening in West Los Angeles as well as workshops and immersions in Hawaii and the UK.
Medicine Dance is a “verbally guided, often music-accompanied movement experience. We identify present moment thoughts, feelings, and sensations and invite them to be expressed through the body. In a Medicine Dance class or workshop we dance from the inside, out.”
Here’s what Somatic Psychologist Gary Glickman LMFT Ph.D has to say: “Medicine Dance integrates two fundamental aspects of consciousness — intersubjectivity and bottom-up processing — by creating safe relational, experiential containers for the body’s movement into and out of autonomy and communion, inner and outer awareness. By slowing down, by encouraging all sensations, feelings, and emotions to emerge and allow them to transform, by enhancing curiosity, movement, and radical self agency (always do only as much or as little what you wish to do, follow the body’s inherent impulse), Medicine Dance sessions provide safe relational experiences that encourage greater comfort with self-agency and self-awareness on all levels of consciousness…”
Here’s a video where Fred talks about his approach, and here’s an audio recording on Soundcloud where he discusses it further. And Fred was one of our special guests for an interview on theConscious Dancer podcast which you can listen to here.
You’ve got a special opportunity to experience Medicine Dance firsthand and join Fred for a special occasion next month. He is one of the many presenters offering a conscious dance experience atDance Camp Northwest, happening August 19th thru 26th at Fort Flagler State Park in Washington State.