Something magical happens when the vibration of movement and music become harmonized. When a dancer is so completely in the moment and in the music that the resulting shift in consciousness can generate feelings from profound inner peace to bliss.
This mysterious occurrence is what I refer to as the ‘dancers zone’, and seems to share some similar characteristics to the phenomenon, Duende which is “that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain”. Flamenco artists refer to Duende as a performance phenomenon that can be applied to any performance art where one experiences a physical and or an emotional bodily reaction to an artistic performance. Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca writes that “all the arts are capable of Duende, but it naturally achieves its widest play in the fields of music, dance and the spoken poem, since those require a living presence to interpret them, because they are forms which grow and decline perpetually and raise their contours on the precise present”.
Experiencing the ‘dancers zone’ on the rare occasion that i have felt it, is what leaves me feeling most satisfied as a dancer. In describing this ‘zone’ I can only speak from personal experience and many may perceive this phenomenon in a variety of ways. The ‘zone’ is a time where there is a feeling of temporarily being transported away from the ‘usual’ self, where one is able to become/feel/encapsulate the energy of the music and thus, express the essence of one’s spirit. I have found this experience to be incredibly healing and has also provided a doorway into allowing deeper layers of creative expression to arise. Through this present connection to the body and music, movement flows, inspiration unfolds and according to some, innovative choreography can be effortless. Dancers may find this state easier to obtain alone and in a personal sacred space, as opposed to performing for an audience. Performance can evoke a certain level of self-consciousness, however for some more experienced dancers it can assist in the process, if the ambience is suitable.
For some dancers, the ‘zone’ may spontaneously happen, however I would like to share some of the ways that I have found helpful in enhancing the likelihood of experiencing this state.
Intention: Begin by having a clear intention of what you desire to experience during your dance practice.
Music: Choose a powerful piece of music that allows you to express an aspect of your authentic self. Allow your self to tune into the music and surrender to the movement and emotion that becomes activated.
Lighting: Darkness provides a blank canvas for various forms of lighting ie. candles, coloured lighting, crystal lamps etc. Through changing the lighting you change the mood. You can further explore the effect of coloured lighting through researching colour therapy and the influence that certain colours can have on our mental, emotional and physical states.
Technical ability: A proficient dancer who feels confident in their abilities may be more likely to tap into the ‘dancers zone’. When a dancer has worked hard at developing their art, there can be a sense of empowerment. This can allow for less thinking and the ability to stay more present which can enable the embodiment of one’s spirit. However, some dancers may resonate with “free dance” practices, such as trance dance or ecstatic dance, where technique may not be an important factor but rather repetitive motion.
Satisfied Mind: A busy, dissatisfied mind (especially just prior to dancing) can inhibit staying present in the moment. Ensuring that you have ample time to centre, and to clear mental/emotional disturbance may assist in a more fulfilling experience.
Costuming: Dancing in an appropriate costume that you feel completely comfortable in can help transport you out of your usual mindset and to tap into the energy you aspire to express through your chosen piece of music.
Grounded: Feeling grounded in the body can create a sense of internal balance and harmonized energy flow. This can be achieved through practices such as breathing and visualisation exercises, which can encourage a balancing connection to ‘heaven and earth’ (as in Qi Gong exercises). Maintaining a proper dance posture, which “allows the god/goddess to enter” can also assist in a feeling of being centred and grounded in the body. Other practices such as Tai Chi, yoga and pilates are also very beneficial. According to dancer Zenya K. Horricks, “the more grounded in the body and experience, the more support there is for the infinite creativity of the universe to flow through you. Rooted in possibility, expressing outwards through infinitely diverse limbs”.
Living a creative life through dance as a from of expression is an individual journey, and through the gift of experiencing the ‘dancers zone’, one’s awareness and approach to their practice can be completely transformed. I have found it be a source of creative ideas and expressions, bringing an intensity, depth and richness to my dance practice. The interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that it is never guaranteed, and there can be a potential yearning and sense of dissatisfaction if this experience is never to be “grasped” again. Author Elizabeth Gilbert speaks on her approach to handling this predicament, in that “if you never happened to believe in the first place that the most extraordinary aspects of your being came from you, but maybe if you just believe that they were on loan to you from some unimaginable source, for some exquisite portion of your life, to be passed along, when you are finished, to somebody else”.