Body and Mind… a conflict or a reconciliation?

A few weeks ago, fellow dancer Megan Hartmann came to stay with us for an undetermined amount of time to study, dance, relax, and gain perspective… but because I can’t make my brain stop, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my place as a dancer vs. my place as a thinker in the belly dance world and in my own head.

I think I have figured something out, and of course I reserve the right to alter my conclusion at any time.  At the end of the day, I am an amateur philosopher.  I spend more time in my head than I do in my body.  I am a dancer, but without my musings on expression, art, and integrity, my dance is nothing.  Dance is a vehicle for my ideas, a means to express my ideals and my internal self. My body is a vessel for my contemplations.

My roommates, however, are much more connected, I think, to their bodies as BODIES, as physical beings.  When the three of us were talking about what we’d like done with our bodies after we have passed away (a morbid and yet fascinating conversation), they said that they’d like to be buried, particularly my dance partner Natalie Brown.  I’d rather be cremated. I’d rather return to the spiritual world, whereas they would rather continue to inhabit their bodies even after death.

Megan and Natalie often wake up and want to dance.  I wake up and want to think… and I’ve been thinking about my place as a dancer, as a physical being with a brain that won’t stop.  When I see my roommates just dance and enjoy the act of dancing without analytical thought… and I wonder, “how can I get there?”  And should I get there as a dancer? Or are my reasons for dancing just different, and should I just embrace my motives as they are and build on them?

I love the feeling of being lost in dance, but it is a rare moment when my frontal lobe takes the back seat and just lets my body do a majority of the work.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing, or is it just a thing?  Does this make me any less of a dancer? And what does that mean that I would rather embody my thoughts than my physical self? Does this harm my position as a performer, does it enhance it, or does it just make me different?

I’ve known for a while that my personality type is rare, especially for women.  In the Myers-Briggs lexicon, I am an INTP: The Architect.  The very first line describing my type on this website says:

As an INTP, your primary mode of living is focused internally, where you deal with things rationally and logically. Your secondary mode is external, where you take things in primarily via your intuition.

The second line?

INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities.

If you read the rest of the article, you’ll see where this conflict between my body and mind arises.

But is it a conflict at all… Maybe as a dancer, I am meant to inhabit my head and my ideas, whereas my roommates are meant to inhabit their bodies more.  What does that mean? Maybe that’s a post for another day.

 

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This mind-body division is a complete fallacy – any movement, organized or disorganized, is a product of something occurring neurologically. Your frontal lobe is as involved in dance as any other area of your brain – in fact M1 is IN the rostral portion of the frontal lobe, and no functions are exclusively localized to any portion of the brain. Our dependence and love of fMRI is creating this completely wrong approach to neuroscience – even if you see a particular area activating at a particular epoch, it doesn’t mean that that’s the “spot”, as fMRI doesn’t capture white matter activity nor the activity of essential subcortical structures. So stop beating yourself up about being a thinker. Being a thinker and being a dancer are in no way mutually exclusive.

 

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    Haha… thanks, Eugenia. I think I mean “Mind-Body” in more of a symbolic sense than a scientific sense. Clearly, the body can’t do anything without the brain, but I feel like I’m all up in my head while others are like, “let’s just dance!” And I ask… “Why?”

     

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Sorry, caudal, not rostral. I tired.

 

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My first thought was relief. “Oh, good. I’m not alone in this.” I personally get on my own case a lot about thinking about things so much more than doing them. (In fact, I get quite frustrated and impatient with myself for that sort of thing, particularly around more body-centered dancers. I’m sitting there having ideas, while they’re just existing in the dance.)

My second thought was, “Oh right. INTP.”

 

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(Also, I really hope I get to catch Megan while she’s in town so I can meet her. Alas, I won’t be back in town until the middle of August.)

 

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[…] I’ve been having a lot of conversations with my roommate and dance partner, Asharah, about the way our brains and bodies work.  Asharah is a fellow chronic overachiever, who went to an ivy league school and balanced a marriage, an international dance career and an analyst government job before she threw over her job and left her husband and ended up sharing what amounts to a a two bedroom headquarters for a strange little alternative circus in South Carolina with me.  Go figure.  Asharah is in her head a lot and very visual.  I inhabit my body very snugly and am very tactile.  My muscle memory and retention is much stronger than my intellectual memory and retention.  When Asharah listens to music, she sees colors and patterns.  When I listen to music, I’m analyzing melodies physically by air playing flute keys.  When Asharah choreographs in her head, she sees it on a headless dancer outside of herself.  When I choreograph in my head, I imagine what my muscles and bones will feel like as I execute movements.  Both of us have been hypnotized to various degrees by a friend of ours, and while Asharah had a very vivid visualization while she was under, I can’t see the damned hallway Fred keeps instructing me to see, and he couldn’t get me to leave my body for anything.  A lot of this dialogue springs from a conversation we had after a funeral we attended earlier in the week; we were sharing our wishes for what we wanted to happen after we died.  Asharah doesn’t feel much connection to her body and would rather be cremated.  I feel too much connection to my body and want to be buried in an ecofriendly way where some semblance and form of my body is retained, and sad little nerd girls can come to my grave, preferably under a dramatic willow tree, and preferably at midnight or later, to leave pennies, wine and other offerings in the style of Marie Laveaux.  So as can be expected when you stick two nerd girl artists in a house together and make them run their bellydance businesses from laptops on the same kitchen table, we’ve been expounding on our different approaches and how they affect our lives and our dancing for about a week.  We go through a lot of tea during our philosophizing, it turns out.  So as I sit here at 2 AM with a teacup at my right elbow and nutella at my left, thinking about the death grip my consciousness has on my broken and screwed up body, it rather makes sense that I ended up happiest expressing myself physically through dance and music, instead of rattling around in my neurotic head all day via pen and paper. […]

 

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I have a very similar personality type (INTJ) and have noted I have the same approach to art. One of my problems as a dancer/musician/costume designer/artist etc has always been getting far enough removed from analysis to actualize what I am thinking about. There’s nothing wrong with being a “cerebral artist”, but I think the danger lies in being so cerebral that you overthink the movements and it breaks down before you can even complete the motion (a problem I often have). Sometimes you gotta just move and go with the flow, but for cerebral types, that’s awfully difficult. Because of our personality types we have to work more at the emotional and unpredictable side of a performance, but once we get the knack of feeling through movement and going with the flow, I think those movements are just as meaningful, if not more so, because so much work was used to get that fusion of mind and body.

 

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It seems to me that one of the beautiful conflicts that arises in this (false?) division between mind and body is the dance, your dance. Dance is the third thing created by the friction of the two. Which I think is what you might be getting at in the other post regarding dance as shadow/art/internal struggle shared/bared for all to see. Plato was wrong, and dualism is boring, although a handy organizer.
-Jennifer from MD

 

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How interesting. My experience with dance is very similar, and I’m also an INTP.
I don’t have anything particularly insightful to add– just wanted to say that I totally understand.

 

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Um, I’m an INFP (with strong J tendencies) and very grateful to discover it’s not just me with this ‘problem’. Gives me hope I may be able to dance as gracefully and movingly as you someday (or at least still be breathing at the end of your DVD’s warm-up!)
It may be the ‘I’ that does it – a friend who is also an introvert went on a Myers-Briggs course and discovered that the ‘E’xtroverts couldn’t really think inside their heads but used talking instead (and were baffled that anyone could live/think like an ‘I’ntrovert!)

 

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