When I was 13 years old, my father, sister, and I took a trip to NYC to visit my grandparents.
We were waiting on the subway platform one day, right in the middle of rush hour. It was the first time I had experienced the mass of humanity in this way and I was wondering how so many people could fit into such a small space.
My dad told me not to worry, that the government hired people who were called “sweepers” to push the hoards of people onto the subway tracks as a means of population control.
You never knew when a “sweeper” would appear, so you had to keep your eyes peeled.
Oh, I kept my eyes peeled.
Whenever I am in a subway station — still — I glue myself to the back wall, my eyes darting back and forth, back and forth.
I hold on tight until that train arrives.
And then that moment between stepping from the platform and onto the train — stepping from here to there while hovering over nothingness for that split second — that is a moment of abject terror, but also it is a moment of sublime transcendence. I can never tell if I am having a mini panic attack, or if I have stepped into a sphere of complete ease in the world. They both feel the same, just for that moment in time, when I am floating, above the gap.
I tell you this, because in an odd way, this is exactly what we are practicing and studying in my dance classes, and it is exactly what I am researching in my own dancing right now: Minding the gap.
Waiting to see what happens before, after, and within that gap time.
Johannah Franke, who has been working with me consistently for the past 13 years, and who comes from a rich and vibrant lineage in modern dance, wrote this to me last week, after a difficult experience she had in class, directly related to this gap moment:
“The gap I experience quickly becomes filled with fear. This is what became so very clear last Friday. I am so excited about all this!!! It is completely congruent with, for want of a better phrase- my “spiritual “ path. In a study group I’ve been in for several years with 4 other women we are reading Trungpa Rimpoche’s book, “Smile At Fear”. This week: “ The first step... is appreciating who we are, what we are, where we are…Fear becomes our study material, our working basis. We begin to realize we have no choice but to work with fear, and then to step over our fear and hesitation.” It is the stepping over this fear and hesitation that I think can lead me from the warmup to the gap and into the true dance. The loneliness comes because it is something one has to do with oneself, by oneself. (This could be great preparation for dying!) The "sad and tender heart”. This takes, as you have often reminded us, bravery…this is a solo journey, and different for each of us.”
Yes, I think so.
I sometimes wonder, in relationship to dance, if this gap moment is harder for those of us who have been steeped in dance technique.
I wonder if the unwrapping of the training leaves one feeling too exposed in a way?
I don’t know if this is true, but I am wondering about it.
What do you think?
Your Dance Mission for the Week is to mind your own gap moments, and to notice your sensation and experience.
Let me be more specific:
You are doing to dance this week for 10 minutes.
You are going to start in stillness and in silence.
You are going to wait to see what emerges.
You are going to let yourself be in the gap of unknowing.
You may come undone.
You may feel scared and alone.
You may not.
Notice what gently pulls you into movement, into stillness, into a combination of the two and everything in between.
What do you see?
What do you hear?
What do you sense?
What do you feel?
What, pray tell, transpires for you in these 10 minutes.
Share, post, talk about this newsletter with a friend.
And then, give yourself 10 minutes — just 10 minutes — and dance.
With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,
Joanna and The Agitators
sweetly agitating/persistently upending