25 Jun Emotional Intelligence & Interpretive Dance | Podcasts
Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. If you are interested in the art and science of prayer, why prayer seems to work sometimes and other times not so much, then you’ll want to listen to the first episode of our new series called “Our Sunday Talks.” To get access to this upcoming podcast series, produced exclusively for our patrons at Patreon.com, visit LivingHour.org/patron.
Now on to today’s reading, which has been edited and adapted from How to Develop Your Personality by Clare Tree Major, published 1916.
HAVE we forgotten how to feel? Life today is so external that it almost seems as though we have. However, our personal ideal will not be realized unless every part of our nature is developed, the emotional as well as the physical and mental. We must know how to feel, to feel keenly, but also to control our feelings.
Are you looking at a beautiful painting? Don’t merely catalogue it in your mind. Sit down before it and let it sink into your soul. See the sunset as a real thing, not as exquisite painted coloring. Go up on the hill-top with the artist. Sit with them there until the vision they saw of the opening of the heavens thrills your own feeling into responsiveness.
There are some feelings that we can neither put into word nor into action, and they are sometimes the very deepest, most sacred feelings of which the soul is capable. There are unconscious depths from which our more familiar and external characteristics spring.
Did you ever stand alone on the seashore and let the song of the mighty ocean fill your soul with its transcendent melody? You look out to the horizon across the roaring, foaming billows, and you know that far, far beyond your vision still rolls and tosses this great mass of living water. And your soul is thrilled with a sense of the insignificance of the trivialities of life, and some glimpse of the destiny of humanity comes to you, so that you go home conscious of a strange uplift that helps you to see above and beyond the petty annoyance of the daily grind, that helps to keep you in that perfect poise which is the essence of individuality.
It is in moments like these, when all that is external is forgotten, when the inner self is bathed in the glory of its natural life, that we gain the perspective that is needed if we are to make of ourselves all we are capable of becoming.
Under the influence of music, the physical, emotional, and mental are harmoniously and uniformly stimulated, for the moment bringing the triple nature up to its highest possible rate of vibration. This is the object of all self-culture. Every individual has a special, personal rate of vibration. When thought, feeling, and action are well trailed, free and spontaneous, a condition results of perfect equilibrium and poise which is a very fountain of energy — a radiant, vital force as real and vivid as a current of electricity.
It expresses itself physically in the nobility of the uplifted chest, an elation of movement that seems to spurn the earth beneath the foot. It shows in the quick sympathy of feeling: the ready response to the joy, the sorrow, and the love of others. It betrays itself in the quick, keen grasp of ideas by the mind; the clear, unbiased judgment; the understanding comprehension of one’s fellow citizens. And behind and through it all you sense the clean, strong soul, holding all these, its servants, in calm, assured, unafraid control.
The word “harmony” suggests to one’s mind a sister word, the word “rhythm.” The sense of rhythm is universal. It is a law of nature. The recurring seasons wax and wane in unchanging, unbroken rhythm. Night and day mark the pulse-beats of nature. The soft lapping of the silver sea whispering through the semi-darkness of a summer night; the budding, the flowering, the falling leaf; the unfathomable mystery of birth and death — all these come to us as pulsations of the great heart of the universe.
Our bodies are governed by rhythmic law. The heart beats; the lungs inflate and depress; the body demands nourishment through sensation of hunger and thirst, demands sleep to rebuild the wasted energies, with well-defined and systematic periodicity. The one perfect medium for the expression of the inborn sense of rhythm that exists impartially in every race of the human family lies in the dance.
The character of a nation is portrayed in its dances. As a nation, the real tendency with America seems to be in the direction of interpretive dancing, and of all types none can be more beautiful, useful, or truthful than interpretive, dramatic dancing. It is the logical sequence and development of education for self-expression. It is perhaps the only form of expression that gives scope for full mental, emotional, and physical freedom at the same moment.
I recently attended a most interesting exhibition of a system of eurhythmies, which begins as a form of physical training or movement to music, and develops into something that is scarcely an interpretive dance and yet is something more than pantomime to music. In many ways it was more pleasing to me than a dance because of the absolute control and co-ordination of muscular action.
Much could be done along these lines by the independent student. Select your music, and let the effect on your emotional nature suggest some story or situation to you. When this is established, sink yourself into the character and let the rhythm and development of the theme control your movements. Don’t try for stage effects, don’t try to think too much; just obey the suggestion of the music, even though at first the movement may be very slight.
As you accustom yourself to the sensation of abandonment, the impulse to movement will increase and clarify, and the story will open out to you from every aspect, offering an avenue for the expression of every thought and emotion.
One of the finest selections at the exhibition I mentioned was the characterization of a manacled prisoner. To the accompaniment of slow, soft music the curtain rises to disclose a man, his hands bound behind his back, lying outstretched on the floor. For a moment he lies there quietly, apparently asleep, but presently, as the music strengthens, he begins to stir, painfully and laboriously.
Slowly, with every evidence of great weakness, he staggers first to his knees and at last to his feet, where he stands for a moment struggling to maintain his balance. Then, with lagging steps, bent back, and hanging head, he begins to pace back and forth across his cell, at each turn lifting his head and body in an abandonment of despair. Soon his mood changes, and he pauses in the middle of the room and begins to struggle to burst his bonds.
To and fro his body sways, as he bends every effort toward regaining his freedom. He kneels on the floor, endeavoring to conserve his strength, and at last with one great effort the ropes that bind him give way, his hands are free. For a second he kneels there almost stupefied, unable to believe his good fortune; then, as the knowledge reaches his mind, there comes with it a fictitious strength that brings him leaping to his feet, his freed hands raised high in the air, his whole attitude expressing the fierce joy of a wild animal.
But slowly the realization comes to him that freeing his hands after all avails him very little, so long as he is confined in his cell, and now he gives way to a very madness of rage and despair, directing his fury toward the little door that shuts him away from the life of his kind. But, as he feels the hopelessness of his situation, his rage dies, the spasmodic energy fades, leaving him weaker and more broken than before.
Slowly he sinks again to his knees, every line of face and body expressing a very agony of helpless despair; gradually the tension slackens, his whole frame loosens, he sinks forward on his elbow, and then once more he stretches himself out upon the floor, the last twitching muscle relaxes, and the end is the same as the beginning, except that now he sleeps his last sleep and has won his eternal freedom.
This is an example of interpretive pantomime to music. One must guard against losing the strength of the dramatic element through too close attention to the rhythm of the sound, but if the rhythm is established first, and then the full abandonment given to the emotional quality, the dramatic force need not be affected.
Many very beautiful little situations can be worked out in this way, and one’s favorite musical selections made to live in a much more personal and intense way. A very charming and delicate little pantomime was that employed by Sir Herbert Tree in his production in London of “The Darling of the Gods.”
A little Japanese maiden is at play in her father’s garden when she spies a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. She leaves her play and begins to follow it, running after it as it flies to another blossom, creeping up to try to surprise it after it has settled, snatching at it with her little hand.
At last she manages to capture the pretty creature, and she kneels down on the ground in Japanese fashion and opens her hand slowly to examine her prisoner. But as the beautiful painted wings make no movement toward escape, the happy smile changes to a look of consternation and fear, and when she opens her hand fully and discovers that her pretty plaything is dead and that no petting or pleading can again send the life palpitating through the little body, her grief and self-reproach find relief in a passionate burst of tears.
The value of working out of these little stories lies in the element of freedom they give, not only to the physical, but to the emotional also. The essence of individuality or personality rests in the soul, in the “I am” of every person that marks us out as different from others, in the intelligence that guides and utilizes the thought, feeling and action of the body.
That soul can only grow and expand by means of the experiences it gains in this world, and it can only attain its fullest growth when its vehicles are fully under its control. To cultivate the mind by reading, study, and discussion; to free and enlarge the emotions by broadening and deepening our sympathies, and encouraging a keen and ready response to the joys and sorrows of others; to make of the body a clean, strong, healthy, sensitive instrument; means to make of ourselves a channel through which the strong soul may pour itself out freely, gladly, spontaneously, keying the whole personality into such intensity and vibrancy that the power of its magnetism radiates out as a vital force affecting everyone with whom it comes into contact. This is the secret of real beauty, and charm, and freedom of expression.
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