I rented a dance studio today. The room was large. I felt lost at first, outnumbered by its spaciousness. Moving within, my limbs wanted to consume the space like hungry vines, their wingspan growing into its emptiness. I needed a vast space to practice with the specific idea of breath in mind; respiration, health, emotion, wind, atmosphere. I held breath in thought to see how I could transfer its mental weight into the body. I found myself in a stream of images, a spider web of the places that breath travels, from air, sky, breeze, to sensations, disease, health, repose, flutter, to chest, belly and lung, to love, loss and retrieval. I found myself wondering what the rhythm of a lung sounds like, what beats a breath composes. Slowly, in wondering, a pulse flowered with feet and hands. One face of its rhythm manifested in turns, while another in crooked contractions cornered by the expansion of breast bone and ribs.
Lungs, breath, air, moving forward and backward in the subtly of a single breath, these themes have continued to emerge and re-emerge, forming a pattern to which I want to respond. I have been brainstorming themes to work with for a new performance. I have thought of the earth, the state of its ether, that which we inhale, and the detriment derived from a magnitude of thoughtless action. I have thought of rhythm, a mosaic of beats to represent the body’s own rhythmic patterns. I have thought of stillness verses motion, based on the borders of my telephone booth and the patience to breathe my way forward. I have thought of health: the body and the mind and the spirit needing breath for life, sustenance, peacefulness, connection, to function in wholeness. And I have thought of our emotions as conductors of the heart and lungs in their symphony of pumping, constricting, expanding, holding love and grief like water to tissue, holding the seat of our sensations in great gusts of fullness or shortness of inhalations. As I keep a notebook of the themes that have been inspired to mind through books, images, films, daily moments and conversations, I realize that in each of these themes is the act and weight of respiration.
Two weeks ago, in a sudden moment of awareness, I found myself captured by the significance of the ability to take a full breath. I also found myself in a position of time and choice. My recent work had come to an end and I had the opportunity to spend a month in Vermont to let emerge what could, to wake up in the same room for a series of weeks for a sense of consistency and simplicity, and to see about a love that has been growing like spring in this midst of an ever cooling fall. A week and a half has now passed and I spy a nest being woven straw by straw, one of possibilities as I am hand-delivered perspective, transitioning me from feeling enclosed in a motionless wade to being deliberately still in its limbo, and curiously aware of nascent motion. In my retreat, I am taking notice that from interconnected themes to the most mundane daily deeds, from webs of possibilities to perspectives emerging in an unforced flow, it is all, it is all, about breath.
by Ouda Baxter