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The art of movement, and its beauty

If rhythm is a form of considered movement, then you understand the world in terms of motion

My childhood was peppered with various dance lessons: instructions on form, rhythm, and movement. I would spend hours watching the grace with which more accomplished dancers moved across the floor, the way their hands made complicated, elaborate signs in the air, the way the tip of their feet lightly touched the ground, the way their eyes swiftly dismissed any imperfection, visible or perceived.

Movement is beautiful, and it is intrinsically linked to the beauty we come to associate with all sentient creatures: the human body, the cheetah, the gliding fish.

The dance lessons gave me a glimpse of the strange relationship that stems from understanding culture, the accepted movements within that standard, excelling at it, and hence being beautiful.

Cognitive science has associated movement with sense, and suggested, for many years now, that the relationship between the two is largely determined by a stimulus-response dichotomy. A 2013 paper suggested for instance, that “the tendency for rhythmic coordination, sometimes referred to as ‘entertainment’, requires sensory-motor coupling.” Rhythm is linked to movements, and movements to our perception of the physical world with our bodies. The art of movement has been, in complicated ways, been culture-driven, neurological, evolutionary.

Musical rhythms and the rhythms of dance are perhaps easier to envision than the movements in literature, or movements in terms of experience itself, particularly movements across a space of time. The fact remains that movement, as a consequence of kinetic energy being produced, is distinct from, and only one of the constructs in a given space.

Consider movements in the realm of political actions, which was beautifully articulated to be a space, rather than a constant, physical energy. In one of her essays, Judith Butler refers to Hannah Arendt’s work and states that all political action or movement requires a space, or rather a “space of appearance”, which is simply beyond the physical establishment, and is also “a space which belongs properly to alliance itself”. There is perhaps no one better than the philosopher, Butler, to understand that movement transcends the body, that the body itself is simply one of the tools of movement as we have understood, merely as a “sensory-motor coupling”, and in fact, can cut through to actions of ideas.

Like linguistics, and perhaps because of it, the concept of movement steals into our language and sneakily into our habitual thought process — the relationship of movement and language, and essentially of language and thought. Ashok Vajpeyi, the poet, wrote that poetry is essentially rooted in the “rhythm of life”. He states, and quite eloquently, that “without rhythm, there would be no poetry. In poetry, all too often, this rhythm of life also shapes the rhythm of language — a unique human invention.”

If rhythm is a form of considered movement, then you have an understanding of the world in terms of motion, always in a constant rhythm, creation and destruction, rise and fall, crescendo and diminuendo; somewhat like poetry, rhythm of life (movement), flowing seamlessly into language. A good example of this is also the construction of metaphors.

In her book The Secret Life of Words, Anne Curzon talks of George Lakff and Mark Johnson, and how they discussed the “idea of a conceptual metaphor, that is, a more global metaphor that structures the way we talk about something”. They go on to assert that these metaphors, most definitively, shape our cognitive or conceptual processes through our direct experiences of the world. Movements of the world shaping our language; movements of the language shaping habitual thoughts, and thus our experiences.

It is to be considered that when movement allows us motion, in music, dance, stories, language and thought, then it allows us, in a way, to be limitless. Like poetry, the concept of movement allows us to move beyond the “generalised, simplified, totalised versions of life, reality, the world”. If that is so, it is interesting how movement in any form, whether temporal, spatial, spiritual, or merely in conventional physical spaces, allows for incredible flexibility and freedom. Movement of thought allows revolutions, movements of notes allows music, movements of dance allows aesthetic, symbolic, and cultural values, movements of all kinds, especially those that dare to travel beyond the confines of our physicality, allows imagination.

If we can permit ourselves to understand movement fully, we permit ourselves to perceive, think and reflect. We allow ourselves the privilege of reimagining dance, music, and the way you and I talk, or think, or love. We move into an incredible space of liberty, primarily in thought, but perhaps more restrictively in defining beauty, or maybe even doing away with it. The beauty of movement, is the beauty of thought, the beauty that lies in specific details of poetry, or the constructed metaphors of language. Movement begets life, and our lives are rooted in thought. Move, think, begin.

shohini.sengupta@

vidhilegalpolicy.in

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:59:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-art-of-movement-and-its-beauty/article18310372.ece

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