Isometrics. It’s my word of the week—I have heard myself say it several times recently.
Isometrics is the the practice of engaging groups of muscles in opposition to each other. It is a stretching away from while yearning toward, contraction and expansion combined. All the core movements in our dance cluster around this junction between contraction and expansion. In embracing both impulses at once, isometric opposition gives power and intentionality to movement and mirrors this push/pull dialectic that exists in the music and poetry—of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, the heaven and hell of love.
Slow movement enhances this isometric quality. You can put a lot of urgency and drama into an exquisitely slow movement, imbue it with a thick, dripping, intensity as the muscles yearn both towards and away from each other. As strength increases, the affect of effortlessness increases, until the syrupy quality of the isometric movement oozes and pours out of the body.
This is how the calligraphic effect is created—the thicker, slower arcs of the line more richly isometric, as the movement presses against itself, the hip pulling up while simultaneously resisted by the upper body, the thinner portions faster, less opposed, little frissons of decorative curlicue as the movement passes the midline and relaxes into expansion.
The shoulders pull down, away from the neck, into the back, while the arms yearn out away from the body. Each sweep of the arms energizes this opposition, each lift and sway of the hip dramatizes another, each circle draws it out again and again, hovering on that delicate edge between love and loss, slowing down to heighten the intensity of oppositional contraction, swinging blithely though the convergence of release.
An awareness of this dynamic brings great dramatic charge to simple movement; the drama arises out of the muscular interaction, the restraint of oppositional contraction and the rushing lightness of expansion. The body takes great pleasure in articulating this, illustrating the dynamics within the music, texture as well as volume, speed and pitch, embracing the hesitations, the pauses, the spaces between the notes, taking time, relaxed and compressed in the same moment.
Try it–and please let me know how it goes.
Mohammad Reza Shajarian