Bodily Emotion

I may not have that a strong intuition to how my body express my emotions since dance is still a relatively new phenomenon to me; this body has been painting for more than thirty years, but moves according to score for only about a year. Express not in the sense of facial expression, but of the complete scheme of movements of my entire body. I’ve originally supposed that movements evoke emotion, or, at least allow certain emotions to emerge, if it, the subject matter even if it is not identifiable, do exist, but I’ve since adjusted my concept, recognizing that it may not always be the movement that “triggers” the emotion, but the emotion chooses the movement, or, at least, certain movements allow certain emotions to be released. They are so fleeting and so not constrained by logos that it is hard to differentiate the cause apart from the result, they arise spontaneously without reasoning thus are difficult to define.


Speed is in my experience not the most provocative quality regarding expressing emotions, it can randomly link to joy and ecstasy, which would be considered positive emotions, or madness and anger, which conventionally would be negative emotions. And a sudden abruption of movement can in a way demonstrate confusion or doubt; at least for me.  But I don’t see it directly suggests specific emotions, it seems that it actually requires other subtle characters, maybe even context, to determine what exact emotion is realizing. That being said, it can hardly be sad when we are moving fast, although we have this sort of collective memories of a specific image that people running away while crying, it doesn’t seem to be the way I experience sadness or grievance. It must be slow; the hearse slowly passes the town, that’s our perception, so when I grieve, I move slowly, as if I need that much time to process the pain. Or maybe in a sense, it’s the pain that slows us down, that we are not capable of moving fast. But is it really that we are dragged by the pain, or rumination, or we are simply taking our time to collect ourselves, when we are processing anything overwhelming, or that this perception is so heavily engraved in our body language that we conform to the reign of steadiness? I do not know.

Giving up control

I recognise the fact that I’m exploring more about grieve and anything regarding atrocity, simply because we see joyfulness and festive emotions all over the place; we know it very well; we experience it without hesitation. They are visible, we don’t hide these emotions that often.

Also, this is maybe not very much about anger, as it is the most instinctive emotion, maybe the most ancient one, that it reacts so fast and is so demonstrative that we don’t need to look at it directly to recognise it. It is there when you hear that pounding, the erupted ones, it is madness. 

But pain can be invisible, maybe fear too. It is not the invisibility that makes them so different, it’s the intention to cover those emotions makes it so crucial, as our body desires an outlet for those emotions. In a sense, to let go of something.

And I am still not certain what to let go of? Is it to let go of the emotion itself, to let go of the obsession, to let go of the desire to do something, to let go of the pain, but how to let the pain go?

I don’t really think we can let go of pain, it’s not like inventory that we can control, being mindful only teaches me that we have no control over our emotion, certainly, not over our pain, physical or psychological. But I somehow have this tendency to, through certain type of movement, release something non-verbal through the act of giving up. There was a period of time I intentionally let my body fall as a distinctive part of my score. Giving it a chance to not care, probably; to not act proactively, but free it from the control of consciousness, to loosen my thighs and knees, to cease the support from the lower body, or to stop the hamstring from being stiff, to allow the spine to bend to ground. A physical way to demonstrate my intention of giving up. 

But giving up is not, in anyway, an emotion, not even desperation an emotion, it is a quasi-intentional act to allow the release of something, something I yet to define, or a complex of multiple objects. 

And there are other forms of giving up, swings and roll. 

There are subtle differences between the swings, and there is this one that I move solely my core, and allows my limbs to swing without directing the arms, the legs; I forget about the tips of the body, I conduct the movement by directing my core. And also, the rolling, which actually consists of two separate but seamlessly connected movements, a pull of body to the point of losing balance, and the release of body by its own weight. The second part is obviously less intentional, although we do intend to roll by initiating the first part of the movement.

But this, the act of giving up, is significantly more cognitive than instinctive. The act is a complex of understanding how reality works and a purposeful reaction to it, a choice to not act in a way.

These two movements, I found, are less intuitive in terms of giving up control, as they require intentional manoeuvres rather than a single, direct action, like lying down, and thus intrigued me to hypothesize that some movements are the representation of the emotions and some intentional movements allows the release of certain emotions. However, I don’t seem to have enough reason to conclude whether this is a universal phenomenon that is consistent on everyone, so it’s only an observation on my own experience. 


I use the term resistance to roughly describe all the movements that require using force to sustain certain positions especially against an existing force, such as weight. As a result in its nature a lot of the movements I’m going to describe are partly static, like plank, overarching the body, but in other cases it can be something more active, such as grabbing and holding any body part, pushing into the wall, etc.

I didn’t pay enough attention to how resistance interact with emotions, but simply recognised that I tend to perform the kind of movements frequently when I’m stuck in my emotional turmoil, the resistance represents naturally my struggle, or, to a certain stand, my reaction to pain, as the very word “struggle” implies an action against an unfavourable condition, and that action can be easily interpreted as resistance. 

So, I am not certain if resistance represent an emotion, but it certainly doesn’t induce emotions. I see it as a reaction to many of the negative emotions that we want to get rid of, the disappointment, grief, sadness, desperate, etc., but then, are those clearly emotions? Or they are more cognitive? 

What is more interesting, is that if we resist emotions through resisting physical force (even simply as metaphor), does that suggest subconsciously we equate the existing force to emotions (or to the source of emotion like pain)? And that emotions are a force to be put upon us unwillingly? And if the metaphor does function as what I just suggested, then should we reconsidering resistance, but to relieve the force instead?

Weight and gravity

It’s interesting to think about what weight and gravity means to us, in the language of body movement, or, dance? In a sense, it is something we always fight, as we cheerfully celebrate dancer’s movement as “light” and “free”, and that elegance always suggests weightless and effortless, at least traditionally. But at the same time, some may use the specific gesture that emphasis the effect of gravity to signal strength and power, which is somehow a confirmation of the overwhelming presence of weight and gravity – the force that exist to challenge us. After all, why do we need strength and power, isn’t it only to counter the force that oppress us? 

I am certain there are many more dimensions and variables, such as muscle contraction, intentional sounds (voice), distance between objects and subjects, etc., that expose unintentionally our emotion, however subtle or intense. But what I don’t know is whether we actually translate all these into our dance language, or if they have a universal scheme, that allows a clear reference to our inner self? Or maybe I just disclosed something so intimate that only reflects my personal history and has nothing to do with the universality of the somatic response?

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