GAGA AND THE FASCIAL BODY
“My prayer comes in the form of my body moving through space, breathing, folding, flowing, pausing, stillness…”
Fascia*, shortly described as the matrix or spider web –like tissue with a JELLY feel that holds our skeleton, organs and muscular- and joint system together as one piece, intertwining and connecting the whole body as one piece, from bone to skin, can be described as the FLESH that Gaga refers to in its movement language.
Fascia allows us to move more naturally with less effort and more curves. The fascial body invites us to cultivate awareness and create space due to its proprioceptive and sensory quality and its great ability to transmit information and fluid within the body.
How does this show in Gaga dance methodology?
Joint system & skeleton
Science: Our fascia needs to be juicy and spacious in order to enjoy maximum mobility in joints and muscles. We need space for the fluids to flow through and for information to be transmitted.
CUE: Move the spinal column and the ribcage as if its seaweed.
Science: Our spine, and so also our ribcage are more like soft baskets that have the ability to wave and adjust to motion. They are neither a column nor a cage; they are much softer than that.
CUE: Keep joints open, including the jaw.
Science: Locking up joints (or muscles) causes the fascia in and around the joints and muscles to harden and become less juicy, which can result in damage of the fascia when pulled too sudden, too long or too hard. Both fascia and muscles recover solely through fibers, which do not have the ability to absorb fluid. Not having enough fluid in the fascia may result in a lack of mobility in the joints and muscles, which can cause severe and life-long injuries. The only way our body knows how to fix damaged fascia is through these stiff fibers. Once the damage is done, it is hard to repair.
The jaw is a 1.5 kg joint. Locking one joint may result in many other joints to lock up as a domino effect. Our joints are like organs and like sponges, they are hydraulic. For joints it is better to be fluid and open; allowing pulsing movements rather than direct contact of bone on bone. When we lock one joint, the whole system in our body locks up and there is no optimal transmission of fluid in our body.
Locking up joints (or muscles) causes the fascia in and around the joints and muscles to harden and become less juicy, which can result in damage of the fascia when pulled too sudden, too long or too hard. Both fascia and muscles recover solely through fibers, which do not have the ability to absorb fluid. Not having enough fluid in the fascia may result in a lack of mobility in the joints and muscles, which can cause severe and life-long injuries. The only way our body knows how to fix damaged fascia is through these stiff fibers. Once the damage is done, it is hard to repair.
CUE: Feel like you are moving through fluid.
Science: Anatomically our skeleton floats in fascia. It could technically stay up without muscle, if placed correctly in line with gravity. Fascia, in general our whole body, is filled with (80%) water. Fluid movements are most natural for our bodies.
CUE: Rather than contracting muscles, allow them to swim and feel like jelly. (A deep stretch is also a form of contraction.)
Science: Stretching muscles for longer periods can cause surrounding muscles and joints to lock up. Locking up muscles (or joints) causes the fascia that wraps in and around the joints and muscles to harden and become less juicy, which can result in damage of the fascia when pulled too sudden, too long or too hard.
Tensegrity & connections
CUE: Use the engines in your body. For example: use the pelvis as an engine to move the whole body.
Science: Fascia transmits information rapidly from one part through the whole body. Our joints and bones can function as an engine initiating movement throughout the whole body. The pelvis is a large engine which consists of a large fascial space. The bigger the engine is the bigger echo of the movement.
CUE: Move the body holistically, as if it were one. Throw something imaginary using the whole body, from the feet out of the hand. Or try throwing from the hand out of the foot.
Science: Our whole body works together as one piece; every motion affects the whole bodily system. Fascia works as tensegrity; when one part moves, the whole system will adjust to make that movement happen. Example: pull your T-shirt on one side and see how all its atoms need to adjust their shape for this movement to happen. Movement of our bodily system echoes in its tensegrity model. Movement never stops abruptly.
CUE: Hug flesh to the bone.
Science: Our muscles hug around our bones and are technically woven into each other, as the whole body is interwoven by fascia.
CUE: Move your arms from your belly. Move your legs from your middle back T12 (thoracic spine vertebrae 12).
Science: Fascial connections are very relevant in moving. Our arms myo-fascially connect at the tailbone and our legs at T12. We (can consciously) lift our legs with our belly area.
CUE: Soften the chest; breathe in through the upper back/shoulder blades.
Science: We know that our arms and legs connect to T12, where our solar plexus (nerve system), our organs (including heart), our diaphragm (most important muscle for breath) and our digestive connection are also situated. Softening the chest and the back of the chest allows the area of T12 to soften and open so that all these important connections at T12 soften and relax for a moment.
Proprioception & Physiology
CUE: Feel where your body parts are, even when being in a room with no mirrors.
Science: Fascia is incredibly propreceptive, which shortly means that it knows where it is in space. So our arm knows where it is in relationship to other body parts. Fascia knows better where it is in space than our own eyes.
CUE: Move/Quake from your feet up. Move your pelvis from the feet and allow the communication in the body to be transmitted.
Science: Our feet are very sensitive and through neuro-fascia transmit a lot of information to our whole body and to our brain. We have 9 times more connective tissue cells than we have neurons. Nerve transition of information is 50 meters per second while connective tissue transmits information at 1500 meters per second. Our feet rapidly transmit information throughout the whole body, so a QUAKE from the floor naturally moves through the whole body if we allow it to.
CUE: Use animal-like movements and the spring effect in our feet, hands and joints.
Science: When using the correct movement we can easily access the natural spring effect of our hands and feet due to their complicated joint systems. Our feet for example have 26 joints that are held by tendons that function like elastics. Pulling 26 elastics and then letting go, can, for example, make it possible for us to jump really high like a quadrupedal animal.
CUE: Move in spirals and waves using curves and round motions rather than hooky ones. There is no end to a movement; the (80%) fluid in our body continuously flows in all directions if we allow it to.
Science: Moving in spirals and waves allows us to access more power and speed. We see this technique used a lot in martial arts.
This is because our muscles, organs, bones, nerve channels and nerves and our joint systems connect from skull to foot, without interruption, spiraling from top to bottom and inside the joints, tendons and ligaments. For example: our muscles are made of layers of tissue spiraling into one another. Contracting and releasing a muscle, which includes the natural contraction of your heart, is basically a coiling and recoiling movement of the muscle, squeezing and absorbing, like a sponge. Technically, everything in nature spirals. Look around!
CUE: Press off the floor to find space in and around the body. Feel as if you can move away from the floor rather than being pulled by it. Drop body parts in directions as if they are not pulled down by gravitational force. Drop up and sideways rather than dropping down. Work with horizontal forces.
Science: We can use gravity as a counter-force. What happens if we don’t press our feet in the floor when standing? We collapse. Same happens when ‘standing’ on our hands. The ability to push off the floor awakens a force that moves away from the floor; up, or in any given direction.
Relax & Observe
CUE: Take the volume down. Be still and connect to inner micro motion. Observe motion coming from within and feel the after-motion coming as an echo of what you previously moved.
Science: “Relaxation that is not a state of collapse, but a state of intense awareness”. Due to the tensegrity quality of our fascia, movement literally echoes inside the body. Besides, there is constant movement, life force, in our body. Our cells are busy creatures.
*Until recently fascia has been described as the connective tissue that keeps our muscular and skeleton system together. However, new studies have found that fascia is much more than that. We could describe fascia as our substance from bone to skin, just in different condensation. Scientists have so far made a difference between myo-fascia (muscle and tissue), neuro-fascia (nerve system and its communication lines), visceral-fascia (organs), osteo-fascia (connective tissue of bones) and our joint system. For example, our nerve channels transmit information through neuro-fascia. We now know that we are basically made up from one piece of tissue (fascia) that has unfolded, wrapped and spiraled itself into the complicated and intelligent body we are living in. And this body is still evolving!
All rights reserved – Nieke Franken, MyInnerBalance