But why BellyZen© is…zen?
An appropriate “zen” answer is that you cannot tell the answer in words, but only… dance it.
Behind this method there is all of my life and my personal experiences. It comes from two decades of experiments and research in borderline lands between dance, yoga, oriental mysticism and western esoteric sciences.
But above all, the attitude makes the difference. The “zen” way goes on the other side if compared with the traditional dance approach. It goes from isolation to integration, from the single part to the whole instead of showing every single element, break it down and put all together later.
The real essence of the dance is not mechanical effort, even if technique is certainly required.
Art is when we go beyond the conscious effort and put together all the fragments in a whole: not a badly stitched “frankestein” of many parts, but a graceful fluid flow.
Because the beauty and power of a movement spring from its fluidness without interruptions. It’s like the Japanese calligraphy, where an ideogram Is drawn on paper after deep meditation, never detatching the hand from the sheet, in a unique and perfect gesture.
We have to start from the whole and focus on the single parts later. Instead of learning a coreography with a lot of mind effort, breaking it down bit after bit, it’s much better if we move the body all at once and as spontaneously as possible. No matter if wrong or right (you simply can’t be right in the beginning!). You will refine later, focusing on the single parts.
Each movement is made by the whole body in its entirety. We need to start from the action and not from the explanation – on a mental level – to achieve an intuitive understanding of the movement. If you want to know how to make a step, just start moving, then you will understand! Of course I’ll explain it and I’ll break it down for you as well. But that would be totally useless if you didn’t start by “understanding while making it”.
The hardest task for us Western people is to forget our prejudices, and let the whole, not the single part, guide our perceptions.
We are not a set of assembled pieces, as Western medical science would pretend, but a complex organism always in interchange with the universe.
You can’t release a contraction in a single part of your body as isolated from the rest. It’s more natural – and yet much more difficult for us Western people – expecting a spontaneous release and relax of the whole body instead of a bit of it.
In the same way you can’t breathe deeply if you focus on your chest only. You breathe through all your body.
As Masunaga says (“Zen by pictures. Exercises of the meridians for a healthy life”): “The real advantages of breathing techniques are generally misunderstood, because breathing is generally considered only as ingestion of oxygen and release of carbon dioxide. The lungs are by far the most efficient organs for breathing, but humans still have skin breathing, that is a more primitive kind of breathing through the surface of the body. To consider breathing only as a specialized function of the lungs is a wrong idea coming from Western medical science and excessively emphasising anatomical features.”
Basically, the excessive focus on the abdominal muscles risks to generate much more pressure while the goal is to achieve a deep, relaxed breathing. The act of breathing is the center of the energetic interchange involving all the body, and that starts from the lower abdomen, where the KI springs out.
This olistic idea of dance refusing the mechanical isolation of parts and focusing on breathing instead is Suraya Hilal‘s contribution to contemporary Oriental dance. She is such an amazing innovator; she probably is in Oriental what Marta Graham was in Contemporary dance. Her stylistic research on the powerful expressiveness of basic movement arises from a deepest connection between breath and soul. Not a mechanical sequence of exercises, but a fluid flow.