Friday, August 24, 2012

sǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝԀ ʍǝN

When I was a kid I used to turn myself upside down in a living room chair in some pre-downward dog yoga position and take a look at my surroundings.  I liked to imagine what it would be like to live in a house where you walked on the ceiling.  To get into the room, you'd have to step over the door frame.  You'd have a whole open area to play in, no matter that the surface was a textured stucco pattern.  And then in the center, there was the light fixture sticking up like some sort of glass orb that you'd sit around as you would at a bonfire or a cookout grill.

I'd be upside down for quite a while, and then my dad would walk by and say, "Gee, you look a LOT better that way!"

Recently I began taking a class called Inverted (Upside Down) Dance taught by Jennifer Ilse of Offleash Area Dance.  I decided to take this class because as I do more dancing, people assume that I know how to do inversion work. 

"You mean you've never done a handstand before?"  ("No.")

"You don't know how to do a cartwheel?"  ("Not correctly.")

"Just grab onto my waist, tip yourself upside down, and I'll turn you in a circle three times."  ("Easy for you to say!")

As a kid I always wondered where other kids learned these things.  There weren't that many that I knew who took gymnastics.  I always imagined groups of kids outside on their front lawns just trying different maneuvers until they figured out how to do a cartwheel or a handstand.  I was not one of those kids.

As an adult dancing upside down was not something they taught in my ballet, jazz or tap classes.  I'd seen a little bit in modern, but that was usually at the more advanced levels.  As an older dancer I've also been a little hesitant to try things - what if I fall on my head? 

So far I've been enjoying the class.  I was a little concerned because I have neck and back issues, but Jennifer, and also my chiropractor, said that I'd probably be fine, and the reverse gravity (like an inversion table) might even be helpful.

The class starts with some core warm up and yoga positions.  Then we move on to some choreographed sequences where you support yourself with your hands and find the head and tail connection of your spine.  What's interesting is the wall climbing.  It's one thing to lay on the floor with the backs of your legs against the wall and then climb up and support yourself in a shoulder stand.  It's a lot harder (for me) to face away from the wall, put your hands on the floor and climb the wall with your legs so that you're supporting yourself with your hands.  Pretty intense!

Oddly enough, a lot of this stuff is easier for me to do when it's part of a choreographed sequence.  I guess it's because one movement flows into the next and it's connected with breath, core, and a steady beat of percussion in the background. I suppose the dance of it is motivating for me, just as if you take a phrase out of a sentence, the whole sentence loses its impact.  Or if you have just one instrument playing a four-part ensemble piece, the richness is lost.

I've only taken two classes so far, and I haven't done a complete handstand or cartwheel yet, but after each class I've felt pretty darn good.  Not only is it a great way to increase upper body strength, I'm also facing my fears, challenging gravity, stretching my spine in new ways,
ɐup ǝxdǝɹıǝuɔıuƃ lıɟǝ ɟɹoɯ ɐ uǝʍ dǝɹsdǝɔʇıʌǝ˙

If you're interested:  Classes meet on Tuesday nights 6:00 - 7:30.  (Advanced class is on Wed.)  Cowles Center for Performing Arts 4th floor, downtown Mpls.  Cost:  $5 - $10 sliding fee.  For more info contact:  Offleash Area offleash@offleasharea.org