A Barnard College Professor Breaks Tradition: Let Your Body Take the Lead
“In an extremely competitive school, you are taught to reason, and ultimately, to follow your brain. But in my class, I want to teach my students to listen to their body.”
For the students who don’t know her, Professor Trainor is a well-known dance professor with one of the highest students’ evaluations in an Ivy League school. For the students who know her, she is Caitlin.
“Embody the space,” “fulfill the movements,” “follow your guts.” Caitlin always repeats those phrases in class and expresses that in her way of dancing and ultimately, living. She brings forth a wind of energy with her turns and breathes into a sharp, off-balanced pose. She dives onto the floor with her feet poking out of the “water.” She fulfills every movement and every moment like a drop of water emerging from a sea.
Sometimes, only when you stop trying to think, can you then communicate with the space around you with all of your senses and listen to every crack of your body. In her dance class, from the back of the skull, to the balls of my feet, to the imaginative gut behind my belly button, I am present. It’s a time when my soul, heart, mind, muscles, blood, skin, breath and the air surrounding me are all engaged in the same conversation, in a harmony.
Listening to your body is only the first step. Letting your body take the lead means going back to your very first type of learning and the origin of our very own being.
Follow your guts, she says. After you listen to your body, you follow what it wants, from a turn, a jump, a fall, to being still. I gradually discover that if my body wants a specific movement, I do it well. And I know this principle applies to other aspects of life, as well.
The next step is fulfilling the movements—every single movement. Fulfilling the movement is a physical experience of “cape diem.” When you lift up your right arm, for example, feel it being supported, not only by your arm muscles but also with your shoulder, back muscles, the tips of your toes and the ground. You are not just lifting up your right arm, but reaching for something bigger and further. You are not reaching at the air above your head, but the infinite space above you. Your fingertip is so far stretched, leading beyond your hair, neck, and balls of your feet, as if you are no longer under the law of gravity. Only when you fulfill that single act of reaching, can you “fully embody the moment.” You will taste the moment of using every muscle intentionally and intensively to accomplish that one simple act. Sometimes, you even experience the moment of losing control, the fall, and then, the catch. #
As a result of “listening to your body,” “following your guts,” “fulfilling the movement,” and “embodying the moment,” you have fun. It’s that simple, and that precious.
That’s what Caitlin taught me, as well as the other students. She breaks through the tradition to teach us something different. It was definitely not just a dance class; yet, it was simply a dance class. I had fun. #