Exercise: Angel and Traveler
Gradually and deliberately tune in and engage with someone's movement with offers of slight support.
This exercise emphasizes "listening" – making time and opportunity to pay attention to what your partner and you are doing, to make movement choices informed by awareness of both.
I consider this to be an advanced version of the Rising and Descending Together exercise, more challenging in the more deliberate exercise of identifying and offering slight support.
The Traveler and Angel Roles
The exercise involves two roles, and angel and a traveler in gradual journeys between the ground and standing. Exercise partners take turns in each role. Eventually the turns blend into each other, but it's valuable to do the exercise keeping the roles as clear and distinct as you can until it's time to let them go.
- The traveler's task is to make a very slow transition from standing to the ground and back, looking for the easiest, smallest increments at every step, and continuously concentrating on filling in the movement gaps. Consistent with that focus, for example, getting to the ground is an opportunity to really arrive, take a moment to sink into the ground before beginning to rise.
- The angel's task is to provide almost unnoticeable support to the traveller as they descend and rise, adding touches at places that the traveler could potentially lean into to ease their journey. The angel is trying to be involved in and subtly support the traveler in their journey while changing it as little as possible.
The partners prepare by choosing who will first take the traveler and the angel role. (They will both get turns in each role.)
- For the first time through the traveler will make a very gradual round-trip from standing to ground, filling in the gaps, while the angel watches looking for ways that they could provide minimal support, if they were to take action.
Then the partners switch roles, with the traveler taking the angel role to watch, and look for ways that they might minimally support their traveling partner, who is doing a very gradual round trip from standing to the ground and back.
- The partners then switch roles again for the second round.
This time, the angel uses their hands to provide light touches in places that the traveler potentially could use as support for their journey - easing their trip to the ground or getting buoyancy heading back up. The aim is for the actual weight exchange to be almost indiscernible - a sort of gesture of support and no more. It's important for the angel to try to keep from blocking where the traveler is going.
Less is more. It's ok if the angel barely finds one point to provide (implied) support, particularly at the start. The purpose at this point is more about noticing and just beginning to act on what you notice, rather than the supportive effect of the actions.
After two round-trips from standing to the ground and back (with the traveler really sinking into the ground when they get there) the partners switch roles and do the same thing, with the angel looking for opportunities to provide light touches that imply support to the traveler as they descend and rise.
- In the third round the angel looks for opportunities to provide their implied-support touches using other parts of their bodies than their hands. They might use a shoulder, back, knee, head, or also hand, choosing by what is convenient rather than to arbitrary.
Still, both partners are trying to make do their roles as simply as possible:
- The more gradual and simple the traveler can be, the easier it is for the angel to find opportunities to blend.
- The angel aims for their support involvement to continue to be slight and simple. It's ok for the angel to not do much, if it means more clear choices in their involvement. Essentially, the angel is seeking opportunities to fit themselves into the trajectory of the traveler at points of potential support with minimal interference in the traveler's journey.
As they continue the partners can more fully provide and use the offers of support, making real the opportunities they're finding to be involved in each other's journey, and not sticking with strictly rising and descending, changing directions along the way; progressively shifting into open dancing.
This is an exercise I devised based on experiences I had in many other exercises that involve rising and descending and also many other experiences in exercises that involve very experimenting with slight offers of support, in order to get a feel for what constitutes good opportunities to offer support.
- By "filling in the movement gaps" I mean noticing and addressing movement difficulties that you might rush past or otherwise skip over if you are not vigilant. Addressing them might mean slowing down and/or trying different approaches, even backing off so you can reapproach the situation in a fresh way. Sometimes there's something counterintuitive that works better than you expect. For instance, moving a part of your body in a different direction than you are heading might make overall progress in the direction you are heading easier. Often a twist or spiral is conducive to rising or descending. In general, filling in the gaps is about exploring and learning from the movement puzzles you encounter rather than disregarding them. (I believe that Nancy Stark Smith coined "filling in the gaps" as a CI idiom.)a b