I’ve always been curious about our understanding of the word “natural”. Once embraced by alternative culture (applying to foods, parenting, livelihood, housing, etc.) natural became a ubiquitous label and now it is more meaningless marketing. When I taught Modern Dance Technique, a student would often say “doing it this way feels more natural than what you are asking us to do.” Indoctrinated by the culture of natural is better, they were going for what felt easy to their bodies. I continue to hear from clients who work with me in alignment and movement fundamentals, “that doesn’t feel as natural as the way I do it”. I explain that what they are experiencing as “natural” is actually “habitual”. It is a way their body has answered a functional problem that may not be anatomically or physiologically sound. So I wonder; is movement that is more anatomically functional and efficient more natural? Or is our experience of natural so personally subjective that it only ever references ourselves, our experience?
When I think about the ways we have defined dance over the last hundred years it seems Isadora Duncan created a more natural form of dance. Did she call it natural because it was her personal experience? Did others call it natural because they had a kinesthetic response when viewing it? Or did it appear natural only in contrast to the ballet of that time? Greater use of mobility in the torso, successive movement off vertical, phrasing with continuity rather than quickness are some ways I might describe a few of the differences. When the next revolution in dance led by Martha Graham appeared was it felt or seen as more natural? Lots of strength and use of gravity, torso contracting, limbs pouring outward. And finally Post Modern Dance, natural in its use of pedestrian movement, walking, running with ease, a relaxed even flow of energy. What could be more natural?
I wonder do we feel a sense of natural in us as viewers or as movers? Think for a moment what you mean when you refer to something as natural, and how do you apply that to your body movement? I challenge you to notice is what you sense as natural, better defined as familiar, normal, habitual? Can it sustain rather than stress your body over time? Is there an ease of execution, or a fluid quality, an emotional response to it? I care less about defining the word natural and much more about defining the experience of the mover. What are the sensations, emotions, dynamic qualities and poetic language that define your natural movement?