STUNTWRITING FOR PERSONAL GROWTH: Findings #1
By Erin Jourdan
In 2006 the Gap corporation came up with a TV ad called “Khaki Swing Dance.” Many people link this ad to the resurgence of Swing dancing in the 90s. I was living in New York City then, working in publishing and somehow friends and I got together at a studio on the Bowery and started taking lessons. After a while, I was headed to Lindy Hop sessions and could almost do the Charleston. It was good clean martini-driven fun, and great to visit some of the coolest old ballrooms in NYC and listen to local bands.
So fast forward to 2015, fourteen years later, living in Los Angeles that used to feature the Derby (the one in the film Swingers with a young Vince Vaughn) which closed down years ago. Swing isn’t making a resurgence as far as I know. But I am trying to relearn some moves so that my fiance and I can cut the rug at our wedding.
2) Some data points:
- I cannot find any photos of me dressed up and ready to go dancing….this is pre-digital and my albums are tucked away behind a wall of books.
- I went and checked out some of the bands we used to listen to, and most have quit recording, but listening to what I could find brought back some great memories:
The Blues Jumpers:
The Flying Neutrinos:
Ahh the Squirrel Nut Zippers!
The Mighty Blue Kings
3) After attending to my stunt, I write immediately after. While in the situation I wait to see what comes up, what stories, what am I saying to myself, what am I accepting or rejecting? I rush to find a quiet place to get things down even if it is in fragments.
So I enrolled us in the “Dance in One Day” class that goes from 11-3pm. I was remembering the outfits and glitz and glam of NYC and the enthralling moment when you are having an amazing dance with your partner. Starting back at square one, learning the triple step was a good thing. I could remember my first lesson, being scared out of my wits, sweaty palms and the social anxiety. But I got over it the first time. We would all get over it together.
Beginning at the beginning my muscle memory kicked in. My body remembered how to do the moves, without thinking almost 15 years later. I was amazed how my feet just immediately took to the steps after so many years. After three hours I was full-body sweaty, exhausted, but I wanted back in the game. This time as an older dancer and not a pretty young 20 something flirt but to actually enjoy the dance for the dance and not the scene.
What is muscle memory? How can memory be stored in our feet? In our hands? Even after almost 15 years the vestiges of dance was there and it makes me curious about how much of our memory isn’t kept in our mind. It is the intersection of the mind/body connection….I can not remember the name of the old dance studio in NYC, or many of the clubs I hung out in but my feet has knowledge my brain does not.
But after looking into it, for instance in this article from the NYTimes, “How the Body and Mind Learns to Dance” it turns out that muscle memory is still stored in the brain, or perhaps in synaptic circuits where the body and mind map together in the brain. “Dancers call it muscle memory. And while it obviously manifests itself physically as far as dance is concerned, what actually happens, according to neuroscientists, is that the movements become thoroughly mapped in the brain, creating a shorthand between thinking and doing. We may speak of a musician’s fingers or a winemaker’s nose, yet the resulting product is all the brain’s doing, explained Daniel Glaser, a neuroscientist who works at the Wellcome Trust, a philanthropic organization devoted to health care based in London. “Of course you need a body to dance,” he said. “But as dancers transition from conscious awareness of a newly acquired routine to the automatic performance of it, the brain is not doing any less work.””
4) I take a second look once I am done, is anything sticking out to me? Any questions left unanswered? Any new questions unearthed? How will this inform my process next week?
I would like to trust my body more…knowing that all of the hard work you put into learning something physical and you keep vestiges of it later is revelatory. I can remember snippets of places, friends, band from the mid 90s but it is my mind/body that truly hold the memories amazes me. I had not thought of it that way…
Also, because dancing involves the body and mind in tandem, you can’t multitask when you do it (or at least I can’t which leads to a pleasant feeling of flow.
© Erin Jourdan, 2013-2015