MOVING FROM MY CENTER- Stella Matsuda
I teach several dance classes and tai chi classes in my community. I enjoy connecting with these people, many of whom have never experienced movement. And what a joy it is to see how movement begins to enrich their lives.
Two of my dance classes are titled: Moving Through the Center. At first, students may not quite understand what this means. But after several weeks, all the dancers, even the very inexperienced and beginning dancers, say to me, this is the perfect description of what we are doing in class. For to me, dance is not about making “poses or designs,” but moving one’s body fully in and through space. It’s about finding the center of your body, of your movement and from there, radiating outwards into space. So finding that center, that core–and here I do not mean what so many exercises talk about, developing the core strength, although yes, that is part of it. It is going deeper to find, what Martha Graham called, “the inner landscape of the soul.” It is here in the center, we touch base with whom we are, what we are experiencing, how movement is working within each person and how that feeling, is very individual and very deep. How does a movement then, initiated and demonstrated by the instructor, become their own? I encourage each student to find what a simple movement, either standing in place or moving through space, means to them. Recently we practiced a phrase of movement across the floor and we discussed the nuances of it. I asked them to allow the movement to be more than just replicating what I was giving to them, to make it their own by finding something special within themselves that came to the surface and beyond. After class, one of the students, a beginner, came to me with tears in her eyes, thanking me. Although new to dance, she felt that stirring within her that moved out, that found expression, that connected into the wholeness of movement–of dance. How does one describe that feeling? It’s as I said to them, “you may be feeling something very special, but cannot describe it out loud. That is why we dance, to find a way to say what is deep within, that we have had no words to express. And when that movement is expressed from your deep center out, is so very satisfying.” I find it is not just Sacred Dance that needs to have this deep expression, but all dance and all of Life.
Professsor Emeritus of Dance at Moorpark College, Stella Matsuda has choreographed, performed and taught dance for over 50 years in colleges, schools, churches and retreat centers to all age groups and skill levels. She was a principal dancer with Gloria Newman Dance Theater for 15 years. In 1977, she founded Alleluia Dance Theater, which she continues to lead as Artistic Director. A past President of the Sacred Dance Guild, she is actively involved with the SDG and continues to teach dance, as well as Tai-Chi.