Day Nineteen: Monkey Doorway

I don’t know why, but my keys wouldn’t open the studio door this morning. This same set worked just fine last Tuesday morning. I misplaced them for a few days later last week and borrowed a replacement set from Maria, who owns the studio, last Friday. Students were starting to arrive, so thank goodness I just happened to have the replacement set. What kismet! What serendipity! Don’t you just love it when the universe blows you a kiss like this?

Except they didn’t work either.

I called Maria and she called the landlord, who said he could be there in 10 minutes. It was now 10:05 and our hour-long class was supposed to start at 10:00. There was one student who’d only taken class at the studio, and I was very conscious of not wanting her to feel we are some fly-by-night, wacky operation. There we were, in this not-so-nice hallway that is essentially the backstage space of a former auto dealership converted several years to retail space. It’s now home to a couple of gift shops, a flower shop, the studio, and an auto body shop. The hallway has never been ready for primetime, although the tenants have done what they could to add attractive touches, and the landlord did repaint it a cheery soft yellow. Nonetheless, the floor is covered with industrial grade carpet and plastic boot mats, the hallway is long and narrow and the only natural light comes from a single window in the door out to the alley. Only some of the fluorescent ceiling fixtures work.

It’s funny (or perhaps, this is the truly synchronous happening of my day), but I’d been thinking a lot about space in the car on the way to class this morning. A number of women who are regular members of the studio community (and this studio is very much that) have been batting about ideas around maybe renting a space for a women’s collaborative, so that’s one reason it was on my mind. I’d also begun this morning’s post thinking about a particular space: the one between my intent to write a blog post a day for a month and my actual tally. (Today is February 22. This is post nineteen). That irksome gap of three.

Spaces are so interesting. They contain, they define, they explain, they can expand and contract. In music, they are everything: intervals, rhythms, rests. Space in dance is much like in sculpture: a play between negative (empty) and positive (full) space. Composition in art as in music is much about how you perceive and manipulate the spaces. I had set the focus for the day’s class as this: exploring the spaces we create when we move and sensing our bodies as solids that move through open places. It sounds kind of abstract, but it’s actually really cool. You can play with it right now: just spread the fingers of both hands as wide as you can and then “touch” the space around you, almost like you are finger painting, or miming. Then let your fingers come back together and do the same thing, as if you are carving the air with the outside edge of your hand. It feels different, right? Not better, not worse, just different. Your relationship to the space around you and within your body just changed somehow. That interests me.

Back to our narrow hallway: We had enough space to move, so why not just start class out there? Four students had come, their time was valuable after all, and the teacher in me wanted them to have the fullest class possible. I have been in classes halldancewith three of them many times before and they are awesome ladies. I knew they’d be up for it. Our new guest was sure to jump on the train if we all did. So we fired up some music on my Iphone and began.  This is us:

We physically touched the walls in front of and behind us. Familiar moves – Nia steps that we do all the time – were transformed when you could touch both the wall in front of you with your hands and the one behind you with your foot at the same time. There was something special about it. Noralee jumped up on a bench and took some pictures on her phone. I think we all may have been a little disappointed at first when the landlord arrived and unlocked the door for us; I know I was.

It did feel great to move into the studio, to be in the light, to have all that beautiful, airy room to sculpt with our movements, expanding our boundaries. One of the songs towards the end of the class, when we were cooling down, has this very odd lyric that I’ve never quite been able to  understand. The lyric is sung in Sanskit, I think, but there’s a line that sounds like the vocalist is singing “In a monkey doorway…” in perfect English. And so this is how I’ve come to think of it (like that lyric in Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” that my teenage friends and I always thought was “ripped up like a douche”–ewwww—but we’d sing it out full voice anyway, which we thought was hilarious).  Which begs the question: what is a monkey doorway? To me, it’s the benevolently disruptive entrance into another dimension or mode of perception. (Because: monkeys!) Basically, a paradigm shift. You don’t necessarily recognize it when you’re at the threshold, but you know when you’ve crossed over.  Kisses from the universe.

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