Mind Body Spirit: Briefs

Moving From the Inside

Allen Wayne Work
Sandra Cameron Dance Center
20 Cooper Square, 6th Floor
904-0515
Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon ($10)

Building strength through Allan Wayne Work feeds your spirit as well as your muscles. Hold your arms out to your sides. Rotate your shoulders and elbows until your arms start to feel heavy and the skin begins to sizzle with sweat. Relax them along your sides and you can still feel the tingle of a well-worked set of pecs. Participating in an Allan Wayne class taught by Brendan McCall, I tuned into a refreshed body. McCall is one of three artists in the world who teach Allan Wayne Work, a practice pioneered by the late ballet dancer (1906-1978) as a fusion of ballet, yoga, improvisation, bioenergetics, massage, and Indonesian dance. McCall's calm voice and muscled form encourage us to vocalize our pain in any way we need to as long as it remains kind. Loud bellows and moans echo throughout the studio; one man sounds like he's giving birth.

The work combines a functional, open dance system (as opposed to any type of technique that encourages an aesthetic) with an "experiential placement method" that focuses on rigorous forms of movement practice. Wayne valued moving from a place of "anatomical efficiency." Exercises target the deep layers of the body where the support and initiation for movement originate. Students are encouraged to personalize the work and understand their bodies as intelligent and expressive beings. Participants range from actors and vocal artists to people experienced in yoga and Pilates. McCall's students first gain a quiet familiarity with their whole bodies, then stretch, do floor work, and conclude with a group improvisation. —Colleen Leonardi


Kung Fu Kid

Tommy De La Cy
718-761-9032

Like trees, kung fu artists need deep roots to grow strong. So trainer Tommy De La Cy, 17, starts you off on footwork, slowly moving up to your crown. He harmonizes your organs with exercises that unclog the meridians of your body and relieve tension.

Trained on Staten Island, at Port Richmond's Shaolin Kung Fu Temple, De La Cy shares what he knows with mentally challenged students at Bishop Ahern High School and the physically challenged residents at Clove Lakes Health Care and Rehabilitation Center. Administrators give him rave reviews for his work.

"He's wise beyond his years," says Maura Belfiore, recreation director at Clove Lakes. I sense this as he describes the various benefits of his regimen: relaxation, self-defense, better coordination, and, most important, better health. De La Cy, a native Honduran, teaches an ancient school of kung fu founded by the Indian priest Ta-mo, who perfected his art at the Shaolin temple in the Chinese province of Honan. Just as the monks who were disciples of Ta-mo used violence only to purge evil, he emphasizes the spiritual in his training. For all that he feels blessed to have, he wants to give back—for instance, by raising $5500 for hurricane relief in the banana town of La Lima. He says that's what Shaolin kung fu is all about—helping others. —Lou Bardel


The Curse

by Karen Houppert
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24)

Remember the anticipation of getting your first period? Karen Houppert does—and she wants to know why the fun ends so early. In The Curse, she canvases the sociological taboos that keep women mum about "Aunt Flow." She chronicles menstruation from prepubescence to menopause, thoroughly dissecting PMS en route. The indoctrination of shame begins early; by the time adolescents have their third or fourth period they've internalized the rules: Don't display the accoutrements of bleeding as casually as you would a box of tissues or Band-Aids. Whatever goes on "down there" is not to be acknowledged.

Houppert discusses how this "weeping womb" antipathy evolved. She deftly uncovers the origins of feminine protection and offers surprising details about who benefits from keeping menstruation a dirty little secret (not to mention a dangerous one, since the highly toxic ingredient dioxin is still present in most noncotton tampons). The financial statistics alone are staggering; feminine hygiene is a $1.7-billion-a-year industry—and only half the world's population buys these products!

Folded into Houppert's elucidation of the socioeconomic ramifications of menstruation is one straightforward question: Why can't menstruation be treated with the same insouciance as most human effluvia? After reading The Curse, you'll wonder the same thing. —Ginger Otis


Aggressive Catharsis

Brad J. Bushman, et al.,
"Catharsis, Aggression, and Persuasive Influence," in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, January 1999, 76:3, pp. 367-76

Throwing inanimate objects at your neighbors' wall when they blare their stereo at four in the morning may seem like a good way to extinguish your mounting inner anger. But according to psychologist Brad Bushman of Iowa State University, you're more likely to get yourself worked up into an even more fitful rage.

A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology calls catharsis, Freud's concept of releasing the pressure pent up in his hydraulic model of the mind, a sham.

Psychologist Brad Bushman set out to test the notion in a laboratory. Results show that people are actually more likely to show aggressive behavior after an initial release of their anger. Despite the widespread popular belief in venting frustrations physically, "believers in catharsis are misinformed," says Bushman. "Studies show time and again that expressing your rage physically does not quell anger, but actually infuriates it." According to the study, "cathartic release actually makes you twice as likely to be more aggressive." What should we do then? Bushman suggests we're better off doing nothing at all.

I guess your neighbor's stereo wins again. —Reet Rana


Soul to Sole

Broken heel? Troubled heart? Follow the lead of street anthropologist Cassy Neynesch, who showed me the handsome old school building at the corner of Bayard and Mulberry that serves as headquarters for several Chinese American community organizations and a variety of outdoor professionals, including fortune-tellers and shoemakers. For $10, a musician read my palm, gave me a five-year forecast based on my birth chart, and introduced me to a form of divination in which the regions of the face correspond to the stages of one's life. "This part of your cheeks: ages 43 to 46. Bad luck." Passersby gathered after the reading to hear him perform a sweet, yearning piece on the erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument. Just feet away, the cobbler by the northern steps of the building mended the holes in my shoes for $4. Around the corner, by the east stairs, his competition resoled Neynesch's sandals—also for $4. Watching experts deftly handle the hammer, awl, thread, and glue made me want to seize the future more than any luck mapped on my face could. —Ellis Avery


The Book of Calm: Relaxing Ways to Manage Stress
(Time-Life Books, $12.95);

Breathe In Breathe Out: Inhale Energy and Exhale Stress by Guiding and Controlling Your Breathing
by James E. Loehr, Ed.D., and Jeffrey A. Migdow, M.D. (Time-Life Books, $14.95)

Have we come to such a sorry state that we don't know that deep breathing, soaking in warm bubbles and sandalwood oil, listening to Pachelbel, or gazing at the night sky will soothe our stress-fried bodies and minds? Just in case, Time-Life offers The Book of Calm, an attractive little volume airy in its colors and design. It suggests, ". . . when everything that could go wrong has gone wrong . . . ask yourself whether being stressed and stern about it is going to improve the situation." Instead, breathe in vitality; breathe out tension. Smile, tickle those merry endorphins with a good belly laugh, and break into song. From simple stretches for desk jockeys to sensory delight ideas for the clueless, Calmhas your recipe for survival in these trying times. For a more in-depth healing program, see Loehr & Migdow's Breathe In Breathe Out. —Eva Yaa Asantewaa

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