Tai Chi's Renewing Power
Wozny, Nancy, Dance Magazine
In the seamless movements of Tai Chi Chuan, weight pours from one foot to the other like water. One movement gives way to the next, and the end becomes the beginning in a continuous flow. The knees are slightly bent, the chest is relaxed, and the torso shifts along with the curving arm motions. The constant demi-plie position may take some getting used to, but a good teacher will emphasize the floating of the pelvis over the knees, which is actually protective of these vulnerable joints.
Tai Chi looks like an abstract dance, but each move has an application in the art of combat. The names of sequences like "snake creeps down" and "white crane spreads wings" orient one in both a natural and symbolic environment. Although the actual sequence, or "form," varies according to the style, the basic principles of a low center of gravity and fluid motion remain the same. Practicing the form in slow motion allows a deeper level of knowing. But don't be fooled by the super slow tempo. The highest-level Tai Chi masters can fling their opponents across the room in a flash.
Tai Chi as a technique extends beyond its original goal of defeating the opponent (it was developed in China a thousand years ago based on a philosophy developed 2,000 years earlier), and dancers have discovered the benefits of regular practice. "Tai Chi has given me the ability to be clearer in the movement choices I make," says choreographer David Appel, who began training in Tai Chi in the Yang Style in 1977. Appel, who also has taught Tai Chi, finds the work profound in its application of shifting weight, balance, and the interplay of stability and mobility. "Tai Chi can be an excellent vehicle for self-understanding," he says. "The progression of the form stays the same, but how we encounter it each day changes. Things are always different, and you can decide what you're going to do about it--struggle with it, ride it, or play with it." For Appel as a performer, Tai Chi helps develop subtlety, precision, and presence.
Martha Wittman, a dancer/choreographer with the Liz …
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Publication information: Article title: Tai Chi's Renewing Power. Contributors: Wozny, Nancy - Author. Magazine title: Dance Magazine. Volume: 81. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2007. Page number: 34. © 1999 Dance Magazine, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale Group.
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