Talking and Listening With Our Bodies


I am a person who is fascinated by knowledge intersections. Intersections come when luminaries of the same field meet, or, even more remarkably, when luminaries of different fields meet, and find some commonality in their chosen metiers that shows a a unity or a common thread between two seemingly different disciplines.

I have the feeling author Craig Brown must be the same sort of chap since his recent book Hello Goodbye Hello chronicles 101 remarkable meetings, or, intersections. He chronicles meetings between Twain and Kipling et al. The meeting that I found most remarkable was the day Helen Keller visited Martha Graham’s studio (via [][]):

Apparently on this visit Helen asked Martha to explain what “jumping” was. Think about that: the aged Helen Keller had spent her life not knowing what jumping was.

But since this is an intersection, a meeting where a hidden thread unites the two, Martha knew exactly how to explain jumping: not the biomechanical how but the joyous why of it and thankfully she knew how to put a blind, deaf woman’s remaining senses in touch with that why.

When I watched the video it took but mere moments (minute 0:50) to see that Martha Graham did not move like regular human beings. Look at her when she exits her dance circle, though in a trademark dress which hides her footwork, it’s clear her feet are in a dialog with the floor, with gravity, with her tarsal pads, unconsciously while in motion.

And then look at 1:34, Graham explains the power of percussion. At 2:22 she explains that ballet is a sensual expression of taut, strong bodies, straining against gravity in fleeting rebellion.