A Change of Pace
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen to your body. Notice the changes that take place in correlation to your movement and changing positions. Feel the beat of the music and allow your body to step into the rhythm. Enjoy the music and let go of your perfectionist constraints. Take time to learn and embrace the history, culture, and experience of Afro-Brazilian dance. Dance is a full body experience that integrates the mind, body, and heart. Now sit down in an upright position and open your mind to learning. Focus on thinking logically and solving problems. Count in binary, construct circuits in your labs, and do not forget that the Python programming language is very particular, case-sensitive, and picky about spacing. Be meticulous in detail otherwise your program will not work. Studying computer science is rigorous, demanding, and very sedentary. What do dance and computer programming have in common? Both skills require curiosity, patience, and dedication.
Throughout this fall quarter I spent a lot of time outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to challenge myself to strengthen my weaknesses. I have spent a majority of my life being much stronger in art, music, and literature and I had a serious fear of math, science, and technology. I knew that taking computer science foundations would be very challenging for me. Through this experience my anxiety made frequent appearances on nearly a daily basis. Despite my fears I was curious and wanted to learn more about technology. At the same time, I got excited when I read the course description of Afro-Brazilian Dance. I had always been interested and fascinated in Brazilian culture and had never heard of Feldenkrais before so naturally, my curiosities peaked. My journey began on a road of curiosity.
Next, computer programming and Afro-Brazilian Dance gave me the opportunity to practice patience. Both skills require a different kind of patience. Computer programming required me to sit still for long periods of time and hone in my focus. I think one of the most challenging things about this was having to sit still. Through this journey I learned that I am easily distracted and need to spend more time doing skills that require focus. I was often discouraged and frustrated with myself because I fell behind and took a long time to complete my assignments. I consider myself to be a patient person, but I often lost my patience with programming and digital logic because a lot of the concepts were technical, new, and unfamiliar. I believe that dance requires a gentler kind of patience. In our movement lessons we laid on the ground and spent time observing our bodies as we moved in different ways. This required a calm mind and the ability to be gentle and in tune with one’s movement, one’s body, and the affects of the movement on the body. This kind of patience was easier for me than the programming-patience. In fact, I think it allowed me to decompress and check in with my body in ways that I otherwise would not have done. During the 2nd week we did a movement lesson where we laid on our backs and learned about rolling. It was the first moment that I noticed pain in my lower left back / hip. I think that the pain had been there for awhile, but I had sort of numbed out to get through my stressful schedule. That new awareness allowed me to be conscientious about my movements throughout the week. The pain continued throughout the week and I started practicing yoga at home and soon after the pain disappeared. Patience is a virtue that is both practiced and refined with both computer programming and dance.
Finally, computer programming and Afro-Brazilian Dance require dedication for an optimal experience. This means not only showing up, but also being present, engaged, and ready to learn. I honestly struggled with this in computer science because my anxiety and stress got the better of me. I felt behind from the start and often broke down in a sweat due to nervousness and anxiety. I think it was a form of fight or flight. When an individual is in this state, it is difficult to be present and open to learning. I ended up getting ill and missing some classes which made everything more difficult. On the contrary, I looked forward to my Afro-Brazilian Dance classes. Each class felt like a surprise that kept me on the edge of my seat. I enjoyed the variety and every now and then I felt the warmth of my anxiety bring me to a sweat, but I was able to breathe through it and eventually let it go. It was fascinating to learn about Candomblé and the different identities of the Orixas. After our discussions and hearing the stories, it felt empowering to go through the dances especially with live drumming. Singing the songs was fun and gave me a chance to slow down, listen, and exercise patience. Capoeira was a blast and a killer workout. I have always been intrigued with the resourcefulness of the Brazilian slaves who used resources around them to create instruments and used dance to disguise and enhance their martial arts. I also enjoyed noticing the differences between Samba, Samba Reggae, and the Orixas. I think another thing that helped me to remain present and engaged in class was the pace. We each had the freedom to learn at our own pace and I never felt pressured or uncomfortable.
In closing, I am so grateful that I got to practice curiosity, patience, and dedication with both Computer programming and dance. I do not have a dance background outside of this class, but at one point I even considered taking one of the academic programs that has dance in it. I am not planning on giving up on computer programming, I just know that I have a long journey ahead of me with lots of skills to acquire. This quarter was stressful and rough and taking Afro-Brazilian Dance was such a nice and welcomed change of pace.