Qigong and Dance

(Dance cypher when we taught at the slums of Letre, Malabon City, the Philippines with Hip Hop 4 Hope / 
Photo Credits: Jolo Desiderio @jolodesiderio)

“Bilog” in Filipino, or Circle in English, is like a cycle. It is never-ending, infinite, and a good representation of the “Tao” in the Yin and Yang symbol. The earth in itself is “Bilog”. We gather around in a circle and dance and move to beat.

In dance, “Bilog” is a term we call the “Cypher”. It is when everyone creates a circle and takes turns to dance inside that circle. Its ideal principle is really not to compete with the one another, but to charge the energy inside the circle. For the circle to be full, unending, exchanging, and harmonized, no one is above or below anyone inside the circle. For me, the cypher is one of the most powerful tools used in the dance world. 

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST

Today, one of the industries greatly affected by this pandemic is the dance industry. A lot of artists, performers, teachers, lost their jobs, and other services to the world. Somehow the world seems to have stopped all of a sudden. As a teacher, dance artist, and mentor, I see the service of dancing as not just a form of entertainment. It is my way to reach the core of dancing, to CONNECT. Through dancing, we aim to connect both within and without. To tap into our internal powers and share our expertise so we can help other people tap into their own potential as well.

In Qigong, I learned that Medical Qigong was actually inspired by the tribes (Wu People). They copied nature and animal movements and use them as a form of dance. They use it to praise their gods and give them good energy. Clearly tells that dance is not just an ancient and sacred tool but a universal language to connect us all. Both within and without, and thus a very essential way of healing.  

(Photos by: Christopher Sy @christophersyphotographs)

With the pandemic, the dance industry’s cycle was disrupted. But most focus to look at the silver lining. This lockdown pushed movers and dancers to seek back to the roots of dance and movement. Where people dance because they want to and seek to, not only because they were asked to. We connect back to what’s within. Through coming back to the roots of dance, the cipher began to go within again. But many still needing guidance in this journey they are going through and holding on to the idea of dance.

DANCE IS A WAY TO LIVE

This is the very reason why I want to create a Qigong course for dancers. This ancient way of practice allows dancers to embrace the true potential in movement not just as a way to survive but as a way to LIVE. 

In the world of movement, Street dances like HIP HOP are one of my foundations. Unlike other dances, a universal system for teaching and learning has yet to be developed compared to ballet, contemporary, and other technical/commercial forms. An “OG” is a cultural term for a pioneer and teacher of Street dance culture like (Kelley, Daniel E.). The method of teaching Street dance forms are similar. We learn/teach Cultural history, techniques, and vocabulary, but we encouraged to “freestyle” or improv, which helps develop using “vocabulary” for everyday use. Some of us became teachers and continued to pass it on to our students, passing on the knowledge, the system, and the techniques. All these without compromising forms and still rather more organic.

There are still no Hip-hop schools like there are Ballet schools in the Philippines. But, I believe that this is still a process, unfolding and connecting to the roots. This is necessary not just for learning, but as a foundation and the evolution of our culture. It is our generation’s responsibility to help the culture evolve and unfold without sacrificing its essence. 

One of the biggest milestones for street dance is the procurement of Bboying/Breaking in the Olympics. This is the original dance form of HIP HOP culture. Now, Bboying/Breaking has finally been considered as an official sport by the Olympics committee. This is a big step but I hope it will inspire a more balanced system. So more “OGs” of the culture are sought out and be accessible, to teach awareness and pass the knowledge. This will help future generations of Street Dance athletes train more efficiently and inspire new ideas. Ideas that will bring help, progress, and contribute to the culture from the “Within to Without” and vice versa. The fusion and a full circle of the past and the present. 

WHAT CAN THE ROLE OF QIGONG BE?

I believe that Qigong has a role for dancers. Basing on my own experience as a dancer, a Qigong practitioner, and now as a certified White Tiger Qigong 5 element Qigong Teacher, only the sky is a limit.

MOVEMENT

Given that dancers are already movers, Qigong allows dancers to explore different movements and feel how it benefits the body. For example, using the excess and deficiency prescription method, moving more softly, can help restore energy. Moving more dynamically can help release excess energies, which is very beneficial for dancers. After a very long competition season or atiring show, restoring energies can help dancers get their bodies in a more balanced functional state.

During the off-season, when there are no competitions or shows, Qigong can help dancers release excess energies. For example, during this pandemic a lot of dancers have stopped training and stopped doing shows because of certain protocols, I have observed the accumulation of excess energies,  so much worry, anxiety, fear, even anger and discontentment to dancers, including myself prior to learning Qigong. Which are all valid emotions knowing the uncertainty of what’s happening to the world. When I started to practice Qigong, I learned to use movement efficiently as a way to balance my energies and thus have a more balanced state of being. Now, I want to share it with others.

THE 5 ELEMENT QIGONG

Here are some ways the 5 Element Qigong can be helpful for dancers: 

DRAGON (WATER)

Dragon Qigong has physical benefits. It can also help release excess fear in the body and have more courage, willpower and to stay motivated.  These are important for dancers since dancers do train a lot. Courage and willpower help improve the training mindset. This can also help dancers to have a more hopeful and more positive outlook for the future.

TIGER (METAL)

Tiger form helps improve the immune system that dancers need. It can increase endurance and stronger immunity. It also aids in releasing tensions from the Lungs and allowing more energy to flow in the organ. Dancers can develop tension in the lungs and reduce its capacity. Especially when is not ready for certain work. For example, doing a very dynamic routine for the first time. Dancers need this exercise to increase lung capacity. This will release blockages or tensions, adjust to the routine and also be able to sustain their breath all throughout. 

The Tiger Qigong can be good to balance flexibility in dancers as well, such as Vogue. This will balance the flexibility with muscle strength and prevent the muscles from over stretching. The body needs a balance of strength and flexibility because if one becomes too flexible it can cause injuries, due to pulling of muscles way too much or beyond what the muscle can sustain in the moment.

LEOPARD (WOOD)

This is beneficial for dancers that use a lot of tension in the muscles and also those who dance-heavy dances like Krump, Bboy, Popping, etc. Leopard has bendy and swaying movement, and also contraction and expansion. Through these movements, it can balance the tensions used in the muscles. 

This Qigong can also help release excess frustrations. Frustrations can be very common for dancers during heavy training or when for example they can’t get a certain work done right. Frustrations may be healthy however, when the pressure is too much for someone it may also be harmful physically and mentally. 

CRANE (FIRE)

Crane can be good for more grounded dancers like Dancehall, Afro, and Krump. Crane’s upward movement allows the body to connect upward which will help balance the body’s energy flow. It will also be beneficial in helping the energy rise as the Crane’s movement rises and expands. 

Crane is also beneficial to help one improve focus and balance. Focus is very much needed during training as well as being balanced, not just physical balance but also a balanced state of mind. 

SNAKE (EARTH)

The Snake Qigong can be good for flexibility and lower body strength. This Qigong can be good for dancers who have tight muscles, who want to improve flexibility to balance their muscular strength, maybe due to heavier physical strength used in their dance, like Bboys, Krump, etc.

Snake Qigong also helps in grounding and gives a feeling of nurturing. It helps align the body to the Earth, this will help reduce stress and anxiety. 

TRIPLE BURNER

The Triple Burner Qigong is very helpful overall in allowing Qi to flow smoothly in the body. Allowing our center lines and Qi centers to have a good flow is essential to keep a balanced mind and body and also to keep the energy in our system flowing smoothly. 

BREATH

Qigong harmonizes all our systems. One important principle that I also want to emphasize that can help dancers is the Breath. Most of the time, especially when dancing with very long routines and very dynamic movements, either for competitions or shows, some dancers can forget to use their breath wisely. Using the breath technique and Qigong will help dancers maximize their breathing capacities in order to help them in their performance. Qigong can help dancers use their bodies more intelligently, by being aware of how our breath affects the flow of our energies. We want to help dancers have healthier lifestyles and be able to achieve longevity in their careers. 

SPIRIT/INTENTION

Also, connecting to our own self through movement and being aware of our intentions during practices is also a very powerful way to tune in with ourselves and be aware of our beings’ status. Connecting to the spirit allows us to let go, and be as it is. Accepting where we are in the moment and just fully embracing here and now will allow movers and dancers to appreciate movement as a gift and beautiful source of self-love.

When we start to truly accept ourselves without judgment we allow ourselves to be able to connect with others as well with acceptance and love. Dance is indeed a tool to connect with others, we connect when we teach, we connect when we battle, we connect when we’re in the cypher, we connect when we perform, and being able to connect fully with oneself unconditionally is the first step to have an unconditional connection and love with others.

ZHAN ZHUANG

Another principle that I also want to mention is the Zhan Zhuang or standing meditation. Zhan Zhuang can help not only to improve focus and help the energy flow run more freely in our system, but it can also help in improving postures. Having the correct posture is important to maintain especially when you’re moving a lot. Incorrect postures can cause injuries more than anything else. When our bodies become aware of the correct alignments, we become more sensitive to how our bodies react. So no matter what movement or position we are in, It is important to listen to our bodies thus limit injuries. 

NO PAIN, NO GAIN 

In the Philippines, based on my own observations and experiences, there are a lot of good and talented dancers, but I’ve seen and I have experienced the struggle and the harm caused by pushing ourselves way beyond healthy strains. At times, I can’t be help, but train for 10 hours a day or more, moving and pushing into pain. “No pain, no gain”, this can actually be true to some degree, but having no limits can actually take its toll, causing more harm than gains. 

In my own experience and observations, also as being a part of international competing groups for years, I have experienced so many injuries not just physically but mentally as well. Before, I thought that if I don’t feel the pain or if I’m not tired after that day, I haven’t done enough. It’s not only me, I saw some of the best dancers getting injuries, depression, and fall down in so many ways. I want to help dancers achieve a more balanced lifestyle and reach their full potentials. Then our dance will emerge and expressed to its highest form.

Dance can promote Longevity

Think of longevity in dance, rather than dance is just a phase to pass by, enjoy and leave. I believe that creating this course will help create a more balanced system for achieving longevity and reaching the full potentials of dancers, whether to use for individual growth or for groups. Reaching our fullest potential doesn’t only give us the success we want, but also gives us the right amount of energy to serve and share as we need, without draining ourselves to limits or sacrificing our quality of life.

THE “BILOG”

I believe through qigong these are possible.  Through this, we aim to have an exchange of two worlds to balance what there is, to bring back the cycle connecting back into the roots, ancient arts and practice, to realize dance in its fullest form of art and movement which helps not just as an expression of being but also a powerful tool of both healing and self-awareness, achieving harmony and balance within and without, going back into the circle, the “Bilog”,  not just of dance but also of life, with a more balanced mind, body, and soul. 

(As within, so without)

Credits: Daniel E Kelley III (Future)

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3 Comments

  1. Danny van Deelen on May 27, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Thank you Micaela, for posting this practice video which i gladly joined and took as an instruction lesson. It was easy to follow. It has been built up very naturally all the way to the end to the spirit part. I could really feel in to my body and the energy being created and stored back in to my body.
    As with dancing you can also get into the body and call out your inner self. There is dancers all over the world that practice ecstatic dance and medicine movement. The community is growing. Like you said in combination with Qigong this would be a tremendous healing and empowering set.

    Much gratitude for your gift

    Danny
    Heerlen, The Netherlands

  2. Beth van Steen on May 27, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    I liove Ellie’s teaching style in the dragon tutorial! Does she have other videos available?

  3. Dee on August 7, 2021 at 3:10 pm

    Beautiful. Clear. Fluid. Building step by step. A gorgeous learning tool. Thank you.

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