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Active Listening and Looking

March 4, 2022

The fifth day of the workshop started with a Q&A session as usual. There were many different questions asked, but several of them had the common theme of dealing with fear of some kind. Fear of getting injured or hurt, fear of misjudging a situation or a person, fear of doing things wrong, etc. Hino sensei responded to those questions with various anecdotes and illuminated the nature of fear. It is the kind of thought that cripples the body and stops it from functioning naturally. According to Hino sensei, the best antidote to fear is to focus on something else and take action. “Because you’d never know whether you made a mistake or not unless you do something, put something out there. If you don't do anything, you never know anything. When you take action, you get feedback for improvement,” he said.

The work today consisted of two simple exercises. One is what I call the palm-to-palm exercise. Two people stand, facing each other with one foot forward and the other back, and connect by putting palms together. Hino sensei instructed the person, whose palm is at the bottom, to make a circular movement. The other one follows the movement. While the movement is happening, the physical contact point between the palms remains the same. Hino sensei said, “It’s as if you’re locking the lines of palm with the other person’s” to describe the feeling of the contact point. It’s not pushing the palm against the other nor completely relaxing it. “You listen to your partner actively with your palm,” he told the dancers. As they practiced, all kinds of challenges came up. The biggest one was the habitual movement’s preventing the active listening and connecting. It has to be a two-way connection where one person sends clear intention of movement direction and the other receives and follows. The whole body is engaged in the process.

The other exercise was a sudden move. Two people stand, facing each other, palm-to-palm. First the two stand absolutely still for a moment. Then the one whose palm is at the bottom suddenly turns to the side. The focus of this exercise is the shift/switch of consciousness. Hino sensei gave a metaphor to explain what it is; To switch consciousness feels like changing channels on a TV. The movement as the result of the consciousness switch looks sudden to the audience. So, he asked the dancers to make groups of three and had the third person watch the exercise to check if the movement really looked sudden. After a while, a few fundamental issues came up. One is “Thinking about moving suddenly doesn’t make the movement look so.” The other one is “Stillness at the beginning is not the same as stopping physical movement.” Those issues led to the challenges of knowing and feeling what it means to have “no thought” and having both consciousness and the body be fully present and clear in relation to the other. You cannot just stand in front of each other and turn quickly. You need to look at the other person, engaging the entire body and consciousness. That creates the kind of stillness and connection that transform the time and space in between the two people facing one another.

Hino sensei walked around the studio and stood in front of the dancers to show the example of such active looking and connecting. Every time he demonstrated, other dancers would gather around him to watch intently to figure out how he did it. The quality of his presence was so dense and clear once he made eye contact with the other. And when he made a sudden move, people around him gasped because it was really, really sudden.

The practice continued. The concentration of the dancers was getting better and deeper. Their eyes were filled with curiosity and earnestness. They were trying their best to reach and connect with the other side.

Tomorrow will be their last day with Hino.


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