Embers in the Heart

Any time we risk really hearing someone, letting who they truly are   dance against the intimate core of our being, what we give that person
is the gift of themselves. When the space in us is an invitation,
we find things around us answering by coming alive. It is in the nature
of things that a beautiful opening inspires us to find something
of equal beauty to put within it.

— “The Creative Imperative” Charles Johnston

An old African proverb says, “When one flower opens, dozens open.”

There is a moment during a class when everything changes. It’s the moment when the group constellates as a whole, it’s the moment when the teacher can leave off tracking the individuals and track the group collectively.

Sometimes this constellation happens within minutes of a group gathering for the first time. Many groups take two or three meetings. For a handful it never happens.

When a group constellates as a whole you will notice a conspicuous change. Beforehand, when the class sits in a circle and the individuals speak, they address only the teacher. After the transition they speak their observations and comments to the entire group.

To arrive at the constellation several strategies and tools are helpful. Serious focused work helps the group constellate, as does play and laughter. It can bond people to go so deeply into the details of sensation that people lose their normal narrative for a time.

One of the elements that encourages this transition I call embers in the heart. It is the place where the smoke of excessive enthusiasm has burned away, and the coals are ready for slowed-down cooking. The glow and shimmer are enthralling to both students and teacher.

A teacher can be skilled, have the best “tried and true” material, and be adept at spontaneous teaching. But if they do not themselves have embers something in the class will feel cool. This radiance can arise from a passionate engagement with the dance form. For some teachers the coals ignite simply by the presence of students. The embers can emanate from where a person is most well-rounded, and from where they are most well-wounded. And this may be the same place. What is cracked in us can lead us to the place of our gifts.

What can happen when the studio shifts from a group of individuals into a multi-star constellation? The embers in everybody’s heart gets breathed on and now shimmer off one another. These shimmering embers allow each person to move beyond his or her self-definition and each gets to discover something previously concealed. A spirit of invitation appears.

1 thought on “Embers in the Heart

  1. Art Busse

    Nicely put, Martin. I love transformational moments of all kinds. In flamenco, this would be called Duende.

    The quote you led off with is an apt description of the process I use when addressing a potential building site, hoping to invoke a design vision. When the inspiration comes, it comes as a physical gesture in response to the site. That gesture is the essence of the house design.


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