#SpeakingInDance: Growing Through Oppositions
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#SpeakingInDance: Growing Through Oppositions

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1.Valentine Raymond, in her beautiful arabesque, showing grace in opposition. Eyes up, long arms, chest opened, pointed toes, turned out feet, standing leg pushed into the floor, lifted torso. Amazingly beautiful energy.
Valentine Raymond, in her beautiful arabesque, showing grace in opposition. Eyes up, long arms, chest opened, pointed toes, turned out feet, standing leg pushed into the floor, lifted torso. Amazingly beautiful energy.

At the age of 48, Patsy Lo left a high-powered job with Apple Inc. to take up dance (ballet and contemporary Martha Graham techniques) full-time in Paris. She had never danced before.

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Opposition is a term we tend to hear a lot in the dance world, especially in ballet and in the contemporary Martha Graham techniques. It is not something we debate about, it is simply necessary. It is present in almost every position we do. We train ourselves to create oppositions by coordinating different parts of our body – to generate balance, strength and momentum.

“Patsy, you are not jumping high enough because your plié (bending of the knees) is not deep enough! You have to get down more with your plié, in order to go up. You must push into the floor more! Push down the floor from inside your pelvic to go up! Push your shoulder blades down for more height!” A teacher once said to me.

2.Snoopy x André Mr. A was a special pop-up at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées in May 2019. There, I met Mimi while we were both looking at the Snoopy T-shirts. Mimi danced for the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet for most of her career. She shared with me her secret: “The magic is that you have to respect your body. Your body speaks to you and you have to love it. Remember that everything starts with you. Nothing is an accident in life.”
Snoopy x André Mr. A was a special pop-up at Galeries Lafayette Champs-Élysées in May 2019. There, I met Mimi while we were both looking at the Snoopy T-shirts. Mimi danced for the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet for most of her career. She shared with me her secret: “The magic is that you have to respect your body. Your body speaks to you and you have to love it. Remember that everything starts with you. Nothing is an accident in life.”

Turning out of the feet involves the opposition of the hips. A relevé (raising of the body from a plié to demi-pointe or pointe) involves opposition in the feet. A port de bras (the carriage of the arms) is the opposition of the shoulder blades, wrists and ribs. In order to prepare for a pirouette (a spin), the entire body has to be engaged and coordinated to create the opposition required to turn.

“Every movement, every bit of grace, is only possible when there is opposition.” I hear this constantly in class.

I remember a story once told by the late Steve Jobs in an interview. An old man that was living down the street where Jobs was living when he was a young boy showed him how plain old rocks could be turned into beautiful polished rocks. The old man would let the rough rocks grind against each other, making a bit of friction and a bit of noise, turning them into beautiful polished rocks.

In the interview, Jobs goes on to describe the story as “a metaphor for a team that is working really hard on something they’re passionate about. It’s that, through the team, through this group of incredibly talented people bumping up against each other, having arguments, having fights sometimes, making some noise, and working together, they polish each other and they polish the ideas, and what comes out are these beautiful stones.”

It could be that opposition is the force of life and beauty. Nature is filled with oppositions; inhale and exhale, pain and happiness, light and darkness…

Thinking back, I had spent a lot of time believing in the “happiness formula.” Study hard, get good grades, get into the right schools, work for the best companies and make good money. Marry a loving husband who is rich and loves you. Have beautiful kids. Make sure not to get fat or have any wrinkles while doing all of that. Always put on the face of perfection and happiness. I resented obstacles, challenges and darkness.

I wish I had understood as a child that the bigger goal in life is about being at peace with opposition. That the beauty in life is often due to opposition. I wish I had understood sooner that opposition is there to create the two crucial life forces – balance and evolution. It is especially the types of opposition that aim to grow us as opposed to the ones that intend to destroy us. The path that we take to find our own balance despite the challenges and potential darkness, empowers us more than blindly chasing happiness.

3.The middle apartment of the house of my French godmother, Yveline Dirand. I used to stay in this apartment with her just upstairs. She would bring me hot soup in the middle of the winter. Her door was always open and she always had a refrigerator stacked with food, in case of unexpected visitors. The apartment was designed by her son, renowned French architect Joseph Dirand.
The middle apartment of the house of my French godmother, Yveline Dirand. I used to stay in this apartment with her just upstairs. She would bring me hot soup in the middle of the winter. Her door was always open and she always had a refrigerator stacked with food, in case of unexpected visitors. The apartment was designed by her son, renowned French architect Joseph Dirand.

Lyudmila Kushnir, a neuroscientist who also started dancing only as an adult once said to me, “We believe that there is a sunrise and a sunset. But they’re the same thing – just one thing – it is the Earth that rotates. The sun never moves. We sometimes forget that there is a third thing, and that third thing is the point.”

Perhaps if we can start by looking at opposition differently and always with a sense of victory, we could take away its dominance on us. That no matter what happens, after we wipe our tears and attend to our wounds, we vow to turn it into something better and beautiful. Perhaps in doing so, we would feel less victimized, less angry and less afraid. Perhaps we could just become stronger.

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Patsy Lo is the founder and curator of sml Dance.  Originally from Hong Kong, Patsy worked in marketing for more than 20 years globally.  At 48, she left Apple Inc. after working for the American tech giant in various cities to become a full-time dance student in Paris, France.  She still lives in Paris, practising ballet and contemporary Graham technique.  Besides dancing more than 20 hours every week, she is also the founder of sml (@sml_dance on Instagram), which curates dance performances. The aim of the company is three fold, make dance more accessible, provide a bridge for choreographers and dancers to cross platforms, and ultimately, inspire people to reconnect within themselves and feel, move and expand more.

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