Susan's Blog

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sensuous Integration

Have you ever had an experience so rich that your senses are filled, and you feel it in colors, and tastes? I first experienced this when I was fourteen and listened to Yes’ And You And I. I remember putting my headphones on and blasting it, lying on my back on the floor in my bedroom. The music kept building and soaring, a rich chocolate rainbow in my ears. I would listen to it again and again. As I got older, I learned that Yes is thought of as kind of a silly histrionic druggie band and I hid my enjoyment of them. I moved onto other tastes. Only as a 40-something did I realize how I missed them and Ned bought me a CD. I popped it into my car stereo, which is better than my home stereo. When I heard the sugary, light green notes of Steve Howe’s guitar at the beginning, and then those thumps that then lead to the brighter green guitar strumming, I had chills.

It wasn’t until sophomore year of college that I had that feeling again; this time it was from Beethoven. The Pastoral Symphony. So rich, full of green and fuschia, bursting with flavor like jelly beans on my tongue, building and building and exploding hot and triumphant, like mid-June. I could not believe anything could be so beautiful. I became a Beethoven nut for a while, seeing him in concert as much as I could (the Philadelphia Orchestra was so affordable to college kids and newlyweds). Ned even bought me a bust of him, like Schroeder has on his piano. I still have it, sitting sternly on top of my defunct stereo. I still listen to him sometimes, the utterly sad but perfect second movement of the Seventh Symphony; the more spare Archduke Trio, elegant and simple as a single diamond. And of course, I still love the Pastoral.

And so I had that feeling again tonight, at my belly dance class. Standing there in a circle of women — all of us struggling to move our hips up and out in a figure eight, lifting from the waist and moving nothing but the hips in an even shape — with this Arabic music fluttering snakelike, breathy flute and visceral drums, I felt it. Just when I thought the music couldn’t get any more beautiful, they had this high-pitched squealy instrument, which sounded to me like a woman crying for love. My thigh muscles were quivering after a while so that I could not hold the position. My knee and hip were sending out all the wrong signals.

Yet I was supremely happy. My senses were drenched. The hard, dusty floor under my bare feet; the taut and burning muscles, the faint soapy sweat, the strange and foreign, heartbreaking music. The Christmaslike jingling of my white and gold hip scarf. My parched throat, imagining water. My teacher, her waist moving at an impossible, soft angle away from her hips, as if it were alive, (while she cracked jokes like, “Pop your hip up and look at it, like you are suprised and so happy to see it. ‘Oh, look! A hip!'” and later, “When you do this backbend, remember to turn your pelvis away from the audience.” ). She is a wonder, full of real joy that just radiates from her. She also said, “In belly dance, there are no wrong moves, it’s just that you want to be sure that the move you do is the one you set out to do!” She says it all with a laugh.

A lot of laughter in this class, and even more sweat. She worked me so hard, she made me do an entire left pivot with her (everything to the left is harder for me, we all have our more difficult sides). My face was glistening, dripping. But I loved it.

I can’t get over how this teacher can teach any move. She knows exactly how to break it down, muscle by muscle. Sometimes that helps, sometimes it makes it harder, though. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes and try it, how you think it would be, in your mind, and then you can get it. That’s what happened when I finally got the Hip Eight (a figure eight perpendicular to the floor). I had it, and I knew I had it. Lifting from the waist and everything.

I wanted to linger, but class was over. I made some jokes with the other ladies, then got in my car and immediately played — guess what — the CD from my teacher. Especially song number eight, a totally histrionic, violiny thing. The music rushes up in ruby and velvety brown tones, filling my ears and my heart. I opened the window as if it were summer.

It kind of was.


What you are describing so poetically is known (much less poetically) as synesthesia, the simultaneous perception of one or more senses. I read a wonderful novel called “Astonishing Splashes of Colour” (written by Clare Morrall) whose heroine has synesthesia, to an almost unbearable degree. Yours sounds simply enjoyable. What a lovely post!

— added by n.b. on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:06 pm

The only people who called Yes “silly histrionic druggie band”? either were Jazz posers or Velvet Underground coffee heads. I’m no Yes fanatic but ‘Roundabout’ was a great song. 😉

— added by Pete Lyons on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:24 pm

I was just thinking about Yes yesterday. I turned my radio station and caught the middle of the song ‘I’m just a girl’ by No Doubt/Gwen Stefani. It was then that I realized she could probably fill in and sing for Yes. I wonder if the band members she left behind are owners of lonely hearts now. Heh…great posting..I felt as if I was there at your class.

— added by mrs. gilb on Thursday, November 30, 2006 at 11:26 pm

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