The concept of yielding surfaces time and time again in modern and contemporary dance training. When learning to roll the the floor, one must learn to yield one's weight to gravity in such a way that the descent is soft and easy. When dancing with a partner in contact improvisation, one must learn to yield in order to feel support and offer support in return.
I am currently teaching at a summer dance intensive in Puebla, Mexico and the idea of yielding came up in class today. In trying to encourage the dancers to soften their legs into plié during a flexion and extension exploration, I discovered that it is not a matter of asking them to simply bend their knees, I wanted to them to feel the weight of their bones against the floor, to soften the joints and muscles so they become responsive. I wanted them to yield. But, I didn't know the word for it, and I couldn't come up with a clear explanation of it either English or Spanish that was understandable.
I took a moment with a dictionary tonight after class to translate it. The best option I came up with was ceder (to hand over, to part with, to give up). I will be sure to take this word into class tomorrow. But, the word is not enough, there is something intangible and un-namable about the idea of yielding. When we experience yielding we soften not only our exterior but our interior. Yielding is a process of allowing. We allow gravity to work upon us. We meter out our softness and our strength in response to the demands of momentum. We must also soften our thinking, so we can listen with all of our senses (not only our ears).
Yielding is the experience of opening up our pores to the world. We yield our grip on our sense of self. We part with our ego in order to receive the gifts around us. But, in order to do any of this, we must find self trust. We must trust our experience and our sensations. For many dancers, technique class can seem like the exact opposite experience. In technique we often desensitize ourselves in order to "work through it" or even better to "get it right." In some cases we may have completely trained out our ability to soften, listen and yield to our inner experiences.
A plié is not a mere bending of the knees. Plié is the experience of yielding. It is the place from which we can push off the earth with power and conviction. And, this metaphor extends easily into all aspects of life. How are we yielding to an experience? Are we holding ourselves rigid for fear of crumbling? Can we soften a little more in order to sense our surroundings, the place, the information, the people? What happens to our experience of life when we allow ourselves to soften a bit more? What is keeping us from allowing this happen?
Yielding like anything takes practice. I too am practicing yielding in life and in dance. If you like we can practice together.