Our Secret Inhale

I am surrounded by my partner’s breath.  We are dancing in an otherwise empty ballroom.  The lights are off, so soft late-afternoon sun creates eddies and ripples of shadow and pools of gentle illumination from the curtain-clad windows.  We are moving, and there is music, but mostly there is breath.

I’m thinking a lot about the sharing of breath, lately.  I am keenly aware of my partner’s breath especially when I am leading a dance.   Some partners take shallow, fluttering breaths, like a trapped little bird beating against my chest.  Some gasp, startled or delighted or pleased or tired.  I remember a teacher telling me that she liked to match her breathing to her partners’ breath, gradually slowing it and bringing their breath, their energy level, along with her.  I remember another saying about nervous partners, “You have to go up to their level, and then you can bring them down with you.  But you have to be with them there, first.”

Reading The Body Keeps the Score, I realized that the technique of breath mirroring is beneficial for those who have experienced trauma, too.  I often go into a dance thinking, “How can I make my partner feel special, feel taken care of, feel safe with me?” Reading about trauma made me realize that maybe that question could have a larger scope.  Instead of asking how I can make someone happy for the next three minutes, maybe I could be trying to give them something that they could take away with them.  Not forever, perhaps not even for a long time, but maybe for just a little longer, I could give them that gift of shared safety, of shared experience.  Maybe I could give them our shared breath.

And so, here I am.  I am embracing my partner, my teacher, my mentor.  I feel her breath, radiant and strong, a supernova of coiled energy and warmth.  We dance.  I breathe in.  We breathe out.

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