The ultimate metaphor for movement (see Metaphors for Movement) is moving like someone else. My goal, to move in a poised, balanced way and find more and more freedom from dystonic movement, is being met, in part, by choosing the right models to imitate.

Dr. Joaquin Farias, director of the Neuroplastic Training Institute Toronto, describes borrowed movement in his TED talk How Your Movements Can Heal Your Brain, “When the neuro software is not accessible in the brain, you can transfer it by mimicking another person’s movement and make them yours. When your brain accepts the transfer, a neuro-plastic change will start. It’s a reorganization of the whole brain. And in the end you will not be able to see the difference between the movements you have lost and the ones you have just installed.”

Imitation teaches the body more possibilities for movement, in the way that mimicking phrase structure, vibrato, or color can allow more expressive possibilities in our playing. We need to listen and observe with extreme attention in order to imitate. Once these new borrowed movements become part of our repertoire of movement possibilities we can build them back into our own habits.

In the same TED talk, Dr. Farias says, “What amazed me most is that when the movements and the neuro software is not accessible in the brain you can transfer it from another person. It looks like movement is learned and modulated socially.”

This is significant news not just for those suffering from focal dystonia, but for anyone wanting freer and more fluid technique, or more expressive whole body gestures when they perform.




One thought on “Making the Unknown Known: Metaphors for Movement Part 2

  1. Andrée, this is fascinating. It echoes what I’ve learned about how our brains process sensory input, like watching others’ body movements (especially if we are sharing the same physical space and can change our vantage point to see them from different angles). If that experience is made even more “sense-lucious” — that’s a term stolen from a poet, ha! — by audio input like music, or even smell, it can build a powerful memory that the brain can then access later, without the same stimuli. Antonio Damascio calls these neurobiological functions the “body loop” and the “as-if body loop.”


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