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healing dances choreophotographics by Merián Soto documenting dance practice following surgery

During my first visit to the doctor after surgery on a fractured right humerus, I sense concern when he says, "you need to move that arm and shoulder a lot." I had been afraid to move after the surgery, but he's giving me a green light! Movement, which I know so well and love so much, is what my body needs to heal itself.

The next day, tears of joy and gratitude run down my face as I begin a healing dance for the shoulder and arm. In this first dance since the accident, my movement is extremely limited. Nonetheless, I am deeply moved by the beauty of the body’s striving towards extension, and deeply grateful for its profound wisdom.

This is me, two weeks after surgery, the wound newly exposed to the air. Keep it moving!

For the wounded body, practice is healing.

I develop and practice mantra dances, where I move continuously while repeating a simple phrase:

Breathe breathe breathe breathe

Keep it moving. Keep it moving, moving.

Be with what is.

Una mano ayuda la otra. (One hand helps the other)

Stay with it.

Healing dance for the shoulder. Be with what is, whatever it is. Keep it moving even in stillness.

Even in stillness, healing dance for the shoulder. Sense the movement of the breath in stillness. Stay with it. Let the breath move you. Let gratitude support the movement towards expansion. Be with what is.

This is me dancing, four weeks after surgery. Healing dance for the shoulder and the world. Keep it moving!

Discipline: Just do it. Stay the course. You know what to do and you do it, willfully, and at a high frequency. Again, again, again....

This is me five weeks after the surgery. Healing dance for the shoulder.

Let one hand help the other.

Una mano ayuda la otra. Baile de sanación.

Una mano ayuda la otra.

The movement of striving away from pain is poignant. Sensing, feeling, accepting, let go, invite poignancy, soften to receive it. The movement away from pain is empowering, healing. Keep it moving.

One hand helps the other.

When the body is broken, even the simplest movement becomes heroic.

Be with what is. Keep it moving.

What is happening? What is going on? — I accept whatever answer comes. The first time, what came to me was "I've been struck down."

¿Qué pasa? ¿Qué está pasando? Estoy sintiendo, respirando, estirando, escuchando, repitiendo, esperando, respirando. No lo dejes caer.

Healing is our birthright. The body knows the pathways to balance and health. Let the body lead the way. Let the body stretch itself into pleasure and away from pain.

What's happening? What's going on? I'm waiting, breathing, stretching, listening, healing.

A veces lo único que puedes hacer es esperar. A veces lo único que puedes hacer es respirar. A veces lo único que puedes hacer es...

This is me, six weeks after my surgery. Keep it moving.

Sometimes all you can do is breathe, and wait, and breathe, and wait ...

This is me seven weeks after my surgery, striving to rise from the ground. Keep it moving.

La cuerpa estirándose pareciera un grito, un llanto.

The broken body stretching itself seems like a scream, a wail.

This is me eight weeks after my surgery. Be with what is.

Even prone the breath. Inhale, exhale; stretch and release. The body knows the paths towards healing. Listen, follow. Show up, again, again, again. Keep it moving.

This is me, drenched in sweat, in the final section of my performance, El mundo nunca será el mismo, four months after my surgery. Photo: Ricardo Alcaraz

My solo show, El mundo nunca será el mismo, at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, in February 2021, marked my first formal solo performance on the island in 30 years. It also marked a “coming out”; for many live audiences it was their first live performance since the pandemic shutdown, and for me, a coming out of deep injury, a dance of gratitude for the healing capacity of the body supported by a life of dance.

Photo: Ricardo Alcaraz
Photo: Ricardo Alcaraz

All photos credit Merián Soto except where otherwise noted. 2021 all rights reserved