A Note to Artists
Many artists, at about this point in reading, may raise the objection that the proposed guidelines will greatly reduce the flexibility of their expression as an artist. This is a reasonable concern and one I once shared. Here is a reasonable response:
(Image from The Red Door at Counterpulse)
Knowledge of what constitute safe suggested limitations does not mean one cannot, or even should not, at times make other choices. Choices are made in relation to intention. Without the information of what choices may be causing harm, no possibility of informed choice exists. Over an extended period of exposure to the benefits of the healthy choices Axis counsels, I have experienced my range of options expand exponentially rather than decrease. There is infinite choice within any structure. There is also always the option to make choices that do not fit into the healthy recommendations of Axis Syllabus. These choices become more poignant when they are, in fact, choices and not a result of an adopted aesthetic based on external form or unconscious patterns.
If, as an artistic choice, a dancer depicts awkwardness, destabilization, disintegration, or any aesthetic quality they like, they can do so with an understanding of the risks they are taking. One of the other tenents of permaculture is that one must begin with an understanding of the intention behind the choices being made. Efficiency is not always the intention. Sometimes character or aesthetics suggest choices that take a certain amount of effort. The artist need not shy away from these choices because they've studied Axis. This is a practice of empowerment that gives a greater understanding of the tool we use in every choice we make. It is not a dictatorial set of rigid rules that proclaim what is right or wrong within a movement lexicon.
As a young dancer enthralled by butoh I remember squatting on flat feet with my head down and using my hands to put as much weight as possible onto my head to stretch my spine. I had no way of knowing that the pain I felt was actually a sign that I was stretching connective tissue, flattening my curves, and giving myself a flattened spine. As a gymnast child, no one ever told me that forcing my knees to the ground in a butterfly was loosening the connective tissue around my femur and could cause destabilization later on. The emphasis of external rotation in the hips and the previously mentioned forced stretching of my lumbar contributed greatly to the falling in of my ankles and resultant loss of arch in my foot. My habitual walking pattern looked like a bad penguin imitation. The journey of re-patterning these extreme habits has been continuous. I equated flexibility and greater range of motion with "better." Now I consider organization, coordination, and responsivity as qualities that allow me a great deal more flexibility than joint destabilization. I am grateful for the simple information that allowed me to understand the destructive choices I was making based on ignorance and lack of information. This, I think, is the gift of AS.