Sybil Shearer (1912-2005) was an original spirit, a vibrant dance artist who lived each of her 93 years to the fullest, and danced to the very end. She was a close friend of mine in the last 12 years of her life, inspiring me to return to performing dance after a long hiatus, and demonstrated herself that it is truly possible to dance forever. I would visit her in her home in Northbrook, Illinois, eat delicious, nutritious meals prepared by her companion, former dancer Masao, enjoy her stories and observations of life, play with her huge German Shepherds, Star and Jaimen, and stay in her private dance studio apartment down the road, a real thrill.
Her secret to her dancing longevity? One day we sat in the shade of her back patio admiring the trees she so loved in the Jens Jensen-designed prairie landscape. She told me her everyday exercise: moving spirals. “Every day, I spiral every part of my body.” She proceeded to demonstrate her progression, from her toes to her nose, no kidding. Sybil was wise in so many ways. She knew, from her own experiences and her study of movement of the cosmos as well as the human body, that the gesture of the spiral is a key to life.
“The spiral is one of the fundamental shapes of geometry. It expresses an order and proportion that is mirrored in the dynamic creativity of nature. From the growth of a rose, or sunflower’s head, to the harmony of the human body, the spiral can help us to understand something of the immanent pattern that connects humanity, nature and the universe.” – Glenn Gossling
A three-dimension spiral is a helix or a vortex, which more accurately describes Sybil’s exercise. Moving up her body, she slowly circled or spiraled each moveable joint in one direction, then the other: toes, metatarsal, ankle, knee, hip, ribs, shoulder, neck, eyes, eyebrows, nose, and back down the other side. She found she could do this sitting or even lying in bed, but of course she loved to jump up and, holding onto the patio pillar for a little balance assistance, move through her whole sequence.
In Spacial Dynamics®, the unique movement therapy and movement education approach using principles of the forces of spatial relationships and the human being, dynamics of the spiraling vortex are further enhanced by the conscious use of “the draw,” a kind of vacuuming invitation to draw away from the body, towards an infinite periphery. We feel this in the wonderful hands-on technique for the hands, Finger Spirals. A trained Spacial Dynamics practitioner can share this experience with you. Our Agile Aging activities of Flower Hands and Brush Painting also enjoy this dynamic of the spiral and “the draw” through the use of dynamic imagery coached by the instructor’s voice during the movement.
This simple yet wondrously effective exercise is now yours to explore. From Sybil’s simple command to “spiral every joint in your body,” to our Sybil’s Spirals or Spacial Dynamics exercises like the therapeutic Finger Spirals, everyone can enjoy the spaces that begin to open between the bones, allowing the body’s fluids to lubricate the spaces of its joints, offering a calming yet expansive experience as one slowly unfurls, like the budding flower, invited by the warming sun.
Sybil Shearer’s life and work are perpetuated through The Morrison-Shearer Foundation.
Please enjoy this video of Valerie introducing one of Sybil’s Spirals, a simple rolling of the shoulders that is expanded into spiral shoulder dances in our Agile Aging class program.
© 2014 Valerie Baadh Garrett