Muscle Tone, States, and Dancers


One way to simplify how you think about yourself in space is to imagine possible dance partners: The collapsed/ sluggish dance partner; The tight/ stiff dance partner; The disconnected dance partner; or the responsive dance partner.

Collapsed / Sluggish

The contact you feel with this dancer is that of heaviness. When they are closer to a place of stillness than movement (such as sitting or standing still) they are under-engaged and often look or feel compressed, deflated, or like a ton of bricks. Imagine trying to pick someone up who doesn’t want to be picked up…they often can’t be moved.

Tight / Stiff

This person is doing the opposite of the collapsed/ sluggish dancer; It’s as if they are trying to hold themselves off the floor. They’re over engaged and often look or feel tight, strained, anxious or inflexible. The interesting thing is that may also feel heavy, but in a different way; they too cannot easily be moved internally or externally.


This person is often a mixture of the two above: They’re both collapsed and sluggish in some parts of themselves and tight or stiff in others. Often they’re quite flexible in some ways, while being very rigid in others; as if to unconsciously compensate for going over in one area. Moving with them often really depend on your own organization as a means to provide the consistency (or framework) for easeful movement - but if you’re heavy, tight, or disconnected yourself, then the other person will likely be difficult to move with.


The responsive dancer feels attentive, calm, and ready to move. They’re not leaning on you for support so you don’t feel weighed down by them, and they’re not stiffened up so they don’t block your movement or their own. The seem like they’re listening to your every move and thought, and to their own internal intentions. They’re present and they emanate presence. They feel light under your touch but not flimsy or held, and when you move together they respond quickly and without the need to ‘get ready’ - they’re already there but they’re not far ahead of your movement - you get to be a part of a dance with them.


In life we all have our habitual states that follow one of the above characters more than the others. It may even be the case that we need all these different states to navigate life.

Moreover, we often flow in-between these states as we embody ourselves in action; sometimes we even combine them in different ways (For instance: Heavy and collapsed but then held tightly or pulled down in a compressed way).

Nonetheless, there seems to be a certain aliveness that comes when being in the state of responsiveness that is a truly remarkable way to live. Like the curiosity of a toddler in motion looking around and responding to the world in flow.

Cultivating thought, intentions, and practices to access more responsiveness from head to toe in yourself is a game worth playing.