Pathways Magazine

“Synergy Connect,” by Paula Stinson

Excerpted from an article in the September 1988 issue of Pathways Magazine:

. . . Place your right thumb just at your solar plexus and your left hand on your head . . . Feel yourself go into center.

So begins the 8:30 a.m. exercise class at SynergyDance studio on Wisconsin Avenue. Charmaine is in a new exercise suit today, brown and black, her long black hair pulled up loosely on the back of her neck. She is small and lithe as a cat, and there is nothing to indicate she was tortured with injections in South Africa, her health and career broken before she managed to flee in 1979 first to London and later to the U.S. Hers is a tale of wealth and education, theatre, dance, underground political activity, arrests, kidnapping, torture, flight, poverty and finally the slow return to health and her own bodywork studio in Washington, D.C., where she teaches the body movements by which she was restored.

She sits cross-legged before 20 women. Her movements are fluid as water, her voice as soft as the music that ripples over us. In the next hour every part of our bodies will be exercised, loosely, effortless. Now swing! And swing! It should be easy. She sings the words. Use the movement, not your body.

Synergy, or “bringing together,” is a kind of polarity therapy working with the five elements of ether, air, fire, water, earth, balancing and strengthening each element. They are unlike the jerky, fierce, and potentially damaging aerobic exercises of Jane Fonda in that they search always for the effortless, efficient way. Loose wrists . . . she calls lightly above the music. In the course of the hour, the music moves from airy dream-sounds, to reggae, rock, African or Caribbean rhythms, some fast, some liquid, some fiery, depending on the polarity element being worked on; and halfway through I realize I’m smiling as I fall forward, my head on my knee, rest momentarily, and swing up again, my arms in alternating movements to the legs. I feel like a child–that pleasure in moving that I remember from running carefree on the playground, loose in my body and all the parts connected properly; and snatching a quick glance around I’m surprised to notice (but not surprised) that almost everyone in the class is smiling, just as I am, apparently experiencing that same deep, inner sweetness as we move . . .

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