Dance has been a pathway to opening my heart and a joyful part of my personal and spiritual transformation. I did not receive dance training as a child or youth; about 10 years ago, In my early forties, I “accidently” found a group of men and women who met weekly to learn and explore contact improvisational dance. The Saskatoon Contact Improvisational Dance Collective, founded by Linda Ruban, has provided me the opportunity for expression, creativity, playfulness, fun, friendship, growth and learning. Contact improvisational dance is a skill-based, organic and spontaneous movement form. We dance together to create an interesting, engaging, beautiful experience for the “imagined” audience. I suppose the audience is God or the God within each of one of us. We are each free to bring our skills and techniques, energy, and personality to the dance and magically, this becomes a co-creative effort that transcends the boundaries between us. My heart opens and my soul dances free.
As Crazy Smooth, artistic director of Bboyizm says “Dance to express, not impress.! Consider the enthusiasm of children as they express themselves through movement; the joy adults exude after a ballroom dance class; the profound emotional response of audiences and their reflections after a powerful dance performance; the incredible energy generated in a room when everybody starts to boogie; and the passion and history reflected in traditional and cultural dances. Imagine how desolate a world without dance would be.”
I became involved with the Improv Dance Collective about the same time I began my Spiritual Transformation Guide Training with Tanis Helliwell. It’s interesting to reflect on how dance has given me so many spiritual gifts. Because I’m talking about the Joy of movement, I want to define what I understand Joy to mean in the context of movement; take what you like and leave the rest: Joy is the capacity to be fully in the moment, engaged completely (captivated) by some thing, activity, person or being; without ego; not thinking; a state of positive well-being, a level above happiness; a sense of connection to the whole; blissful ; and being in the Flow or having a “flow” experience.
My love of dance has taught me to:
- be more playful and spontaneous
- be less serious
- drop judging others and myself
- become more comfortable transitioning from my private self to my public self (going from inside to outside myself). This is also about expansion and contraction.
- allow others their space and freedom of expression
- accept differences
- honor others’ boundaries and establish my own boundaries.
- let go, lighten up and laugh
- explore my edges and take risks
- allow rhythms to guide me and to dance outside of rhythms (to my own beat)
- move in new ways: break old patterns, habits, and routines, be less linear and repetitive
- allow others to be a part of my dance
- Structure supports creativity: within a safe, guided, supported environment, it’s easier to freely express oneself.
- When I dance I stop thinking.
Here are two of my favourite lessons from one of my dance teachers, Jill Henis Gnoato:
- Open my window.
This means allowing others to really see me and taking responsibility to be clear and honest in what I reveal through my movement. As a dancer, I’m supposed to engage, include, excite, challenge, and/or wakeup others who are in some way participating with me (could be an audience member or other dancers, or even me!) Opening my window is showing the authentic “me” and in doing so, giving the watcher permission to be authentic, too.
- Don’t let my movements become “precious”.
It’s easy to become attached to a particularly yummy or favorite habitual movement; this is letting the movement become “precious”. In other words, keep the movements real and honest, always. This I believe is the practice of detachment in dance- being fully present, engaged, and committed, and deeply enjoying without getting attached to a particular movement or phrase. Improvisational dance is a wonderful teacher because there is a constant shift and flow of movement, energy, intention, and emotions. There’s no choreography to attach to! The key learning here for me is I need to be vigilant about getting too self-absorbed in my own dance.
On April 29th, find a way to enjoy dance – try a class, watch a performance, dance in your living room. Here are a few ideas from my own life: hula hoop, Zumba Fitness™, aquaFitness, Nia™, ballet, ballroom dance and Salsa. Happy International Dance Day! May the Joy of dance be with you.
Laura Harris is a graduating student with Tanis Helliwell and the International Institute for Transformation. Skilled and trained in adult learning and movement, Laura has a Masters degree in Physical Education and a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. Laura’s mission is bringing wellness into people’s lives.