Laban Graduation Speech

When asked to make a short speech on behalf of my fellow postgraduate diploma community dance students, I did some soul searching and reflecting about the previous 2 years… Below are some excerpts and a link to the speech.

“CAN dance really achieve social change?… A Greek author named Plutarch once said, “what we achieve inwardly, will change outer reality”. By that logic, in offering a space to experience yourself and others in an equal and respectful way, any inward change, realisation or skill acquisition, will change our ‘outer reality’.

“…consider the idea of Kinaesthetic Identity – that “we do not live IN our bodies, we ARE our bodies”, And that “my body is not a tool through which I access dance, but that I AM the dance”, “the movements I make ARE my identity” – It is possible to see how dance has the potential to elicit deep personal change

and that change may also impact on one’s surrounding environment.

“On the Community Dance course, I worked harder and in a more committed way than I ever have in my life. I now feel I have the licence to slow down, to work more attentively and with more space, as a deliberate choice – it does not equate to being lazy… [And] we’re allowed to do it everyday – to give ourselves space to appreciate the things we do, to work more attentively; as a deliberate choice.”

Alternatively you can read the speech below.

Honoured Guests, Graduates and Graduands,

I want to ask you all a question and I’d like you please to answer with a show of hands. Who here feels they know what Community Dance is? (respond) Not enough people know what community dance can be. When someone asks me what a community dance artist is, I say that: I make, teach, and dance-with people from all back grounds, people with Learning and physical disabilities, young offenders, children, , older adults with dementia, etc. I help people to discover what they are already capable of.

As an individual, I’m committed to social change. When I came to Laban, I was interested in the role dance could play in that. But CAN dance really achieve social change? It’s a big ask. I believe that by giving people the opportunity: to make their own and collective decisions, to be seen/witnessed, acknowledged and validated, to problem solve and succeed, you give them a chance to feel empathy and have a sense of self worth.

A Greek author named Plutarch once said,

What we achieve inwardly, will change outer reality

By that logic, in offering a space to experience yourself and others in an equal and respectful way, any inward change, realisation or skill acquisition, will change our ‘outer reality’.

To consider the idea of Kinaesthetic Identity – that “we do not live IN our bodies, we ARE our bodies”, And that “my body is not a tool through which I access dance, but that I AM the dance”, “the movements I make ARE my identity” – it is possible to see how dance has the potential to elicit deep personal change and that change may also impact on one’s surrounding environment.

I’ve been called an idealist in my time, and don’t get me wrong, Community Dance alone will not change the world. The same way activists chaining themselves to oilrigs and diggers will not change the world – on their own. It’s the network of campaigns, action, advocacy and alternatives that WILL. My work as a community dance artist is my contribution to this ‘network’, providing an alternative way of being and relating – to ones self and to others. That’s what we can do as Community Artists. That’s why we Dance.

I want to share today that I really have felt privileged to be part of this year’s Commmunity Dance cohort. As someone who had never done contemporary dance before coming here – never did GCSE or A Level dance, never choreographed before, Laban was a shock to the system! Being part of this group has supported and nurtured me and helped me to learn more about my development as a person, artist and practitioner. To quote a fellow student Agnese,

Working together opened my way of seeing, feeling and experiencing dance.

I completely agreeI want to thank Agnese, Catherine, Kathleen and Kathryn for being wonderful. I want to thank Sue and Jamie for some carefully worded and supportive conversations (that turned out to be quite pivotal for me), that helped me figure out what contemporary dance was, and why the hell I was here – thank you both. I can’t be up here and not thank my parents and boyfriend for their emotional and financial support throughout. I literally wouldn’t be here without them.

That’s enough of that! I finally, I want to share with you the most important lesson I learnt during my 2 years at Laban. On the Community Dance course, I worked harder and in a more committed way than I ever have in my life. I really hadn’t ever pushed my self this hard and really wanted to do the very best that I could with all my being. In doing this, I proved to MYSELF what I was capable of. I now feel I have the licence to slow down, to work more attentively and with more space, as a deliberate choice – it does not equate to being lazy. That was a profound realisation.

Today, we’re all allowed to stop, for a whole day, and revel in all we’ve achieved, we’re allowed to not worry about what comes next, we’re allowed to speak proudly of our trials and our successes. But its not our only opportunity to allow ourselves space. We’re allowed to do it everyday – to give ourselves space to appreciate the things we do, to work more attentively; as a deliberate choice.

Thank you.