Dance, Meaning, Nature & You

Dance, Meaning, Nature & You

‘Wilderness’ … The word suggests the past and the unknown… It means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limits. — Edward Abbey

Humans have long considered their place in and relationship to the natural world through the arts – song, poetry, acting and dancing – and in passing on these stories we create a sort of folklore. We rarely have time to do this nowadays, with the pressures of work, freedom of information online and feeling increasingly removed from the natural world. Perhaps we don’t use folklore as a form of education now, but we still live within nature and it would be beneficial to reflect on this and notice the impact it still has in our daily lives.

Theater is the place where we process the question of how we want to live our lives – Peter Brook

The Moving Stories: the Sea workshop gives you the chance to create your own folklore – time to consider your relationship to our natural environment and ways to tell our stories of these places. If you enjoy dancing alone and in group, want to try making your own dance but don’t know where to start, struggle to learn dance steps and taught sequences, love being in nature but don’t often get the opportunity to dwell there, love thinking and writing but want to get more into your body, then this workshop will have something for you.

Without experience of nature, humans become mad – Paul Shepard

The workshop is a space to stop for a moment, listen and sense what is around you, connect to the environment and recall memories of happy times by the sea. We write about these memories in order to recall the fine details of what you saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelt, felt, and what it meant to you. Simple guided tasks take you into moving, exploring your own personal movement and creating a short phrase inspired by the natural environment and your personal stories. You can keep your moving story private or share with each other. Simple guided tasks take you into moving as a group, improvising together as one unit, perhaps joining your moving stories, before taking the group and solo dances to the sea front. Taking our inspiration back to its source and reminding us of our shared connections to the land.

‘Man is most himself when he is at play’ – Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

The workshop is a supportive and encouraging space to explore, create, play and just be. It is a chance to recall stories of places where you’ve felt comfort, where you felt connected to nature, that were important to you. The focus on your personal lived experience means there are no right or wrong answers, but there’s still space to feel challenged and achieve something new. You can be new to dance or have some experience already, there’s something for everyone to explore.

Get in touch to find out when the next Moving Stories: the Sea workshop is taking place

Other blogs and articles you may find interesting:
To Dance or Not to Dance?: Thoughts on Trying Something New, Elise Phillips (2017)
Coastal Mappings, Dancing Stories: A Community Dance Residency in New Zealand, Petra Kuppers (2007)
Communicating Through the Body Using Creative Movement in Health Care, Elisabeth Zeindlinger (2013)
Dancing Outdoors, Michelle Wilkinson (2014)

To Dance or Not to Dance? Thoughts on trying something new

To Dance or Not to Dance? Thoughts on trying something new

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
– Martha Graham via Zadie Smith’s new book about writing and dancing

We all know that dance is good for us – it’s a fun form of aerobic exercise, it increases the heart rate and circulation, improves strength, balance, and reaction times. More than just the physical benefits, there is an increasing body of evidence about the wellbeing benefits of dance: it improves cognitive abilities with sustained focus and concentration; allows a sense of mental liberation, a chance for self expression; it increases sensory awareness, can be a form of relaxation and help release of tension; it is social and can reduce social isolation; it can be cultural, giving us a sense of place within society. Dance is a holistic experience that involves body, imagination and emotions, allowing a sense of pleasure through being physical. It’s a space for sharing, for witnessing and being witnessed.

Still, taking up dance classes can feel daunting. People often fear: having to learn steps, not being flexible enough, feeling self conscious about getting it wrong, or not having the right body type. There can be practical barriers like finding a good teacher who delivers a class near you, on your free day of the week, that fits in around finishing work and making dinner. Taking creative workshops can sometimes feel as daunting – not knowing if you’ll be the least experienced person there, not knowing where or how to start actually making up movements, comparing yourself to others. You can start to understand why people may be nervous about having a go when you consider that the moving creator is also the creation. However, its precisely the individuality of our bodies and creations that can make dancing and creating less scary.

For me dance is about moving, sharing, honesty and curiosity. As a Community Dance Artist, I am interested in individuals, looking at the strengths of each person and developing something around that. Classes and workshops that encourage and create space for individuals to explore the way their body moves – the way their body turns, extends, swings, shakes – are much more rewarding spaces. All of a sudden dance is more familiar and accessible. This approach acknowledges that everyone is different and values everyone’s contributions. Similarly in creative workshops, if the starting point is your own experience (especially when you focus on positive memories/experiences, though there is therapeutic power in focusing on other experiences as well) the dancer is more committed to their movement, movement sequences are easier to remember and meaning is conveyed with each movement. The precise meaning isn’t always clear to an audience, but that’s not always necessary, they will no doubt be engaged by watching someone move with commitment and intention and have an emotional response to that.

Its not always easy to find weekly classes that encourage this approach, but I would suggest that if you took this approach with you when going to a new dance class, and you explore how YOUR body executes the taught movements, you will find more joy and curiosity in your dance. So in response to the blog title, my answer is always: DANCE! Everyone has their own dance, one for every mood, every day, every place, every event – let it out! To echo the words of Martha Graham, express your unique vitality or it will be lost to the world.

Keep Dancing . . . The Health and Well-Being Benefits of Dance for Older People, BPUA (2011)
A Change of Air, Miranda Tufnell (2005)
We Can Nurture Self-Esteem, But… How?, Joke Verlinden (2008)
Participation in Community Dance: A Road to Empowerment and Transformation? Sara Houston (2005)