"In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change." - Thich Nhat Hanh
"You physically get acquainted with each other and develop a feeling of trust among each other.” - Participant
Dance Dialogue is a method for community art in which people let their bodies talk. It is an inclusive approach open to people of all walks of life and capability. As nonverbal communication is largely about relationships dance dialogue gets straight to the heart of the matter. This makes the method especially suitable for connecting differences. Participants are offered a blend of creative and social skills that empower them individually, build community and help them share their stories to a wider audience through a performance.
A dialogue in dance?
Dialogue is a focused conversation between two or more people. The aim in a dialogue is mutual learning and increasing understanding, where as debate in contrast is mostly about winning. This learning and understanding is created by suspending opinions, giving space by listening and the opening of hearts rather than creating walls of judgement between us. A dialogue creates a flow of meaning in which new possibilities can emerge.
Dance Dialogue uses nonverbal communication to dialogue. This requires often new ways of speaking and listening. Expressing through body, space and time and listening through other senses such as touch or kinestetics might feel unfamiliar and strange. Yet, as we know, most of our communication is nonverbal, giving nonverbal dialogue a huge, mostly unexplored potential.
A word on nonverbal communication
Communication researchers generally agree that most of our communication is nonverbal. Yet we don’t have a good word for it, other than to say it is not verbal. It is like saying nonfood nutrition when you talk about drinks. Nonverbal communication is actually a collective name for a range of communication forms:
Body language (kinesics): body posture, gestures, facial expressions
Use of voice (paralanguage: voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, speaking style, rhythm, intonation, and stress)
Touch (haptics): shaking hands, hugging, kissing
Distance (proxemics): the informal space around the body
Use of time (chronemics): perception and values around time, structuring of time
Eye contact (oculesics: actions of looking while talking and listening, frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate)
Physical environments: furniture, architectural style, interior decorating, lighting conditions, colors, temperature, noise, and music,
Appearance: bodily characteristics, clothing
Dancing: an artistic form of nonverbal communication
Dancing is a form of nonverbal communication or as sometimes put - an artistic form of nonverbal communication. It can encompass all of the forms of nonverbal communication. Understanding dance however is not straight forward. In a paper about dance education Judith Lynne Hanna writes: “Verbal language strings together sequences of words, and dance strings together sequences of movement. However, dance more often resembles poetry, with its multiple, symbolic, and elusive meanings, than it resembles prose.” Making sense of dance is a bit like making sense of poetry. It is a process full of ambiguity and arbitrariness.
Dance dialogue uses improvisational dance as its main dance form. Improvising dance challenges people to speak with their own bodies. It asks them to listen to space and context. It invites authenticity and develops connection. Improvisational dance forms, like instant composition, 5rhythms and contact improvisation offer a lot of freedom in expression and in return ask for choice. It is in reflecting on our choices that we can learn and grow as human beings.
What makes Dance Dialogue special?
Dance dialogue bridges the gap from movement to meaning. It opens an inherent psychosocial dimension of dance that is seldom accessed. The moment people enter a room they walk in with their life story written in their bodies. Our history – personal and ancestral- is in our posture and stance. Where we choose to move in space, how we move our hips, our relationship to the ground; they all tell a story about how we relate to the world. When people dance together past, present and future meet. Life stories open up when we move, creating possibilities to discover, develop and transform who we are. Mostly however these events are shrouded from our conscious mind. We might feel moved, but lack the words to describe it.
Through experiential learning methods dance dialogue brings out the meaning from the movement. Like poetry this meaning is personal, multi facetted and relies often on insight. Dance dialogue invites people to move between the worlds of words and movement, to experiment and to become aware of old and new shapes and stories emerge.
From dialogue to performance
Through dance dialogue participants have open and often new encounters with a diverse group of people working on important social skills and creative skills in the process. The narratives that arise out of these dialogues form the basis for a dance performance. Dance dialogue wants to empower its participants in such a way that they are active co-creators of the performance. The performance can take the shape of a series of structured improvisations around different scores (rules of the game) and/or may include rituals that the group created to show a transformation.
Dance dialogue roots
Dance dialogue was developed by Léon Beckx and Sarah Kate Gardiner as part of their community dance project PLATFORM 1660. The method grew from their research into structured dance improvisations, awareness training, group dynamics and community building.