Your body is the ground metaphor of your life, the expression of your existence. So many of us are not in our bodies, really at home and vibrantly present there. Nor are we in touch with the basic rhythms that constitute our bodily life. We live outside ourselves - in our heads, our memories, our longings - absentee landlords of our own estate. My way back into life was ecstatic dance. I reentered my body by learning to move myself, to dance my own dance from the inside out, not the outside in.
~ Gabrielle Roth
Dancing is not just getting up painlessly, like a leaf blown on the wind; dancing is when you tear your heart out and rise out of your body to hang suspended between the worlds.
What is Conscious Dance?
The soft animal of your body
It is hard to define Conscious Dance. Words often fail when we try to describe our experience of Conscious Dance. When it comes to words poetry is perhaps better suited to describe the experience. A line in Mary Oliver's poem 'Wild Geese' captures some essence of the conscious dance experience: 'You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.' In discussing this poem, David Whyte describes how this 'only' is a threshold. It sounds so simple, says Whyte, but it takes a tremendous discipline and a whole lifetime to follow your bodily intuitions. This threshold is also present in Conscious Dance. It is the edge between moving and being moved.
In the practice of Conscious Dance, for example, we learn to attend to the shy, reluctant parts of ourselves and welcome them to the dance however awkward that may feel. Sometimes this opens the door out of our ordinary consciousness. We might give space to our resistance, move that for a while, when suddenly 'it' is there. We notice an effortless flow in our body and find that we easily sync with our surroundings. The more we get out of 'its' way, the more we can disappear in the dance.
The conscious in Conscious Dance does not refer to our ordinary, wakeful attention. Rumi wrote: 'there is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen.' To hear that wordless voice we have to listen with different ears. We have to nourish a kind of open, patient and receptive presence that welcomes whatever is there. Touch is a good place to start. Touch is sometimes called 'the mother of all senses.' Where the eyes and ears can easily fool us in thinking we are separate from what we perceive, touch draws us in, requiring a physical connection. We cannot touch without also being touched. Whether we are 'in touch' with ourselves, others or something else, we enter a landscape of sensations, felt in the core of our body. The philosopher Eugene Gendlin called this pre-verbal, bodily knowing the 'felt sense.' Tapping into our felt sense gives us access to a bigger and wider conscious field. This is where consciousness and dance meet.
Conscious Dance is a language of becoming, the more we try to grasp and hold on, the more it will slip through our fingers. It is a practice of losing one self in the dance. We practice embodiment and presence, moving with attention and intention. We learn how we can do that alone, with a partner, and with the whole room. We also learn how to journey in dance; how to build our energy, and how to surrender. Conscious Dance also refers to the moment that we are being moved. We learn to find the eye of the storm when we enter ecstasy or trance; and how to find our feet, and enter the dance deeper and deeper. Conscious Dance, finally, also concerns the journey back to daily life where we can become dancers of life by creating spirited communities and by finding the cracks in our consensus reality through which the dance can move.
Conscious Dance is not a single practice or school but stands for a family of movement practices all working with dance and consciousness. Under the programs and calendar you can read more about my work with Conscious Dance.