Dancing on the Edge

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I went to a Contact Improv workshop/jam on Saturday.

Contact improv is a form of movement improvisation where 2 or more people dance together and use a point of contact between their bodies to shape the dance. As far as I can tell, the only rules are to take care of your own body (don’t let yourself get hurt) and to be as generous as you can to your partner (support them as much as you can) while still abiding by the first rule.

For a brief idea of what it can look like, check out this video:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/S23AXtFW6qs)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/zQRF2sLK1vY)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/ED8hNoulZv4)

Or this one:

(If you can’t see the video, click here: http://youtu.be/zkreiRt8GEY)

I could keep going indefinitely. There’s no single way to do contact improv, no definitive “this is how it should look.” In fact, I get the feeling that no two sessions will be the same: the energy you bring to the practice will change, the way you experience the physical sensations will change, and these elements will affect the movement. Even if you danced with the same partner day in and day out, you would both bring new things to the table every single time.

It’s a practice that I find simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

Much like the dance I’ve been exploring and teaching in my classes, contact improv isn’t something you can do “right” or “wrong.” It’s experience-focused, not appearance-focused (although, I have to say, it looks really cool too). The point isn’t to “get it right,” the point is to be fully embodied and aware of the play of sensation and emotion as you move through the practice.

As our teacher, Sara Coffin, told us in class on Saturday, if you’re asking yourself “am I getting this?” you’re actually putting up a roadblock to your own progress. Instead, ask yourself how the practice feels in the moment, and allow your emotional and physical experience to be expressed in the dance.

It gave me chills, because she nailed exactly what I was asking myself…even though it’s exactly what I tell people NOT to do in my own classes. You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but outside my own discipline…not so much.

As you can see from the videos, contact improv is very much about connection and trust—trust in yourself and trust in your partner(s). And it’s also about unspoken communication—sensing your partner’s energy and intention and honouring it, while simultaneously shaping the dance with your own energy and intention.

It’s the unspoken interaction that fascinates me. The requisite release of control—how you can’t make a decision to do something and force your partner to go along with it, but need to create a new path that honours both of you. The way you need to trust yourself as well as your partner. The way you really need to release into the flow of movement, without holding back. The way you need to keep from over-thinking because the body knows better than the mind.

These things are also what scare me. The practice brought me face to face with my own issues: my tensed-up, frightened need to control things, my reluctance to release into the care of another, my fear that my body wouldn’t be strong or flexible enough to support me, my self-consciousness about being bigger than the other dancers (when I dance solo, this is SO not an issue. Dancing with a partner really brought this out for me).

It was not a comfortable 2 hours.

But it was a necessary 2 hours. It was an awakening for me, this foreign-but-familiar, fascinating-but-terrifying dance. It had me walking my edge with a vengeance

and that’s a good thing. Beyond that edge I sense the possibility of experiences I didn’t know existed. The possibility of freedom from these limiting beliefs I didn’t know I carried. The possibility of connection and play and release and flow and lightness. Strength and trust and confidence. More than ever before.

In the past six years, I’ve broken through many boundaries, healed many wounds, walked many edges, leaped and been caught, trusted and tried and learned. For some reason, I thought I was done the bulk of it. But of course I wasn’t.

I’m beginning to see that we’re never done. There’s always another edge to walk. We find a new one and glimpse a life that’s bigger than we knew was possible. And that’s amazing, because it means that we can keep evolving and growing and healing and getting ourselves further and further into the flow of things.

There’s always another edge to walk, another inner landscape to explore. Saturday’s workshop showed me mine, and it’s a major one. If you need me, I’ll be hanging out here, dancing on the edge, peering over the edge of my comfort zone, and staring at the magical possibilities that await me.

Image by Peer Lawther (Flickr.com)

In My Own Backyard (Greetings from Not-Portland, Part 2)

Well, it’s official: I made it to all of the workshops I mentioned in my not-Portland post! Hooray!

Last weekend I went to yoga and to Barefoot Ecstatic Dance, and they were incredible. And on Saturday I went to a Contact Improv workshop taught by Mocean Dance Interim Artistic Director, Sara Coffin. It was scary and challenging and intriguing, and it brought up a lot of my “stuff.” It could be life-changing.

I’m going to have a lot to say about the workshop soon, I promise. But before I even start, I want to take some time to celebrate the fact that I did these things. It’s a Big Deal! I spent so long (YEARS) staying at home and not exploring the community around me. And then I finally stepped out my front door (instead of driving to Maine) and I discovered new communities, met amazing people, challenged myself, and learned SO MUCH.

I was right. I didn’t need to cross the border or even leave the city to find new experiences and learn new things. In fact, I think I challenged myself more by staying here. I didn’t realize how much I was resisting going out and meeting people in Halifax. People at workshops in other cities or countries? You never (or rarely) see them again. But people in Halifax? Way scarier to me. What if they didn’t like me? Or laughed at me? What if they thought I was too big or weak or awkward or scared?

(Yes, I have these fears too. I didn’t realize how strong they still were until this past weekend). 

But (and here’s the key) I went out and took the classes anyway. And nothing bad happened. Everyone was amazing. I had fun…and even when I didn’t have fun, I learned a LOT.

And, best of all, now that I’ve opened up to the possibility of exploring Halifax’s community, new opportunities keep showing up.

There’s another Barefoot Ecstatic Dance on Saturday, and at least 2 of my friends are going with me. There’s going to be another one at the end of July with live music. Sara Coffin is planning at least one more Contact Improv jam before the end of the summer, and there was even talk of making it a weekly thing. And there is a series of contemporary dance performances scheduled in Halifax in the fall that I am DYING to go to. There’s more out there, too…a lot more.

I’m so glad I stayed in Halifax. It’s like spreading the joy and growth of a $1000 trip to Maine through the whole year…for 1/5th of the price, and with the added bonus of finding my own place in the community and learning about myself through that process. I feel like a kid in a candy store…I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Is there a class or event that you’ve been meaning to get to? Go. Trust me. Go. You never know what will come of it. 

…What if?

I’m starting to think that I actually had my dream calling figured out when I was 26.

In the span of a year, I had discovered ecstatic dance and taken a Reiki Healing Dance™ course and a Kripalu DansKinetics® teacher training course. I was 100% grounded in this new, free, intuitive, healing dance modality. I felt powerful and free. And then my old teacher (yes, that old teacher) asked me to teach modern dance to her senior students.

…in hindsight, it’s probably a good thing that she never officially paid me for my time, because I certainly didn’t teach what she was expecting.

Of the three students I taught, two were girls I’d known when I was one of the senior girls and they were just six and eight years old. I knew what they were experiencing in their ballet classes—the endless grind of repetitive exercises, the screaming and snapping, the feelings of helplessness, the barely-contained rage.

I knew because I had lived it.

…I needed someone like me SO badly…

 

And I set out to give them what I would have wanted when I was in their shoes: I made it my mission to remind them why they loved to dance. And that there was more to dancing than what they were used to.

I did teach some modern technique, I suppose. And I used elements of the trainings I’d just taken, a bit. But mostly, I just set the stage and let them do the rest. I allowed the classes to be whatever the girls needed. Together, we lay on the floor and envisioned glowing bubbles of safety and love. We followed the breath into beautiful dances. We grounded and oozed. We pushed and pulled. We played games. We followed music into beautiful unknown spaces.

Occasionally I would catch my old teacher’s disapproving glares through the windows as we danced. But it didn’t matter. The girls were lost in the dance. They were glowing and grinning. They were safe. It. Was. Glorious.

Later, the girls were split up, and I taught one of them one-on-one. I’d known her since she was little, and our classes (if you can call them that) quickly morphed into something else entirely. We would sit and chat about whatever happened to be going on with her at the time, sometimes for half the class time. I would give her any insight I could. And then we would open up to the dance. We danced shapes, textures, elements and emotions. We went outside and found beautiful things to portray through movement. We played with oracle cards and energy work. We made our dance into a healing thing, a tool for transformation, a safe means of expression.

I still look back on that time as a major highlight of my 20s. I was in my element. I was connected. I was making a difference. I believed so passionately in my power to help that it brought tears to my eyes. And I saw the effects of my work every time the girls walked into my class.

Ever since then, I’ve been longing to get back to that place of service, of magic, of belief. But I told myself it was impossible. That I only managed it then because of my history with the girls and our shared rebellion. That I had to find a new, “more realistic” dream, fit inside a box, get the Certifications®  and the Trainings™ and follow the Rules©.

But now I’m starting to wonder…What if?

What if I could build upon those foundations and create something unique, personal, and deeply healing? What if it could really help people? And not just downtrodden ballet-dancers-in-training, but anyone—trained or not—who felt called to dance?

What if I had it figured out way back then, and all I needed was the confidence to translate it beyond the walls of that studio?

What if? What if?

Even entertaining the possibility and asking the question is progress.

Creative partnerships (and big new video projects)

My oldest friend and I have been in creative partnership for almost three years.

She proposed it when Xander was about 8 months old, as a way to finally get our novels written. We agreed to write at least 5 pages a week, and to email each other each Sunday with our latest installments. We would be accountability buddies, a support system, rainbow-pompom-ed cheerleaders.

And it worked SO well. I have over 200 pages of my novel written. That’s the most I’ve ever written about any single thing, ever.

As time passed, the partnership shifted. I put my novel on the back burner to focus on this blog. She continued with her novel, finished her first draft, and proceeded to major edits. We kept writing each other every Sunday, with updates on our progress. I would send her notes about the posts, plans, and projects I’d worked on over the week, and she would send me her latest installment of edits. (If you’re looking for a way to get your creative work done, I can’t recommend this kind of partnership enough).

She finished her novel. And then she wrote to me with a new suggestion, one that lit me up and made me bounce in my seat going “YES! YES YES YES!!!”

So, here it is: every 4 weeks, she’s going to send me an original piece of music. And two weeks after I  get it, I’ll post a video of myself dancing to it.

Regular videos? With entirely original music? Yes, Please.

I love love love love love this idea. And here’s the first installment:

 

I’m immensely grateful for this partnership and everything it’s brought me. Thank you so much, Marsha. I’m excited to see what this next chapter brings!

Dance 3: Don’t Look Back

Happy Saturday!

I know that I’ve written a lot about moving through fear and pushing into resistance during this Delicious Body Dance-a-thon…but have I mentioned that I AM LOVING IT?! Because I am!

This time, I experimented with editing footage together. This is the first time I’ve ever seriously played with editing, and I’m so happy with the results. I’m also grateful that the unexpected snowstorm yesterday made the outside all white and pretty for me (you say weather, I say personal aesthetic gift from the Universe just for this video).

This is one of my favourite songs by Alex Day. Thank you to Matthew for helping me film the  outside part, and thank you to Xander for being easily distracted while I finished it.

 

Dancing with Fear Part 2: Lullaby

Really, I could say “Dancing with Fear part 1 of 12,” but you get my point.

I present…me. Dancing.

 

This process was difficult. Difficult even apart from the technical difficulties and the massive learning curve of my video camera. As someone who was trained to base a dancer’s (read: my own) worth by their (read: my) body size and ability, to see myself moving on film is hard. Even though I embrace my size. Even though I have made great strides down the road of body-love. Even though I’m working to increase my strength and range of motion. And even though I LOVE LOVE LOVE my dance in this video. It was still hard.

Hard…but ultimately good. The more I watched the video the more I loved it. And the more I saw past my initial reaction. I’m proud of myself for taking the next step out into the world. I’m looking forward to exploring my body’s movement as I keep making videos (because I WILL keep making them…part 2 is already “in the can”). I feel like this dance-a-thon is a rite of passage, a healing journey to the heart of the wounds I still carry when it comes to my body and dance. And I can’t wait to see what comes of it.

Want to join in the Delicious Body Dance-a-thon? Find out what’s going on by heading over to Rachael Maddox’s blog!

Dec 21: Future Self and Dec 22: Do, Be, Have

Reverb is an every-day-in-December journalling/blogging practice. Each day features a prompt that either helps you integrate the past year or envision what you want to create in the next one (sometimes both). If you want to follow along with me, I’m posting a prompt on my Facebook page every morning.

 

Dec 21: Future Self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?) (Jenny Blake)

Dear Meg (Dec, 2011),

In your wildest dreams you cannot imagine the places this year will take you. It will be full of magic and mystery, joy, and healing. You will blossom even further than you did last year. You will become even more yourself, and it will be a beautiful process. You will shine.

If I could give you one piece of advice it would be to trust yourself. Tune into your body. Listen to its signs. Go gently. Honour your instincts. Respect your limits. Instead of setting outward goals and forcing yourself toward them, feel your way forward step by step. Sometimes it will feel like you’re inching your way into a dark cave with a candle, and sometimes you will need to pause and adjust and get centred again…but remember that you only need to see a few steps ahead at any time. The magic is being able to look back and see where you came from.

I’m not going to say any more. In the immortal words of River Song, “…spoilers…” (with that knowing smile and raised eyebrow you love so much). But know that I’m rooting for you. I am cheering you on. You will be glorious.

Love,

Meg (Dec, 2016)

 

Dec 22: Do, Be, Have. What’s one thing you would like to do, be, or have in 2012?

In 2012, I would like to travel to Portland, ME with my family and friends for a long weekend in May. I would like to take the ferry from Nova Scotia to Portland and stay at the Eastland Park Hotel. I would like to eat delicious Mexican food at Margarita’s. And I would like to attend the authentic movement workshop that’s happening in Portland on May 18-20. I would like to soak in its energy and be filled with radiant light. And I would like to be so inspired that I carry that light back with me when we return to Halifax.