From the October 2020 Issue. Read the rest of the issue here.
Animals do not think about their movement, it is innate. Dancing is a primal instinct, often recognized in male animals as attention seeking physical movements used in courtship displays to persuade a potential mating partner. Humans are also born with innate dancing abilities, showing up in rhythmically bouncing babies as young as a few months old. As far back as archaeologists can study, humans have been dancing as a means to communicate, celebrate, and unify people of tribes and communities. Rhythmically influenced bodily movements have enabled humans to further the experience of storytelling. Ancient tribes used dance as a way to call upon ancestors for spiritual guidance and to pray to the Gods and natural elements to bring rain and abundant harvest. During ceremony and tribal rituals, repetitive patterns through physical movements are used to induce trance states that are said to create a channel to receive knowledge from the spiritual planes. Dancing comes naturally to human expression, like utilizing the voice or writing down our thoughts. I believe that as soon as humans were able to create rhythmic patterns of noise, movement followed shortly after. Physical expression such as body language, is essential to human communication. We learn to use our bodies as we learn to use our voice as babies, to further commune our intentions and needs to others. Nowadays, when humans gather to dance it is most likely out at a nightclub or social event. Some people only dance at home, where they feel safe and that no one is watching. For others, it is a professional commitment, a lifestyle, and identity affirmation. For them, it can be said that dancing is as sacred today in practice as it was thousands of years ago.
I had the pleasure of interviewing a few professional dancers/choreographers to hear their firsthand experiences and opinions of how dancing can initiate healing. It is abundantly clear that being physically active is healthy for the mind and body. I wanted to get a closer perspective from dance artists who have committed years of their life to mastering movement through bodily self-awareness. This kind of studious dedication to the body does not go without its challenges. Every dancer must harbour their own form of love to continue their relationship to dance throughout their life. I wonder if this love for dance is because of the healing benefits provided to not only the mind and body but also to the spirit. I am curious how this pursuit of movement positively affects their life. The responses I received were nothing short of intelligent, ethereal, and inspiring.
Jontae McCrory: Beginning to heal through movement practice and play is when we really start to tap into more powerful “transformations” of ourselves. It all starts with intention and staying open to new change. So yes, I do believe movement can initiate healing. Movement, creative research, and performance has continuously challenged me mentally and still empowers me physically as an individual artist within a space. Allowing dance as an emotional and spiritual guide enables me to discover more of my heart, and solve internal traumas hidden within myself. Holding on to experiences or ideas that don’t feel expansive towards becoming my whole self is my greatest fear in life. Being a dancer has given me immense awareness of bodies’ capabilities and versatility in space. As the body is constantly ever-changing, there's always something new to discover and/or craft with our own movement exploration.
Celine Robichon: Dance allows me to face myself. All versions of myself. It highlights my inner power that reminds me I am capable of all things, not necessarily dance related. It is a creative outlet I can count on. It provides me with a community of people that keep me sane. It helps me to situate myself daily. It’s a reality check. Reality shifts daily, while dance is a method that outlines these changes. It also anchors you in foundation and routine. Yet the magic of spontaneity and newness in foundational movement reminds you that each day is an opportunity to create. This idea of creating daily, an opportunity to recreate yourself while leaving past selves and traumas behind, is healing. Dance carves space for this to happen. Dance has allowed me to develop a very intimate relationship with my physical body, which has in turn taught me that I am so much more than the parameters that define what I and others see. My relationship with my physical body has brought me to understand the importance of what’s “on the inside.” As I develop mental and emotional awareness, I am introduced to my greatest gift - the spirit, my spirit. Comfort, discomfort, vulnerability, habit, learning, freedom, limitation, euphoria...the list goes on and on. Essentially, dance is my diary. A written page of events and the emotions or intentions that derive from these on the daily.
Tia Kushniruk: Almost always the reasoning that brings me back to dance is, well if you can’t dance then who are you? What are you? When you have done it for so long, it is your lens, it is your way of perceiving the world and relating to others. I read body language. Is body language not dance? I’ve always perceived the world through movement. It’s visual storytelling. I think that anything that requires practice, that requires change and push, is healing. With dance the material you use is yourself and the world around you. Because the world is always changing, because you are always changing, dance is a consistent reflection into your inner world. You are taking the time to step into a space where you are pushing and reaching for something that’s beyond you. I think healing is a forward moving process. Sometimes people think healing has to come from a place of stillness, and a place of stop. I would say that’s fair, meditation is absolutely a space of healing, But while you’re meditating even though your body and mind is in stillness, your heart is still beating. Your blood is still flowing. The atoms within your skin are vibrating, the microorganisms that live within your blood and crawl upon your skin… Your body is continuously moulting and renewing. What’s more healing than allowing your body to move? In stillness we die, I absolutely believe that. So every time you move, you heal yourself. When you watch someone dance you know exactly what they’re going through. It’s basic storytelling, it doesn’t need to be verbalized. Dance is an experience, and it’s an experience that actually cannot be tangibly talked about because it requires others. It requires people to come together.
Beatrice Larrivee: Everybody needs movement in their lives. It’s a way to find joy, pleasure, and flow. If you can find pleasure in movement, I think you can bring this pleasure into your life. I think about dance as an extension of myself, and not something separate. Through dance I can find ways to heal, ways to cope. If I can move and find flow, then I can heal in many different ways. When I feel good I can celebrate it, when I feel sad I can spend time feeling heavy. Physically what does it mean to be heavy? How can I lift myself up, how can I feel lighter with my cells, body, flesh? Automatically it changes something in me. Physical movement connects me to my self, so my body can do the healing. I can let go within myself, and dance will carry me. It will take weight off of me. There’s something in the physical that is ultimately interconnected to my mental and spiritual self. It is all the same, and movement is a short cut to find healing. Dance is changing the way I see things, how I hold myself in the world, how I touch and see people. Because I know that I can move through dance, then I am always supported by something. I am hoping that I can continue to understand myself through movement, and therefore keep choosing what brings me joy. How can I find flow in the rest of my life? I find it when I dance. I hope I have a chance to keep learning what movement can be, and what movement can bring to people, because anyone can dance. I think as a professional dancer the way we are worked, what we put our bodies through, and the pressure endured can be unhealthy. What I am trying to do is lessen the gap that I feel about movement and my career. How can I find a bridge between the two? So that I can always feel joy, and connect dance to joy.
Elon TheWanderingSpirit: Dance is good for everyone. It exercises the mind and the body, building new pathways in our brain and prolonging your life. I dance to elevate my being, heal myself and find out who I truly am. I believe the soul gives a spark to the mind. The mind constructs the body, and the body is a physical manifestation of an abstract idea. The inner world corresponds to the outer world and vice-versa to make the miracle of one. Music is formed of patterns, our reality is patterns. The geometry of the energy that constructs our reality is also (affecting) us. By aligning ourselves to this bio-geometry we can channel wisdom and heal ourselves. Dance is the embodiment of music, we are music, so therefore we are dance. By aligning emotion with intentional focus, through dance we may reset ourselves to the source blueprint of our being. Movement can help us eliminate harmful mental patterns of programming. Therefore we can recalibrate our vessel to give space to receive more wisdom and healing.
How are you using your body to initiate healing? I invite the readers to focus on your breath, your lungs filling up and then emptying. This is an elegant movement that we are often times not recognizant of within our own body. When you focus on your breath, you bring awareness to the experience of this present moment. Notice any tension in your body, and send your breath to that spot to find a slight stretch. Be witness to that tension easing away. Allow your breath to support every movement. As you go throughout the rest of your day or night, bring awareness to the movements your body does out of habit, your posture in a room, all the ways your body knows what to do in order to take care of you. The actions we take everyday are movements, an essential component of communal expression. The next time you hear music will you allow yourself to dance? Will you allow yourself to heal?