Dancing Towards the Exit
I have always had a sense that life was a kind of dance, a performance to be engaged with. What eluded me was the possibility that dance itself could be central to life – and to wellbeing. When childhood is an unsafe place of secrets and hidden violence, this possibility has to go deep into hiding. Ignorance, fear, shame and lack of opportunity can become four walls that stifle latent expression of physicality that is seen as alien to the prevailing culture.
Brief attempts at ballroom dancing as a teenager only confirmed my sense of incompetence, lack of co-ordination and ‘not belonging’. Many years later, ceilidh dancing appeared enticing. I would go along, watch, have a drink and enjoy the atmosphere. When I found the courage to join a ‘beginners” class, it turned out to be full of experienced dancers, led by an impatient tutor. More shaming exposure of personal incompetence – I didn’t stay to the end of the first session, which was a relief for all concerned.
Abandoning the project altogether, I could at least watch, wonderingly, performances by professional dancers. I found and read Darcey Bussell’s autobiography and shed a tear over her final performance, Kenneth Macmillan’s Song of the Earth. Contemporary dance was a revelation, suggesting that there could be another way. Then came the discovery of Movement Medicine. People I spoke to used words like “non judgemental”, “welcoming”, “cathartic”, “healing”, “fun” and “exploration” when describing their experiences.
With some trepidation I went along one evening. Using a few rather gymnastic warm-up exercises, I began to relax and really hear – and feel – the music. I found that in this softly lit space where others were making their own dance, I was unselfconscious and my body began responding to the rhythms: it was the most natural thing in the world – and I was moving! The experience, for me, has been so freeing and, yes, healing, in a way I could never have imagined.
As an exploration, Movement Medicine is truly a journey into imaginative expression: on the one hand we may bring the joy of life, love, gratitude, the beauty of creation; on the other we may bring our pain – or that of humankind – as part of a path towards healing.
When you check it out, there has been dance since earliest times. Today, much nearer the end of my life than the beginning, I cannot imagine existence without it.