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Community Dance in London
What do you know about community dance (CD) in London? Most of us know what a community is, some of us know about the benefits of dance, and many of us live in this great metropolis, London.
But how does this all fit together?
Let’s begin with Community. Why does it matter?
Community matters because we are pack animals, meant to exist within groups. A community provides social connection, a sense of belonging and resources beyond what we can provide for ourselves. Being in a community is good for our mental health. The social engagement system and co-regulation it provides are the very mechanisms that calm our nervous systems and ground us in reality.
What about dance?
Dancing with others is an old human story stretching back into time. Dance has played an important role in bonding people to one another, providing a welcome outlet when life is difficult, dissolving social hierarchies and inducing a transcendent sense of unity with all consciousness.
And CD in London?
Well, where to begin. One of the most successful global cities in the world. Nearly 10 million inhabitants. A truly multi-cultural, multi-faith, multi-racial city. Plenty of different communities and plenty of opportunity to feel lost, lonely and in need of meaningful connection and belonging with other people.
Enter Community Dance
People Dancing (www.communitydance.org.uk), the UK membership body for community and participatory dance, defines CD as:
‘…the pleasure of moving, being together with others, sharing time positively…dance that allows you to express yourself; from the sheer pleasure of responding with your body to music to expressing complex feelings and ideas to others through your dance…Community dance promotes health and wellbeing, self-confidence and better connections between you and others.’
‘What distinguishes the best of community dance is that the people who lead it believe that everyone can dance regardless of their age or ability and that everyone can be included and make a contribution – that each individual matters.’
The theme of inclusion, giving a voice (or dance) to minority groups is a key part of CD. For example, The Green Candle Dance Company (www.greencandledance.com) says:
‘We believe everyone has the right to practice, learn, watch and appreciate dance, regardless of age or ability’.
They offer weekly dance workshops aimed at children, young people and older adults with and without physical and learning disabilities, as well as professional development training in areas such as leading dance for older people with dementia.
Dacorum Community Dance (www.dacorumdance.co.uk) states that:
‘Many older adults feel lonely, ignored and under valued in the community, leading to depression, anxiety and physical health problems. Dance is a wonderful way to help older adults feel alive, happy, healthy and less isolated’.
Liberation in CD
Move Momentum (www.movemomentum.co.uk) runs ‘Liberate Dance’, an exclusively wheelchair-based dance company, teaching a range of dance styles from contemporary to Hip-Hop…
‘Our Liberate Dance classes are far more than a dance class, we are a support network and family. We are inclusive, adaptable and flexible to meet your needs.’
Dance International (www.danceinternational.org) identifies the early 1990s as the time when community-engaged dancing began to take hold, initially on the west coast of America. They say that the term didn’t even exist before that time and there was little awareness of this work in the professional arena or amongst funders.
Funmi Adewole (www.ahk.nl) documents a detailed history of CD in the UK, stating:
‘The history of community dance … is the story of how dancers from the theatre took dance to the people, providing people from all walks of life to dance, participate in dance pieces and perform. Community dance is not the same as social dance though there might be overlaps between them. Community dance is defined by its professionals. It is borne out of structures of the ‘dance as art’ world and the academy.’
A report commissioned by the Arts Council England entitled Dance Mapping, A Window on dance, 2004-2008, describes the CD movement in Britain as ‘one of the major successes of the dance sector in the last 30 years’.
Conscious dance, dancing with awareness of breath and body, emerged in the late 1970s in West Coast USA following the 1960s social revolution (Civil rights, Women’s rights, Peace, Environmentalism). Conscious dance could be regarded as part of the CD movement with its emphasis on self-expression, inclusion and belonging. Where it differs to traditional CD is that there is never a performance element
Back to London
London is home to several CD organisations, a good example being East London Dance (www.eastlondondance.org), who make this offer:
‘Our doors are open to all. Through our projects, classes, courses and events, we are here for everyone with an interest in expressing themselves through dance. From those with a simple passion for movement, to the creative leaders who go on to form professional dance companies’.
There are also a good number of conscious dance sessions taking place in the capital every day of the week, including Ecstatic Dance, 5 Rhythms Dance, Open Floor, Movement Medicine, Biodanza and more. Flomotion, London-based and providing in-person and online dance, is inspired by all these traditions.
Fancy knowing more? There’s plenty of info on the flomotion website, including Q&As and articles on Ecstatic Dance and Dance Movement Psychotherapy (DMP). Even better, why not come along and try out a session.