How to dance with awareness of the body
There are many practices that advocate dancing with awareness of the body, otherwise known as ‘Conscious Dance’. These include amongst others Ecstatic Dance, 5 Rhythms dance, Open Floor, embodied movement practice, movement meditation, mindful movement, Chakra Dance, Azul, Soul Motion, Movement Medicine and of course Flomotion.
Breath, breath, and more breath
To dance with body awareness will never be far from paying attention to the breath, much like meditation. This might sound obvious but until you have done any of these practices you may not appreciate the effects on dance movement of deliberately inviting breath into the body.
At a physiological level, the breath oxygenates blood, which brings energy to the muscles creating momentum and ‘fuel’ to move. At the level of the social autonomic nervous system, we need plenty of oxygen in the brain to become present to ourselves and to others. Noticing ourselves and reading other people’s signals is complicated. We need extra oxygen in our systems for this which we access through deeper breathing.
Emotion in Motion
Paying attention to our breath brings us closer to our own body sensations and therefore to feeling. Knowing what we are feeling is helpful at any time, in part so that we can attend to our needs and stay sensitive to others. Furthermore, if we have an idea of what we are feeling in a conscious dance setting, where all movement is welcome and there are no ‘right or wrong’ steps, we have the opportunity to experiment; to find movement for feeling. Emotion in motion. And that is gold.
Walking the Talk
I love this expression. We can have insight and ideas, flights of imagination and fantasy, and they are all great. But there is nothing like finding ways to embody or experience first-hand some of the things we think and talk about. Dancing with awareness in the body is an opportunity for this. It is grounding; we get to ‘show’ our experience, to ourselves and to others, giving us a further range of self-expression.
Neural Systems in Play When we Dance
When we dance with awareness of the body we can use information from neuroscience, the study of the nervous system, to deepen our experience and understanding. For example, interoception (a lesser known sense) allows us to understand and feel what’s going on inside our body. Exteroception is the sensitivity to what is going on outside our body and in our environment. Proprioception is the sense of where our body is in space, for example it enables to the body to move and control limbs without directly looking at them.
Dancing with awareness of the body is an ‘inside out’ process. Often with performance dance, or when we are at a nightclub or party, our focus is on how we look to others. We want to control movement perhaps to fit in, impress other people or show that we know what we are doing. In conscious dance the aim isn’t to get anything ‘right’, to master the steps of a particular dance score, to look cool or even to know what you are doing. The aim is to lose yourself in the process.
It starts with listening and noticing how your body wants to move, staying present to that, and ultimately finding that you are no longer controlling movement from your mind; your body is finding its own movement, its own rhythm.
Dance and Movement Vocabulary
Certain dance practices like Open Floor and 5 Rhythms, aim to widen a person’s ‘movement vocabulary’. This means finding more range in the way that your body moves. We develop habitual patterns of movement over time, partly based on our experiences in life and how we defend ourselves when life is challenging. Wilhelm Reiss called this ‘Body Armour’. Dancing with awareness in the body can reveal this armour and can also be an opportunity to challenge it.
During conscious dance practice, the facilitator might ask which parts of your body you include and which parts you exclude as you dance. They might encourage you to experiment in movement with lesser used parts. For example, you might have a tendency to dance with the top half of your body (lots of arm, shoulder, hands, torso movement) so the experiment would be to bring more expression to feet, knees, legs and hips. The idea is that the more movement range we can find, the greater the opportunity for us to align and express our authenticity and discover new possibilities of experience.
In order to encourage more awareness in the body, talking is generally discouraged on the dancefloor in conscious dance practice. ‘Conversation’ happens between people through how we are moving in the room. Sometimes paired dancing or dancing with a group can offer a new dimension of awareness and fun. It can be experienced as energising and creative; a way to mirror how someone else is moving and feel how that is for you in your body; a way to synchronise and connect.
Partnered dancing can also be intimidating and take us into fear and uncertainty: ‘what will this person think of me?’ ‘They know what they’re doing and I don’t’ etc. In this sense the dance is a great teacher. When we dance with awareness in the body, we are encouraged to ‘move and include’ experience; if you are feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable, instead of creating an inner narrative about this, you are encouraged to find movement in the here-and-now to express this.
The Body Keeps the Score
Dancing with awareness in the body presents the opportunity to be attuned to our bodily experience and expression in the present moment. They say that the body doesn’t lie or that ‘the body keeps the score’. This means that when we dance with awareness, we tap into a feedback loop that holds information about what we are sensing, feeling and thinking. In the dance, we can move and include all of this information, and that in turns feeds back to our own ecosystem that it is safe, possible, creative and fun to trust our perception, and that creates resilience.
Join us for a Flomotion dance session, it’s fun and it keeps you healthy!