On October 18, 2010 Bay Area arts community member met at CounterPULSE for the Dance Discourse Project #9: Dance and Somatics in the Bay Area—what’s the connection. Co-presented by Dancers’ Group the event looked at how somatic practices and dance are intertwined in the Bay Area. To learn more visit www.counterpulse.org/dance_discourse_project/
At the exciting event participants were broken up into small groups where they discussed a variety of pertinent issues. Below is one person’s account of the discussions led by Augusta Moore and Mary Armentrout about the idea of having a practice, somatics as an ongoing practice, and the goals of a practice.
I was blown away by the conversations and new awakenings at my first Dance Discourse Project event. With a recent passion for somatics, I felt the need to soak up every word and every story to add to my repertoire of this fascinating topic. My interest in somatic psychology was expanded through the discussions at DDP and as a dancer I love the connection somatics makes to this incredible art form.
A practice is different for everyone. It can be used in many different ways to achieve a new mindset or deepen one’s understanding. However, our group concluded that an underlying factor for all practices is that they must be continuous. It is the process of finding or creating something inside of you that allows for better control or more emotional clarity. A practice is about mindfulness and being present in your surroundings. There is an aspect of introversion during a practice, which is mainly done to establish the balance between our inner and external worlds. Some participants of the discussion felt that our practice allows us to separate between negative and positive. We establish what is good and bad through our practice because we can be more in tune with these feelings. Others felt that because our interpretation of what is good and bad is always changing, it is hard to ever truly establish these definitions. Yet, there was an overarching agreement that we must come to our practice with a non-judgmental, curious personality to get the most out of the experience.
We wondered why there is a recent emphasis on having a practice, specifically for artists? It is as if you are not responsible or committed if you do not follow a practice. In many ways it has become a trend; it has become mainstreamed. So, if everyone is exploring their own practice, are there boundaries? Do we define our own practice? Or does it define us?
Our practice becomes part of our existence. A practice forces us to look inward and spend time with our self. This allows for a calm acceptance and an awareness of the truth, of what really is. When we use mindfulness to view the truth, the heavy or loaded emotionality is deceased, and we begin to observe and make changes. It is easier to discover and understand when we are at peace with our self and our surroundings. Because the practice affects our emotions, it affects our physical being. We use the emotions from the practice and make use of them through our bodies. Students of a somatic practice wondered how we use the practices, such as Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais, in performance and choreography? How do we hold onto the affects our practice has once the movement begins? Those who have been dedicated to one practice for many years shared that it is one accomplishment to discover and master a practice, however it takes time to bring it in to one’s creativity. By bringing awareness to everyday life, they suggested, it becomes easier to continue this awakened mindset in dance and performance.
Awareness has its place though. It can be disturbing in some situations where reality may be negative and we would prefer not to be aware. Part of discovering true awareness is also knowing when to let it go. One participant raised the question about whether a practice is self-indulgent? We are focusing on our self, our awareness, and our needs. Is this excessive? Or is indulgence good? Similar to awareness, we must know the time and place for indulgence. It is important to be conceded when taking care of ourselves because in order to provide and be present in the rest of the world, we must have internal peace. Knowing ourselves and feeling our emotions will help us find the times to be indulgent. During a practice self-indulgence is necessary for the most beneficial outcome. The practice is similar to a lab, which supplies the training and knowledge for future artistic creation.
Somatic practice relative to dance uses the achieved mindfulness to reach new depths of exploring our bodies potential. When we are always being mindful then we are mindful in the dance studio and mindful on stage. The somatic practice provides a means to dance through. It creates a path. It teaches us to attend to each detail and therefore when we use this practice in dance, we attend to each move, each beginning and end. As a dancer it is clear to me why having a practice that both creates structure and liberates boundaries is so beneficial. The practice awakens our feelings and bodies, while acting as a vehicle for dance and performance.
By Hannah Mason