Image: iStock. By Sarrah Chaoukion.
It doesn’t look pretty. In fact, a lot of times, it is aesthetically awkward and non-rhythmic.
That’s because unlike popular versions of dance, this style is not about aesthetics. It’s not about the performance or even the audience. It’s about the mover — the dancer and their process.
I danced a lot in my younger years, but it was different. My early relationship with dance was not exactly a healthy dynamic. It was one influenced by many things—mostly advertising and media, where a woman is often portrayed as a product for a man, her worth determined by the value he gives to her.
Back then, I played along in this dynamic without giving much thought to how my interactions with men were shaping and moulding my inner belief system—but they were. If I didn’t get the attention I was passively seeking from men, my self-worth plummeted. If I wasn’t desired, I concluded that I must not be worthy of love.
I would question why I wasn’t found desirable, and my answer was always that I was not enough — not sexy enough, not pretty enough, not witty enough. I would then project that feeling of lack onto the women around me, judging those who were receiving the attention I desired.
WATCH: Simple yoga steps to try on your lunch break. (Post continues after video.)
Of course, this only increased my pain and alienated me from women in my life, because I saw them as competition. My closest women friends were also my enemies at heart. My subconscious demonised these women and so I was caught in a no-win situation that I had created.
How does all this apply to dance? Dance isn’t necessarily where this self-hate or lack of self-worth began, but it definitely had a big impact on it.
The clubbing/party scene perpetuates the myth that a woman’s worth is based on her level of sexual appeal to men.
As I grew older and wiser, I saw the need to remove myself from this toxic environment, and over time, I discovered different spaces that felt more welcoming.
Yoga was one of these welcoming spaces. It served as a new way to move with my body and allowed me to cultivate a more caring relationship with my physicality.
Through yoga, my interest in the mind-body connection was sparked and I began to explore several healing forms of dance, which were influenced by somatic studies, such as 5rhythms and Authentic Movement.
These forms of movement rely on the inherent intelligence of the body rather than flexibility, skill or strength. This training method allows anyone to transition from a place of separateness to integration, without losing touch with what makes each one of us distinct and unique.
We do this by allowing our body to move however it wishes, not by following specific moves or memorised steps, but by listening to our body’s communication, instead of our mind’s directions. (Post continues after gallery.)
These forms of movement relate to the understanding that emotional wounds or traumas of the mind can manifest as physical ailments. By healing our bodies, we are subsequently healing our minds.
We allow our body the space to release whatever it is carrying, to dig up what has been pushed down. In order for us to do that, we need to feel safe. This is achieved by the teacher holding a space of non-judgment and openness, along with the student’s commitment to do the same.
As the participants dance and move in this space of safety, it aids in quieting the inner judgment that might be going on.
What this way of moving brings out can be shocking. In my case, it was a lot of anger and sadness, some of which was related to my early relationship to my body and to men.
With compassion being embodied externally in the presence of the class, this compassion can transmit into our inner dialogue with ourselves.
This compassion aids in cultivating a safe and respectful relationship between our mind and body. In doing so, we can quiet the mind so as to allow our movement to originate from our bodies.
My early experience with dance may have helped create this pain, and ironically, I’ve come full circle, where dance is helping to heal it.
Have you ever found an activity that improved your wellbeing?
This article originally appeared on Elephant Journal.