Nobody in this world is able to dance as you dance or experience life the way that you do.
Life on planet earth is pretty nuts right now. It would be weird not to feel at least a niggle of anxiety. A few shades of depression. A little out of control. Stressed out a fair amount of the time. Feeling any of this is not an error. It is a sign that you are listening.
Could the state of the world, our lives, our relationships actually be ideal conditions to help us wake up to a rich, vibrant, loving, creative, and meaningful life? Is it not worth trying to discover healthy and uplifting strategies of moving in all this chaos? Methods that help us to connect with life. Paths where we can discover our strength and creativity. Ways that help us at the very least to not be crippled by apparent state of things.
This article presents what I know through direct experience as a great way: Conscious Dance.
What is conscious dance?
dance awake / conscious dance / mindful movement / moving meditation /embodied
Many of you will be familiar with dancing. We dance at parties and other celebrations. In nightclubs and socials. Humans have danced at all times in human history, and for many reasons. Perhaps you love to dance and wish you had more opportunity to do. I know someone who tries to get invited to weddings just so she can dance! I’d go so far as to say that dance, along with art, music and storytelling, is one of the highest expressions of a human being.
Whether we love it or hate it we all have a relationship to dance. Hopefully we have had the experience of getting lost in the pure joy of our moving body. It should actually be daily experience for our own sanity. Yet most of us our have a very surface relationship to the body. It is our servant, we only notice it when it cannot do something we ask of it. Conscious dance is a way of cultivating a deeper relationship to our body and tapping into its wellspring of inherent wisdom.
So what makes it conscious dance?
When we use the word ‘conscious' we are referring to a state of awake, alert, relaxed presence. And the word ‘dance’ refers to any embodied mindful movement. So Conscious Dance is any embodied movement occurring in a space of alert and awake presence.
(The opposite is unconscious dance - moving in an intoxicated or inebriated state where one is not present in ones minds nor embodied in ones movement.)
What does a Conscious Dance class look like?
The basic structure of a conscious dance, is to arrive and warm up. Warming up means to become present to the space, your body, the way you are feeling, and to help you feel welcome and comfortable in the space. We stretch and feel into our bodies, connect to our breath, start to notice our feelings, listening and seeing what is alive and moving inside us.
After warming up we are reminded of the guidelines: 1) Stay Present, 2) Keep Moving, 3) Respect Others, 4) Non-Verbal space, and 5) Eyes closed or open. Then we begin the dance journey. The journey is a wave of music chosen from all musical genre’s. It’s designed to help us explore different ways of moving. To hear everything from classical, techno, deep house, pop, jazz, funk, hip hop, tribal to down tempo within a wave is not uncommon. We learn to move to all kinds of music. Dance with many kinds of experience.
The facilitator will occasionally remind us of the guidelines and offer some pointers. There are no steps, practices or choreographed moves. No experience needed. Everybody is free to move how they feel to move. Sometimes you dance the dance. Sometimes the dance dances you. We invite a playful, non-judgmental curiosity to our movement.
We give our beings kind attention.
Some people dance in a spot in the corner.
Others move around the whole room.
Some dance on their own. Others dance together.
Some people make slow small movements.
Others dance fast big and expressive ones.
For some it’s a good sweat. Wiggling hips and playful spines.
Bodies speaking in the universal language of movement.
A full spectrum of emotion expressed and moved on the dance floor.
We watch our breath. Repeatedly come back to feeling our body.
We allow our thinking to drop into the body as a movement.
Maybe today it’s a dance of grief. Maybe a dance of celebration.
Moving with our stories and dreams.
We find creative expression.
Discover things about ourselves.
It is all welcome in the conscious dance space.
At the end of the class we take a few moments to be with the experience we have had, then we end the class. Good luck out there!
Why do we Dance?
As we develop a regular practice we become more aware. Cultivating awareness has many benefits. The experience of our physical body and sensations, our sense of energy and vitality, our awareness of mind and thoughts and our heart and emotions, all become deeper and more expansive. We also begin to experience our psychic dimension, opening up new conversation and connection to our archetypical, mythological and intuitive aspect. Conscious dance therefore leads to a myriad of new experience that was always inside us although possibly unfamiliar to us.
The practice leads to increased vitality, longevity, and relaxation. Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:
- improved condition of your heart and lungs
- increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
- increased aerobic fitness
- improved muscle tone and strength
- weight management
- stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
- better coordination, agility and flexibility
- improved balance and spatial awareness
- increased physical confidence
- improved mental functioning
- improved general and psychological wellbeing
- greater self-confidence and self-esteem
- better social skills.
Besides the above list, conscious dance is particularly good for people going through difficult or challenging times. It is a great way to process loss, grief, depression, divorce, addiction, and anxiety. It is also a great place to solve problems, explore belief and ideas, and express creativity. Ultimately conscious dance is a very powerful way to explore the hidden potential of being Human.
I’ve been running conscious dance classes in the Claremont Civic hall for 5 years. The library behind the hall is the venue for AA meetings that happen at the same time. We often have people arrive at the dance looking for the AA meeting. Some decide that dance looks like more fun. Over the years our dance class has been a home to dancers in recovery from every persuasion. One and all benefiting from the incredible practice.
What leads me to write this article is that I feel that this is what many people are looking for although they don’t know it. The practice helps people examine and move with the patterns, behaviours, moods and feelings that usually lead to us wanting to “numb” out with a drink. It provides us with a viable sustainable healthy alternative.
One of the beauty's of conscious dance is that it is a safe space. People who can no longer go to parties, raves or nightclubs due to the triggers can still come have a great dance. Connect with a community. Once you have practiced it a bit, you will find yourself dancing everywhere and feel more alive for it.
People realise very quickly that the enjoyment they had from a night out was not from the drinking, it was from the dancing! Drinks perhaps initially enabled one to feel free enough to dance. Yet at the end of the day it was the dance doing it.
Conscious dance is a beautiful practice. You are not meant to just know how to do it, especially if you have never done it before. And anybody can do it. Not feeling totally comfortable dancing, or being self conscious about dancing is pretty standard. Definitely no reason not to try it! How do you learn to move if not by moving? You need to practice it. With practice you will overcome all these obstacles. In fact, these obstacles are actually your first teachers!
You will be most welcome.
Join the growing community of conscious dancers out in the world. Classes are springing up all over. Look for Dance Awake, Dancing Freedom, Expressive Movement, 5 Rhythms, Movement Medicine, or Ecstatic dance to name a few. Each style and facilitator will have their own flavour so you may need to try a few classes to find the one for you. If you are not ready to brave the dance floor then join the Academy for online dances that you can do in the comfort of your living room.
Read these articles for everything you need to know to get started or continue exploring yourself through conscious dance.