I like to consider myself a dance advocate. I think, well actually know, that dance can provoke, provide and solve some, if not all, our individual problems and actually I’d like to think that dancing can solve the problems of the world.
The first of PACT Salon for 2017 The Big Bounce, curated by Matt Cornell, celebrated dance. The mini immersive festival acted as means for people to engage or perhaps re-engage, in different ways with dance by providing an opportunity to “learn some dancing, watch some dancing, talk about dancing and just do some dancing” in rapid succession as a collective shared experience.
We have all danced. Somewhere in our bodies is the residue of our ancestors who used dance culturally to mark rites of passage or ask for rain. And in our own lives, it’s common for children’s nursery rhymes to have prescribed movements (think the hokey pokey, or twinkle twinkle little star) which are performed mostly with others, have a function (whether it’s to teach your left and right or as a lullaby) and then at some time passed on. It is frivolous and fun, but then at some point as we get older it becomes shameful, inappropriate, inaccessible or a “lifestyle choice”.
Things that I have heard countlessly: “I used to dance”, “I wish I could dance”, “I can’t dance”, “There is no way I would dance in front of dancers”. It always baffles me how something so inclusive and joyous somewhere along the way becomes exclusive and self-degrading. Judgement overrides joy and it becomes easy to be afraid of dancing.
The Bible says that “there is a time to mourn and a time to dance” and although I am not particularly religious I have always loved the way dancing and the experience of joy was contrasted to the feeling of mourning or loss. But what happens when we stop dancing and lose the source of this joy?
The Big Bounce began with participants (who essentially had a responsibility beyond a normal audience member) learning some dancing altogether from Vanessa Marian and encouraged to be unashamed of however you danced. She spoke about the idea we each have in our heads about what we look like when dance versus the reality and how technique and training is the bridge between the expectation and reality. She encouraged us to remove the judgement and reacquaint ourselves with the joy in moving. Especially with others.
Angela Goh’s work Predicatable Dances encourages us not to question the dance and accept it just as is, to be with it and help witness it as a collective. It is a work not about what is desired, right or wrong, or good or bad. The dance and music genres chosen by facilitators Vanessa Marian, Adam Warburton and DJ Sezzo Snot were grounded in hip hop or underground styles. In the discussion part of the event much of the conversation kept coming back to these styles being born out of oppression or rebellion. In places of struggle and sadness dance and music became methods to heal and tell stories and now these styles have found their way into the mainstream. So mainstream in fact that anyone can teach these styles (particularly in Australia) and not be questioned for appropriating these cultures.
I believe that movement is a human universal and that our bodies not only tell stories but can hold stories and dancing is a valid way to share these together. So in a world where artists are constantly fighting for validity and struggling against the hierarchies in place, lets continue to find moments of joy within our practices and to slowly let that infiltrate the world. To remove the shame and judgement we have in all things, especially our own bodies, and accept them as they are. To use technique and our struggles to better ourselves to get where we want to be and ultimately where we want the world to be. We are all in it together.
I’ll be reapproaching my dancing with less judgement and more joy on the stage, studio and alone in my bedroom. And I’d like to think this is something you will join me in too.