My Beautiful Dancing Chickens
It's been a while my lovelies. I have been focused on investing in the real day to day moments of experienced nature both human and all other forms. The autumn changes and colours bring so much pause for reflection as we shift towards the calm winter stillness.
When I started utilising 'the web' over twenty years ago now it was exciting and felt as if it amplified in really beautiful ways what I was doing on the ground, literally planting goodness into my walking, talking and dancing world, which is, as many of you know, what my practice of being an artist is all about.
In recent years (and in particular) months I have felt *this* form to be wanting and what's more that it takes more than it gives.
So I have pulled back, preferring instead to invest back into the life I am living, in my local community. That is where the change has to happen, in real life interaction, where we can, real conversations, and real happenings. Otherwise it's noise, and noise often translates into nightmares, which create an illusion that we are weak. We are not weak, nor unhealthy unless we choose to engage with that falsehood.
For the past month I have been facilitating outdoor dance workshops with two local primary schools. The sessions unsurprisingly have been beautifully joyous, inspiring, soulful, surprising and bonkers. Totally and utterly amazing.
I am heartened by the weaving of ideas and support by teachers for children and children for children and children for teachers, and by the passers by who witness and smile and release any fear and glimpse the hope we are dancing in our moment. This gives me hope. This also reminds me what is important, that we live our strength whatever the circumstances present.
We are living in traumatic times. The fact is environmental trauma leads to a rise in cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies. Long term exposure to cortisol (which is designed to help us escape danger not as a long term strategy) has potential devastating effects on physical health as it blocks all sorts of normal processes to make ‘escape’ more likely. This could be insulin disruption leading to weight gain (and obesity), interference with natural immune properties and other more serious long term effects.
Finding a space to be happy is a good strategy for physical health.
Let me repeat:
HAPPINESS IS GOOD FOR HEALTH.
When we dance we produce endorphins and serotonin which counter the effects of cortisol. This is a great and easy tool we ALL have access to.
In addition when we *watch* dance our bodies do this really interesting physiological thing called ‘kinesthetic empathy’ - our bodies have something called ‘mirror neurons’ and when you watch someone dance - your neutrons actually copy what the dancer is doing - so just the act of *watching* dance has a physical benefit. Some studies suggest watching violent content has a similar effect but in a negative way. Some studies even go as far to suggest that watching *too* much violent content causes forms of PTSD. The upshot, watch good stuff to stay healthy!
I know some might mark me as ‘that crazy lady who dances’ but in actual fact my *continuing* to do so comes out of these facts. Prior to the birth of my son eight years ago I worked all over the world facilitating dance in communities needing support- from refugee camps in Sri Lanka to gang lands of North Philadelphia. Reclaiming a physical space you have control over has profound positive effects.
Taking time to remind yourself of your strength is so powerful. And everyone’s power is different. I worked with a group of adults with profound physical disability, Leslie* could only move one arm when I met her. Every week I would go back and we would dance that arm! And bit by bit, the arm became the shoulder and the shoulder became the back…. do what you are able.
My first initiative to dance is because it’s great, it’s fun, it connects people and communities. And I come from a family of dancers. Meaning we dance. Therefore we are dancers. We need not certificates or degrees to justify our bodies moving in ways that feel right. We have done this FOREVER. And we have done this outside forever.
As many of you know some of my dance training has had me travel to places like Rajasthan (India) where I studied with the Kahlbelia tribe. Their dance is one of the main influencers of Flamenco (Spain)(also went to southern Spain to look at that). These are dances that have evolved in communities that traveled (outside) sharing news, stories and community via dance. We see a similar pattern in the origin of the Scottish Ceildh, the word ‘ceildh’ simply means ‘gathering’. Also done in circles, also an act of ‘bringing together’ outside. We can look more recently to the origin of hip hop, a dance form that literally was created on the streets. Samba, Salsa, Tango - all outside and I could go on.
Unlike forms of dance such as Ballet - which derived in the French court and was designed for those with wealth, and whose systems evolved to keep people out, al these other forms evolved in times of social upheaval, and maintained social cohesion. We have the fun remnant of these AND we have the opportunity to create more.
And so dance, when and however you are able.
Celebrate the magnificent act of your body in motion. And if you struggle to find inspiration I have taught every child in my workshops this fantastic boogie, the Funky Chicken, so get flapping chickens! We have some grooves to make.
Lots of love, see you on the dance floor