Dance Improv – My experience getting high on dance
The church gymnasium was mostly empty. Colored lights diffused to a dreamlike ambiance transforming a simple room into a place where anything can happen. A few people milled about, stretching and sighing. I couldn’t help but notice how comfortable they appeared in their own skin. One by one, as more arrived, we formed a standing circle without being asked to. Bob began to speak a well-rehearsed introduction to Dance Improv. He instructed us to “take in a deep breath and let it out with a sound.” A cacophonous roar filled the room. Shoulders appeared a little more relaxed, and eyes looked bright with anticipation.
Bob led us through a getting-to-know-you-exercise. One by one, we voiced our name and created a motion with our bodies, then the group echoed enthusiastically. The movements seemed to tell me about these strangers. Confident step forward with circling arms had a strong and assured personality. Gentle swaying motion with lowered-head in a serene smile was feeling peaceful. Rapid clapping with nervous explosions of sound was excited and really needed to expend some energy.
Bob directed us to walk around the room to warm up our bodies. Most of the group started clockwise, filing into step with each other like herded cattle. Soon we found our individuality. Some separated from the group, turning and walking erratically, some headed in the opposite direction, some stepped heavy, lightly, shuffled their feet, or circled their elbows, hips, and knees with great fervor.
As we walked we took a great big breath in and let out anger in the form of sound and movement. It felt amazing so we did it twice more. We then let out fear and sadness. Authentic sounds of anguish, suffering, hiding, remorse, longing, and guilt permeated the air. As we walked, it felt like we were creating a whirlpool for the emotions to collect and disperse into the night sky. The doors were open wide, and the full moon grinned from behind the trees, seemingly digesting all our emotions and transforming them. The last emotion we released was a big, round, bright, full, shimmering, explosion of joy. The air was charged, my hands were buzzing as I bounded around the room, literally jumping for joy.
We each found a special comfy place to lie on the floor. The band began a sweet steady cadence, which sneakily crept from one rhythm to the next without intending to or realizing it. We embodied this sound. Some people laid still on the floor. Others childishly rolled around with closed eyes. Bob instructed us, “when you come in contact with another person, respectfully listen to what their body is saying. It will be easy for us to feel whether that person wants to engage in a dance, or not.” He requested that we let go of any remaining judgements on ourselves or anyone else. We loosened the binds of being cool, normal, or politically correct, and presented ourselves with innocence and without restraints.
The music picked up, the singer’s strong vibrato felt like an emotional high tide. We rose from the floor to standing. Dancing happened effortlessly in pairs, in groups, and alone. Bodies circled, bounced, stepped, spun, thrashed, leapt, crawled, and shook. Some people told a story or expressed emotion with their movements, others made shapes with their bodies and experimented with space. Without judgement we played, holding hands and spinning round, often mirroring each others movements. We acknowledged each other with a nod, a smile, a gesture. I learned that some of the greatest pleasures in life are to see and be seen, to hear and be heard.
My imagination was totally set free. My body shrank into an 8-year-old version of myself, people around me became great oak trees and I twirled with them and around them. Overwhelmed by fits of giggles, another dancer and I mimed our way through swimming and dancing in the rain, eating something from behind our backs which then possessed our tummies to dance a funny little dance, and playing hide and seek in the old-growth forest of other dancers.
Dripping with sweat, we laughed so hard, made silly sounds and movements, and connected with each other. We danced around the room like maniacs. Our bare feet pounded out rhythms while our hips gyrated, our shoulders shimmied, arms and legs became our visual and musical instruments. We were a group of friends and strangers possessed by and embodying the music. We spiraled into the void: a frenzy of emotions, thoughts, identities, and layers peeling off our wet skin like the outer layers from an onion. Some eyes teared; we allowed them to.
We closed our evening standing in a circle, sweaty shoulders touching, cheeks flushed, some mouth corners upturned in little smiles. One by one we gave our response to the evening. Some spoke in sentences, others poetically fired rhythmic rhyming words. We looked into the eyes of each person in sweet closure. I was blissed out, flying high, immersed in sensation and existence. I laughed at myself, as I was hardly able to find my car keys and flip flops. The starry night greeted me warmly, while the waxing moon mimicked my same silly grin.
“FUN! That was FUN!” I thought in the car on the long drive home. “I haven’t had that much fun in ages!”
To be fearless is to express yourself uninhibitedly and truthfully. Expression through art, music, dance, and words leads to self discovery. I recommend you try it..
Dance Improv Live
8-10 PM, Second Fridays of each month
All Saints’ Church, 16 All Saints’ Road, Princeton NJ