This is a beautiful, heartwarming account of a first time Conscious Dance event held in a far northern town. This woman really wanted to offer a Solstice event in this fashion to her community, and she had never attempted anything like this prior. I just had to share this story with you!
To my friends and loved ones: This is an account of the Solstice dance. Thank you for allowing me to share it with you!
...The dance went very well! It was not the event I was expecting… but I think I knew it wouldn't be. I spent an enormous amount of time on the preparations - getting the space, finding our DJ, putting together advertising and applying to the Seward Arts Council for money (which they gave me, by the way! After a bewildering runaround) building a rhythm wave and putting together my event map … not to mention working on my own state of mind so I wouldn't drown in anxiety. (I drowned a little anyway, but I think that's part of the process.) I've had a *lot* of support from other, more experienced dancers and leaders, and I've been really grateful. But still, I felt the weight of it.
We danced in the basement meeting room of the Seward library, which is large and new - it's also a free space. On the night before the dance my friend Kate helped me, as we strung twinkling Christmas lights to thwart the fluorescents, and hung colored fabrics to soften the white walls. With two tables, we separated the dance floor from the other half of the room, making it smaller. Because I knew there were children coming, we made the dancers a communal space to sit on the other side if they absolutely *had* to leave the dance floor. The alter was a podium draped with a quilt, set with salt-rock and selenite candles, the sage I'd used to smudge the room and friend Carly's prayer beads, along with a few other sacred objects. In its corner I propped a plastic skeleton holding a hollow painted egg. In front of the alter, on a colored cloth, were my drums, egg shakers and zils.
On the night of the dance, I arrived early to finish preparing the space. DJ Hank came in to set up, and then together we went over the details of the rhythm wave, making some last-minute changes. Later, I'd learn that Hank had studied dancing for five years, but before this I'd only know him as an actor. When he went home for a bite, I propped the heavy outside doors open and hauled in the food from
my car: there was going to be a potluck after the dancing, and I'd made turkey and white-bean soup with sage, heavy oatmeal bread with butter and jam. for By the time Carly and Wisna arrived to help, the setup was mostly taken care of.
I didn't feel like myself. We switched off the overhead lights. Carly and Wisna stretched and talked in low voices. I slid onto the dance floor and moved with my eyes closed, using my phone to play the songs that make me feel the most grounded and connected, to combat my rising anxiety and excitement. When Hank came back into the room and quietly transferred my songs to his speakers, I experienced it as kindness, and was grateful.
The dancers were slow to arrive. I feared they wouldn't come at all. But slowly… they did.
In all, we were fifteen. But only nine of us were adults!
When I'd made the fliers and the advertising, I'd written "an all ages event". I wanted people to understand it was a community event, not drunken dancing like in a bar. I had imagined them bringing older kids. For some reason, it didn't occur to me that people would bring toddlers - not until someone asked me about it, a few days before the dance! That had resulted in a rapid recalculation of how the event would work - but at least I was prepared. Although it was a much different event with kids, I can't say I was sorry to have them. The little ones brought a great energy to the dance. Also, I'm 100% sure that we would have had far fewer adults otherwise. It was an improvisational event, to be sure.
We had an opening circle and check-in, and I said a few words about the kind of dance we were about to enter - basically that you can't really be told about conscious dance, you have to do it. I explained that the music would guide us - and invited the dancers to follow their own movement without judgement. I reminded the dancers to be aware of their own body space and their own body IN space - when we're dancing hard, it's too easy to run into each other. I asked them to be aware of their own body-limitations, and encouraged them to keep moving.
I asked them to remember that the dance floor is a nonverbal space. I explained that the dance alter was interactive, which meant that the instruments were there to be pIayed with. (originally I had meant for some books of dance-related poetry and something to write on to be part of the space as well, but those intentions got misplaced in the rush of preparation.) I opened the floor for questions, and then Carly led us in a series of yoga poses. Which, she confided later, she'd changed on the spot, to accommodate the range of ages in our group.
After that, we danced.
For me, it was a completely fresh experience. Usually, in the dance, I'm able to drop in and let go… that's one of the reasons I keep coming back. But here, in this space, I couldn't do that. It was new to me.
It was my job to hold the space, and I'm still new to that role. I needed to maintain my own headspace to an extent, but I primarily had to watch the room, to hold it for the others. I already knew that, had expected it, but it's one thing to know it, and another one to do it. I watched the others dance, impressed and delighted like I always am at how readily they dropped into the dance - how ready our bodies are to move, and our minds to let go! I ran interference on small children before they could throw the egg shakers under dancing feet, and reminded the dancers to use the space. I leapt out of the circle to greet latecomers and the man from the local paper who wandered in, and I invited the dancers to interact with each other. As the crowd dwindled, I asked DJ Hank to skip a few songs and start bringing us down… I could see that the dancers weren't going to make it through the entire set, and judged it was better for us to experience a complete wave together and have a closing circle, than to let people slip away by twos and threes, until a few die-hards were left alone on the floor. I think I did well, for a first time… but it was exhausting.
Through the dancing and everything else, I enjoyed watching the others open up on the dance floor, the way their bodies told their stories, and their differences in their movement. But the thing is, holding the space in that way… I wasn't able to connect and let go in the way I usually can. I confess that I was a little disappointed. I assumed that if I couldn't feel that connection and surrender, then the others must not be feeling it either. Because I'd hoped to offer/hold that kind of space, I was a little let down.
And then we had closing circle.
As we went around the circle, checking in with the changes in/to our bodies and states of mind, I *heard* the other dancers, over and over again, saying,:" I feel so good in my body" and "It's been too long since I felt this way", or "I can't remember the last time I felt like this". Saying, "I feel so connected to everyone here, and to the music, and to myself." "It's so good to move." "I feel so accepted here." "I feel so not-alone."
And I realized I had been wrong. For all the small hiccups the dance had had, for all my silly insecurity, these people *got it* after all. They got that gift that's in the dance and the music. I didn't have to feel it for them to feel it - it wasn't to do with me at all. I mean, I knew that when I started, but somehow, when I got caught up in wanting to have a perfect dance, I forgot. That *good thing* wasn't waiting on me to do some perfect thing to draw it out - It was right there in the dance, just waiting to be found out.
It wasn't perfect. Things can get a *lot* more intense. But it was right there, all the same. And they experienced it.
And the other question from everyone, the very best way I can measure the success of the dance: "When are we doing this again?"
We are doing it again, a week from Saturday (01/04/14). We set the date before we left the room. I've already sent out the email. There will need to be more advertising too, and a followup, but it won't be a "big" event like this was, but something smaller and simpler.
So, I feel good. Confused and tired, and good. It went well. I think it went well. I think, maybe, it did what it was supposed to do.
...That's the whole story. I'm glad to have shared it with you, and I welcome any feedback. I wish you wonderful holidays, and a transformative new year.
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