Too Self Conscious to Dance?

We all have something that we are self conscious about, often we feel really isolated with it, as if we are the only ones to have ever felt that feeling.

It might be something physical – we’re too fat, too thin, too old, too unfit, too stiff, not supple enough, not a good enough dancer, not enough stamina, if we have an illness or specific limitation it will be that.

Or it might be on the emotional plane – we’re too needy, to scared, too shy, too sad, too angry, too sensitive, too lonely, too attractive or not attractive enough, too ordinary or weird.

When we think of coming onto a dance floor we fear that all that will be shown. A bit like a singer being nervous that all his apprehension will be apparent in the way he sings, that it’ll all be audible and he won’t be able to sing properly, the song will go out of tune and the audience will know he’s nervous.

Self consciousness is defined as “undue awareness of oneself, one’s appearance, or one’s actions”, the things we’re aware of are often the things we feel most vulnerable about and we fear that those things will be visible to others on the dance floor, and that our self consciousness will be increased. It might be that we’ve been hiding that aspect of ourselves for years, even decades – why would we risk having it seen?

The reason why is that when we bring it into movement it changes.

Jill Bolte Taylor in her book ‘My Stroke of Insight’ said an emotion lasts for 90 seconds. She is a neuroscientist who was in the extraordinary situation of witnessing herself having a stroke – one of the outcomes of this experience coupled with her own research is what she calls the 90 second rule

“Once triggered, the chemical released by my brain surges through my body and I have a physiological experience. Within 90 seconds from the initial trigger, the chemical component of my anger has completely dissipated from my blood and my automatic response is over. If, however, I remain angry after those 90 seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run.”

On the dance floor we can allow, even invite, a particular emotion to inhabit our dance fully. So, instead of it ‘having us’, we ‘have it’. We get creative, get curious, find the texture and flavour of it and track those nuances with the vigilance of a hunter following a scent. As Gabrielle Roth, the founder of 5Rhthms said “we turn our suffering into art”.

Then it shifts, something else comes in its place. Not only that but the courage it takes us to stay with how we are helps us to strengthen muscles – we develop more capacity for courage and in staying with ourselves we get to know ourselves more and allow others to know us as we really are. This concept isn’t new! Shakespere in 1601: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”.

I invite you to come and try this on the dance floor, there are many different modalities of conscious dance, I teach 5Rhythms and Open Floor, you can find classes near you from their websites.
I teach regular classes in Forest Row, East Sussex – on Friday mornings an Open Floor class and the first Saturday of the month is 5Rhythms. Bring your self-consciousness with you and test out the 90-second rule.



The Dance of Artful Play

The Dance of Artful Play

Have you ever had that feeling in the dance that time has stretched, or shrunk, or has become irrelevant? That moment when we only become aware of time because the class is over, or you’re in a workshop and you suddenly realise the whole day has gone? When that happens you’ve been in a deliciously creative flow, engaged with each moment as it comes.

People tell me that coming to the dance regularly has helped them regain or reconnect with their ability to play, to enter that space where we can get out of our own way and allow playfulness to unfold. Play is our ability to engage in an activity just for fun or recreation, rather than for serious or practical reasons. It’s a paradox that often we seek out a dancefloor we’re seriously looking to improve some aspect of our lives, or we’re seeking something practical and we find ourselves engaged in ‘deep play’.

It can feel risky to step towards the edge of our comfort zones, to try something new, a new way of stretching, a new texture in the way we move, or to lean into the edge of a ‘rule’. Challenging a small unspoken rule, like moving at a similar tempo to others around you, turning your back on your partner, joining in if two people are dancing together can feel risky. On the dancefloor we practise giving ourselves permission, to make mistakes, to change our perspective. Summoning our courage, we make these micro decisions through our dance all the time, we get well-versed and adept at it.

Way back when I was at art school I was told “Art is a means to an unknown end, craft is a means to a known end”. The micro decisions we make all the time on the dancefloor, turning this way or that, slower or faster, edgy or smooth (whether they be decisions with our body, heart, mind or soul); these are building blocks of our dance as an art form. We don’t know where the dance is going to take us, we don’t know what will unfold, what’s ready to be danced or what the end result will feel like.

Part of being human is that we fall into patterns, we find something new or surprising, we do it over and over again and eventually it can become predictable and boring. One of the underpinning premises of Open Floor is that we move from our habits to our creative potential. It’s an ever shifting continuum that invites us to engage with our essential creativity to keep open to our range of possibilities. To delve into that state when time is irrelevant, we don’t know what the end result will be and we’re present and connected in the moment. Another way to look at it is that we keep playing.

“Creativity is an area of human development that encompasses the future of our planet. Traditional ways of seeing the world and dealing with social issues no longer seem adequate. Clearly, we are in need of new and creative approaches to our problems. Anything we can do to promote creativity is a step in the right direction.” David S. Walonick

On that note I’d like to share with you these gems from Elizabeth Gilbert: 11 ways to think about creativity and her Ted Talk ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius‘.

Creative Workshops – Combining Art and Dance
The work I have been developing in ‘ARTiculate Your Soul’ and ‘Dance Your Art Out’ is a way to explore creative processes, our ability to try something new, to make mistakes, to allow ourselves to ‘get it wrong’. In these workshops, we dance and we make imagery, often drawing or collage, going from the dancefloor to the page, back to the dance, back to the page. The combination of movement and dance with art can help us bypass our censorship around ‘getting it right’ or worrying about what it looks like (our dance as well as our imagery). We can develop our capacity to enjoy creativity. Like building muscles, it takes time and a willingness to try something new.

In these workshops, we focus on the process of creativity, rather than the end result. How we stay kind to ourselves and stay connected to our basic aliveness is important, rather than focusing on the outcome and overriding ourselves in the moment. In that place we allow ourselves to be surprised and magic can happen!

Something new I’m trying in January is an ongoing ‘blended’ group. We’ll start with a weekend together in London, then there will be a creative project to go and do in the ten weeks inbetween that and a second weekend. The inbetween weeks will be supported by short podcasts and a weekly webinar with me, including weekly creative suggestions combined with music for at-home dancing.
I do hope you can join us if any of these call you:

If you’d like to see imagery I make, you can see some on my instagram page.
May our dances continue to nourish our freedom and support the unfolding of our wild dreams.
with love,
Sarah x

Liberating Your Dance

drawing of someone dancing the 5Rhythms Open Floor having a freedom liberating dance

Liberating Your Dance

The first time I did this kind of dance I felt awkward, self conscious and worried about what other people were doing and thinking. I nearly didn’t return a second time.

I have learned, over the last twenty years of dancing and teaching, that the way to a full, free and liberating dance experience, can be summed up in three golden pieces of advice: Read more