Today’s post was sent to me by Janan Scott who is currently in her third year at Smith College. The story she is sharing comes in the form of a reflection written for a contact improvisation class. Contact Improvisation “is a dance form, originated by American choreographer Steve Paxton in 1972, based on the communication between two or more moving bodies that are in physical contact and their combined relationship to the physical laws that govern their motion—gravity, momentum, inertia”. Contactimprov.net In other words, it is a form of dance that gets up close and personal! Janan’s words about her experience are deeply honest and heartfelt and reflects perfectly, I believe, how many of us feel when encountering a movement activity that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Dance is challenging in that it requires us to become vulnerable with our most personal asset – our physical selves. But how much the brain, ego and psyche also play a part is unknown. (And don’t forget social conditioning…) To dance openly is to risk… and I wonder sometimes how our willing or unwillingness to enter into the dance is a reflection on our ability to really embrace all that life has to offer. Many of the conversations prompted by the creation of this blog have been on the subject of loving to dance, but fearing the perception of others. Often times the nervousness of the mind overpowers the longing of the body. I am grateful to Janan for her honesty, her willingness to admit to the fear and uncomfortable feelings, for acknowledging the chatter of the mind and the risking of the body, and for sharing her words and experience with us all.
“My experience of the past week or so in class is characterized by a curious tension between excitement/satisfaction and anxiety, both of which have reared their heads recently, especially during last Tuesday’s Round Robin exercise.
I left our round robbinning class feeling uncomfortable and very self-critical, for some reason I found myself completely paralyzed by the exercise and therefore only participated as an external observer. While the peripheral observer can still be an active/engaged participant, I think that in order to really benefit from the exercise one must find moments of entry into the circle and practice contact in this more performance-oriented way. However, it is precisely the performing aspect of the activity that put fear into my bones — I didn’t feel safe (even though rationally I know that we have established a relatively safe dynamic) and I actively didn’t want to leave the edge of the circle. This made me feel doubly self-conscious and uncomfortable, and for the length of the class I deliberated over whether to go in or stay on the edge. Each time I got close to going in, someone else beat me to it and I lost my nerve.
I am sure that had I summoned the “courage” to venture out into the circle everything would have fallen into place and it would not have been the traumatic experience that I was anticipating, but I was somehow unable to make that step this time around. I felt intimidated by the seemingly effortless and fluid moments that transpired between the dancing couples, and was equally intimidated by the prospect of an audience. I hope that if we do this exercise again I will find a way to quiet the critical internal monologue that sometimes dominates my thoughts, and experience round robbinning as both observer and dancer.”
~ Janan Scott – November 2010