I wonder whether my tastes and use of freedom, come from my love of limitations. I don’t feel like your average ecstatic dancer (whatever that is) partly because of this love of rules – following rather than breaking them. As a young person I felt awkward about social dancing, awkward about my body and personality, but a teacher pointed out that I was very comfortable with the chicken dance and macarena. She jibed me about finding my own dance moves beyond the set steps, which left me feeling even more self conscious, admiring other people’s style yet clueless about where all those moves came from and how I could do it the right way.
Fast forward a few years and I’m thriving in the world of ‘calisthenics’ and structured, uniform, competitive, choreographed dance. Judged on precision, execution, and alignment, the moves are perfected and there is little to no room for improvisation except for some transitions between sequences. I enjoyed the challenge of expressing myself as an instrument of the choreography. It was the satisfaction of precise timing, and essentially losing my individual identity in a drive to articulate the perfect image of that choreography, that dance style, that music, completely in sync with the group.
Fast forward more than a decade and I stumble upon my first electronic dance music festival, during a period I affectionately call my quiet rebellion (still in progress). I am completely transfixed, mouth open, eyes wide at the most magnificent, absurd and wildly organic dance floor I never could have imagined. It was a feast of weird, with some of the strangest moves rippling out of a sea of completely freaky creatures. I could not unsee what had been seen! My dance teaching then became passionately focused on emoting unique quirks, splashed with stories and demos of strange-ugly movement to offer my skilful students visions of a much broader use of their palette. I wanted to offer their proficiency a place of greater freedom, and to answer their question ‘what do I do when I run out of moves?’ more deeply for myself.
I now find myself regularly transfixed within the wild and absurd dance floors of Dancing Freedom, with my eyes closed and body boundlessly flailing as a gentle mic’d voice reminds me that ‘it doesn’t have to look like dance’. After a few years regular practice of “running out of moves” and grieving all sorts of habitual body alignments, nostalgic choreography and judgement which presented itself, I can now free fall into that well of somatic imagination where movement ripples from. The quiet rebellion has been about finding and shifting internal walls, and all the unseen restrictions which make up my body-mind. As a rule lover, I wanted and needed a safe place and a sound philosophical foundation to help reshape the walls, rather than push boundaries or wreak havoc in my outer life. I needed to find freedom in my respectful and introverted way – the freedom to choose my style of freedom. I needed a confrontation with my individuality, amongst the other free spirits grappling with their questions. I am again in a sea of harmony, but testing the perfection of an emerging moment rather than choreography preplanned. Although so much of it has taken place in my quiet interior, somewhere within the throng of dancers, the transformations have been earth shattering.
The next step for me is Dancing Freedom training, to study the facilitation of such an obviously empowering yet elusive mode of being. Naturally my passion for encouraging freedom, in myself and the world around me, finds me investigating the disciplines that best support it. How does one go about this art of getting oneself, or a group of people, safely into open free flow? Can you just ask the walls nicely if they’ll come down? Everyone, on the count of 3 – let’s be in a state of radical wildness together! At this stage I’m curious about four things… Firstly, how to offer people a place of their desired freedom – for an hour of mind-body movement that can permeate their daily life, as it has mine. Secondly, what does it mean to be in a group of people practicing personal liberation together – again, in movement and in daily life. Third, what do these people choose to do with their liberation and empowerment, in the grace of first world abundance. And fourth, how I can love the boundaries of this practice in my own way, letting it’s philosophies inform my own unique facilitation style of gentle mic’d voice with music.
I’ve been wanting to write about my experiences of Dancing Freedom for some time, to share it beyond the gushing, revelations and humbled grateful words I’ve offered to the facilitators and groups who have led me to such beautiful places (thank you Sean, Lydia, Rich, Caitlin, Serra and of course Sam!). I regularly rave about the practice, as my favourite kind of regular rave, and I urge anyone considering the training to come join in on the fun – or anyone who hasn’t tried the practice to come give it a whirl. Thank you for reading… and I look forward to making and breaking rules and moves with you soon.
Mira Melaluca, from the Egg & Spoon Pantheon
FYI – the early bird cut-off date for the Dancing Freedom Training is coming up quick at the end of May. If you’ve been fence sitting, it’s time to take the hop.