Dancing the Questions

Precarious, fragile, vulnerability, translating, un-concealing dance.

At his 109-birthday party the Reverend Reg Dean addressed his friends with the following:

“Everybody should be able to at least attempt to answer the following question:




Reg said at the time he didn’t have the answer. But perhaps a long life living with the questions was the most important task for supporting the emergence of meaning.

Dance and dancing is a way to attend to these questions of what is feels like to be here and in this body, at this time in the world, and what do I do, to be here more, with who I am.

Perhaps it’s not a quest of finding an answer as such, but in tracking the way we feel about each question that arises for us moment by moment. 

Breath by breath.

Turning our attention inwards and outwards often at the same time we listen to the body, and the complex time machine this it is.

We are given the opportunity to wonder about the body’s presence, the quality of our relationship with our lived experience of the dance as it emerges, as it arrives,

If it arrives, or when it arrives.

It is in this presence that we can perhaps hear a faint echo back from the questions we pose. The echo reveals itself through our engagement with the sensory, sensual and imaginal experience of our creative selves. 

One question I always have is…

What are the conditions that supports the emergence of the ‘real’ in dancing?

What do we listen to when we dance? 

How do we listen?

How do we attend to this listening?

How does honesty seep out of our gestures ?

How is it drawn out by the context? Or shut down by it?

There is an aliveness in attending to each moment, a hovering aliveness that is often a kind of directionless attention. It’s emergent attention that calls fourth the moving body into itself.

When we attend to this listening that dances us, we notice that it is like mercury, liquid, moving, ungraspable, changeable. It needs our time. We need to abide with its slippery quality for a while so that we can get to know it. To be there with it, as its settles, as we settle.

Attending to that attention and turning ourselves over to the interior of the body allows us to notice the particular quality of space within us. 

When we dance, somedays we are aware of the volume of our everyday psychology with all its commentary and murmurings. Usually 3 categories, things I like, things I don’t like, and things i’m ambivalent about in my life. Somedays we notice we are full of whispers, and at other days there is a kind of emptiness. 

Dancing is a way to work with all of it. Welcoming the unwelcome, the tender shakiness and precariousness of this deal of being in, and having a body in the world.

As we enter our dances it can feel like this attending to listening becomes a compass of sorts for us to follow. As we follow the directions that emerge from listening.

We begin shedding something and gaining something simultaneously.

These deeper layers of communication and communion with aspects of ourselves that go unnoticed in our everyday business begin to become revealed.

As we listen, we extend ourselves into the possibility of total receptivity, and in this place our listening extends so much so that everything is included in our dance.

Whether that’s the bit where we fall over a microphone stand in front of 200 people, or where we leap into the air with glory. I try  to love both expressions of who I can be when I’m dancing and try to hold both with equal care. As we drop the layers of our discursive mind we begin to sail closer to a kernel of the real that is housed in our flesh. Coming together to move as a collective we have the opportunity to develop our capacity to orientate ourselves to this kernel through the dance and through each other, for our shared intention allows our listening to grow stronger like sails of a ship that and can support us and guide us in the trouble of dancing alone and together.

Over the years seeing people dance the dance of attending to this listening – I have experienced the following: 

The feeling of being communicated to directly, words whispered into my flesh through the flesh of the other.

Sometimes I have been haunted by the transparency of someone’s body and dancing that it is their very soul that is being revealed to me. The flesh dissolves; the form disappears leaving only the essence of them.

Knowing someone without words.

There is an emergent meaning, not an intellectual meaning, but embodied one that has to do with the place of dance in life, and the place life in dance.

Perhaps dance is the compass. Not a place to seek anything like an arrival. Fuck that it’s about a quest for a depth of connection, dancing keeps delivering the questions and as a faithful servant, one keeps listening and moving through riddles of this dancing life and into the world. There are periods in dancing life that are akin to walking a desert, dry arid, not much learning, stumbling upon a mirage of growth, then it disappearing. Then there are periods full of rich connection to the purpose of it in ones life.

As we cross through these thresholds and layers of the real seeking in our dance, we come face to face with the hardness of some of these thresholds, some we may not cross. Our hardness is revealed, so are our protective strategies, built over the years. There are countless threshold guardians that appear on the juncture of something new. Sometimes they fall away, and we find a voice we didn’t know we had, or somehow we can now shout when we always spoke quietly.

Sometimes dancing is about slaying these guardians of inhibition and shame. Sometimes dancing is about asking them kindly to pass, so you can shed another layer of something not longer needed in order to reveal some more of what matters to you when you’re dancing.

Sometimes its about being devoured by the guardians and then knowing you survive.

There is a quest, whether it is known at the time or not.

From something like a freedom. 

We are change. The body tells us so. Movement is the best way for us to practice dealing with change in our lives.

The most ephemeral of art forms, it is life and it is death, but at its most poignant, it is renewal, in a non religious sense it is a resurrection, a continuous being bought back to life.

In our improvisations as in life we are always confronted with the question of orientation.

Where now, and where next. 

Dancing is about being submerged in the layers listening. Our capacity to listen to the interior of the body is like the ocean, there is always more depth than we can fathom, understand or comprehend. We are contradictions and a paradox. We contain multiples. 

It is limitless. Once we start diving down we realise there are treasures. Old ships of sensations forgotten, rusty and covered in barnacles. We seek them out, we recover something, by inquiry into these old forgotten sensations, we breath life into them, into ourselves, dig them out of deep sand and bring them back to the surface.

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