Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

Dancing Transcendence

By Lucy May Constantini

Dancing Transcendence
I’m once again at one of those points in my life of re-evaluating my relationship to dance.  I’ve come to expect these mini-crises as I expect their existential counterparts, a periodic wrestling with growth and despair before lurching off once more in some vaguely unforeseen direction.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this has been a life-long tussle.  From the little girl who was told “you mustn’t dance; it will give you ugly feet and fat thighs”, to the teenager who was considered far too clever even to contemplate such an idiocy as dancing, to the adult who could never make ends meet doing it, not to mention all the assumptions of what a dancer is, what she looks like, how she moves (none of which I fulfil), I have yet to reconcile the pull dance exerts on me with the practical realities of survival.  This is ironic, because if I’m really honest, some part of me has always felt that if dance isn’t some part of my life, somewhere, I probably won’t survive at all.  More to the point, whenever in periodic despair I’ve made the attempt to give it up, to do something “sensible” instead, I’ve been inexorably drawn back to work, art, learning through the medium of my fragile, broken and infinitely resilient and wise body.
Even my dance training happened by default.  By the time I had completed my various degrees, at the ripe old age of twenty-three, I found myself at the Laban Centre (as it was then called), not to train as a dancer but, as I thought, to hone my physical skills so I could transfer them to my theater practice.  I’d survived ritual humiliation in ballet classes as an adolescent, which had quite convinced me that, however much I longed to, mine was not a body to dance.  So physical theater it was to be.   Plus, in the uber-competitive world of beautiful dancers, it was just easier, infinitely less painful, to take myself out of the running altogether.
Somehow, despite all this, while I was at Laban, I found that, like it or not, I am a dancer.  In the years since, I’ve realised that it’s a bit like having dark hair or hazel eyes – not something chosen but something that is.
I have often credited the fact that I kept dancing after further ritual humiliation at Laban (the dance world is full of this – for me, at any rate), to my encounter in my last term there with a very charismatic dancer called Laurie Booth.  He was teaching a class called “repertory”, which basically meant a choreographer came in and made a piece on the group in the allotted three hours a week, which we then performed at the end of term.  It was sheer luck I ended up in this class at all, initially certain I couldn’t possible be good enough even to contemplate “rep”.  A dear friend and classmate convinced me otherwise.
Her encouragement notwithstanding, I definitely felt like the poor relation during my first term of rep, the phalanx of technically adept, hyper-competitive German girls in the class looking on at me in a bemused combination of pity and contempt.  This shifted when Laurie came to work with us, and suddenly the martial arts that underpinned his dance were techniques that I assimilated more easily than many of my beautifully-arabesqued peers (to their visible shock).
I think there were two factors in Laurie’s work that convinced me that there was no point hiding from the fact that I’m a dancer.  The first was his insistence that we take responsibility for our work, as dance-artists, and just get on with it.  This was the first time I’d encountered genuine improvisation in performance, the first time I’d encountered improvisation that wasn’t a choreographic tool or an excuse for not doing any work.  There was no room to wonder whether I was good enough, whether I was really a dancer, whether I was just pretending; the work required me to be there and be there fully and if the undermining mental chatter was still dancing around my head, well let it.  It could dance all it liked; I was simply not to heed it.  In this way, I first discovered the relationship between dance and meditation practice. 
Such an attitude to dance practice feels second nature now.  I can’t emphasize enough that it was completely revolutionary to me at the time and shook up all my assumptions of my right to inadequacy.
Dancing Transcendence
The second factor was Laurie introducing us to Contact Improvisation.
I still find it virtually impossible to define Contact Improvisation (often abbreviated to CI) and usually end up tying myself in knots trying to do so.  Here’s a definition Curt Siddall gave in 1975:
Contact improvisation is a movement form, improvisational by nature, involving two bodies in contact, Impulses, weight and momentum are communicated through a point of physical contact that continually rolls across and around the bodies of the dancers…
Of course, that could mean virtually anything, and technically, CI can look like virtually anything. 
On safer ground, I can tell you quite easily that CI was created in 1972 by a dancer called Steve Paxton who had danced for Merce Cunningham and was influenced/inspired by the compositional techniques of the composer John Cage.  It played its part in the creation of what became know as postmodern dance and in its early days, someone called it an “art sport”, which I still rather like as a definition.
Laurie had been taught Contact by Steve (Paxton) at Dartington in the seventies, and although I’m sure he had his own take and preferences colouring what he taught us, what we learned felt very much in tune with what I then studied with Steve a few months later (Steve being my second experience of Contact Improvisation, lucky me).  We learned to cultivate the presence and awareness required by the “small dance” (an essentially meditative practice that demands absolute attention to the tiniest shifts of the body in all its subtlety of standing upright); we practised the various puzzles and rolls Steve has since developed into what he now teaches as “Material for the Spine”; we practised giving, taking, sharing weight and the task-based nature of this.  I particularly remember the admonishment not to “use your partner’s body as a vehicle for your own ego”.
I was struck, in those early days, by the inescapable fact (for me) that whatever was blocking me mentally, emotionally (spiritually?) would manifest as a physical reality in my dancing that demanded to be addressed.
This was roughly the same time I was beginning to develop a more sophisticated understanding of my yoga practice, though it would be a long time before I found a path for this.  Looking back, I now know that what I practised alone as a child in the living room when no one was about, was a sort of instinctive asana (yoga posture) exploration.  I had an intuitive understanding of the body connecting to and channelling something more subtle than its physical reality, if worked in certain ways.
The body is a device to calculate
the astronomy of the spirit.
Look through that astrolabe
and become oceanic.

wrote Rumi, that early Sufi, credited with instigating the danced spiritual practice of turning, whirling.
Somewhere, under all the rationalism of my academic attainments, I carried an instinctive sense that my body is my lived map to the “astronomy of the spirit”.  During my dance training, through the daily work on spinal alignment and the beginnings of an understanding of the relationship between this alignment and the inescapable force of gravity, profound shifts took place in me.  One friend at the time commented “your body has changed shape!” and by that she didn’t mean that I had become stockier or thinner or more toned.
But whatever I looked like, the real shift was not externally visible.  Quite inexplicably to my sense of rational logic of the time, I started to feel currents of energy, as clear and fresh as flowing water, moving through my spine, out the crown of my head, through what felt like glowing coins in the palms of my hands and soles of my feet, tangible and real as the sensation of my weight shifting over the bones of my spreading feet against the floor.  I’d never heard of “reiki” or energy healing before I experienced it as a tangible danced reality in a choreography class.  Call it “prana” or “chi” or “energy” or whatever you fancy, it was unquestionably real to me, as was the increase in so-called “intuitive” senses, which, under appropriately focussed circumstances, allow us to sense space and navigate unharmed through the speed and apparent chaos of bodies hurtling through it.
Of course, this is how it works on the good days, on the best days, and there were plenty of days in between where I struggled to find these connections and bumped and jarred myself and wondered what on earth I thought I was doing.  But what kept me coming back to Contact Improvisation in those early years was that I most often had these heightened experiences of connection when dancing Contact.  So over the last decade and a half (or so), it became the cornerstone of both my dance and teaching practice.
When I was about to depart on my travels in October 2009, I had reached one of those points where I thought it might be time to let the dancing go, no doubt brought about by the seemingly unbreakable relationship for me between the UK and the sensation of banging my head against a wall.  I would travel, meditate, study, do my marine conservation, and maybe, just maybe, if it came up, I might do a bit of dance teaching, but only as a way to re-connect with past friends. 
I am not the first person to observe that India has a mind and logic all her own.  And India had other ideas.
Suddenly I was more solidly a dancer than I had felt in years of half-apologising for my insistence in Britain.  My calling and my identity were quite clear to me (and what a relief that was). 
Some people expressed bemusement that I, supposedly a yogi, was in India dancing (and ok, meditating) rather than studying asana.  In this I should probably clarify that my dance and yoga practice don’t feel separate to me, but rather twines of the same rope.  I have often said that I more regularly encounter and work with the conundrums of yoga philosophy and meditation when dancing than I do in asana (which feels like it serves a completely different purpose to me – but I won’t get into that now).
As a re-introduction to dance in Europe, I thought, last August, on my way back to that continent after nearly a year away, that I would try the Ibiza Contact Festival.
Well, there was a faith-shaker.
Dancing Transcendence
Then, in January this year, I went to dance with Nancy Stark Smith and her partner, Mike Vargas, for the three weeks of her “continuing” workshop at Earthdance in Massachusetts in the U.S (the pictures in this entry were all taken in and around Earthdance at that time).  Nancy is one of the dancers Steve made Contact Improvisation on, and I have long held her as a role-model (I’m not sure what she’d make of that).  Among many other things, Nancy is the author of “the UnderScore”, a subtle dance between prescribing and describing the possibilities of a jam (a jam is an open improvisation, much as most people might associate the term with what jazz musicians are thought to do).  UnderScores, usually between two and three hours long, have provided the containers of some of my most profound dance experiences.

Dancing Transcendence

Some of the UnderScore


Dancing Transcendence

Silent Day Schedule


Here is some of what I wrote for myself after the workshop ended:
As always, it was a pleasure and a privilege to study with Nancy.  I have long felt that I carry her work in mine, frequently stuttering and incomplete and confused, but nonetheless carried with great gratitude and love.  With this third period of study with her, I have more fully realised (or perhaps articulated to myself) how affirming and inspirational a model of artistic and human practice Nancy is to me.
I said to Mike that I appreciate his input more each time I meet him.  This is true.  Mike’s insights and thoughts are very much with me as I attempt to digest our three weeks of work.  His music always fills and holds and empties the space for me in a way I can’t articulate but find a profoundly supportive dialog with the dance.
Our last Thursday together, Nancy held a discussion period over lunch.  I remember saying that I was coming more and more frequently to a place of wondering whether I should be doing this work at all, wondering whether there is a place for me in it.  This isn’t for a lack of love or interest or questions in it, but mostly due to the fact that I feel the gravity of the “contact improvisation community” has moved to a place I find neither interesting nor (personally) healthy.
Almost immediately after this discussion, I read Daniel Lepkoff’s article in the latest edition of Contact Quarterly (“Contact Improvisation: A Question”).  It came timely into my mini existential crisis.  I found it affirming and reassuring that at least somebody (and somebody with a lot more experience and knowledge than me; Daniel Lepkoff is another of the original CI dancers from the early seventies) seems to be interested in the same starting point for Contact Improvisation (of the many possible) as I am.
Below are some extracts that resonated with me.  (The bold lettering is my own highlighting.)
My understanding of the original intention of Contact Improvisation as an art event was to display to the public the body’s innate ability to respond physically to its environment.  Implied is an interest in the diversity of people’s survival strategies and an indication that this spontaneous physical material can be viewed as danced composition…
…The underlying technique needed to prepare for and survive the surprises of a Contact Improvisation duet is to pose and maintain a question…  The idea that a question can be the definition of a movement form is sophisticated.  The dominant association triggered by the word form is perhaps the idea of the shape of a physical object.  In the case of Contact Improvisation, however, the word form refers to synaptic architecture…  What is commonly referred to as the “duet form” has no knowable outer form…
…Some of the developments and directions the work has taken have not aligned with my own understanding of its essence.  Does the name name what I think it is or does it name something else?!...
…Almost four decades later, with more distance, I’ve decided to decide that however much Contact Improvisation is codified, presented as a collection of 562 techniques, made to be entertaining, dressed to be pretty or graceful, shaped to be therapeutic, practiced in rooms filled with social interaction and conversation, used as a basis for building a community – ultimately, its initial stance of empowering individuals to rely on their own physical intelligence, to meet their moment with senses open and perceptions stretching, and to compose their own response remains intact.
SOMATIC ENJOYMENT AND PHYSICS
…I think that a little bit of a problem arises for me when the resulting intimacy or feeling of aliveness or of connection with partners becomes the point, rather than the result…       (Nancy Stark Smith)
It seems to me that for a proportion of practitioners of CI, somatic and interpersonal enjoyment are the chief motivations in the dancing.  I am finding this increasingly problematic and increasingly distant from my own interests.
It is not that I do not enjoy the pleasure of release or touch or weight-sharing.  I was reflecting recently that I have been missing more focussed, slow, weight-bearing engagement with a partner, and that sometimes, being given specific tasks can temporarily remove my responsibility and a lot of the mental chatter that goes with it, and allows me to find a deeper connection to myself, the earth and my partner which later feeds adventurous, physical dancing supported by genuine listening.  I have been reflecting that this is an element I wish to re-focus into my practice.
An important aspect to this kind of somatic sharing for me is that it is “transpersonal” (to quote Nancy).  We are not engaging in this physical practice because we wish to sleep together or to chat as best friends.  We have no need to talk at all (and generally, I find such work much more satisfying if we don’t).  The interest for me in such somatic explorations is that they function beneath the layer of personality.
This is very different to what I saw at the CI festival I attended in Ibiza last summer, and what I saw in some participants of this January’s workshop.  At Earthdance, a few of us joked that for certain kinds of dancer, there are only two kinds of dance: the patterns of lifting dance (which requires both partners to know and wish to engage in these predetermined patterns) and the rolling around the floor hugging dance (which again, seems to require only specific partners).  Both these forms seem distinctly personal and often extremely hormonal – and frankly, not very interesting.  What I also observe is that these behaviours have a huge impact on the people and space around them; they generally seem to take over.  What I witnessed at Ibiza was a significant minority involved in these patterns and a small majority either trying (and failing) to be part of them, confused, or trying (with varying degrees of success) to forge their own dancing in the face of what some only half-jokingly referred to as a “hippy love-fest”.
The argument is usually posited that the “contact community” is large and varied and that there is space for everybody within it to pursue his or her interests.  This sometimes seems to me to be an excuse not to take responsibility for our behavior.  It also fails to address how this wider “community” reflects on any of us who goes out into the world working under the label of Contact Improvisation.
In Ibiza last summer, about 120 dancers met with varying degrees of pleasure and success.  Regardless of our experiences, a significant minority of the dancers involved were either from Ibiza or further afield in Spain, and most of us belonged to a culture that was either European or American, hence broadly sharing the culture of our hosts.  Recently, via Facebook, I was sent a flyer for a somatic dance festival in Goa (India).  The flyer featured two gloriously fair Scandinavian-looking people.  I posted a comment on my Facebook page, to the effect that I wondered where the brown Indian somatic skins were.  Immediately, I got a comment back from a friend, saying he had similar thoughts when seeing pictures from the Goa Contact Festival (almost no brown skins visible).
I feel hesitant here, because I don’t particularly wish to take high moral ground and bang a drum on this undoubtedly complex issue.  However, I grew up in a post-colonial country where white Western enclaves went about their business and their pleasure in comfortable compounds, surrounded by the rest of Africa going about her generally much less comfortable business.  The two seldom met.
It disturbs me that in parts of the wider “contact community” we are effectively following a neo-colonial model, justified, it seems to me, by the same self-involvement that allows some dancers to follow their somatic preferences above any other consideration.  If we consider ourselves artists (which most of us claim to), then it seems to me that we have a duty and responsibility to remove our heads from our navels long enough to take into account how our artistic activity impacts on the world around us.  Perhaps this definition of an artist as someone who reflects back to the world s/he inhabits is an old-fashioned one, but if we don’t follow some broad interpretation of this, I don’t see how we can expect the world we inhabit to support or nurture our artistic activity.
I know there are Indian dancers who are interested in Contact Improvisation.  I know because I have taught or danced with quite a few of them.  I have found myself in the awkward position of having to explain or defend what they see as the narcissistic hedonism that occurs in such Western-dominated events as the Goa Contact Festival.  It’s a position I find awkward because in part, I share their reservations.  I have not been to Goa and so perhaps these accusations are unjustified.  However, it disturbs me that Contact Improvisation as a whole is in danger of being defined in this way by people who are actually very sympathetic to its practice as danced physics.  
…I can imagine that people who are not in that social group are not interested in becoming cuddly with people they don’t know – why would they?  But I’d say that if you go the other way, where you present it quite neutrally as just a physical phenomenon, as something to do or experience, a physical conversation, that many more people are right there for it…     (Nancy Stark Smith)
Which is absolutely my experience.
I’m not sure exactly what I’m saying here with regard to some of the most publicly visible branches of the “contact community”, other than I am uncomfortable at what I see as a hypocrisy: a hypocrisy in which people proclaim their dance as open and welcoming to all when it is increasingly exclusive in practice, on all sorts of levels.  In my head, I hear Nancy talk of our different values.  The problem for me is that some people’s values seem to have drowned out others.
I suppose that another discomfort is that the CI I thought I was taught and the CI I teach is not what I or any of my students seem to encounter when we move into the wider fora of such festivals.  Hence arises my question as to whether there is a place for me and my interests.  Perhaps I need to be more assertive, but frankly, that’s not where I’m wishful to spend my energy.
So one solution is no longer to take part in the sorts of festivals or gatherings with this focus of personal relationship and somatic indulgence.  One of the difficulties with this choice is that it is hard to know that this will be the theme until you get to such a festival, because they usually advertise themselves as focussing on the dancing.  My other (and far more pressing) question is: where do I go?  Where do I go to find the kind of dancing, the kind of training that empowers “individuals to rely on their own physical intelligence, to meet their moment with senses open and perceptions stretching, and to compose their own response” (to quote Daniel Lepkoff)?
Certainly I try to foster this when I teach, but my own skills are limited.  I want to be stretched, to be challenged (in a way that isn’t just about dealing with the unpleasantness of difficult inter-personal relationships), to be challenged physically, from the gross acrobatic to the subtle synaptic.  How do I find this?
I have found in recent years that the interpersonal dynamics have swallowed such a proportion of my attention that my physical skills have actually regressed.  Certainly other skills have improved. I am far happier soloing now than I have ever been.  But I don’t come to dance Contact to spend most of my time in solo.  I can do that all by myself without forking out a festival or workshop fee.  I feel like my basic skill of managing weight (mine and others) has deteriorated significantly and I haven’t yet figured out how to remedy this, or where to find concentrated dance practice that is about Steve’s physics and not the “gland game”.
Sometimes I think it must be all down to me and my terrible interpersonal skills.  Then I reflect that I have been all round the world for extensive periods alone, during which time I have taught, made and studied dance with people from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds.  I am happy to take responsibility for my reactions, but on balance, it feels disingenuous to lay the blame for my frustrating experiences solely at the door of poor interpersonal skills.
Dancing Transcendence
U/DYSTOPIA
…there was a prioritising of the work and of the discipline of the work, and we were encouraged not to bring the socializing or the teasing or the so-called “gland-game”, as Steve called it, into the dancing… And Steve’s attention and therefore most of ours most of the time was focused on the physical phenomena of the form.    (Nancy Stark Smith)
Reading back through my notes, I am struck by Nancy’s remark that there is a “utopian” sense to some workshops.
I have rarely felt any sense of utopia within dance workshops.  Perhaps this is a question of semantics (perhaps Thomas Moore’s work inaugurating that term is too present with me from the first year tussles of my English degree).  I have felt stimulated, inspired, exhilarated, connected, elevated, transported (the list goes on) but this has always come with a certain challenge that at its best makes the experience (for me) an expansive and rigorous working environment rather than a utopia.  Fundamentally, while I enjoy making personal connections and friendships with co-participants, I am primarily interested in a workshop as a serious artistic enquiry.  I am not interested in it as a forum for personal development (for which I would seek counseling or other appropriate channels).  That the work may touch on personal matters is inevitable when we are dealing so completely with the physical body (and indeed, the fact that this work resonated with so many other aspects of my wider Self was a strong factor in what drew me to it in the first place).  But, for me, the appropriate place to further investigate and develop any personal issues that may arise is not on a dance floor which is supposed to be hosting an investigation into artistic practice.
Perhaps my apparently unfashionable attitude comes from my training and teaching in theatre, where the accepted etiquette was to leave your baggage at the door and enter the studio ready to work.  However, looking back over Nancy’s words, it seems that Steve Paxton shared this preference in the early years of CI’s development.
I left Ibiza to stay with a friend (a physical theater practitioner) in Valencia.  When I recounted my experiences to her, her strongly-accented response colourfully (and probably more honestly) reflected my own reaction:
“I hate it when people use the work like therapy!  I’m not interested!  If that’s what you need, pay a f****** psychologist!  Just don’t make the rest of us sit through it when we are trying to work!”  

Dancing Transcendence

The dorm building at Earthdance


GENEROSITY
I’ve been contemplating the definition of generosity Mike gave us as that which is given “expecting nothing in return, not even acknowledgment”.  In some nebulous realm I can’t quite navigate, this feels like a key I can’t quite grasp.  My question in the face of this demand (from myself? because some of my life is only bearable, manageable, if I can be generous in this way?) has been: how do I resource such a generosity?  How do I give in this unconditional way and yet remain whole, undiminished?
Nearly all human interaction is transactional: I give you this attention and you return it in this manner; you give me goodwill or time or support or love and I return it by my investment in our relationship somehow, somewhere along our timeline.  Where and how do we give when we genuinely expect nothing in return?
This question has been all the more vivid to me because of my frequent confrontations with my own sense of depletion.  I remember a turning point when I was seventeen; I realised, when trying to meet something I no longer could, that my energy, my stamina, my attention, my very will had been exhausted in the struggle of surviving what had gone before. There were no renewable resources left, and very few of the finite variety either.  Where could I find the energy, the support, the generosity that brought my lost virtuosity into being?  Twenty years later, I still haven’t answered that question.
Dancing Transcendence
During an early underscore with Mike, soon after he mentioned this idea of generosity, I noticed one of the trees outside.  I can’t remember which of the windows I was looking out, but I remember the tree, winter-dark and bare.  It occurred to me then that the tree held an answer.  I derided myself for an unspecific hippy but then I corrected myself.  The tree continues to give, even in death and decay.  The tree gives (oxygen, wood, nutrition to the soil, fossil fuels) because of what it is.  Being a tree, it can do no other.  It gives by virtue of what it is, not by virtue of what it does.  Or rather, it does by virtue of what it is
I feel like I am beginning to touch an answer here, unformed, incomplete: that it is not through a focus on acting but through a focus on being that I can be truly generous (with myself or anyone else), as though somehow, the more fully I can be, the more generously I can do.
My most developed practice of being lies in meditation, which has many connections with dance.
I think back to my time in Rishikesh, sitting on the classroom floor of the Dayananda Ashram, Swami Aparoksananda sitting before us, explaining in his musical poetry the mysteries of the Kathopanisad.  “Everything is Brahman.  And the nature of Brahman is saccidananda: pure being, pure consciousness, pure bliss.  We are by nature full of bliss.”  His cadences fall on and emphasize the “full”.
Our task is simply to uncover this essential nature of reality.
I feel very far from this resource, but I also feel that I have touched on the only way I know so far to cultivate it.
VALUES:
Relative values were on the agenda for a few of our discussions.  On reflection, here are some of mine:
·   Cutting through comforting self-delusion
·   Honesty
·   Rigour
·   Physical virtuosity – of all and varied sorts (and that a choice is not pedestrian simply because the dancer has no other vocabulary available to him/her)
·   Courage
·   Kindness
·   Expansion beyond the preferences, interests, limits of the self to encompass something greater
·   Enquiry (philosophical and physical)
·   Intuition – “Is working with intuition also working with when I have no sense of it? and if I allow that, it seems to re-emerge…” (from my notes, day 3 when my secret aspect for the afternoon  – of Mike’s 86 Aspects of Composition – was intuition)
·   The support and influence of alternative body/mind/spirit practices
I often feel my tastes and interests veer to a less fashionable ascetic / monastic / puritanical pursuit – that any pleasure experienced (and it can be profound) comes as a result of the work rather than as its focus.  I suppose, fundamentally, it feels narcissistic and limited to me to devote my time and energy to something that has no greater goal than enjoyment.
This ties in very neatly with a lot of my yoga practice, both scripturally (there’s the famous verse in the Bhagavad Gita: “Your right is for action alone, never for the results”… but that’s a whole other thesis) and in its practice.  I suppose that it is no coincidence that the focus of my yoga practice is connection, expansion of my Self, transcendence. 
Fundamentally, I have to admit (to myself as much as to anyone) that I am looking for my dance and artistic practice to assist this transcending (both mine and others’), and in this I echo some of Nancy’s thoughts on her “States of Grace” and Mike’s wish “to model and manifest transcendence”.
...............................
I feel that I have mentioned dance and Contact Improvisation so often through the course of this blog in passing, that it was time I gave it an entry all of its own.  Many (most?) of you, dear readers, are not dancers and this is a subject which perplexes and divides people who practice it, let alone anyone who chooses to devote his or her time and energy to other pursuits.
I’m not sure I have clarified anything for anyone, least of all myself.  I am yet again at one of my impasses, wondering how to continue, in all ways, and more to the point perhaps, where to continue.
Dancing Transcendence
Some time at the beginning of Nancy’s workshop last January, we sat in a circle in the circle of Earthdance’s round dance barn, the windows all around us framing the snow-filled vistas of the bone-deep cold of a North American winter.  Everyone was asked to state an intention or a wish.  Mike Vargas’s was “to model and manifest transcendence”.  I remember feeling slightly shocked.  Such a wish felt too ambitious even to dare to articulate.
Dancing Transcendence
So I’m grateful Mike is more courageous than I am.
I have been reflecting a lot on what he said since.  In reality, Mike’s wish differs very little from the core of my own wish and intention in my yoga practice (which ok, while we’re being honest about these things, is to know and fully experience myself as divine consciousness – and if that isn’t transcendence, then what is?).  And I have said all along that my yoga and dance practice go hand in hand.  Perhaps it’s time to start acknowledging and naming things for what they are.  How else are we ever supposed to manifest them?  And perhaps the dancing has served its purpose in my journey in this.  Perhaps that’s what the unsustainability is telling me.  Perhaps…   But somehow I doubt it.
Next week, I am going to Plymouth to take part in an improvisation workshop with Kirstie Simson (another early CI practitioner and great inspiration) and Adam Benjamin (co-founder of Candoco, among many other things).  The question I go with is whether this is my swansong.  I wonder…  But I can’t quite believe it.
At the beginning of July, I’ll be taking part in the first Welsh Dance Platform in Cardiff.  I’ll be shortening and re-working La Blanche, my solo from Bangalore (if I can ever manage to find affordable rehearsal space in Swansea) and I am enjoying collaborating with Jane Hosgood, aikido sensei and film-maker, on a short film.  It’s scheduled to be screened the same day as I perform my solo and its working title is There’s a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.
After that, I have no idea – though I feel a tidal push, urging me far, far away.  Maybe it’s time, once and for all, to stop banging my head against walls.
How, is the question…
Wishing you answers to all your questions and sending love, love, love,
Lucy xx
Dancing Transcendence

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