How to Drop Into a Conscious Dance Class
Conscious dance is a beautiful practice
You are not meant to just know how to do it, especially if you have never done it before. And anybody can do it. Not feeling totally comfortable dancing, or being self conscious about dancing is pretty standard. Definitely no reason not to try it! How do you learn to move if not by moving? It is a beautiful practice. You need to practice it beautifully and with beautiful practice you will overcome all these obstacles. In fact, these obstacles are actually great teachers!
In the beginning and also along the way, you can expect to meet the many edges of your comfort, and will need to be a little courageous. Expand those edges and discover new aspects of yourself. There are some universal guidelines that will help you to make sense of arriving in a conscious dance class for the first time. They will help you drop into your body, and get the most out of the experience.
Check it out!
When you enter into the dance space, check it out! Consciously connect to the room, the space, the decor, the environment, the other dancers. Use your body language to say, ‘Hi’ to the space and the people. This does not mean have a conversation or that you must hug everybody. No. It means see and be seen. Acknowledge through gesture, attitude and presence everything in the space. Extend your attention through your senses into the new space. See everything, make eye contact with people, notice them, make sure they notice you, smell the room, listen to the sounds, feel the temperature and sensation through your skin.
Take in as much information as possible, without thinking about it or judging it. Allow yourself to get a feeling and a sense of the lay of land. By doing this you are making yourself connect with the environment and the environment with you. It will make you comfortable in the space, and the space comfortable with you. Spend a few moments doing this upon arrival.
Now take your attention inside your own being. The function of the warm up is to become present to yourself and then to the space around you. Start by listening and feeling what is alive inside your being.
Body and Breath
The two greatest allies in becoming present is the body and the breath. We begin to connect to the sensations and feelings in our bodies, and allow ourselves to begin to move and stretch. Move your attention through your body in a systematic way and explore each part in movement. From toes to head. Or start in the hips and move up the spine. Any way that feels right. Make sure to spend a little time moving with every part of the body. Especially places that are hard to feel or are stiff, tight, or painful. Stretch, open, shake, and flow, in big or small movements.
Notice your breath. How you are breathing. Breathe into different parts of the body. Feel the inhale and the exhale. Take a few deeper slower breaths. Feel how it feels to move whilst breathing in. Then notice the experience of movement as you breathe out.
As we let go of thinking we move more into a somatic or visceral experience of being. You don’t have to stop thinking, just let your thoughts drop into the body as movement. Feel everything! Allow it all to be there without judgement or suppression. Don’t create things. If you feel good, great! If you feel lousy, great!
Notice also how you are feeling energetically. Your sense of vitality. Feel into your emotional state. Clock your mental state. Again, you don’t need to think about what you are experiencing. Keep your awareness with the experience and allow what you notice to move and begin to express in your movements.
Ask the body
You can also ask the body what it’s needing to warmup. Listen to it and allow it to move in answer to that question. Each time we show up at a dance our bodies are different. Some days we need a good shake up, other days some gentle stretching. Sometimes we need to lie down for a bit.
The rest of the space
Once you feel connected to your body, and it’s moving more freely, then begin to move around the dance floor space. Use the same present attention to ‘warm up’ the space, connect to other dancers by making eye contact, have a dance with another, or others.
After you are feeling warmed up there are a few guidelines that will help you move on dancing journey and help take you deeper into the experience.
The practice of staying present is simple. It requires no effort. You focus on the sensations of the body as they are occurring, and the breath that you are breathing. Keep bringing your attention back to the body and the breath, whenever it has wondered into the past, future, or fantasy. Sometimes you will need to come back a lot, other times you will be pretty focused. Allow thoughts, feelings, sensations, sounds, smells to come and go like clouds moving in the sky. Being present is to be identified with the sky, not the clouds. And the sky is not bothered if it is the sun, the moon, or a thunderstorm that is moving through it. It is not wishing for night when it is day. It simply is. Everything else is a dance through that space.
Stay in movement
No matter what is moving inside you or around you, keep moving! Allow your body to always be in some form of movement. Allow every experience, thought, emotion or feeling to have a dance, movement, an expression or a gesture. There is nothing that can’t move! Even feeling self conscious has a dance. Even if it’s the tiniest wiggle of your baby finger, stay in movement. Movement is the practice. You might find yourself repeating the same movements over and over, until something changes. Or you could find yourself flowing one movement into the next into the next. Possibly moving fast or possibly super slow. In time with the music, or moving to your own pulse and rhythm. You are free to move however you feel to move.
Eyes closed or open
Closing the eyes will allow your energy that is usually lost through our visual sense to become available for a more somatic and inner sense. In other words you can be present more deeply to sensations within your body. It will eliminate distracting visuals and allow you to really tune into your own being, or sense the space around you through your other senses. You can close your eyes at any time for any length of time.
With eyes open we can interact and move more with the space and other dancers. This brings it’s own benefits. Play with both.
Although we do not speak to others using words, we allow our bodies to express in movement what we need to be saying. Besides being distracting, words keep us from discovering a new and clearer way to communicate with our bodies.
It’s very simple. Allow others to be. Be aware of you own dance and the impact it may be having in terms of others. Serve each other. Allow yourself to be. Connections will happen. Everyone is free to dance with or without you. We are able to dance a ‘no thanks’, and know that others will respect that. We listen to each other and give each other space. Space to move freely, sometimes together or with others and also alone.