Transformational potential of dance

Kasia Stepien

The embodied presence of conscious dance practice can transform how we feel and how we relate to the world around us by bringing more connection, awareness and creativity to our lives.

Conscious dance is a movement practice with no steps to learn or follow, no right or wrong way to move. The focus is on bringing awareness to the bodily sensations, breath, feelings, thoughts, habitual patterns and emotions. It is a meditation in movement, designed to support a deeper presence of the experience of the here and now, from moment to moment. A variety of world music is especially selected to catalyse movement and support depth of the experience. There are various modalities of conscious dance, including 5 Rhythms, Movement Medicine, Dance of Awareness, DANCEmandal and Open Floor. 5 Elements Dance Activation is one of the modalities brought together by Malaika Darville who has been my teacher and mentor since 2017.

It’s Wednesday evening and I am going to my weekly conscious dance practice. The space I arrive into feels welcoming and safe. Some people are already there, preparing, stretching or lying on the floor. Gentle music is inviting increasing stillness into my body. I take off my shoes and feel the soles of my feet touching the warm wooden surface of the floor. We are guided to take few minutes to arrive, the invitation to slow down, notice and connect with the breath. Gradually, I become more and more aware of being inside my own skin. With eyes closed I am noticing subtle sensations, the flow of thoughts, muscle tensions, the heart beating, air flowing in and out, blood flowing in my veins.

The movement starts from within. I ask my body what it needs and I notice subtle inner impulses, to stretch out, to reach up, to bend down. I am aware of my breath and of each movement. The heart-beat slows down and with each in-breath, the body softens. Allowing this expression to flow through my body, I’m becoming curious as the body parts start to awaken. The more I listen to the body and allow the experience to be expressed, the more connected I feel. A gentle touch on my own skin brings comfort. Following the guidance from the skilled facilitator, I feel myself going deeper into the experience, dropping into my body in embodied meditation.

Gradually, I become more and more aware of being inside my own skin.

Sometimes from this place, an inspiration, a reflection or an image comes: expression beyond words. A sense of liberation, authenticity and freedom overflows as I get out of my own way and allow my body to move. Over the next two hours I am on the journey with the breath, rhythm, movement and the elements of nature: Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Ether. Guided by the facilitator’s soft voice and the variety of world music, we go from gentle, slow motion movements through stomping, shaking, and jumping with joy and passion, back to stillness. Exploring inner landscapes of my body I simply bring into the movement whatever is present in the moment. We are invited to take part in various exercises and share this experience with other dancers. This transforms the feeling of separateness and brings me to remember our universal, shared and common humanity.

This practice gives me a chance to fully express myself, without inhibitions and fear of what people might think. Rooting the awareness in movement and breath allows my inner critic to soften. And this has given me the opportunity to get in touch with parts of myself that were inaccessible, hidden, brought greater joy, freedom, connection and awareness into my life. Just as the recent research is showing, dance can help develop and strengthen new neural connections, improving brain health; increasing levels of the feel-good hormone, serotonin.

This practice gives me a chance to fully express myself, without inhibitions and fear of what people might think.

The way we show up in the dance is reflecting how we show up in everyday life. The dance floor is a safe space to notice and transform any habitual patterns, fixed notions and stuck emotions. Conscious dance, combining universal principles of embodiment, mindfulness and creative self-expression, allows us to access our emotional intelligence and body wisdom, and opens the way for new and creative possibilities. It can serve as a tool for empowerment and improving communication, as we become more comfortable with who we are and our unique expression. This practice is the embodied meditation that has a potential to catalyse change from inside and cultivate a sense of peace within and around us.

1. Do you experience yourself as an embodied being? How do you express and perceive your embodied self?

2. What is your inner experience when you dance? Can you recognise your habitual ways of movement?

3. How does cultivating sensitivity and awareness to the subtle inner sensations in the moving body support the feeling of interconnectedness with the world?

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Innovative approaches in learning for Sustainability
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