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The Shell Must Break For The Bird To Fly : Dancing With Authenticity

The Shell Must Break For The Bird To Fly…


Healing through movement and dancing with authenticity is something I write (and think) a lot about.

My favorite way to dance is freestyle movement to some great music – a piece I’m really feeling at the moment.

I believe that as dancers we are also actresses/actors in the sense that our parts cannot be played without feeling and authenticity and that our movements are derived from each of us as individual movement artisans drawing from our pot of unique personal experiences to produce in our craft. It is our job as artists to offer up different angles and views to commonly held perspectives, to explore the depths and complexities of our mortal existences, and to connect us all with our ubiquitous truths. As dancers, we strive not merely to entertain with beautiful shapes and anti-gravity effects but to connect the audience with who we are – our universal human emotions, instincts, dramas, intellects, and desires. Acting isn’t ‘putting on a mask’. Acting is being. As dancers, we are actresses/actors and so we must BE. We have to FEEL and conjure every layer we apply on top of the teachings we’ve dedicated our time to learning and we have to do so authentically and without fear. Our traumas, loves, losses, and accomplishments can be some of our best muses, and if listened to and explored, can become some of our best teachers.

We all have a sort of double, a twin, a mirror self – the one on the inside and the one on the outside. From the center of your psyche to the skin of your flesh resides a complicated relationship of communication resulting in movement. The controlled movement between the two is our creative force and where our power resides. The idea of this type of movement practice is to cross the bridge between darkness and light – to join or bridge the inner and outer worlds of our being. The production of authentic scholarly derived movement is not only more intriguing to witness but is the generative life force that animates us all. To which direction, when, and how we animate is up to us. The movements we impart and imprints we create along the course of our journey impacts the trajectory of the future. The communication of soul to your outer vessel is an imperative and beautiful relationship to develop and when displayed in our dance endeavorers exhibits the connective force and collective experience that unites us as living emotional beings. Beyond learned poses, steps, and movements dance artistry is authentic life-force conjured up and delivered to the dance floor.

How does one learn how to dance? How does one become and evolve into a good dancer?

By finding your wings – what moves you. The shell must break for the bird to fly… that is, bridge the inner and outer worlds of our being. Break through that shell (that outer protective layer). Explore and bridge the region between the inner and outer worlds of your being. Dance from your heart, draw from the well of your unique experiences (the good AND the bad), strip down to the rawness of what created you, and embrace what you discover. When you’re dancing let it all out and most importantly give no fucks – EVERYONE will notice.

After all, the ‘art’ doesn’t truly birth from the artist, it blossoms from the observer. An artist simply lies witness to her time in history and teaches her discoveries through her strengths, abilities, and talents. The spark, the change, the shift in perspective, the appreciation (what makes something art) comes from the audience. Your authenticity IS the spark of meaningful art.

10 emotional connection exercises to help you break free from your shell and tap into dancing with authenticity:

  1. Dance when you’re emotional. Feeling something (anger, joy, sadness, fear, connectivity, success)? Dance it out! Use that emotional energy and allow it to transmute your movements. It’s not called dance therapy for no reason!
  2. Dance blindfolded. If you haven’t yet explored this exercise I highly recommend giving it a try. A practice I do at least once a year – one of which something surprising arises each time.
  3. Dance in a new environment. Switch studios, go outside, dance in your kitchen, etc. The change in atmosphere will resonate within conjuring new thought processes and produce movements outside your usual wheelhouse. 
  4. Turn on the camera. If you don’t usually record yourself this practice will give you great insight. We must often take our perspectives outside of ourselves in order to see ourselves.
  5. Dance for someone. Nothing will change your dance like actually presenting it to someone.
  6. Set up a faux audience. Your dog, your cat, some empty chairs, or balloons with Sharpie faces will do – set up an ‘audience’ and work on eye contact and emoting.
  7. Dance for YOU. Oftentimes I see people get so caught up in learning moves and following choreography that they’ve lost touch with how THEY move. Always make authentic movement practice a priority in your movement training. Do what feels good, right, soulful, and authentic to exactly where you are in the moment.
  8. Play a part. Just as it is important to dance authenticity, the practice of dancing ‘a part’ (a character) is a great way to advance and expand your movement vocabulary. Dress the part, play music that muses the role, and practice moving and emoting that character.
  9. Don’t be afraid of being ‘sexy’ or sensual. This is a big one I see hold back a lot of new dancers. Touching oneself and conjuring movement from the hips can be particularly uncomfortable for new students but one has to remember that dance is sensual. It’s passionate, physical, bodily movement. Sensual movement does not automatically equate to adult content and this is a very important distinction. 
  10. Don’t forget that dance is a language. In dance, we learn moves, poses, positions, etc. but when it comes to defining what dance is, we discover the complexity lies beyond the fundamentals and the clarity within the spaces between. A direct gaze, the sway of a hip or twirl of the wrist… combinations of expressive bodily ‘conjunctions’ are what links together and distinguishes our story. Learn your language, but don’t forget the semantics as this is what connects us to our audience and to our own personal dance practice.

Being human, what moves us – what we desire, feel, how we move (through life) – changes from moment to moment. What inspires us today can make us feel indifferent tomorrow. We must often take our perspectives outside of ourselves to see ourselves. This fickle nature of the human condition is simply nature – a cycling of energy through birth, life, death, and rebirth. We are the phoenix that rises again and again from the ashes. The tides will change, the moon will cycle, our shadow will eclipse and we will find ourselves full circle, again and again… falling into obscurity and arising once again. With every ‘orbit,’ we choose our level of growth and understanding. How much we learn through each rebirth in our human form depends entirely on us.

Exploring our inner depths and moving in relation to our authenticity is the helm, or steering mechanism, of our life force. Once we tap into this birthright we begin to experience authentic living and incredible growth and knowledge can be obtained. Diving fearlessly into the depths that are uniquely you gives rise to hidden pearls; gems only collected by breaking through and traversing our inner and outer worlds.

I hope these tips will help muse your toes into the proverbial waters of the depth-full, audience-capturing, and healing world of dance.

💜 Ava

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