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One Sunday morning in a rather deserted part of Paarden Island, I found myself in a warehouse space called ColourBox Studios preparing for a four-hour Spirit Dance event. Looking around I recalled Ren McCormack from Footloose letting off steam and dancing out his frustrations by swinging from chains and doing gymnastics in the air. The scene was just of him and his music in an empty factory. For those few minutes he could just “be” without anyone judging him. He could express his emotions freely and creatively. This is what conscious dancing, the main activity of the Spirit Dance event, is all about.

If you want to know how comfortable anyone is with themselves and with their own bodies, you need only to ask them to dance. I remember those awkward school dances where everybody would just stare at the bodies across the room, too self-conscious even to flex a muscle, too afraid that their moves would be judged “uncool” and they would be embarrassed. Or maybe you were born in the 60’s and were taught that your body was sinful and the source of unwanted needs and desires.

And so, we have become uncomfortable in our own skins; we have lost the ability to be happy with our bodies and express ourselves authentically.

With this in mind, Penny Acton and Kali Satyagraha Widd of the Healing He(arts) Community/Cape Town would like to inspire participants to “express” rather than “impress.” Kali is a trained dance facilitator, DJ, CosmoForm and Tantra practitioner known for facilitating individual therapeutic movement meditation and weekly Blissdance classes and retreats in and around Cape Town. She says: “What prevents us from dancing and singing is the conditioned mind, the programmes and patterns that have become the norm, obscuring the truth of who we really are. We live in our heads – and only to the one side!  Rational, linear thought has become the master, but should it be? And because of it we have learnt to compete and strive for excellence even in things that could just be naturally expressed. In conscious dance we are uninhibited and child-like again. We explore, we play, we discover, we’re prepared to step into the unknown, to be silly, make fools of ourselves, be vulnerable, open, true, and real . . .”

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Under a roof lit by twinkling lights and with window sills filled with jam jars of different flowers, people of all ages, shapes and sizes got together and started swaying to the rhythm of a New Age mix. I felt great admiration for the older ladies and gents on that particular day who, even though their movements were small and awkward at times, were bravely trying something new and risking vulnerability. As my friend and fellow conscious dancer, Lee-Ann Odendaal (Nia facilitator in training, ILS qualified coach and physical theatre enthusiast), put it: “In dance we are invited to go beyond our edges. You might want to follow your same, safe patterns but at some point you step strangely and you feel as if you are going to fall. And in that moment a new, different movement arises.”

Through dance we break through old, limiting barriers and open up to new possibilities.

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It’s clear there is a difference between conscious dance and the dancing done at nightclubs. Firstly, we were dancing on a Sunday morning while the sun was coming up between the clouds. Then, we were asked to keep chatting on the dance floor to the minimum – cosy nooks with comfortable seats are provided for that. Nor did we see any people smoking, using drugs or drinking alcohol: the “bar” is replaced by natural food company Bare and our “naked,” unsullied senses treated to natural cacao balls and other wholesome vegetarian foods offered by the two food angels, all to help us get into our bodies – instead of trying to escape them.

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Then, of course, there is the dancing. There are no patterns to follow or steps to learn. Most participants dance with their eyes closed so no one watches what others are doing. Freedom of expression is very much encouraged and welcomed.  We were told: “There’s nothing to fix or to solve. There’s no right or wrong, good or bad. This is your playground. This is your laboratory. Take as much time and space as you need.  Slow everything down so that you can note every sensation and even the smallest change in posture. Without judgement, bring everything into your field of awareness.”

Conscious dancing is about becoming deeply aware of yourself through dance and movement.

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Various dance forms fall under the umbrella of “conscious dance:” BlissDance, Biodanza, 5Rythms, Contact Improv, Ecstatic Trance and Movement Medicine, amongst others. I particularly enjoy Spirit Dance: Spirit Dance promotes the idea that we can reclaim the lost parts of ourselves through movement.  As Kali explains:

In dance, we feel to heal.

“Through dance we can safely and consciously shift emotions such as repressed anger, love, sadness and joy so that existence can once again freely flow through us in the moment. After all, e-motion is really just energy in motion. Because the body had cellular memory the body often knows things the mind does not register or the nervous system has stored for later when the whole organism is strong enough to process these emotions in a safe, held environment. Through the wisdom of the body’s inner dancer, we can begin to explore parts of ourselves we’ve denied or buried or forgotten because it wasn’t safe enough to feel them at the time.  In this way body, heart, mind and soul can once again become aligned and congruent. There is no more separation. We are left reconnected to the whole of ourselves. Interestingly, ‘heal’ comes from the word ‘whole.’ And whole leads to a state of holiness.”

Through dance you not only reconnect with yourself, but also with others. As Ren McCormack so fervently put it while making his case for dancing: “From the oldest of times, people danced for a number of reasons. They danced in prayer . . . or that their crops would be plentiful . . . or so that their hunt would be good. They danced to stay physically fit . . . and to show their community spirit . . .”

By connecting within and looking at ourselves more compassionately, we are able to transcend the barriers that keep us separated from others.

In a non-competitive, non-judgemental and supportive space we all come together while sharing the same intention, the same purpose: to raise consciousness.

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To end the day, with our bodies tingling from all the energy flowing through them, we sat down to listen to some local songwriters sharing their art. There was Nur Felix (singer, songwriter, guitarist), David Tomsu (singer, songwriter, master of too many instruments to mention) of duo Shamazi, and Patrick McKay, singer and songwriter from the band Passenger Side. Patrick taught us the words of a song that were a positive affirmation and perfect reflection of how we dance to achieve wholeness:

I am happy. I am free. I’m enough. I relax and just be me.

Want to try it for yourself? The next Spirit Dance event will be held on 17 April 2016 from 9:30. Entrance fee is R100 on WebTickets. Visit the event page here or get in touch with Kali at kaliwidd@gmail.com directly. For more information on Spirit Dance, BlissDance and Kali’s approach to movement meditation go to www.luminouslivingandloving.com

[All photo’s in this blog taken and supplied by Barbra Cowley]

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