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January 29, 2013

Meeting with Karen Jamieson, Julie Lebel and Lindsay Ridgway (not present – Mirae Rosner)
Observing – Charlotte Veal, researcher


We met today at the Dance Centre to discuss both the logics of our schedules in the next couple of months as well as the evolving process of engaging with dance and community. We began the discussion by solidifying dates for the next group of workshops taught both at the Carnegie Community Centre and SFU Woodwards. We then discussed the importance of having meetings with Karen after each workshop, as this time around Julie, Lindsay, Mirae and I (or permutation depending on availability) will be leading the workshops on our own. We set dates about a week after each workshop.

Karen had prepared a document outlining skills we brought to the work, our individual interests and how we could focus more effectively on both the content of dance and nature of outreach in the future. First of all, we confirmed our shared professional training in contemporary dance as a valuable tool in the work.
Somatic practices laid the groundwork for our discussion on the methodologies of teaching dance and movement to diverse groups. We spoke about the power of learning to move the body through knowledge of developmental movement pattering and other similar somatic practices.

The practice of contact improvisation was briefly introduced in our past work at in the Downtown Eastside. The introduction was well received. There is the potential for physical contact to be loaded in terms of boundaries, histories, and emotions. How do we introduce touch? How do we introduce touch as an element of support? Permission, as a political act, we noted should always be at the forefront of this practice. In light of this, choice should always be emphasized.

After some discussion on other skills we hold as a group, Flamenco, Metis dance, mapping, sound, and writing, we spoke about reading materials that can support the development of the practice. As the movement practice itself draws on many different movement vocabularies and modalities, so too does the process of engagement, outreach and facilitating. We compiled a reading list:

“Anatomy Trains”, by Thomas Myers - fascial networks and anatomy
“Becoming an Ally: Breaking the cycle of Oppression in People”, by Anne Bishop – understanding the systems of structure and thought patterns that support oppression
“Non-Violent Communication”, by Marshall B. Rosenberg – honing communication skills and conflict resolution abilities
“Mind Training: The Great Collection”, Geshe Thupten Jinpa, Translator – the spiritual use of slogans to train the mind
“Taijiquan: Through the Western Gate”, by Rick Barrett

“Abandon all hope for fruition” was mentioned by Karen. This is a slogan in the Tibetan mind training method. She mentioned this as a way to remind ourselves to stay rooted in the process, and unattached to any held vision of what will be produced. To me, it brings in a readiness to respond to the moment rather than some expected result. This can take form in a variety of ways, from expectations of how one’s body will respond to new movement material to how the dynamics of the group will shape and reshape throughout the process.

We spoke the spiraling nature of conflict, and how to stop the spiral before it spins out of control. In the case of a group of people held together through the practice of movement, when words turn into conflict we return to the dance to diffuse and refocus on the healing capacities of the dance, and transmute the dialogues of oppressor and victim.

The question arose: “is dance inherently good?” While Karen has had conversations about this debate, it is a new question for me. I have always assumed that it is inherently good, healing, transformative and therapeutic. Can it be corrupted like any other practice? I do not know the answer to these questions, but am interested in following them, and we all expressed continued curiosity towards the inquiry. Two tenets of dance practice were mentioned in relation to the inherent goodness of dance: its formalization and its exertion of practicing boundaries.

A main topic of concern that we addressed and expressed the need to emphasize is outreach. Making a space where people know they are welcome and creating easy ways for them to receive this information and access the work is important. One obstacle is the preconceptions that people may have about what one is asked to do in a dance class. We want people to feel welcome to join in, and sometimes people see some participants as advanced and are intimidated by this. Creating the message that all are welcome from whatever preconceived level of expertise is crucial to maintaining a community-centered approach. We brainstormed a bit, and thought of a couple of ways of working with these issues: holding a tea and cookies gathering to answer questions and discuss the work with the public and/or specific organizations; including a photograph of the circle we form at the beginning of each session.

Julie Lebel, Lindsay Ridgway and I all expressed an interest in delving more deeply into the practice that Karen has developed over years of both teaching/facilitating and creating dance work. The energy body practice and material and techniques from Connect will be work-shopped directly with Karen in the future, so that we can draw from her work more confidently and there can be more continuity for the participants.

The main goal of the workshops is the continuity of the Carnegie Dance Troupe as a stable center for dance in the DTES. Part of this continuity comes through the practice itself.

We set dates, and solidified our shared passion and continued commitment. The meeting left us both inspired and grounded in practical plans.