Friday, 26 November 2010

Gone dancing

Last Tuesday I went along on an Imagination Club outing. The club was set up three years ago by Barclay Price, director of Arts & Business Scotland, on the Heineken principle: that it would refresh the parts – well, one part in particular – that everyday organisational life doesn’t reach.

Three or four times a year, a small group of us meet for a few hours to do something that none of us have ever done before, and stretch our imaginations in the process. ‘We’ are mainly people from the higher echelons of the Scottish academic, arts, cultural and enterprise world, plus me as a kind of official recorder.

So far we’ve made short films at the BBC, spoons in the jewellery department of Edinburgh College of Art, and I can’t remember exactly what in an imaginary sandpit in Barclay’s office; written poems in Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, visited Jupiter Artland, a private sculpture park outside Edinburgh, played the World Game in a converted boathouse on the Fife coast, brainstormed new uses for touch-screen technology in a high-tech lab at Edinburgh University’s Informatics Department, and last Tuesday – danced.

The majority of us, I suspect, were dreading it – quite needlessly as it transpired. It was fantastic. We had an empty ballroom to ourselves, and an inspirational leader in the person of dancer and choreographer, Christine Devaney. Within half an hour she had us unashamedly gliding and swooping, springing and leaping around the huge space, lost in what we could make our own bodies do, entranced by the feeling of physical freedom. Within an hour we were in groups, rolling and tumbling and writhing in coils. And for the finale, all inhibition by now cast to the winds, we choreographed our own short dance pieces.

Total absorption, self-forgetting, is the thing that has characterised the best of these outings. This was certainly true of Tuesday, though it was accompanied by a strong sense of physical awareness, as if we were experiencing the world almost entirely through our bodies, and the relationship of our bodies to the others around us. It was, I realised afterwards, an almost unconscious form of communication; more than that, a form of communion, and a more powerful one than anything we normally achieve with words, outside perhaps poetry.

Most of us these days lead less physical lives than at any time in human history. To paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson’s famous remark about academics: our bodies have become a form of transport for our heads, they’re how we get our brains to meetings. This can’t be a good thing. Dancing and movement reminds us of something important about ourselves, something without which we’re incomplete.

6 comments:

John said...

Ahhh, Mr Jauncey, you force a man to think.
Here I am, sat at home of a blusterous Melbourne evening - having happily transported my head from television to computer - and you have me thinking.
We do, too often, narrow our experience - probably to get through the rush from dawn to dusk. We live by assumptions - not just intellectual ones, but physical ones as well.
It serves us all, I think, to take time out and force our thinking beyond the confines of our frameworked mind. Think with our feet. Think with our hands. Think with our stomachs.
To remove ourselves from our assumed world.
Where only the right words will do.
Where we spend too much time looking for the rightest answer. When, perhaps, there isn't supposed to be any logic.
We become creatures of dogma.
Our habits - shaped by assumptions- shape our lives.
Time to dance. Perchance to dream.
Thank you for your continued efforts to break me out of my headspace.
One day, perhaps, I will be able to do the same for others.

Barclay Price said...

Indeed it was a fun and engaging session. An interesting element for me was how when watching the other's dances, I was trying to shape the movement into some form of communication or story, and that made me wonder how much one may do that at a subconscious level with all movement. And for a time I enjoyed moving about with abandon as though my body really was the same age as my internal age map - 25 more than the real 65 - although the next day my real age was more than hinted at through stiff knees! Barclay

Bigbrandjohn said...

Jamie. I think I ought to tap into my Scottish roots a bit more. You obviously have a great deal more fun and stimulation than my body that carries a head full of process and jargon.

myshorterstories said...

You are welcome to come and bang away on Brendan's drum kit, Jamie. My small people will be happy to disinhibit you!

thescribbler said...

What an amazing experience, so vividly brought to life. As children we experience so much through physical sensations - we dance, run, jump and shout. But as adults we hold back from that. I found singing at Dark Angels gave me a real sense of release. I sense the same about your dancing. The human body can do some amazing things and we really should use it more - poetry in motion.

thescribbler said...

What an amazing experience, so vividly brought to life. As children we experience so much through physical sensations - we dance, run, jump and shout. But as adults we hold back from that. I found singing at Dark Angels gave me a real sense of release. I sense the same about your dancing. The human body can do some amazing things and we really should use it more - poetry in motion.