February 18, 2016
What have you accomplished so far as a group and what challenges have you overcome together?
Connection to nature and community are two things that keep coming up as important elements in the process of this time together. It has been a delight to us all to use dance as a way to express these meaningful elements through movement.
When we’re working through each dance task there is a natural supportive energy that the women have with one another, from explaining to each other in their native language, to repeating the task for someone who is a visual learner, to giggling along with someone’s joke, to fully engaging with each person’s expressions. We have collectively found that more creativity and joy of movement comes out when the group is working together.
One of the challenges that the group and I have embraced is how to include all people in the group. We have participants with a range of abilities – from a participant in a wheelchair, to another participant living with dementia, to a range of daily physical changes that come with an aging body (especially in the winter months!) Additionally, some ladies speak predominantly in Cree, or other Native languages, with little vocabulary in English or French. Given the diversity of our little collective, we are in a position of needing to be creative, to take our time, and to use non-verbal communication to connect with one another. This has encouraged me to be fluid with tasks; thinking on the spot of alternative ways to approach the tasks, to asking different members of the group to support those who may need it, to changing the game plan if someone is unable to complete the task for whatever reason. We have become very good at listening to each other and working as a team.
What does movement represent for these participants and what changes have you noticed with them since the beginning of the project?
At Tara Luz Danse we know that movement is a part of our daily lives, and we are subsequently dancing throughout our day whether we know it or not. However, most people don’t necessarily think about this so it’s quite natural to feel reticent about moving when there are no specific ‘dance moves’ to copy. The way we approach movement is from imagery, imagination, improvising new ways of moving your body. So at first, as is expected with any group in a new situation with new concepts, the ladies were quite shy to move at the beginning.
What has happened in the process is the realization of the vast possibilities of movement that are available to each person, rather than the fear of ‘not doing it right’, or not being able to do the movements due to physical or cognitive restrictions. This realization is what we were hoping for, and what comes out with every group we work with; the freedom that comes from allowing yourself to explore your stories through movement on the fly, all while respecting your emotional, physical, and mental boundaries in the moment. This freedom of exploring and expressing a variety of ways to approach movement without judgement has become a way for the participants to connect and remember their life stories and practices, and to share deeper and more profound aspects of themselves with each other through the common language of movement. In this way, movement has come to represent a bridge between memory and storytelling.
How has Indigenous culture come through the creative work you’re doing together?
One of the strongest examples of how the strong Indigenous culture has affected our dancing is when one of the ladies started to use hunting calls when we were improvising with embodying different animals. This was a huge turning point as the group realized that a deep part of her upbringing as a Cree woman is in the hunting practices that her grandfather taught her. It gave her an opportunity to reconnect to her grandfather’s teachings around hunting and respect for animals and her choice to bring in sound liberated the rest of the group to include animal calls with their movements.
Nature is a part of the world, and affects all cultures on this earth, but this respect for Mother Nature and her power is something that is definitely a guiding force in Indigenous culture. More than with any other group, I have noticed that using nature as a point of entry and exploration is the most authentic way to create movement with these ladies. The group seems to deeply enjoy having nature take shape through them – embodying animals, and ocean waves, the wind, and earth. Each task that integrates nature provides an easier framework in which to explore different qualities of movement; wind can be both light and powerful, earth has a heavy, slow-moving quality, etc. This is also supported by the Wabano Centre – from the floors each representing a different element (we practice in the basement, or Earth floor), to artwork on the walls in the basement area where we hold our sessions. Given we’re working in a Centre where culture is infused and considered in so many ways, I feel it would be hard not to integrate the environment that surrounds our explorations. While the ladies are learning about improvised dance, they are teaching us all at Tara Luz Danse about the deep connection to nature we all have in our lives. It is a beautiful exchange!
For more information on Tara Luz’ Art Place Residency.