Do we as men dare to be authentic and different?
Many men are too intimidated to be different in their behavior to what mainstream culture subtly and not so subtly dictates. Men can be as bullied & seduced, as women have been, by social gender stereotypes. Personally I have been a lot happier and less intimidated when I have been true to my own natural gifts, needs and values, both in my work and private life. I found conforming to what society and my family presented as acceptable made me unhappy. I felt like I was denying something important to myself that was fundamental to my success and happiness. Consequently I have been driven throughout my life to continuously question the status quo, explore new ideas and learn about different ways of being in the world. It is true though that when you break out of the norm and start to behave differently to what people have gotten used to, you increase your chances of being seen as a threat to someone else’s idea of what is acceptable and normal. You increase your chances of being seen by others, in one extreme as a threat or to a lesser extreme mad or bad. This can lead to hurtful rejection, bullying or even violence against you. Learning about these consequences of changing my persona meant that I have had to learn protective behaviours to survive but not at the cost of significantly denying or compromising my authentic self. I want to be happy, challenged and satisfied in my life. Anyway, as a result of personal changes over the years I have expanded my social network to include many exciting and creative people.
And so I dance
How did I come to dance and what does it do for me?
Improvised dancing uses simple, authentic moves in my body and voice which in turn create new ways of thinking, feeling and behaving. In dance I can connect to and demonstrate something of exquisite beauty that can also be empowering and political. For almost three decades I have been engaged in coaching with a talented Australian movement and voice improviser, Andrew Morrish. Andrew travels the world teaching movement and dance workshops, as well as performing in creative theatre events. What he has recognised is that the movement and voice patterns that he employs and teaches to professional performers, also have relevance for ordinary people like myself in developing new, improved ways of being in the world—opening up self confidence, the ability to behave in creative ways, to add value in unexpected, complex situations. Through this work with Andrew I have been able to free myself up professionally and personally. I have more choices and confidence in the moment. Without any forethought or planning I can act creatively and effectively, tuned in to my body’s own inner knowing. My ability to comfortably talk to and facilitate large groups has increased significantly. I have seen the same improvements in my confidence and impact in a broader social context too.
Let us look at an example of an Andrew Morrish performance:
What does this performance have to offer us? Andrew accesses content for and communicates with his audience through spontaneous movement and vocalisations. The content is hilarious but also deeply political as he responds to in-the-moment unexpected events both inside himself and the environment. In this performance we hear about Andrew’s very personal experiences of pain and medical interventions in hospital. It is at once both comic and moving and we can relate personally to his suffering and his perplexity about what is happening to him. Unfortunately like many people’s hospital experiences, what happens to him, an intelligent and self-sufficient man, is temporarily out of his control. Andrew’s performance is personally and socially relevant as well as an insightful commentary. Importantly the commentary comes out of Andrew’s ability to be open and respond to what is happening inside and outside his body, while minimizing conscious rational control. He has faith in his intuitive body’s knowing. His performances are the proof of this faith and tuning in.
You can explore Andrew’s work further and see his links page for more on improvisation at:
Another Australian dancer, Rosalind Crisp has incorporated simple improvisational moves into her dance performances to create something unique and beautiful. Check out one of her dances at:
But why dance? This is a question asked by Kimerer L Lamothe in her book “Why we Dance—a philosophy of bodily becoming.”
The chapters of her book point to the answers to that question in a very intelligent way that is sensitive to the depth, creativity and spiritual dimensions of dance:
To Dance is to Matter
To Dance is to Evolve
To Dance is to Know
To Dance is to be Born
To Dance is to Connect
To Dance is to Heal
To Dance is to Love
“Movement is everywhere. It is what we know and how we learn. It is how we sense and how we respond. It is what we do without thinking and what we do when we are thinking. It is the source of who we are and the agent of who we are becoming.
We are making movements and we are registering movements. And in the relationship between how we move and what we register we find all the information, all the material that we ever have for knowing, thinking, feeling or doing anything.”
Kimerer has wonderful descriptions of her experience of dance that give insights into its benefits for her:
“I pull another breath deep into my torso and let go. The rushing air sets off a cascade of awakening sensory cells. New shapes of inner awareness appear. A foot. A lung. A shoulder. My mind finds these forms fascinating and dives down to take a closer look. All of a sudden I feel the shift I have been waiting to feel. My awareness drops over some internal edge and rushes along paths traced in time and space by my physical form. I am no longer mired in mental muck. No longer circulating old thoughts. Consciousness floats and spreads through my bodily self. I become a field of waves where new impulses arise—new thoughts, feelings, shapes of action. I am this stream streaming through me….
…..Movement is transformation. What moves is never the same. Every shape of movement is always productive, generative of its next shape. Each movement occurs in a uniquely new space and time, opening up possibilities for further movement that have not yet existed.”
That says it for me.