But, last week I learned that “walk stop and run” is much more. It’s a wild and holy seed pod. I was at Georgain Court University in New Jersey, teaching a master class for ten dance department students whose professor is improv-friendly. I’d just learned that the new dance department is in a leadership transition, and the students were preparing to showcase their first campus wide dance concert. InterPlayers Rick Kakareka, Dina Claussen, Dorothy Finnigan, Donna Renfro and Mary Bilderback (who teaches biology on campus and paints on real leaves in her spare time) joined me in the class.
During the InterPlay warm-up the dancers seemed overjoyed to move in such an easy way. I led them into walking stopping and running. I only had an hour and a half. I taught them the power of following and stillness. Then I shared my belief that we can dance on behalf of things. Pointing to the back of my head, the center of our elegant, speedy, kinetic-emotive engines, I suggested that when we combine this part of us with a higher purpose, pointing to my forehead we can make magic. When we dance we unify these realms into one, formidable creative act. The students’ focus on me didn’t waver. They remained open and present. A good sign.
I proposed that we dance on behalf of their dance department. I divided them into two groups. InterPlayers joined each group. After a year of training together, these dancers were remarkably hospitable. Putting their hearts into the dance, employing their love of movement and their technique, these advanced dancers and companion InterPlayers (most of whom were in their fifties and sixties) fell into the same territory that rain-dancers and shamanic dancers inhabit. A choreography emerged. Moving in front of a window that looked out on a 350 year old oak, the dances were not about conformity, nor about one person’s vision. The dancers were not concerned with “what it meant.” They were moving, following, stopping, falling, and joining. They found each other in common motions. The shapes of stillness formed ritual space. Those who witnessed wept. Their beauty, clarity, and co-creative listening was a testament to them and to their teacher. Their dances were soul seeds planted by a community in the midst of storm.
None of this would have occurred if it hadn’t been for their GROUP BODY and something more. Love. Their teacher loved them. I remember thinking, “From now on I will practice saying I love you. It’s the truest power I know.”