The Big Me Dances

The universe, the world, is how it all occurs to me as a happening, an event, a contingency.

Recalling the words of Baha’u’llah as I would apply them to myself, “… the world is my unawareness of the Godhead and my absorption in aught else…” and that truth is founded in the primary spiritual attitude of the unfettered search: detachment from tradition; avoiding backbiting, boastful people, and evil-doers; cleansing the heart from love, hate, and pride; and living in prayer, patience, resignation, and forgiveness.

My experience gives me the sense that the Godhead operates for me through my declaration (to myself or others) in abandonment of all untrue considerations, for an enthusiasm, passion and joy.

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I believe that I am living in the world, a universe of elementary materials, from which has derived my organic construction as a capability for the flourishing of a metaphysical being. I am the root growing through the soil of human life, drawing sustenance for that budding fractal splicing and looping through all the dimensions beyond time and space, all the dimensions of eternity. I believe I am both contingent and eternal, always to be “unaware” and “absorbed by”, yet also to be a sense of Godhead through how I am in truth.

And so , I dance.

USA Trip May-June 2016

My USA trip was a real zinger.

Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.

The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.

Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.

The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.

From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.

It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.

It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.

It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.

The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.

From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.

And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.

Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.

Life Long Learning

Recently someone asked me about my learning mode preference. We learn through a variety of modalities: what we see, hear, and feel, constructed into patterns that provide us tools for transforming our relationships and our world for our benefit. I would suggest that mostly, “our benefit” means that we get a ‘kick’ out of the new or novel thing that we find. Psycho-pharmocology would suggests this ‘kick’ comes from a production of dopamine which is based in our brain as a response to immediate success. Dopamine is disinterested. It can be activated by the success of a baby learning to stand, a scientist seeing the breathrough data, a gamer winning a video game, or just directly as a chemical interaction on the brain. My many fortunate years as a learner, but not as a master of any field of learning, has given me a particular view on learning. I haven’t fully worked through this view, so I am writing it here as it came to me as I began answering this question.

As a keen science follower, there are two sources that I access regularly

CSIRO NEWS & EDUCATION
The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) performs research over a large number of fields from health to agriculture to new materials and technologies to environment to space.

The CSIRO publishes a regular update of the latest findings and research in an easy-to-read format: News or Blogs.  Often the reports show the practical value of the research. The health reports can be particularly helpful because it is explained in a manner that can be easily applied to our lifestyle eg Starch resistant Foods are good for you.

ABC Science
The popular Australian public broadcaster has a science department that also follows the latest worldwide developments in all scientific fields. http://www.abc.net.au/science/

Me as a Learner.
I’m primarily an auditory learner. Story gets me more than any other modality. I can often remember a good story years afterwards. I am also a great reader. However, these modalities build up a knowledge library. And the storage comes with the inspiration I find in the knowledge. Then I find that I can move knowledge around to look at various patterns, looking for new insights. So I think I have a good ‘pattern-making’ system. I think this is learnt through a combination of inherent talent and learning reward that comes with the ‘kick’ probably a dopamine hit in the brain, when i find something novel. In career, though, I am a physiotherapist and have now worked with bodies, mine and others for 34 years now. In particular I can now see many things about movement at a glance and I have a very sensitive touch from light to strong pressure or movement responses. That is a learning that begins with a newness in knowledge, visualisation, observation, and physical interaction and grows as an integration and development of all those aspects. Having, as an older person, become involved in game, play, and dance, and actively looking at the nature of my own ‘being’ in the world, I have found that there are many places of learning kinaesthetically, visually, and socially. I call them the places of tension, and I think across any modality a good way to learn is find the beginning of the tension, where the ability wavers but doesn’t fall down. I got an insight to that by joining a beginners singing class with Kirsten Cottone of Talent Quests Australia  , so that, at 56 I find my singing voice is improving quite a lot. Meanwhile I dance everyday in my own training and in that look closely at how my body is performing. Having come to dance in my 50’s, even as a physiotherapist I am also surprised to find how my body is becoming more trainable and my ability to make distinctions of movement improves.

The Art of Movement 1

So I’m painting the room that will be my new movement/dance studio and serve what social functions I have. It has been a long time getting this far and it seems that life is playing out a bit slowly. Nontheless, plenty of time to listen to ABC podcasts and contemplate on the possibilities for my contribution to the world of movement art, dance, and somatic training.

So I’ve begun to design a program called “The Art of Movement” that will be able to feature the quite large range of ideas that can be incorporated in exploring human movement as a creative vehicle.

However, frustrated by my need to be disciplined around physical renovations that will create the base for my future work, yet wanting to get into the art, an idea bout looking at the functionality of my activities through the lense of performance.

And that little thought lead to these photographs taken as I prepare for another session of work. I’ve titled them: The Art of Movement:Painting.

Warning: This looks simple but I’ve been training around my balance quite a bit, so DON’T do this on a ladder unless you’re confident you’ve trained up for it. I am 55 years old, and while I hope I can show what is possible in physical training for the average Joe, Be Responsible.

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Arts, Dance, Science, Health

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Dancers 'spoofing' the science.
Dancers ‘spoofing’ the science.

Last year (2013), I had the privilege to attend two wonderful national events in the arts: The Inaugural DANscienCE Festival in Canberra hosted by the CSIRO Discovery Centre; and the 5th International Arts and Health Conference in Sydney.

The DANscienCE Festival in August 2013 was eight (8) days of presentations and demonstrations of: the science of dance; scientific ideas that can speak to dance and movement art; and dance speaking for science. Dance with ecological and ornithological themes; dance as sociological research tools; dance for healthy ageing; fluid dynamics; cognitive studies; and dancer’s health. I was asked to sit on a physiotherapy panel for an evening of presentations from 6 dance genres: ballet, hip hop, belly dance, hindu dance, african and contemporary (over 50s). The evening was, professionally, a great experience, especially as my co-panellist, Roz Penfold has previously held jobs with the Australian Triathlon Team and Australian Ballet. Evidence to that evening’s success, Glen Murray of MADEinTasmania, Australia’s best over 50s contemporary dance company, reported that he was using ideas from our discussion in his classes. The most ironical presentation of the week came from Deakin University’s Movement Studio who revealed that the Playstation NRL game was animated from the actions of dancers who can represent rugby moves better than rugby players (except the crunching tackles). As I now post this report, I am putting my support behind Liz Lea of Canberra Dance Theatre and organiser of the 2013 DANscienCE Festival, to organise another DANscienCE in 2015.

The International Arts and Health Conference focused on: creative ageing and mental health, which found me in workshops with Circus Mojo from the USA and clown doctor GP Mark Spitzer, Dancing with Poetry in the NSW Art gallery (among the Nolan’s); writing for resilience with Molly Carlille, palliative care manager; discussions on the design of nursing homes for happiness; conversations with the David Cutler,CEO Baring Foundation UK, Dominic Campbell Director Irish Beltaine Festival; UK Churchill fellow Paula Turner; Angela Lion of Arts Fusion, Singapore;and many delegates who brought a wealth of experience and aspiration to the place of the arts in the health industry, hospitals, and  community well-being. The conference coincided with public support from Federal Health Minister, the Hon Peter Dutton MP, and his State and Territory counterparts, who endorsed a National Arts and Health Framework that was initiated by the Standing Council of Health Ministers in November 2011. As Federal and State Governments realize that there are not the resources to care for ageing ‘baby boomers’ unless there is a far greater increase in health and community support for the older person, it is becoming clear that the arts have a HUGE contribution to make in all areas of health interventions and a healthy life.