A BOLD Presentation

March 8 – 12 2017 saw the inaugural BOLD Festival in Canberra, Australia. The BOLD Festival, celebrating the legacy of Dance in Australia, is the brain-child of Liz Lea, dancer, choreographer and event organiser.

As a new comer to the dance theatre scene, a ‘mature mover’ (over 50), and facilitator of dance and performance, I was honoured to present and perform at the BOLD Festival.

The invitation came about through the successful project, “The Forging of Men”, designed and performed with 6 rural men, under the directorship of career theatre-maker, Sue Hayes.

The presentation to The Bold Festival was in the form of a short Pecha Kucha (powerpoint slides presented within 5 minutes). Below is the text to go with the slides. To enjoy the presentation, please open the slides and arrange them beside the text below

Slide 1 Cover slide: This presentation is about my recent journey into dance.
Slide 2 From my years of health work I recognised that a healthy community requires robust empathetic leaders who are the enzymes for bringing that community into integrity and discourse.
Slide 3 ACTUALLY being fully alive, being fully human, is a function of wonder, inquiry, creativity, and performance / action.

Novelty, the surprised recognition of a distinction, is the source of wonder and a vital ingredient for brain development and learning.

Slide 4 Performance is that we are in action in the world and there are witnesses.

Performance is where we get to become adults, leaders, and dancers.

Performance is the wonderful, human thing about life.

Slide 5 The performing arts can be a fantastic access for ethics and leadership training by:

·      supporting the empathetic imagination of the live of others and;

·      the possibilities of self as leader

through the conditions for wonder, inquiry, creativity, and performance.

Slide 6 Over the past 7 years I have designed human sized board games, as a fun approach to movement training, and a way of seeing the world through the body.
Slide 7 2011 – My first dance project with Jess Jones on the Atherton Tablelands.

The project was an awakening for me to the possibilities for facilitating dance theatre work with untrained people.

DANscienCE 2013 was an inspiration – a motivation to develop my own skills as a mature aged dancer, and find that breakthrough into establishing a community dance group.

Slide 8 Mastery – the ability to recognise and perform as by the finest distinctions as a function of performance before increasingly discriminatory witnesses.

Taking any age you were and any skill (technical or creative), plotting novel and masterful experience over time might give some indication of your actual neural and physical ageing robustness.

Slide 9 I have been creating small dance programs for the middle to older aged person for a few years. From that came a vision and a model for an inclusive dance training program that I call rEvolve with connotations for dance as transformative in life.
Slide 10 In my rEvolve program I work with several characteristics of training and design to allow the most embodied expression of an idea. The team works by building through exercises by collaborative feedback until eventually, there’s the performance.
Slide 11 I recently began to feel it is time for me to take a stand for a male culture that is authentic and embodied. At stake is the flourishing of our communities and nations.
Slide 12 In 2015, I found three men who were interested in attending work in dance / physical theatre . We called ourselves ‘Men in Motion’

We won a grant to bring theatre-maker Sue Hayes weekly from Cairns to Atherton to building a performance about our male identity

After we had commenced the development of the work, a further two men turned up, and so a performance was developed, “The Forging of Men”.

Slide 13 The men were, mostly, inexperienced in theatre, dance or any type of performance which gave us a perfect conditions to trial a ‘proof of method’ of the rEvolve model.
Slide 14 There was a moment in the project when Sue Hayes turned to the men and said, “Okay men, tonight you are going to touch each other.”

The contact exercises essential to physical theatre is another potential boon to a transformed male culture.

Slide 15 As the project progressed, one of the men told me, “You’ve been a bit bossy lately. I’m not enjoying myself.” The group conversation that resolved that tension showed up in the performance in what the audience saw about the team work.
Slide 16 I’m now facilitating two groups of about 12 dancers in total:

·      the all-men group for the contribution to male culture that could continue to make; and

·      there’s now an all-in group.

FINE

 

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.

Language always constrains

Grabbing at terminology is a very human trait in communication. It is the ultimate tool in our toolbox. It is so ultimate that we come to believe that the world is how we attribute it through language. We forget that it is a tool. So like the proverbial carpenter for whom every problem is a nail to be hammered, we believe that every aspect of our life can be described by the language tools we have. The essential problem with terminology (naming things) is that language is always ‘talking about’ or ‘knowing about’, even when that we are trying to communicate about how we are (being). But what else can we bring to the communication table? Educational methods that make a distinction between ‘change’ and ‘transformation’ are not doing so because there is some fundamental truth in the distinction but, that, as a tool to draw attention to the possible difference in being it can then be spoken about. This is at the heart of ’empty and meaningless’. We can realise that existence (being) does not come with terminology, it just is. We can realise that our language both amplifies our access to our life, our past, our current and our future (a story about how we were being in some smaller or larger way) while unwittingly constraining our view of everything. It seems to me near impossible to tell the whole story about being around any circumstance, especially as that we seem to have so little access to ‘knowing’ all that ‘is’ about any circumstance. We can realise that the particular story and language forms we use both reflect and reinforce how we are being in the world, so deliberately choosing language tools for specific effects, will have the effect that we desire, will move our way of being in the world. The word we might best use for this phenomenon of movement is transformation. Transformation is, technically, a sub-category of ‘change’. However there is a popular word ‘change’ that has a different and lesser meaning than transformation, and so it becomes educationally pragmatic to make a distinction. Change is often attributed to the technical process: change a shirt, a tyre, an accountant, a church etc. This change will always show up when there is a transformation and may be the indicator that transformation has occurred. Transformation however occurs of relationship we have with ourselves, others, and the world. In that way, it occurs of our being. Being a human also seem to be best expressed in language (i.e. how we know it is human being) that has been called: spiritual, or virtuous, or, in Landmark ‘distinctions’ or in psychology ‘generative language’. So we could say, that transformation has occurred because we now ARE love, caring, contribution, service, leadership, creative, generous, grateful, honest, trustworthy, captivated, touched, empathetic, just and fair, … in relation to some circumstance, of which we previously was not. Have we changed? Most certainly. Have our behaviours changed? Most certainly. Have our outcomes changed? most certainly. However, we might always keep a little eye on that we are doing this all in language and language always constrains.

Justice Requires Basis in Offense of Life

justice“O Son of Spirit!
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.” Excerpt From: Bahá’u’lláh. “The Hidden Words.”

Let’s consider that we could, in an adult world, do whatever we choose, without external constraints. We might, in such a world, choose to follow a moral formula. We might choose to follow no formula at all, making random choices in every circumstance that surrounds us. In such a world, we might reasonably question, “what about the social contract?”, “what about harming others?”

In considering harming others, we could consider turning the whole framing of this question around. Consider that, in an adult world, we accept that, in doing whatever we choose we might, advertently or inadvertently, offend the life of another or others. Consider that we all, then, have access to complaining about that offense. It seems possible that a justice system could be developed that is based on the complaint of offense against a life.

To consider what offense against a life might constitute, we can immediately consider those offenses that are often listed as ‘criminal’ such as stealing, assault, rape, murder. Starting from a place of strongest offense, society seems to consider that murder is about as strong as it gets. If we look at murder, we see that, as an offense on the life of others, it creates a conundrum. However it is in unraveling that conundrum that a more enlightened justice system can be established.

The conundrum of murder is that, while the victim has had a serious offense against their life, they no longer have a life upon which to offend, not do they have the possibility of complaint against that offense. However, the victim is not the only complainant in the case of murder. Consider that a murder victim is a 20 year old woman who has living parents, a brother and a sister, a life partner, ten cousins, 30 close friends and work colleagues, an employer, etc etc. If we conservatively estimate that the woman’s close circle is around 50 people, and her secondary circle of acquaintances is 200 people, then a case can be made that each of these have a complaint of direct offense on their lives by the murderer.

Putting that scenario aside for a moment, consider that a complaint-of-offense based justice system would have two roles: to determine that an offense against life had been made, and the degree of that offense; and the recompense, reconstruction, or transformative action required around of that offended life. These three accountabilities can be defined as: recompense (restoring the loss); reconstruction (providing alternatives where the loss is permanent); and transformation (creating complete and radical forgiveness from the offended through a caring relationship). How would we estimate what that would mean of 200 complainants of a life taken? Would it make any sense that the perpetrator spend 15 years in a prison? The evidence is that imprisonment rarely creates recompense for the offended, and even rarer, a transformative act for perpetrator and offended alike.

Consider that we might be able to have an authentic conversation about the degree of offense we believe we have suffered. Perhaps such a conversation, even with 200 people, might be facilitated by specialists in clarifying impact. In the case of the murder, that impact (degree of offense) would vary from the loss to a parent to the shock to a recent neighbour. Nonetheless, it seems very possible to be able to compile the full degree of offense. In each case (rather than as a whole), it is also possible to make a formulation about what it would take to transform that offense from the extreme separation and loss it has caused to a state of forgiveness and recompense. Without going into speculation about how each individual case might resolve, it is relatively easy to imagine that the perpetrator of a murder would be confronted with not being able to recompense for the social loss of any of the 200 people, although financial recompense could be argued by an employer who has lost employer productivity and costs to re-hire. In the case of murder it is difficult to see what could be reconstructed as an alternative to that loss to the close circle. It is then, left that the murderer becomes accountable for fully transforming their relationship to the close circle and the whole 200 people, into radical forgiveness and a caring relationship).

An offense against life based justice system has, as it’s core modus operandus, to create access for the perpetrator to transforming their relationship with the offended. For any similar offense, for some perpetrators such access may take many years, for others, much less, and for a few, the whole of their life. Such a system would necessitate that perpetrators play vital roles in community, and around the offended. While it may require certain restraints of the perpetrator, imprisonment would be far less necessary than the current vengeance systems. An offense against life based justice system would be able, maybe even more able than now, to ensure safety around violent perpetrators who have poor self management around their violence.

An offense based justice system can deal with neighbour’s compaints, family complaints, trading complaints, property theft, loss, and damage complaints, political complaints, and social complaints such as denigration, prejudice, or moral shock. An offense based justice system doesn’t work in prescription but can be completely flexible to the circumstances of perpetrators and offended. It can be imagined that an offense based system might be commonly used for many small offenses in life to cut across simmering resentments and optimise relationships across community.

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.