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.

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.

CHARACTER AND MARRIAGE

Sapiens_neanderthal_comparison_en_blackbackgroundI recently read an essay on character listing the wonderful characteristics that a person should look for in a life partner. It made me think of that fictitious place, Lake Woebegone, in which all the children are above average. It seems to me that Having an ideal view creates useful distinctions as aspiration. However, looking for ideals in a marriage / life partner, apart from as their aspirational view, is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

In the first instance, it would be a miracle if you found someone who fitted those ideals, and especially our individual interpretation of those ideals.
In the second instance, unless you are also perfect in your potential partner’s eyes, there’s already a significant mismatch in expectations.
In the third instance, given that you may have found that perfect person (probably through your rose coloured glasses), and they through theirs, there is little doubt that both of you will change your relationship with the ideal within the first year of being together.
There definitely can be a great benefit to the longevity of companionship, of getting to know each other’s character in a rigorous manner (getting to take off the rose coloured glasses). The first benefit is so that we can get to know ourselves, more clearly, through their eyes. Knowing ourselves, being authentic about who we are for another, is the best way to for them to see your character. Likewise, knowing how we are being as authentic and inauthentic (for the two are constantly in play) gives us access to seeing those areas in which others are authentic or inauthentic. It also subverts our desire to dominate others through judgement because our recognition of how we are when others dominate us, tends to activate an empathetic response, in itself a desirable trait in most people’s eyes. Recognition of the authentic way of being, allows us a certain conversation in inquiry of the other. Without any expectation we can explore the attitudes, commitments, and actions of the other.
The conversation around reality becomes crucial to any empowering conversation. Reality just means how it is in actual living structure, form and action. So, conversations and inquiry around what we are in action about, becomes crucial to an understanding of authenticity and integrity.
A word on authenticity. Authenticity is just saying how you are being around some circumstance rather than covering up or pretending or repressing or condoning. It is not about being right, just showing who you are, what you need, and want, regardless of what others or society might think. It is a stand in courage, for oneself.
Integrity is a function of honouring our word, either keeping our word to ourself and others, or cleaning up when we haven’t. Integrity is not a set thing that we can achieve, but a dynamic in which we are often out of integrity either because we are playing such a big game for our personal capacity or because we are playing too small a game. Much like walking is constantly falling, standing still on one leg is harder that jogging, although both will lead to falling due to fatigue. One, however, will lead to some progress being achieved, the other, not so much.
So where does that leave understanding another’s character, in terms of life partners? Within the conversation in reality, integrity and authenticity, it becomes apparent to the couple that a relationship could either have workability or not, around that each other are regularly out of integrity and inauthentic, as a way of striving for authenticity and integrity.
Does the ideal matter at all? The aspiration around an ideal can be useful in the conversation between two people. In the first instance to gauge how far apart are the aspirations in viewpoint, current achievement, and capacity. While each persons specific visions and goals will be different even when there is a general match in aspirational viewpoint, empathetic responses are less likely to be strained. Secondly, after an aspirational match, a personality-identity match is important. This match does not mean ‘same’ but more importantly, ‘fitted’. For example, an extremely frugal person and an extremely generous person may be a poor fit, while and generous person and a modestly frugal person may make a good fit, neither having to compromise far from their personal range, while their relationship now has twice or more the range of each individual. Inside of the conversation that makes use of that greater range, is an ‘person’ who is a ‘we’ not a ‘me’. And that ‘we’ models and creates a vaster ‘we’ circle of human relationships, the basis of a whole new society.

How to prevent violence against women

Domestic violence in Australia is on the rise. Women’s rights advocates are calling for a cultural shift away from the acceptance of domestic violence. Because, believe it or not: According to some surveys, one in five young men believed it was a right to hit a woman if they were drunk.

Support services for family and domestic violence:

  • 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria says we need to frame the deepening crisis in terms of power and justice.

The national average is a woman murdered every week by someone known to them.

All forms of violence against women are caused by the same factors, whether it occurs on the street or in the home and whether it’s perpetrated by a stranger or someone known.

  • One in three Australian women will experience physical violence.
  • Family violence is a key driver of 23 per cent of national homelessness in Australia.
  • It comprises 40 per cent of police time.
  • It’s a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases.
  • Violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year.

The common denominator in most of these cases is gender.

This is something deeply cultural—a part of our history deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. It’s like we’re fish but we don’t see the water.

International research shows that violence against women occurs in countries across the world to a greater or lesser extent depending upon some key factors:

  • Rigid adherence to gender stereotypes
  • The status of women compared to men
  • Our violence-supportive attitudes

Academically gender refers to social norms, the social expectations about the roles and rights of men and women in our society. Our expectations about men and women stem from a long cultural history and are essentially sexist.

Men who choose to use violence have hyper-masculine attitudes about their rights as men and the role and rights of women. They believe they have a right as men to behave this way and that it’s women who are to blame. Importantly, they see their partners and children as their possessions. That’s why we see so many women and children murdered as payback when women try to end a relationship.

A cultural aspect of how we define masculinity is that it is seen by many as something that has to be proved over and over. Men with hyper-masculine attitudes see it as critical that their masculinity isn’t doubted or challenged, which is why these attitudes are so problematic in the context of family violence. This is particularly so when women try to end a relationship and are made to pay. We would assess that about 50 per cent of the family violence the system deals with is post-separation violence, and it can go on for years.

This (the solution) isn’t about men being less than men. It’s about reshaping expectations of what it is to be a man, about shedding concepts of masculinity that have such a negative impact on us as a society, particularly when ‘being a bloke’ involves derogatory attitudes towards women. I think that can be another way in which masculinity can be reasserted or affirmed by some men—by engaging in disrespectful comments about or behaviours toward women when they are together. With the development of healthier interpretations of masculinity we’d see a range of benefits in terms of reducing street violence, rates of violence against young men and bullying.

There are many women who experience far higher rates of violence, and more extensive violence, than others: women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and women newly arrived to Australia. There’s a common myth that certain women seek out abusers as partners when the reality is that there are men who recognise there are few options for redress for certain women and take advantage of that fact.

So what would it take to deliver a just society?

At an individual level:

  1. We need zero tolerance of violence against women.
  1. We must understand violence against women as a choice.

This is not a sudden loss of temper or control. Many times it doesn’t even involve physical abuse. It’s usually experienced by women as a range of behaviours meant to intimidate and control. It’s a deliberate choice.

  1. We must understand these are everyday men.

So many women don’t recognise they’re in an abusive relationship until it’s reached crisis, especially if they’re not experiencing physical violence.

If we’re going to prevent murders, really it’s critical we start saying: ‘No matter how disaffected a man feels, no matter how hard done by the system he is, it’s never okay to harm or take the life of your partner or your child.’

  1. We need to challenge sexist or derogatory attitudes towards women.

Sometimes people can think they have to wait until they see a violent altercation before they can do something, but the reality is men particularly can play a major role in challenging the conditions that allow violence against women to flourish by challenging derogatory comments, sexist jokes, et cetera.

If we’re going to start preventing men from being violent in the first place, we need to challenge sexist attitudes and behaviours.

Violence is the ultimate expression of sexism

At a societal level:

We need to be intervening earlier. Providing women with information on the early warning signs is crucial because it also provides us with information on the patterns of control.

Some of those warning signs are:

        • Is he resistant to you living an independent life?
        • Is he resistant to you having your own bank account?
        • Is he resistant to you socialising with friends independently?
        • Is he overtly jealous? Does he monitor where you are and what you do?
        • Is he respectful to you? He may be in the early stages but is he respectful to other women? Ex-girlfriends?