Yesterday I had the joy of walking into an empty dance studio with my good friend Charlotte. We had the intent of playing around with movement ideas and creating anything just because.
Neither of us had a deadline, an upcoming performance, a submission, or a specific idea burning to be created. We simply got together and started moving and catching up on life.
After about twenty minutes in the studio, my friend says, ‘let’s start on the floor.’ We went back and forth playing with ideas and utilizing some of our favorite movements to make a phrase that felt good, fun, and fulfilling. The side effect being it was actually quite challenging.
This experience got me thinking about the idea of movement as a form of self care. Self care is a concept thrown around a lot in psychology. This term was developed to describe activities that a person takes part in simply for themselves.
As a counselor, I am used to talking about self care with clients. We choose activities and make a plan for how and when to engage in these activities.
As an individual, I struggle with finding time for self care. I always have chosen activities outside of the world of dance and psychology to help me relax. For instance, when I was in graduate school I used to paint my nails almost every week. It is a simple thing that didn’t take a lot of time or money. But it made me sit down, relax, and focus on me and not my studies or work.
Moving away from professionalism and into pure enjoyment
Something clicked yesterday that I hadn’t thought of in ages. I realized that dance can be self care; I simply need to approach the studio differently.
Generally, I walk into the studio with a purpose: be that giving class, or choreographing for a performance. The studio is my office and it can be a source of stress and disappointment, but it is also my place of refuge, rest, and rejuvenation.
When we entered the studio yesterday, my friend asked me the following: do you have a phrase you’re working on? Do you have music in mind? Do you have something you want to work on? I answered no to each question and posed them to her. She didn’t have anything prepared either. I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. What if we didn’t create anything today? What if we just messed around and walked out without anything to show for it?
This is where I found the problem and the solution. The problem is constantly being product oriented.
When you teach at a studio, you have deadlines (12 competition dances by December 15; another 12 competition dances by March 1; 25 recital dances by April 30, etc). With those deadlines comes a lot of stress and pressure to not only pump out dances, but to create new, exciting, challenging dances.
This is when the studio becomes the enemy and I stop wanting to play with movement and let the ideas develop on their own.
A fresh perspective on dance studios
Simply laughing and dancing freely without the pressure of creating a piece allowed my soul to feel free. I let my mind wander, I enjoyed the feeling of the floor on my skin, the abandon of turning and falling, the joy of moving with another person, the bliss associated with dance – the thing that makes me feel alive.
And do you know what happened? Charlotte and I ended up creating a phrase in about 90 minutes that was 90 seconds long, and we both love it.
Today I have bruises, bumps, and sore muscles. But I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. I got to spend time in my sanctuary refilling my creative energy.
Dance can be playful
While spending time away from dance and from the studio can also be necessary and refreshing, I loved being able to reframe my experience in the studio.
I utilized dance as a form of self care and I truly feel renewed. I feel excited about what we made and am proud of our fun loving process. I am not judging the movement or agonizing about where each finger and toe are located. I am simply reveling in the pure joy of movement; the same joy that I have felt since I was a small child.
So I challenge you to do the same. Next time you are feeling burned out, go to the studio and PLAY; move, laugh, sit in the middle of the floor and stare at the ceiling, do all your favorite moves, just dance without any pressure of making a product and see what happens.