Last August we had an incredible group of dancers attending our Physically Integrated Summer Intensive. During this intense week so much learning happend. And one can only hope that once everyone goes out into “the real world” they will continue on this journey. Maylis came all the way from France and started a blog about her dance journey since the intensive. We posted it here or you can read it on her blog. – Annika Nonhebel, Education Director
I discovered that dance was my real passion during this summer intensive at Axis. I also pushed myself a lot during that week to experience a new form of expression of my body and soul.
I never thought that it would have happened to me… I loved the feeling of creating a relationship between my body (with its strengths and limits) and my soul (always full of thoughts, ideas and unexpressed emotions). I really wanted to keep dancing and working on this relationship…
“Live your life to the fullest” Lean
As I pursue exploring how my body works and moves for six months, it’s time for me to go back in time and think about what I had been experimenting during my contemporary dance classes at the university.
In September, I contacted this teacher and told her about my summer experience and my willing of pursuing this quest of knowing myself. And two weeks later, there I was, in this huge space, filled with new faces, a bunch of younger students sat down on the floor, listening to me and looking at me with their big round eyes as I was telling them about my intensive dance week in Oakland… :O (haha). Well, I’m laughing now but then, I was thinking that it was going to be a total new thing for me. It would be nothing like what I experienced with Axis, where everyone was there to share a great dancing experience with different kind of able bodies. And god knows that I’m nervous when it comes to NEW things happening in my life… PANIC!!!!!! But I was there, and climbed 35 steps to reach the dance studio (thank you France!), so the least I could do was try!
“But dance showed you new things can be a great thing” Courtney
And I danced, not like others students did, but I danced!! And the first feedbacks from my teacher were so positive that I couldn’t stop smiling and being proud of what I did. I’m so grateful for meeting this woman! She accepted me as I am, with no judgments and even if she’s not teaching an integrated dance class per se, she’s trying her best to make me feel comfortable and still pushes me to explore more and more possibilities. I feel really connected to her when it comes to the vision of dance and I think that’s why I keep enjoying this class more and more.
“Dance Everything!” Rodney
Me, Myself and I
“– It’s weird, it’s like I’m free
-That’s what dance is Maylis! I feel like that when I dance too” Justine
So far, I learned from each class new things about what I was able to do or not yet (my positive side is speaking ). If I’m focusing on my relationship with myself, I can’t say that I didn’t feel any change. If at the beginning, I was a little shy and hesitant about my dance moves, I really worked on that. As I’m a functional mover, due to my cerebral palsy, I was sometimes frustrated because I couldn’t do the phrases as fast as the others and some movements were difficult to me. But the more I was exploring, the more I thought that I was creating my own ways of moving… Who cares if I can’t follow the same tempo, if I still express the same idea? I’m trying to use this in other fields of my life. Huge step forward! Isn’t it ironic for a wheelchair dancer? Haha
“Put your best foot forward” Alex F
Space and elements
My relationship with space and elements is also evolving. At the beginning, I was kind of stuck in my wheelchair, still trying to figure out how to move with it. So far, it’s my only regret about my dancing experience… It is still pretty hard for me to move and dance with the wheelchair and not just in it. But I’m working on it… with my teacher’s coordination exercises and balance exercises, which I adapt to my own needs and possibilities. But surprisingly, I discovered that I love dancing on the floor, which gives me another way to explore in addition to my wheelchair. When we are alone on the floor, we are asked to connect with the energy of the ground and I love the feeling of my arms, my back, my face and my legs touching this element… when I close my eyes, I really connect with my entire body moving in the same time. For example, when my teacher asked me to make an arch the other day, I had this awesome feeling when I was imagining my body stretching in my head. It really helped me doing it for real (not as good as it was in my head), finding my balance on the side touching the floor. I could feel it from my fingers to my toes and my teacher came to help me a little with my legs and told me that it was beautiful. Weirdly, I could feel that it was beautiful even though I didn’t see myself… it was a great sensation.
The hardest part still remaining is partnering with other dancers. Most of the students of the class started dancing in September… I think they are all figuring out what’s happening in their own body and mind like I do. When we are dancing all together, it is fine considering that the connection between us is mostly built on eye contacts and “hands to bodies” contacts. But when it comes to duets, the awkwardness begins. I can feel that my several duet partners don’t really know how to move with me… well, I can’t blame them since I don’t really know how to move with them either! Sometimes I wish that we would be a little more adventurous in our propositions. There are sometimes afraid to touch my body and especially my legs even if they know that they can and that it won’t hurt me. It’s hard for me to force the contact, it could be aggressive and inappropriate…
Six months ago, at Axis Contact jam, I barely could stand the fact of touching heads with other dancers because the proximity and this kind of intimacy was too much for me to handle… I guess that it takes time to be comfortable with it! However, I had great moments too in which I felt a nice connection and trust with partners. And this is so much truer when we are dancing on the floor. My body and theirs move differently and I guess that, for the moment, it opens more possibilities of partnering…
“Then you needed that reminder to connect to people.” Jonathan.
To conclude, dancing made me a totally different woman as I was before. I feel different about myself, others, about what I can do, express or explore. I think that I can project a different kind of image of myself by dancing, with this artistic side of mine which I totally avoided so far… My body image is evolving… I am now sure that I can create something beautiful even if I’m disabled and dancing with my upper body. Beautiful is about showing what is inside of me… no matter how…
I can’t wait to perform with my class in front of an audience, and show that art is in everyone’s heart…
“Exactly, that makes special, for sure a better person. That makes you special…” Carolina
to be continued… Maylis