Later this month, next Friday in fact, I will be running the last Movement Medicine session of the year in my home town of Budleigh Salterton. It’s been an exciting year for me. I began in the depth of last winter on a cold, dark February night, during what was reported to be the worst hurricane to hit Britain in twenty years – you know how those weather folk do like to
exaggerate. But out I went anyway. We started in Knowle Village Hall, a few miles away from my home, which I would later drop as a weekly venue because being a non–driver it made me dependent on someone else to give me a lift
there. Shortly afterwards I moved into town, so I can use my fabulous pink, furry shopping trolley to walk my trusty
little Pure speaker to the dancers.
That first night there were 5 dancer gathered and I was terribly nervous...having been previously tutored by the enormously strict Simon Buxton from The Sacred Trust
the dangers of crashing landing people in a trance state I
was all too aware of the discomfort that can be involved in playing something like Green Day by accident when it’s Tibetan bells that the moment calls for. I was using Virtual D-J and suddenly watching vibes, dancers, sensitively bringing the voice to guide people through a moving journey and using tech all at once felt quite overwhelming, not to mention little things like making sure you have change and hankies for people and that the lighting is conducive to
the mood you want to create. I remember I was using new (very thick) wicks for my recycled candles that week and was so intent on the d-j-ing that one of my dancers had to point out that the hall was slowly filling with black, acrid smoke….no-one asphyxiated, we all survived and every one seemed to enjoy what was on offer anyway…though come to think of it I did lose the one asthmatic in the group. Just kidding. But what is it they say about the devil being in the detail?
Since then, I’ve had two other venues in town – the very, very large, drafty church hall with the (unforgiving for the knees) stone floor where I had to fend the rude choir master off from barging into the space during a deeply meditative moment because he was adamant about returning chairs…but who helped me access my quietly, equally insistent, yang
voice who communicated that "No. he wasn't coming in."
It's what we call here a High Church and I couldn’t help wondering if at least part of the interaction related to his disapproval of this funny, pagan stuff that we used to burn them for. I also had the strangest feeling that the stones in the very grand building winked at me when I left that night. There was also the fire ritual we did there, which seemed somehow connected to the fact that three days later I set our kitchen on fire, which also resulted in my neighbor who has mental health difficulties and hasn’t spoken to us for several years, breaking out of his usual ego positioning to tell me that there was smoke pouring out of my back door…no-one was hurt, that which was no longer useful burnt down along with the wax that started the fire and Keith re-decorated our kitchen a glorious orange.
Just in case we forget that you shouldn’t play with fire!
I seemed to spend lots of time in water and yin at the beginning of the year too which maybe partly reflected the weather, but also seemed to involve a few weeks of actual weeping as I transitioned from being purely a dancer, to the new role of holder of dancers, taken by surprise by the watery waves that accompanied this initiation. After some months I found my earth and settled in Venture Hall, which for some mysterious reason has always felt very hospitable and where I quite often quite simply find myself plugged into greater intelligence effortlessly. Interestingly two of the other Friday’s I don’t use this hall it’s used by the local spiritualists, so maybe their disembodied visitors hang around to dance in between times.
I’ve also done some d-jing and teaching in the local, much better attended, conscious dance space at Exeter’s Barefoot
dance. Overall this year though, beginning with our leap into the Great Mystery of 2014, I’ve moved through our Movement
Medicine Mandala exploring yin, yang, earth, air, fire and water, self, relationship, environment and now in this last month of the year, ancestors…just in time to come round to Great Mystery all over again in 2015. Also exploring the tree of life, micro, medio and macro in the process. One of the highlights was definitely running a workshop on Yin-Yang-Union at Into The Wild, a gorgeous drug and alcohol free festival and also being approached and asked for some shamanic healing as a result. I came home from that feeling really seen and valued, which as you all know, in the words of James Browns, feels good.
Keith and I have run several ceremonies this year too in order to do our fundraising for The Summer Long Dance, which not only involved raising £600 for the Achuar people in Ecuador, whose forest is under severe threat, but also dancing for 72 hours. The long dance itself was a deeply ecstatic experience for us, held in the beautiful team that comprised Claudia and Bruno, as well as Keith having the honour of creating the central altar. Keith has, rather, incredibly given his hectic work schedule elsewhere, also created a huge labyrinth made from 15 tones of woodchips, a human sized nest for Imbolc dreaming, an 18 foot Klimtesque tree for burning at Solstice and a glorious ring of mud that held a potent community sharing for autumn equinox….all combined with dancing, visits from friends from Bristol, Dorset, Bournemouth and London and drummers from Steve and Gaelle Crossen’s Drum Magic who blessed us with their presence at Spring Equinox.
Rob Porteous and I have also had some fun running Moving Stories in Bristol, with the last one on playing the fool and
moving from passion to gratitude definitely the one that made me laugh most from behind the d-j desk.
Confession time – for years and years dancing on dance floors with relatively well-off, white, middle-aged (ish), able-bodied folk I’ve longed to see more diversity around me in my dance community. It has if you like been a long held dream. I’m glad to say that this seems at long last, to be being fulfilled. From Imbolc onwards I’ve been seeing, babies, toddlers taking their first steps onto the dance floor, older folk, even people from as far afield as Egypt and Syria. I had the enormous privilege of spending a whole hour or so dancing with a three year old after the rest of her family had been trying to drag her off the dance floor to sleep. We danced till she fell asleep in my arms and boy could she move. Never met her before, may never see her again…a special moment in time. Finally it seems, 23 years after I first seeded this dream to share this dance stuff,
my dreams are fruiting in the most beautiful ways…with the whole tribe present…almost…or least a more representative
Possibly the most potent moment of the year for me personally on the actual dance floor was during the session I ran on Relationship. I noticed, as I had also noticed when first trying to share yin with others, the high energy vibration that I so often bring to my work, which can in it’s shadow manifestation become driven and driving of others, including dancers…I noticed that somehow or other that the music I had chosen for them to work with in Macro, just didn’t quite have enough texture and variety in tone…it was just too busy somehow…changing the music to reflect more tenderness and being, I came onto the dance floor myself…just to cop a feel! One of the things I’ve really struggled with this last year is finding a way to witness the extreme suffering of a close friend of mine at the same time as honouring my own boundaries. In that moment on the dance floor I had a wholly embodied Realization that I can relate by standing my ground…that I don’t need to DO all the time, that it can be quite enough to simply BE me and offer the presence of my heart, even from a distance. It’s been a profound teaching and one that has helped lift the burden of ancestrally influenced guilt I’ve carried from some of those who came before.
Such an incredible year it’s hard to imagine what this next year can bring that can equal all the gifts of this one. I will be in Scotland with Ya’acov and Catherine on home ground in Scotland in April…Beyond that, I’m gathering music to welcome the Great Mystery of 2015.
Ali Young is both a published poet and academic, with book chapters in collections on
embodiment published by
Routledge, as well as a
variety of academic papers.