Holistic Practices In Dance

Before I entering my Master’s degree program in Holistic Health Education, I couldn’t have defined the term, “holistic” very well. Like many people I assumed it had something to do with herbs, yoga, eastern medicinal traditions, or natural foods. I was completely missing the point and the “whole” picture. See what I did there?  Backing up a little bit, let’s look at the concepts involved in defining the word, “holistic.” It exists as a philosophy along with application to health & medicine. As a philosophy it is characterized by awareness of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.  It’s a perspective about the ecosystems that are present from the interior of the individual that ripples outward to encompass all of everything. In regards to health, which may be where more people see it (mis)used, it is defined by the World Health Organization as, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

We tend to want to simplify things and in doing so lose some of the essence of meaning. Many dance and fitness genres describe themselves as “holistic” by pointing to the mind & body connection. That is a good start and there is more. At the risk of sounding like an infomercial I want to talk about what is present in “there is more”.

Earlier I mentioned ecosystems. Our bodies are the most personal example we have of that, we carry it around with us every day (I hope!) and when something goes awry we feel it. As dancers we develop a keen awareness of our bodies and are able to drop into a connected-with-the-body space more easily than non-dancers might.  We also often go further and integrate our spirit and soul with our movement. In this article about dance being the soul in action, Judith Williamson makes a powerful statement, “It is this element that is untranslatable, because it is not a message – it is about being. It is here that we all begin, before language arrives: here that the body is about making rather than meaning.”

And yet, there is more. It doesn’t stop at the body-mind-soul interconnection, it keeps going. How we relate to everything in our experience has an effect on how we organize within our body ecosystem. Before when I wrote about relating I was beginning the conversation of the interconnected-ness of our patterns in life and patterns in our dance. If we move through life shrunken back and pushed down (emotionally, physically, spiritually) it can be really difficult to get out there on a stage and really take up the space to create a great performance. And yet learning to do the scary things in dance can change the way you move through your life experiences. I know this because I did it and I’ve talked with so many people who had similar realizations. Applying their “dance persona” to life and realizing they are more than their past history of trauma, abuse, shame, tension, unworthiness. Thus becoming that persona and connecting to their lives more fully.

That last part, connecting to life more fully, is where I strive to exist. It is also the type of environment I promote in my dance and fitness classes. It is more than the technique, is more than the music, it is more. So much more.

Curious? Come experience being supported in a holistic manner as you express yourself through dance. Use the contact form for information about upcoming classes and workshops in and around Oakland, CA.