Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Birds flocking and the beginnings of expandance

When I first started researching expandance - this way of moving from my intuitive, connected center - I spent a lot of time watching starlings flocking all over Dublin and in Wicklow, Ireland. I took hours and hours of footage on my old video camera, usually at sunset which was when they were most likely to flock, and watched them again and again, amazed at how they never seemed to bump into each other. They were totally in tune, moving, and moving quickly at that - making sharp turns, diving, ascending, swooping, and curving in the sky.

I had come across the ''flocking'' technique in dance classes, where a group stands together and each dancer copies whoever is in front, creating a group that moves with similar movements at roughly the same time (though usually with a very slight delay, because everyone is watching the ''leader''). But it often felt pedantic, pedestrian, and just... slow. It felt somehow disconnected to me.

I wanted to get to a deeper place. A more interesting place. A place where we, as human beings, could be as connected to each other as those birds. Where we wouldn't need to talk about it, or see it, or think about it. Where we could just sense exactly where everyone else around us was, (not just physically either) and move together. Move together from a shared, connected place. Not by copying another person's movement, but by listening deeply to each other's energy. By becoming so in tune with ourselves and each other that we wouldn't even have to look to know where the other was.

It wasn't just about ''letting loose'' with crazy tribal music. (We don't even use music, most of the time). It was about connecting, deeply, with each other and our own divine in a way that was vulnerable and open and intimate. It felt grounded and alive, and full of potential.

So we started researching. Laurie, Alicia and I spent our first year in the studio just learning how to listen to each other. We meditated, we explored, we experimented, we devised experiments, we researched, we listened, we moved quickly, we moved slowly. Some days we sweated through our clothes and other days we moved so slowly we were almost still. We got frustrated and we cried and we laughed. And we danced through personal traumas and pain and pregnancies and came back with babies strapped to bodies and tear stained t-shirts and kept dancing. And eventually, we started moving in that way that I'd hoped was possible. And when we ''performed'' these improvisations in performance settings, audience feedback said that it looked like we were made of one energy, one organism moving three distinct bodies. Which was exactly how it felt, and exactly how we wanted to move. And moreover, what was wonderful was that we were each moving in our own ways. We weren't necessarily doing the same movements (though this happened sometimes, often without us realizing it) - we were doing our own thing, but all together. Sometimes, especially when Laurie and I dance together from this place, we can get pretty rough, and it can look violent even - because we trust each other that much that we can go there - and yet we never end up hurting each other. When you're listening, it just. doesn't. happen. We have even danced blindfolded in close proximity. No-one injured anyone else.

I continue to explore this practice and teach others this method because I think it teaches us something fundamental about being human and about being in this world. I think this way of moving helps us be fully in our own center, in our own power, and in our own, perfect, individual creation whilst also connecting deeply, lovingly and respectfully with other humans. And, on top of that, we get the bonus bits of this practice: it can help heal chronic pain and injury, help us move through self-judgement and body shame, boost our confidence and creativity, and - this is cool - we don't bump into people as much.

We don't always get it ''right''. We're still learning. It's a joyous and fascinating journey though and I hope you'll join me on it some day soon.

- Rachel