I started off this term newly married and having just moved into a new home with my husband. There were many things to be grateful for and I was excited to see my classmates again and to work with Celeste for the first time. Unfortunately, before the course started I had a relapse of my stomach issue and was very sick again. Throughout this time, I experienced acute nausea and stomach discomfort and it was very difficult for me to move my body without feeling ill. My excitement for the course became mixed with fear as I imagined that I would not be able to move and participate in the way that I usually would have. Fortunately, Celeste created a safe space that allowed me to participate in whatever way I was able to and she helped us to see that the body’s limitations are opportunities for learning and moving in a different way. I really needed to hear that during this time.
I enjoyed this course immensely. As someone who studied classical dance and now works as a dance teacher, I have experienced and witnessed the fear and shame that can accompany dance education. My youngest students, at 3 and 4 years old, are completely free and uninhibited when asked to dance or move their bodies. They love it and they simply allow their bodies to be free. As we grow, however, we internalize so many messages about movement and it creates barriers for many people. At the age of 13 or 14, I witness many students unable or unwilling to move their bodies at all, when in the presence of others. Improvised movement seems even more daunting to many. Due to the messages of our culture, children start to shut down and feel afraid and it is truly heartbreaking to witness.
What are these messages? Here are some that I have experienced or heard from my students:
1) If your body doesn’t look a certain way (long, lean etc.) you are not a dancer.
2) If your body isn’t typical (fully “able”) you can’t dance.
3) Dance is inherently sexual in nature.
4) Improvised movement is not dancing.
5) You need to be physically fit to dance.
6) Dance is a fitness activity, with the purpose of losing weight.
7) There is a right way and a wrong way to move.
8) You need to be super flexible to dance.
9) If you are not “trained” in dance, you are not a dancer.
10) Dancing is only for girls/women. It is not masculine to dance.
These are just a few of the many messages that people may receive throughout their lives and they are difficult for students to work through.
I love Celeste’s approach to movement and dance and I took so many gems of wisdom from her book Embodied Inquiry, such as:
“Through limits and constraints, you are challenged to leave predictable ways of moving and change the repertoire. This requires you to be an embodied creative” (p.12).Snowber, C., & SFU Faculty publication. (2016). Embodied inquiry : writing, living and being through the body / Celeste Snowber. Sense Publishers.
During this course, I also had the pleasure of presenting on Celeste and Barbara Bickel’s chapter in Arts-Based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching. One of the quotes that resonated with me from the article was this:
C: It’s similar to picking up a thread; you lose it, and you pick it up again, and lose it, and that’s where the discipline comes in. One does not grieve once, but returns to the fruitful dark.
B. But you’re not necessarily at the same place with the return; it is a new turn.
C: There are nuances as well, they are not necessarily big shifts, but they are like small mantras, where you return again and again. (p.76)Walsh, Susan, Bickel, Barbara, & Leggo, Carl. (2014). Arts-based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching. Taylor and Francis. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315813387
I absolutely loved the process of “writing from the body” that we cultivated with Celeste’s guidance. I found that after I moved, danced etc. that the words came to me quickly and there was a flow to them that came from the energy of the movement. Here is an example of one of the pieces I wrote after dancing:
I am daunted…
A task undone.
I listen to the Pattern…
Of little feet
Upon the stairs.
Through the wall
I can hear the fluttering…
The heart of a bird
In the body of a boy.
The Pattering of his feet…
A perfect match.
Throughout this course, I continued to experiment with photography as I did my daily embodiment practices. During my walks through SFU, I was drawn to certain shapes and forms and I tried to capture them through my camera. I also was interested in the movement of nature that I saw around me and used video to capture that as well. For my Bodygraphy assignment, I am attempting to weave the moving, writing, photos and video together. This is something that is completely new to me and I am enjoying the process of learning and making mistakes. I am excited to see what it becomes.
I am also continuing to bake and practice food photography. I have started to create my own recipes and share them, along with my photography, on my blog www.teatimefor2.com. During this summer I am hoping to further my skills in these areas and to develop my blog even more.
I am filled with joy and sadness as I think about my time in this program coming to an end. My eyes have been opened to so many new ways of seeing, knowing and living and they have impacted every area of my life. The professors have inspired me, guided me, and supported me through some of the most challenging moments of my life. My fellow students have collaborated with me, showed me incredible kindness and encouragement and have been wonderful examples of what it means to be artists and teachers. I will be forever grateful for the experience of this program and it will be with me in everything that I do.