Experiential dance for embodied learning
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A personal story
Dance has always occupied a central, yet unreachable focal point in my early life. It has always been something that I longed for, desired, could have dedicated everything, and have chosen over everything. Yet it was always out of reach. When I was a child – I was not good enough in dance classes, others were better. I remember feeling hurt by being measured against others and feeling ashamed for not being able to do certain moves. When I was a teenager, I started to dance as they expected me to. Yet, in the cultural context and time I was born, dancing was not considered a beneficial career path. So, with some persuastion from my parents, I chose an academic education over dance practice, and went to college, then to university.
After 10 years of break that spanned through considerable changes in my life, I went back to dancing, rediscovering myself through movement in space. In this process, I met other dancers, therapists, choreographers, performers. I met professional and nonprofessional dancers, who had tapped into the wisdom of their bodies. I kept dancing on each possible occasion, actively seeking out practices that would allow me to move freely, be it modern dance, contact improvisation, Gaga People, 5 Rhythms, or the rave culture. After 7 years of dance quest, I came to an understanding that dancing was an essential part of my understanding of the world and the most genuine act of being. The dance I longed for was not performative but experiential. It was not an art form, but a way of celebrating, and remembering.
Gradually I started to integrate my passion for dancing into my work, which is teaching undergraduate students. I started to apply dancing as a didactic method to encourage students in what is called high-order thinking skills. Initially, the attempt sounded bizarre, but gradually through supportive student feedback and colleagues’ interest, I came to see a clear need for such interdisciplinary integration and opening up space for movement, especially in academic classrooms.