I believe in the transformative potential of dance. I believe in the possibility to unfold peace – everywhere and in every moment. I believe in elicitive motion as a wonderful resource for conflict transformation.
Everything started with the thesis I wrote for the Master of Arts Program in Peace, Development, Security and International Conflict Transformation at the University of Innsbruck. My thesis deals with 5Rhythms Dance as a method for inner peace work. 5Rhythms Dance was invented by Gabrielle Roth and is by now a world-renowned movement and meditation practice that focuses on moving through five rhythms. Each rhythm has a specific quality and theme that leads the dancer into an awareness of mind, body and heart.
Since I wrote my thesis in 2013, inner peace work, the potentials of elicitive motion and the question of how dance can be used as a tool for inner peace have continuously been of interest to me. Even before writing my thesis, I started my dancing journey by discovering movement and its healing potential within my body and by taking part in the experience of others. Today, I am engaged in a training to become a dance therapist at the European Center for Dance Therapy in Munich, Germany and I am already working with dance as a tool for inner peace work. I constantly witness and work with the potential of dance and the healing power of movement in the body and the psyche. The most important aspect I currently work with is my concept called elicitive motion, a combination of guided meditation and dance.
Defining inner peace
In this article, I will not focus on conflict transformation and dance, but on peace and dance. Not because one aspect is better than the other, but because I have realized that most attempts to transform or solve conflicts focus only on the conflict itself rather than on the potential of peace that is always present. I focus on peace.
I believe that peace is an energy that constantly flows within situations and human beings and sometimes needs to be unfolded. Conflicts, on the contrary, are blockages that stop this energy from flowing. Conflict is not the opposite of peace, but rather part of its definition. In that sphere, I think that peace embraces conflict and that conflict is necessary for transformation. Thus, by focusing on unfolding peace, I mean focusing on transforming blocked energies into flowing energies again. Furthermore, I do not intend to focus only on peace, but on inner peace or, in other words, on the individual experience of peace.
Inner peace means being in connection with the inner self. The inner self includes the inner wisdom, the inner essence, the seed of life, love – however you want to call it. Inner peace is a dynamic condition: it can always be sensed but is also always determined by the individual subjectivity of those who perceive it, which underlines why there are many inner peaces. Inner peace is connected to and in resonance with the outer macrocosm, yet it is an individual experience. Therefore, inner peace needs to be unfolded by each individual in order for them to transform their own conflicts, blockages, or traumata. This process can be supported by outer circumstances, people or situations, just like I, as a facilitator, can assist a person in unfolding his/her inner peace.
Inner peace equals outer peace?
If I believe in inner peace, logically inner peace work exists as well. Inner peace work is the (conscious and/or unconscious) activity of unfolding inner peace. Inner peace work holistically creates inner space for one’s self, giving attention to and reconnecting with it. This can be done alone and/or with the help of a facilitator and/or in a group. The space in which this work develops lies inside each individual, yet it is (consciously and/or unconsciously) in resonance/relation with the outside/others.
To me most people in the world are at war with themselves. That’s a bigger war than any of the ones that are on the outside.
Transpersonal psychology assumes that by working on one’s inner state of consciousness, allowing transformation and healing on that level, one can transform and thus ease realities in the outer world. In other words, outer peace cannot be sustainably established without inner peace. There is a connection and resonance between the inside and the outside, even though the inside remains an entity within the outside. Inner peace work deals with the internal side of the human being and has nevertheless impacts on the outer. This implies that inner peace work is not only a healing or transformation tool for the individual, but for the collective (un)conscious too.
Dance as support to the unfolding of inner peace
For the past four years, I have had to do a lot with dancing bodies through dancing on my own and facilitating dance workshops. I work with children, young people and adults. The workshops differ in their theme, but are always about meditation practice and dance. Today, I mainly work with children with mental disability. By working with disabled children I can observe how some of them enjoy communicating with their body, because sometimes this is the only way by which they are able to communicate.
Besides, I implement projects with youth associations and schools. For example, I am active in an association called Frieden leben that works with young school kids up to 10 years. The association’s goal is to create an awareness of peace and conflict in the school kids’ life. Thus, trainers teach Nonviolent Communication, discuss the issues of anger, violence and bullying, but also focus on individual peaces. Further, they combine this training with dance and body awareness sessions. It is amazing how dance as a tool for conflict transformation and for a peaceful social coexistence gets more and more acknowledged. School teachers can actually see through the body movement of their pupils the change that occurs in them. Another association I work with believes that in order to have a better communal co-working and be prepared to work in foreign countries, body awareness and group experience are necessary and can be created through dancing.
I have also started offering my own elicitive motion seminars. I am grateful to witness all these bodies in motion and I am still amazed and reassured to realize that moving the body is a gateway to transform blockages and thus unfold inner peace. Dance offers the possibility to explore and understand holistically certain topics within the body. It moves the focus from the mental towards the bodily being. Through movement and expression one can get it touch with one’s inner self and bring energies into flowing again.
How does dance support the unfolding of inner peace by bringing blockages into flow again?
In this article, and in general, I use the term dance as the description of an action in motion, which is to say moving the body. Most people see dance as a performance or as a sequence of steps, but for me the term dance goes further. I put it on the same level as motion or movement. Thus, body movement and dance are interchangeable and describe a motion of the body, which could already be a dance.
It is amazing how dance as a tool for conflict transformation and for a peaceful social coexistence gets more and more acknowledged.
By moving the body, one generates a body awareness that takes the dancer to a total awareness of the present moment. Moving the body is a kind of meditation that shifts the focus from the mental towards the bodily being. Being in the body gives the dancer a feeling of being connected with what is happening in the present moment; the here and now. Unlike the mind, the body is not able to be somewhere else than in the moment and the space in which it moves. The body can only be here and now. When it moves, it takes over and the mind starts calming down. Whatever is present is being felt. That does not mean that every sensation is pleasant, but even when pain, anger or fear are felt, it is in the present moment that these emotions appear. Dance reconnects with the body and establishes a gateway to the inner self. That reconnection with the inner self gives a glimpse of what our true being is beyond the patterns we follow in daily life.
By moving, one gets in touch with emotions that are part of everyday life. Dance contributes to the opening up of emotions by bringing them into motion. It offers the space to express and explore emotions/feelings and get in contact with them, which should be a vital part of our life. However, emotions are often suppressed and, as a consequence, manifest in bodily pains or depressed mood. Equally, conflicts are manifested as blocked energies in our bodies. Therefore, moving the body is a tool to make these blockages flow and shift again. The ‘outcome’ of this shift or transformation is not as important as the simple fact that there is a shift, hence a change.
Everything but breath is Ego
Body and breath are strongly interconnected. By activating the body, the breath gets more intensive and conscious. Breath is another important element that allows us to stay in the present moment, relax and get into a meditative mood. It is a gateway to one’s inner world, because by concentrating on breath one shifts the focus from the outside world into the inner. Breathing constantly without holding back is a movement in itself and enables energies to flow again. Thus, through breath, it is possible to transform blockages and change pain into pleasure. The first movement we did after our birth was breathing. Breath reminds people that they are alive.
It is possible to dance at every moment and in every situation. However, a facilitated group setting can support certain aspects of inner peace work. The main aspect of dancing in a group creates a feeling of belonging. Since human beings are relational beings, this feeling contributes to inner healing. Furthermore, the group acts as a mirror and can represent important aspects of daily life. The group as a mirror can show aspects and facets of oneself that one is not aware of or even avoids. Often the group energy encourages oneself to look at these topics and the energy field created by the dancers altogether can be supportive in a healing process.
What is elicitive motion?
Since my master thesis I have been working on and developing a method that I call elicitive motion, which is inspired by 5Rhythms Dance, bodywork therapy and meditation practices. The principles of that method deal with the dancing person and his/her movements. The main subject is to elicit the motion out of the dancer and work with the material the dancer has to offer. One starts from the knowledge of the body that is already given. Just as in elicitive conflict transformation, elicitive motion places the focus on the person and his/her potential or resource in order to support him/her unfolding inner peace. In that sense, the elicitive approach of elicitive conflict transformation can be transferred to that method. In other words, every motion already lives in the dancer, every dancer already contains the dance in him/herself, it just needs to be given space to unfold.
Just as in elicitive conflict transformation, elicitive motion places the focus on the person and his/her potential or resource in order to support him/her unfolding inner peace.
The elicitive approach is creative, spontaneous, intuitive and flexible. In order to unfold peace, one needs to adopt creative approaches. Dancing is a way of expressing and, in my eyes, expression is vivid creativity. Moreover, thanks to dance a constant transformation of energies takes place. This transformation is indeed a healing in motion on the dance floor. More concretely, elicitive motion is a method that contains guided meditation and dance. I believe that the connection of the two is very fruitful. First, the guided meditation brings oneself into a state of awareness, mentally, emotionally and bodily. From there, one directly starts to move with what is in the present moment without interrupting the state of awareness. It is about becoming aware of what there is AND starting to move it. Meditation brings oneself to a stillness from which one can start flowing again. The guided meditation can focus on different topics such as fear, anger, pain, and really make participants present. Then, with that in mind, heart and body, one can move.
The music is an important aspect, because it is the link between the meditation and the dance. Thus, I normally start with very soft and supportive music at the end of the guided meditation, in order to strengthen the feeling and awareness of it. Slowly, the music gets louder, stronger and guides into movement. I support this process with some spoken words and instructions. During the dancing session itself some instructions are given too and I always try to establish the emotional link with the meditation of the beginning. I have experienced the richness of the combination of these two practices and I will continue experimenting and working on it.
Since I have started my dancing journey, there is no doubt for me that dance is a wonderful and reliable tool. Yes, I believe in the transformative potential of dance. And yes, I believe in the possibility to unfold peace by dancing – at any time and everywhere. So let’s dance!