This week’s Dance First Member Insight is from Toni Bergins, creator of JourneyDance!
Feel the feelings. Find the gifts.
Find the blessings….hmmmm. You may have heard this phrase and found it painful. Many of us have been tested and faced losses great and small. We have been challenged to become flexible, resilient, and certainly more empathetic in the face of isolation and change. I’ve leaned in even more fully to the practice of conscious dance and movement as a refuge in such intense uncertainty.
Do you remember the first moment you realized we were in a true pandemic? I do. I was leading a program at Kripalu Center when they made the announcement, “We’re closing the building tomorrow!” We all felt suddenly scared and nervous about what was happening outside in the world. On Friday, March 13th, we hugged each other tightly and went our separate ways. Those were the last physical hugs from “strangers, people outside my pod” that I have had! Perhaps you experienced something similar. As movers and dancers, most of us are physically comfortable with hugging, touch, and connecting with others. What a challenge this year has laid upon us! How do we cope with this feeling of loss, of our bodies needing that connection?
I never thought I could find that connection online. In April, a dear friend of mine said, “You should host an online JouneyDance. People could join from all over the world!” Having spent most of my life teaching live in-person workshops, I was appalled at such a thought. I never imagined the energy and connection we feel at JourneyDance was even possible online. With a bit of persuasion, he convinced me to try. We were already familiar with Zoom for meetings since our training team is spread across the continent. But the world of projecting music, mixing microphone feeds, spotlighting dancers, and interacting with chat comments was quite the tech-savvy learning curve, let me tell you! We learned, adapted, pivoted…and became excited. We saw that this could be a whole new way to create and connect, without the barriers of geography, travel, vacation time, and financial resources! We learned that, with Zoom, we could sing loud, shout out and process with our voices! We could connect. We could survive. Maybe we could even…thrive?
And this is what has happened! A thriving community of amazing movers and dancers has emerged. Many have attended every JourneyDance since April 7th – almost a year of weekly dancing. This would have been nearly impossible in our former weekly home at Kripalu. Each week we get together and process our lives on the dance floor. We are helping each other out of the loneliness and the fatigue of isolation. We know each other better than we thought possible. Even when we are raw and vulnerable, we hold space for each other in astonishingly powerful ways. Afterward, we feel the love, viscerally in our bodies, as if we were together. I didn’t know this was possible.
As a music lover, the gift of musical exploration continues to blow my mind. Can you relate? With all the chaos, pain, and challenges, I want to make sure our playlists serve as many people as possible. To help them process their emotions and feel what they need to feel, leaving vibrantly cleansed and ready to move forward. Each week I take an energetic pulse of the Collective and build a unique playlist. I can’t explain exactly how this happens, but all of you DJs know exactly what I mean. Songs pop into my mind and go into the list. Lyrics tell stories, and I ask, “Does someone need this message?” Monday nights, I spend hours listening, creating, allowing, editing and refining. I have challenged myself not to repeat any songs since April 7th. At 20 songs per playlist, thanks to Spotify, this has been quite a pleasure! My musical collection has exploded exponentially. Another gift!
As a facilitator of deep process work, I can sometimes take on a lot of responsibility for other peoples’ energy into my own physical body, helping them clear their blocks and process their emotions. I think as teachers and healers, we can forget that each person must do the healing work for themselves. We see their brightness and want them to shine and feel as we see them! With the distance and space imposed by Zoom, I have learned to fully trust the process. To trust the dancers more than ever before, without sound, energetic feedback, and expressing bodies in the room. Everyone is responsible for their own experience – how deep or light they want to go, how much they want to share, how safe they feel to let go. It’s been such an amazing gift to watch everyone step into their own power, feel their own feelings, allow themselves to be seen, and take responsibility for their own healing and transformation.
This pandemic has allowed people to listen to their hearts. So many of my students are feeling their heart’s calling to help the healing of humanity. Over a hundred students have taken JourneyDance Teacher Trainings online during this time! We have another one beginning March 4th – Module One Teacher Training Online: The Embodiment Experience (spaces still available, unlimited actually, thank you zoom!).
I know we’re not all doing well all of the time, as we stare the quadruple pandemic of capitalism, colonialism, climate change, and COVID in the face without our usual escapes into distraction. But when we connect, even via Zoom, and when we dance with dancers everywhere, we are reminded of the beauty living all around us. We feel the gifts of gratitude. We have a community that is supporting each other so willingly and beautifully through this crisis. We are feeling our feelings on the dance floor and finding the gifts. I am feeling my feelings and finding the gifts.
Learn more about JourneyDance trainings and offerings here.