This week’s Dance First Member Insight is brought to you by Daria Halprinco-founder of The Tamalpa Institute and lead innovator of The Life/Art Process

Dear Dancers, 

When the pandemic’s full force finally hit me, it became clear that life as we knew it was in the process of radical challenge and change. I took the necessary steps I could to sustain Tamalpa Institute and our teachers, moving three training programs out of studios and into the online world. As our international student and teacher network moved into the online world in an effort to stay connected, the strength and enduring desire of our members shocked me. They showed unparalleled dedication to their bodies, emotions, imagination, and sense of engaged community.

The power of movement, art, and desire for human connection is far greater than the overwhelming and frightening challenge we are currently facing. That is what is most needed at this time; if not together in physical person and group, then together/alone. We will connect by whatever means necessary — by whatever means possible. Our collective longing to express ourselves creatively, to have a meaningful way to express our emotions together, to move and be moved, has emerged as a shining light of hope and resilience out of this trauma. The shadow that is COVID-19 has revealed this truth.

It seems to me that the strength of change lies in the momentum created by multiple different collectives, each at work and acting on interrelated intentions while holding fundamental core values. In the field of expressive arts, our strength is in the pedagogy of our practices, in the heart and soul of art itself, and in our determination to make art accessible and available to everyone. Movement is a means of individual and community expression, of protest and healing.

When faced with what we don’t understand and can’t control, we tend to fall back on our reactive tendencies. We are limited in our ability and capacity to be with and work with instead of against discomfort. We are good at covering it up, distracting, denying it, believing it’s the fault of the other, bypassing it, minimizing it and romanticizing it. If there is a silver lining in the trauma of COVID-19, it will be in our facing of the collective shadow and in giving up our complacency, our comfort, our privilege to take the difficult action steps needed. We will have to address this discomfort at its core and pay attention to its symptoms.

These difficult action steps for change become possible when we hone our intention, when all of the circles of concerned, compassionate collectives work together for the common good. We are in a collective trauma now. When we are isolated; when our health is at risk; when we are separated from our friends, loved ones, and sense of safe environment and movement; when we are anxious about an uncertain present and future, the tendency to disconnect from our bodies intensifies. That’s what we have to integrate. The link between body, emotion and mental states is powerful. When those links become disrupted, as they are now, we lose our resilient life force.

Movement and dance are some of the best ways to reconnect and restore these essential links. We need activities and experiences—somatic, emotional, imaginative—to keep us resilient. The creative, uplifting, life-affirming, inspiring nature of art and somatic practices provides reconnection and resiliency. All the urgently needed social and environmental change we believe in will become the new reality. And along the way, I think a great triumph will be to persevere, keep moving forward, keep pursuing our dreams. Above all, we must hope and care for each other during this dark time.

With love,

Daria Halprin

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