"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it"
~ Hannah Arendt
How much stock do you place in your vision? Have you ever thought about why imagination so powerful? What is this secret sauce we humans have that enables us to run the world?
Storytelling is so common and ubiquitous in our daily lives that we scarcely give it a second thought. Spend any amount of time with a young child and you’ll see how even the most commonplace activity or interaction comes with a long tale attached.
It’s a fact that we humans are hardwired to buy into a good tale. When people talk about what makes an effective business leader or CEO, one of the essential skills is the ability to shape and hold a vision so that the rest of the team can get behind it.
One of the points I make sure to get across when I’m working with clients or helping our Dance First members build their practices is that “ marketing is storytelling, while sales are persuasion.” All too often I find that people are timid about telling their story and they’re selling himself short by looking for a silver bullet in the form or a perfect tagline or slogan.
I’ve often pondered the question as to why the human species has proliferated to the extent that it has. Serendipitously I happened to hear part of a TED talk on the radio yesterday given by Yuval Harari, author of “ Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind”
He posits that what has made us so successful is our difference on a collective level. There are many other species of social creatures, from insects like ants and bees that cooperate very rigidly, to mammals like wolves, dolphins, and chimpanzees that cooperate more flexibly, but only in small numbers.
We humans are the only ones who can cooperate both flexibly and in very large numbers. We are very much a historical anomaly. Sometime around 70,000 years ago we were a small band in East Africa. Suddenly, within the space of just a few thousand years, we spread out and colonized the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, and beyond into untrammeled lands such as Australia and the Americas.
Something triggered our imaginations and our storytelling ability. Other social animals use their communication to simply describe reality. A chimp can tell another one “there’s a banana tree over there, let’s go have lunch” but that’s as far as it goes.
We humans on the other hand, use language to not only describe reality, but also create a new fictional reality. Humans are the only animal that can say “Look, there is a God above the clouds and if you all believe the story I’ve invented, we can all follow the same norms and laws and values and we can cooperate.” Stories are portable. We pass them along to one another as we go. Humans are the only ones who do this. “ You can never convince a chimpanzee to give you a banana by promising him that after he dies, he will go to chimpanzee heaven and get lots and lots of bananas for his good deed.”
Any religion or economic or political system has at its core a foundational fictional story that a large enough number of people have agreed to buy into. For instance, take money as an example. It is the most successful fictional story ever invented by humans. Think about it, you can take an otherwise worthless piece of paper out of your wallet, go to the store and hand it to a complete stranger, and he will give you in exchange real bananas that you can eat! The money story is the most prevalent because it’s the only story that virtually every civilized person believes.
The main point he makes is that what’s made us so successful as a species is not our ability to procreate, but our ability to imagine, tell stories, and cooperate. Believing in a vision, and agreeing to cooperate in service to it is what got us from our five or so million hunter-gatherer ancestors that populated the world prior to the agricultural revolution to the eight billion of us who are here today. We movers and shakers in the field of somatics and conscious dance are taking our turn carrying the torch of embodiment and telling the stories of tomorrow.
So put some thought into the stories you tell. Are they reflective of your true nature and your highest ideals? Do they inspire, uplift, or invite curiosity? If your intention is to lead, will your story attract followers? Will it outlast you and become part of your legacy? And beware the dark side of storytelling, by that I mean gossip, rumor, or idle chit-chat. It’s only natural to occasionally tell someone else’s story, that’s why we have legends, but at the end of the day, the one that matters most is your own.
May this week’s dance with your vision be an uplifting one, and may the stories you tell bring light!
Much love till next week!
Conscious Dancer Community Spotlight :: Anna Halprin's new book plus The Tamalpa Institute and The Life/Art Process!
This week’s Dance First Member Spotlight shines on Anna Halprin, her new book, and The Tamalpa Institute & their comprehensive collection of workshops and professional trainings! Founded in 1978 by Daria Halprin and her mother Anna, The Tamalpa Institute was formed to build and develop on Anna’s pioneering cultural dance and somatic work. Decades of innovation led by daughter Daria have evolved into one of the most respected and revered schools of conscious movement and creativity on the planet.
A variety of transformative somatic and creative practices coalesced into what became known as The Life/Art Process, which is now the signature modality at the foundation of The Tamalpa Institute . With a wide variety of trainings and workshops being offered, The Life/Art Process is a renowned body of work with facilitators active around the world. In addition, The Tamalpa ArtCorps helps bring this important work into jails, hospitals, homeless shelters and community centers internationally. Learn more about The Tamalpa ArtCorps and their social justice outreach programs here.
Anna is a life-long pioneer and thought-leader in the field of conscious movement and post-modern dance since the 1950s, she founded the San Francisco Dancer’s Workshop in 1959. Still actively teaching and traveling, she will be celebrating her 99th birthday this coming July. You can join her and participate in the annual Planetary Dance held outdoors on the slopes of Mt. Tamalpais on Sunday, June 2nd, (check out this documentary film!) and at other locations and dates around the world.
Big news for dancers, community organizers, and Tamalpa fans everywhere, Anna Halprin’s new book is hot off the press! In “Making Dances That Matter: Resources for Community Creativity” she outlines how to bring people together to create dances that foster individual and community well-being and includes dozens of her groundbreaking scores as well as a step-by-step guide to her celebrated Planetary Dance.
Wendy Perron, author of “Through the Eyes of a Dancer” writes: “Anna Halprin is a pioneer of postmodern dance, a warrior for connecting arts to social issues, and a healer of individuals and communities. Here, in crystal clear prose, her wisdom of the-body-in-the-world tumbles out. Borrowing concepts from various cultural traditions, Halprin lays out the scores she has created over a long lifetime of exploring and transgressing. Her ability to integrate body, mind, and spirit is both soothing and exhilarating.”
Co-authored by Rachel Kaplan and generously illustrated with photographs and graphics, this book will be a boon to dance therapists, educators, and community artists everywhere.
And for those of you interested in Tamalpa Institute offerings, they’ve got a big year planned! You can always find their trainings and workshops on the MoveMap and in the Monday Love list below, or on the Tamalpa website.
Here’s a few highlights to put on your calendar! (and remember, Bay Area Dance Week events are FREE with RSVP!)
Bay Area Dance Week – Tamalpa Dances with lu-Hui Chua
Apr 27, Mountain Home Studio, Kentfield, CA
Tamalpa Experience with Cameron Kincaid Richardson, MA, RSMT
Apr 28, Asheville, NC
Bay Area Dance Week – Tamalpa Experience with Natan Daskal
Apr 29, Finnish Hall, Berkeley, CA
Bay Area Dance Week – Life/Art Dances with Maggie Silverman
May 1, Berkeley Ballet Theatre, Berkeley, CA
Bay Area Dance Week – Movement Ritual and Dance Explorations – with Joy Cosculluela
May 2, Joe Goode Studio, San Francisco, CA
Scoring & Performance with Iu-Hui Chua and Joy Cosculluela
May 11, Finnish Hall Auditorium, Berkeley, CA
Ebb and Flow: A Retreat for Body, Mind and Spirit with Kaye Anderson, LCSW, RSMT, RSME
May 16-19, Isis Oasis, Geyserville, CA
The Planetary Dance
June 2, Mt. Tamalpais, Marin County, CA
Rhythm & Rite – The Singing Body with Dohee Lee
June 7-9, Venice, Italy
Tamalpa Experience with Iu-Hui Chua
June 9, Joe Goode Performance Group, San Francisco, CA
Tamalpa Summer Workshop: Movement as a Life/Art Process with Daria Halprin
June 15-19, Mountain Home Studio, Kentfield, CA
Empowering Creativity Through Movement/Dance and Life/Art Metaphors w/Daria & Anna Halprin
Aug 4-9, Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA
Tamalpa Experience: Life/Art Dances with Joy Cosculluela
Sept 7, Dance Mission Theatre, San Francisco, CA
Body Ensouled, Enacted and Entranced: A Special Workshop with Daria Halprin
Oct 26, Mountain Home Studio, Kentfield, CA