Dance – Hybridanza

Dancing your story, deepening emotional awareness through dance and movement was inspired by my experience and training in Biodanza. I’ve now renamed it Hybridanza to reflect my modifications to the original system and just to be confusing, I’ll use both terms.

The idea of Dancing your story began to develop as I progressed through the Biodanza training programme, I borrowed or adapted and sometimes invented exercises to create a physical / emotional warm-up for members of a Playback Theatre group that I was working with at the time.  What began as a warm-up eventually became Dancing your story, a workshop that was closely related to and followed the pattern and intention of Biodanza: the integration of emotion, affect regulation and the nurturing and strengthening of identity both as individuals and through a sense of belonging to the group.  The debt to the method of Biodanza is deeply acknowledged and although Dancing your story is not Biodanza, many similarities do remain.  Some of the original exercises found in Biodanza are used, although often with an alternative choice of music and new exercises have been devised.  Dancing your story was developed as a hybrid originally intended to teach actors emotional and physical awareness and emotional bonding for theatre groups and also offered as a public workshop. I completed the three-year training in Biodanza in all but the final weekend back in 2008. I was due to complete my Leadership training in Playback Theatre in New York at the same time. On my return from America, I decided against completing the training, partly so I could go my own way with the method, add my own exercises and move away from using just the prescribed music. There were other complicated reasons due to administrative changes which meant changing schools and to the unpleasant internal upheaval in the Biodanza organisation going on at the time.  This did involve an unfortunate loss of connection with some much-loved Biodanza colleagues. But on balance, I felt that as an alternative and using the knowledge and experience I had acquired during the three years training, I could bring some of that loving connection found in Biodanza to the Playback Theatre community and that’s what I did.  Participants in my groups could always seek out a Biodanza class to learn more as I was always open about the origins.

In common with Biodanza, a Dancing your story session includes a sequenced series of exercises set to a rich variety of music combined with mindfulness to enable you to observe your own experience and background responses and internal narrative in a particular way, while immersed in the moment – in the dance. As Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron remarked: “You know it has nothing to do with the present, but there it always is [the internal narrative], it’s involuntary.  It’s not about trying to cast something out, but about seeing clearly.”  What I find so encouraging about Pema Chodron’s approach to meditation and mindfulness is that she readily acknowledges the difficulties inherent in trying to be free of the mental chatter that can easily become self-doubt or just undermine our presence in the moment. As she says, the internal narrative cannot be ‘cast out’, but can be observed as it emerges in each encounter and is an opportunity to reflect on our own process and responses. We also pay attention to each participant’s personal relationship to the story that underlies the music that can be brought to the surface when combined with the exercise. This approach can also contribute to the emotional self-regulation so necessary in Playback Theatre by participants staying within the structure of the exercise which is designed to reflect and enhance the inherent emotional quality in the music.

There can an opportunity at the end to share something of your experience, which in the early days was played (danced) back to a chosen individual as a story dance,

Each session lasts up to two hours and the dance / movement exercises require no special skills and there are no steps to learn other than to find your own expression within each exercise, sometimes alone, sometimes with another or with the whole group.  It’s important to say that it’s not free dance as such, as there is a theme or a purpose to each exercise, which if collabortive with an other or others The dance / movement isn’t non-stop but includes brief reflective pauses after which the next exercise is shown.  Dancing your story is suitable for all and operates on the principle of physical self-regulation and non-verbal feedback to others through the dance and movement.

There is sometimes a pre-determined theme that guides the overall selection of exercises and music to create a harmonious environment for the theme to be explored and experienced.

Some of the themes offered so far in public workshops include: Emerging; Surrender; Homecoming and The Four Elements. I also taught an adapted weekly group at the drug and alcohol rehab where I worked as a counsellor.  Due to the sensitive nature of the group dynamic with people in early recovery and the risk of over-stimulation there was little or no contact between participants.

Dancing your story workshops with Playback Theatre groups have taken place in the UK, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Thailand (at a therapeutic community) and featured on the programme at the International Playback Theatre Gathering in Frankfurt in November 2011. Dancing your story has also featured on the programme at the European Playback Theatre Gatherings in Crimea, Ukraine 2009,  Devon, England 2012, Amsterdam 2014, Spanish Playback Theatre Gatherings in Salamanca in 2014 and Alanis in 2015 and the Bulgarian Playback Theatre Gathering in 2017.  Hybridanza was incorporated into a number of training workshops in India for various groups. I also gave a workshop in this method to the Actors Collective in Bangalore in December 2017 and again in Bangalore in 2019 along with the IPTN Board prior to the IPTN International Conference held there. In the photo below, particpants in a Playback Theatre training in Sri Lanka are shown doing a version of the breathing dance.

For more information on Dancing your story /Hybridanza , contact Brian Tasker.

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