Collaboration, not Competition

I awoke suddenly from a deep sleep after spending a long weekend dancing in Mountain View with Open Floor teacher Andrea Juhan. The workshop was rich and transformative on many levels. Andrea is a masterful teacher, in every aspect of the word. But this isn’t about the workshop or the teacher. This is about something that got stirred to the surface during my fitful post-workshop slumber.

It’s about conversations and experiences I’ve had over my decade as a “leader of dance,” and as a student of many dance modalities. When I hear people putting down other dance modalities, teachers, and communities, I’d like to offer an alternative viewpoint. 

At a big conference, as I listened to a dance leader on stage talk about how, “dance doesn’t have to be so serious” and then, hands waving in the air, she skipped around the stage for a full minute making fun of the conscious dances who “take themselves too seriously.” My jaw hung open, horrified at this lack of respect and understanding, as the audience around me broke out laughing.

I’ve seen and felt it personally when a teacher I deeply respect forgets to include me when talking about all the different dance leaders in the room. I’ve opened a newsletter that directly said how what they do isn’t “zoning out like at ecstatic dance.” I’ve listened, my breath shallow, chest tightening, as another teacher conversed with me around how they, “do real practice, and not give in to the pressure to make it just a social dance,” disdain in her voice.

It has to stop. We’re better than this. We’re smarter than this.

As a global dance community, we teach and study inclusion, accepting diversity and others’ points of view. We learn and adapt as we grow. And yet, we often fail as a collective tribe to lift one another up and celebrate our differences.

It’s not always like this. I’ve certainly felt truly supported from others. When I’ve felt supported, I notice my being expand. I want to give more, do more, and share more. When I’ve felt like what I do is valued in other dance communities, I relax and open up. I let go of my need to protect and armor myself against criticism.

Here’s the thing—I will always have preferences around the kind of teaching, music, space and connection I like when dancing. And it shifts as I do, if I stay open to that possibility. And it’s a wonderful thing that we have so many different flavors of conscious dance to try, and so many different avenues to help connect students with the right teachers, to create the right fit for where they are in their life and their personal preferences.

What would happen if we truly celebrate our differences and accept the different roles as not only enriching to the landscape of our shared love of dance, but necessary to grow this global movement? What if we put our energy into learning how to effectively reach the vast number of dancers we feel most connected to, wherever they are, instead of trying to teach to the same small circle of dancers again and again? How powerful do you think we could be if we joined together and lifted one another up, celebrating what we’re ALL doing—creating and participating in transformation through movement and music? What would happen if, instead of receiving a letter from a lawyer reminding me not to use a certain dance modalities’ name in a certain way, I received a letter inviting me to a lunch where we talk about how we both win by working together?

Let’s stop spending precious life force energy in combat and channel it into creation!

I’ve always focused on creating the world I want to inhabit, which includes one with more dance, more expression, more embodiment, more music, more connection and lots more collaboration. Let’s meet there, in true co-creation.