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Dance as a Practice: Embracing the hi's and lo's

While working towards certification as a Soul Motion facilitator I accrued many of my required training hours at the Esalen Institute. Esalen is in its own right a paradise, hot springs, amazing food, inspiring people, and a fascinating history. But for me, it had two other qualities which made it one of my favorite places on the planet. It was far away from my home and all the struggles I was experiencing there, and was the only place I had ever been where I could dance with 50 other people morning, noon and night with total dedication to the dance. There would always be this moment nearing the end of each event that I would look around with acute awareness that this was a pinnacle moment.

It would be followed by a crushing moment of sober realization that in just a few days we would be scattered to our own parts of the planet. And I would be back to dancing on my own or in a nightclub with fellow dancers fueled by alcohol and pick up culture. This disappointment was often too much to bear and I would lose the intimate ending of the event because I was already mourning its loss, fearing a life without my dancing tribe.

Later in 2018, I had a similar experience where I suddenly found myself in another pinnacle moment. This time in my hometown where I had built a thriving community called Dance Church. A place where anyone could come to sweat their prayers on Sunday morning. Here I was surrounded by even more dancers this time, 80+ in a room designed for far fewer, and again was immersed in a group of dancers abandoned within the practice. We were one thriving organism consumed by dance. I should have been ecstatic! Here was the living proof that I had managed to fulfill that dream I had back at Esalen, become a trained conscious dance facilitator and build myself a community that I could dance with every week. So why the pangs of sadness? Because I now had the wisdom to know, that this was a pinnacle moment and that just like the pinnacle moments of my youth this one would not last. I was better able to temper the pangs of sadness this time. I managed to stay with the joy and the fullness of experience, to "stayed before I went", but the knowing that this would end was very real. And sure enough, within 3 years the Dance Church was no longer. For a myriad of reasons, one being the loss of our venue, another being covid, but the biggest was that by this time in my career I had to make a choice: Maintain my local community or pursue an international career supporting others to grow thriving communities of their own? I chose the latter; I chose to take the body of work I had grown locally and evolve it into an international company calling it after the name I had taught under since 2010. Dance The Medicine.

This past May, on the 3rd night of the Dance Facilitator Training in Devon, I had the moment again. A pinnacle moment during the evening dance facilitated and DJed by Alex. I was in a room so filled with joy that it was intoxicating. The participants (nearly all the students were still up and dancing!) were totally engrossed in the movement of one another. They played and danced as if they had known each other for years instead of just 4 days!

This group of completely embodied movers had come from all over the planet to learn the art of dance facilitation so that they too could be part of the growing phenomena. I felt such joy and pride, remembering back to that moment at Esalen where I feared the loss of this experience. And knew that while this moment would fade just as the rest had, this story was predictable, it repeats over and over and I will get many more pinnacle moments.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and whisper in young 30-something Bernice's ear not to fear so much. To assure her that she would be a part of something momentous, part of a movement that brought these spaces to life in a great abundance, that she would fulfill her purpose, and that it was ok to just enjoy herself, that there would be many more dances and a lifetime of dancing friends. I would assure her that these peaks and valleys are all part of the journey, just like the soundtracks that accompany our dances. 

If you dream of creating a dance community of your own, save the date Nov 03 - 09 when our next Leadership Training will happen in the south of France.

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