Forgotten ways of feeling – A glimpse into dance and connectedness

Por Pia Krämer

In this short essay I would like to draw attention to the importance of abstract movement and dance in society and share what turned out to be most relevant in my recent journeys as networked, programmer for artistic residencies and coordinator of the biannual Portuguese Platform of Performing Arts organized by O Espaço do Tempo in Montemor-o-Novo, and mainly through my work as dance movement therapist. During the last years I had the chance to see in-numerous dance performances around the globe, and observe the shifting of paradigm and urgencies due to the political, social and ambiental changes. The “crisis” and “traumas” are manifested in the bodies and find their way to create evidence. We are invited to experience in watching and participating in recent performances due to a vital and highly inspiring offer in the theatres and performance spaces in Europe and beyond. Many of the works of young and also established choreographers stayed in my memory forever, others changed my perspective and further shifted my emotions in unknown territories. The multiple perspectives traversing the field of the performing arts and especially the role of the body in it, let me testify the complexity in which the body is present in contemporary crisis, politics, ethics and aesthetics. The resonances it causes, in relation to the choices made by the choreographers and their creative teams and which positions are taken towards the audience, offers a vast field of experiences and state of minds. Which questions are asked, which journey they invite us, which dialogue is stimulated, which identities are constructed or de-constructed, which fragments they want us to complete with our own imagination, which alienations, hallucinations, self and other scenarios are created, what kind of collective body they construct? And are we included in this wide field of possibilities? Are we able to see and feel the mystical, spacial, poetic, formal, musical, transformational, sensorial, somatic, introspective, expressive, ideological bodies?

As the dramaturg and writer Guy Cools says: to be embodied is to participate in the migration from one body to another. Each of us is a nomad, a wave that has duration for a time and then takes on a new somatic shape. This is perpetual transformation in the subject of all myth.

Are we, as audience able to connect to the depth and intensity of it. It depends a lot on our own body story and the way we experience our affective body. Are we aware?

Dealing with the non-verbal

Since we know about the mirror neurons which cause the neurological phenomena that we, by observing someone moving, are processing the same movement neurologically, without having to actually execute it. Which means, we are co-constructing and somehow co-living the movement, processed by another person who we watch attentively and can create an affective connection through this process, especially and even more if there is a possibility of syntonization of timing, intensity and shape. This way of relatedness is the base of empathy. Without the possibility of co-creation we are isolated and can´t really feel the resonance of the other in us. To be able to “unpack the self” the child needs to create ties with others – to increase its relatedness. From recent child development research we learn that the infant’s major developmental task is to get attached. The language of this early process is non-verbal, through body language, face to face communication, movement in space, with various timings, intensities and shapes which are the means of abstract dance. Dance is the archetype of empathy and reminds us of sometimes forgotten ways of feeling and offers us a vast repertoire of perspectives to transform rigid world views into something more flexible, resonating, shifting, modulating, adaptable but also the capacity to be firm, strong and powerful if necessary. The qualities of abstract movement shape the way we feel.

If I could design the educational plan for kindergarten and schools, dance and abstract movement would play an important role in it, as well as music. Lately we all learned about emotional intelligence but do we integrate programmes and methods into our educational system? If we would have access to the knowledge about the relevance of movement and learn about non-verbal skills in communication and the power of collaboration in a dance performance, we could develop comprehensive methods of resonance and mutual understanding.

I will never forget one movement improvisation in a group therapy session some years ago. This moment revealed the high transformational aspect of movement. After 1 year of group therapy, two young men developed a co-construction of body image in a ninety minute session in a dance movement therapy setting. One of them, a dancer the other one musician. Both have extraordinary skills to feel the timing, intensity and shapes of the other and both of them grew up without a father. During the improvisation they went into a movement improvisation journey were they could complement each others body image. They “danced” a common imagined father image and made it become real by mirroring, complementing, opposing, calming, attacking, shifting, stumbling around, play together – everything we do with a parent as a child. After the session they felt extremely attached but also more integer and in long terms less afraid of masculine authority. They could co-construct the missing father image. The rest of the group could witness the process and by observing also grew with them. It was a mutual process and a very deep moment of empathy. In the next weeks both of them experienced their own body, muscle tonus, posture, gestures, differently and more complete.

This is how important movement can get and how relevant dance and life arts can be if we talk about the transformative power of the arts. The most fascinating part in dance lies for me here, in the total freedom of expression and ways of being together and the capacity of resonating it into a bigger audience. The playfulness, the gender identity building, the self transformation and the collective body construction and not to forget the capacity of dance as cross-cultural collaboration and co-creation in culture as dynamic act, interactive, permeable and constantly transformative.

Pia Krämer
International net worker for dance, programmer in O Espaço do Tempo, Dance Movement Therapist.


  1. obrigado!

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