October 11, 2017
by Karoliina Valontaival, Finland
Dance for me is a return to self, a homecoming, a welcoming into the magic of the moment, the simplicity of the inhalation and exhalation, the felt-sense truth of the body. Dance wakes me up. I love the still, silent humming throughout my body after a good, sweaty shake-out. Vibrant and alive, present and relaxed, simultaneously.
Nature is my refuge and my place of restoration and rejuvenation. Literally a sight for sore eyes. Spending time in nature soothes, calms, and balances me. I find solace and inspiration in the endlessly beautiful shapes and harmonious colors.
As an environmental educator, I spend most of my days outdoors in all weather conditions, coaxing children and young people out of their urban cocoons into a more connected, aware, and intimate relationship with the earth under their feet and the nature around them. Professionally, I’m also interested in the positive effects nature has on mental health and our overall well-being – as well as our physiology (spending time in “green exposure”, for example, lowers the stress response in the body, e.g. lowers heart rate and levels of stress hormones). It’s a hip new area of research, confirming what many of us know experientially already.
I’ve begun exploring combining my two love affairs of dancing and nature both for personal reasons as well as professionally. Personally, I’ve wanted to deepen my own connection to nature, the earth around me and the earth that is my body. I’ve wanted to deepen my 5Rhythms practice through dancing more, both in my living room as well as outside. Professionally, I’m curious about what I can offer into the environmental/outdoor education and youth work community through dance and movement, and also what I can bring into the 5Rhythms dance and movement practice from my experience as an environmental educator and nature-lover.
I enjoy exploring movement in nature, without music, guided by my breath, inner impulses, the sounds around me, the textures I touch. It’s very tactile. So much more to be felt, inside and out, through consciously moving in nature. It’s brought to my awareness the incredible amount of information we can receive – and how much & how deeply we can tune into ourselves and our environment when we really offer our attention and awareness. I do often dance outdoors with music as well, and it is also a beautiful experience, but different from the no-music dance. Music brings with it different impulses. It’s easier to follow the beat of the music – without music, it’s easier to get distracted or bored. With music and my headphones, I’m more in my own bubble, and perhaps not so tactile, not so deeply sensing everything around me, because part of my attention is with the impulses the music is giving me. Like everything, there are good sides and challenges to both, and both reveal different ways to move and be. Either way, with or without music, it’s wonderful to feel the earth below me, the sky above me, to feel the earth or grass under my toes, to have so much fresh air to breathe.
Of course, being out in the open, particularly if it is a more public space with people around, brings up the question of being seen, and it takes more guts to dance like nobody’s watching even when strangers are eyeballing you. Through these movement explorations, I’ve also come up against social norms for how you’re allowed to move: when you’re considered/labelled as “sane” and when just “crazy. Especially in Finland, these norms for bodily movement & expression are very tight. In the closed safe haven of the indoor dance room, we expect the unexpected, and we loosen up these movement-related norms: some of us quite quickly, while for others it takes more time. But outdoors, in public spaces, these norms are much more tangible, and so I find it interesting to play around, move, and explore in non-conventional dance spaces.
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“Don’t ask only what the world needs. Ask what brings you to life – and do it!
The world needs people who are alive!”
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. (Einstein)
“To be truly radical is to make hope possible, rather than despair convincing.” – Raymond Williams.