I began my movement journey in a traditional training to become a dancer. I mean at the age of 7 and in the West no child knows if they will become a professional dancer they just hope to be. All I knew was that I loved to move and it felt good.
Ashley Circa 2008 as a Bon Bon in The Nutcracker
My mother saw my interest in moving my body and she knew that was my outlet. She knew that was my medicine. She knew that would be my way to speak. For those who don't know children who experienced trauma (whether shock or chronic) has a lasting affect on that child's learning. Speech is one of these things. As I write this I cannot think about the children who are being kept at the border who will have a lasting traumatic scars for the rest of their lives.
Movement is our first language we tell our mothers in their stomach we are there and alive by moving around in the womb. When we come out we know not of any other communication than to follow our natural patterns: breathing with the movement of our bellies, moving with and against gravity, and contracting and releasing muscles (either voluntary or new physiological study). Movement, as well as other arts, is connected with imagination. You are able to play and create worlds that are of this reality and those that are not. You can be a mermaid underwater or a peasant girl who falls in love with a man who then breaks her heart and she dies...Sorry spoiler alert if you haven't seen Giselle.
Ashley in Untitled, by Christian Burns. Circa 2010
With these stories of our past, the stories of our ancestors, and the stories that have yet to be created we can express our emotions of being a human. You can bring all those moments into your work and express them physically. That was the power of dance for me. I was able to not only transform my emotions into motion, but I was able to connect to the spirit world (maybe just the freedom of my own spirit) through the movement of dance. Ballet was that for me. Now post-college and currently, not dancing professionally, I find these sentiments to still be true. I still feel the freedom in all of the techniques.
I also have felt this passion when I am able to teach it. Especially to kids, who like me, have or are currently experiencing tough times (or trauma). They too feel that art is a saving grace and they can see and feel the genuine human connection when you are truly living your truth, when you are truly living and embodying your passion. Kids are not ignorant, they are intuitive, sensitive, and passionate young humans who can read you if you are throwing them shade or trying to be real through fake means. They also just want a place, like we all do, to feel safe, expressive, and seen.
When we move we heal.
As humans our first language is movement. Look at any child who gestures for more sweets. When they don't get their way they stomp around trying to express their anger or frustration. Emotions are very strong and if they are stuffed inside of ourselves, they become deep contractions within our bodies that begin to impact our daily life. The big the need that is not being met or the experience that is greater of overwhelm for our nervous system the tighter the contraction. Movement is the natural process of expression of the inner self and a time to release any held tension.
Being creative builds neural-pathways.
When we are moving, especially to music, we begin to build the electronic connections between our right brain and our left brain. Remember the saying Use it or Loose it? Well this is what we are talking about, in a sense. If you don't use your brain, by challenging it, you loose other parts of it. By being creative, especially through movement and music, you cannot only express yourself, but you can reconnect parts of your brain (this is really helpful when learning something new and making it a habit) and begin to see things in a new light with this new habit. Repetition is key.
When we dance we can be our truest self. And that is weird.
I love to share the teachings of the late-great Jimi Hendricks when teaching middle school and high school students is in his song "If 6 were a 9" he talks/sings about flying your freak flag HIGH! When we MOVE out of our comfort zones it may feel a bit uncomfortable...maybe even weird, but we are building neural plasticity (making new habits/emotions/experiences stick into our mind even deeper). When we are in real-life uncomfortable scenarios those who are continually working on their creativity skills are able to process faster different answers to solve the problem ahead.
Without this permission slip from my training and my inner expressive child I would be repressing a lot of healthy and freeing impulses to move. I would be stuck in old patterns of my story unable to get out of the victim state.
So who's ready to feel really weird and try something new? Or is it old? Express yourself in a new way, repeat it, and let it go. Freely. I encourage you to do as our mother's, grandmother's and ancestors did. Dance in the kitchen, while doing laundry, or while gardening, make everything a dancing meditation.