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Dancing to open the heart
You can dance if you want to.
“If you have a body and a heart, you can dance,” said Katie Brennan. “Open Heart Dance is free-form, intuitive, dynamic meditation/dance practice for people of all ages with dance experience or not.”
Brennan danced spontaneously as a young child then took lessons, mostly jazz and modern, for 10 years. As the emphasis started to be more and more on competition, she found her pleasure waning and eventually stopped.
With her interests leaning more to art in her teens, she still missed dance.
“Over the last several years I have done a spiritual practice and I wanted to find a way to bring these benefits to my body. I wanted to combine the meditation with intuitive movement,” she said.
“When I started looking for creative movement classes, I found the upper age limit was six. As if we are only allowed to move creatively until we are six and then must do something specific like a sport or an organized practice.”
Brennan heard about a New York dancer, Gabrielle Roth, who taught 5-Rhythms Dance, a freeform, intuitive form of dance with an emotional component.
“I took a workshop in her methods and found it was everything I was looking for. It brought me into my body in a way that other things haven’t. From that I developed Open Heart Dance where the focus is on what you are doing, not on what someone else is telling you to do, all the same at the same time,” she said.
Brennan’s classes are suitable for men and women of all ages from 15 up, of all abilities. Classes start with quiet music and move through a variety of rhythms and moods to end with moving or still meditation.
“You don’t have to worry about getting steps or techniques right, you can move with your eyes closed when you want to, thinking about how your body feels and what it is telling you it wants at the moment. Play with the music to express yourself and your world.”
Brennan guides the sessions with suggestions on variations and improvisation of movements, for example, to try something with the arms, but not giving direct instruction.
“You do what feels good to you. I want people to consider different things and notice how their dancing changes as they think about different things. You can come into the classes in any emotional state and dance that emotion. Maybe you are angry and you can dance through your anger, or happy and you can dance with joy. It works with any emotion, you feel it and move past it. That’s just one of the ways the love of the dance works.”
She says the dance session can be a good workout for the whole body or just those parts where a person feels some movement is needed.
“Your body does not get worn down with repetition because you are listening to what it is telling you and attending to its needs at all times. Everything is individualized. Participants can take time out and be still and listen to the music at any time they feel they need to,” she said.
“There’s a lot of reclamation of body awareness as we follow our intuition. It’s a quiet time but it’s fun and social. There are not many opportunities to dance socially because they usually require a partner. The students say they are thankful to have this time to themselves and that they are grateful for what they learn from each other.
“I ask, ‘What did dance bring you today?’ and it’s interesting to hear the answers. We see the power of what’s happened on the dance floor.”
Open Heart Dance has brought so much to Brennan, to her spiritual practice and to her career as an artist.
“Open Heart Dance has brought me so much. There is a great feeling of power in my body, that my body is so incredibly capable and that I can live my spiritual practice through my body. The dance would fit in with any spiritual practice or it can be done, as some people do it, as exercise or meditation. It can go to whatever place you want to go with it.”
She has a Spring Equinox Dance planned to mark the changing of the seasons and to give people a chance to find an answer to the question, “What would I like spring to bring to me?”
Brennan said she would like people to come to dance sessions as regularly as possible to get the best benefits but she realizes that there are times that might not be the best times for dancing and then it is best to take a break.
“Maybe you’re just not meant to come that day. That’s OK.”
Open Heart Dance takes place in Vernon Sunday mornings from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Elks Hall. Cost is $10 the first time, $15 drop-in, with passes available. Brennan also teaches in Kelowna.
For more information, see the Web site at www.openheartdance.ca