Is it Art Yet?

Registered Somatic Movement Educator Marilyn McLaughlin, and creator of All Bodies Dance!, shares how freedom from perfection brings joy of creative expression.

All Bodies Dance! is a simple accessible approach to teaching dance and body awareness that celebrates individual differences while also promoting creativity and personal expression. It is a synthesis of all that I know and love in the poetry of dance, theatrical expression, sensory awareness, and music. One moment participants are bopping around the entire room to James Brown getting bone strong with a heavy stomp or a spoke and pump polka, while 5 minutes later they are exploring body part triplet variations to a beautiful Chopin waltz. It’s all easy accessible movement that anyone can do. I am thrilled to be sharing my passion and even more thrilled to facilitate others discovering their own.

With all my years of strict and disciplined training, I rarely exercised the luxury of art making for its own sake, for the purpose of health and well-being, until fairly recently. Though there was certainly plenty of great play and love of process while making dance and theatre works, I always felt the pressure to get somewhere with it, that it had to ultimately be good, if not great. Even simple composition assignments where the goal was to learn and make mistakes while skill building were excruciating for me. I became plagued by a level of perfectionism that ultimately shut me off from the ability to do anything creative if I could not excel almost instantly. That left me with a very small playing field.

One time, I bravely branched out and took a watercolor class. I loved buying the supplies, but I quit painting soon after. I couldn’t master it fast enough. The same thing happened to me with figure drawing and pottery. I loved the idea of it all, but I couldn’t find the actual pleasure in doing it as a novice. I always ended up feeling disappointed with myself. So much for a beginner’s mind.

I would rather doodle. Scribble. Take notes for a poem I was thinking about writing and then leave the paper crumpled in a bush to disintegrate. I would rather just compose dance to the sound of crickets and frogs on my evening walk. It could be a secret between me and Mother Nature.

My first encounter with the true joy of process came to me in spurts during my post-graduate training in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis. LMA/BF is the study of movement expression, observation, notation and body orchestration. Because my teachers often presented the information in the form of play and in the spirit of pure exploration, for the first time in a long time, my love affair with creative movement expression was invigorated and fresh. Not bound to any style or form I felt incredibly free.

A few months ago I developed an intense craving for drumming. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I joined a Saturday afternoon drumming class and rediscovered my own personal version of heaven. A month later, I looked into attending Arthur Hull’s Rhythmic Alchemy Playshop. I had no idea what to expect and I was adamant about “not having the time to play” for a whole weekend. I had never attended a facilitated drum circle, and I was a bit concerned that it would just be a sloppy, groovy free for all.

Within minutes of walking into the room, my patterned response of fear and anxiety came up to bat first. But very quickly, that all disappeared and by the next night, especially after a late night drum circle, I had officially crossed over into pure joy, connection, and celebration. Partnership. Community. Group creation. Liberation. No words. A total paradigm shift. There was no way to get it wrong. I could finally snuggle up to my comfort edge and gently but firmly coax myself into staying with the experience of creativity and the encounter with something new. Simple eye contact, a smile, or a nudge would coax me into allowing a song or movement from deep within me to emerge. Actually it wasn’t new at all. It was more like finally coming home.

All Bodies Dance! classes have enabled women to reclaim a childlike love of dance/movement expression and sensory awareness at any stage of life. It offers an opportunity to stoke the creative fire while doing something healthy, community oriented, and soul nourishing. The time to let our body’s voice sing out with all the life lived, and yet to live, is now.

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