Sometimes it’s hard to think why I do this job. Surely an office job, working 9-5pm, Mon-Fri with a steady income would be better or easier..? With arts applications, proposal entries and the constant need to be lifting, shifting and moving people, as I ebb ever closer to my middle age, is becoming harder as each year passes, however, this week has filled me with optimism, inspiration and given me the realisation that I really wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything else.
On Friday we performed at Nottingham Light Night festival. A night of illuminating performances, light inspired art works and the Urban Astronaut’s first night time outing. You’ll have already heard plenty of stories surrounding that show, so I won’t bore you, but during the second of the two performances we were joined by a lady who was clearly struggling with her mental health and drug addiction. She stood, front and centre, at the edge of the circle, hypnotised by the sound track and a spaceman flying through the air. She danced and yelped for joy as I was thrown into the air by the team... for a moment she was transported to a better place, a place where nothing in the world mattered. Somewhere, where most of us, I believe, would like to be sometimes.
This week I participated in a professional dance residency with 2Faced Dance Company in Hereford. It felt like I was able to roll back the years as I danced and threw my body on the floor, as we were taught how to fall without causing injury or harm to ourselves (the bruises across the entirety of my body lay proof that I may not have been as successful as I initially thought). During the two days of workshop I was challenged, not in the same way as the other members of the group, as having never actually been taught how to dance in the traditional sense; the ballet section of the warm up, although bread and butter to others, was more a complex recipe of ingredients I had only seen, and never tasted or prepared, the flowing spins and turns, elegantly demonstrated by the company, perfectly repeated by Emily (from Highly Sprung) were more a demonstration in lack of balance and a mastery in how to wibble, wobble and fudge a movement by me.... but it didn’t matter; for those two days I was able to play, use my body in different ways and challenge myself in a safe space.
The more I’m able to work in the arts, the more I seem to discover the importance of that safe place that the arts allows people to immerse themselves in. It may be for just some escapism, like the audience member in Nottingham, or to challenge and better themselves like I tried to do in the workshop with 2Faced. No matter what you need, I often find that the arts gives it to you, at the time when you most need it. No more was this a case than this week when I worked with one of our Sprungsters, R.
R has been working with us on a Saturday for a while now, having worked their way through Groups 1 to 3 and are now one of our leaders in Group 4. This term has seen Emily, their group leader, pushing them very hard in preparation for their transition to a Friday night (an older group). With lifts and the beginning of set choreography, Group 4 are moving on from our much more open and free form of expressive movement used with younger groups. This week saw Emily challenge the group with a move that tests even the hardiest of performers; a handstand that rolls over somebody else’s back, leaving you standing on your feet the other side of them. Scary right! As the task was set I saw R quickly volunteer to be the back that others rolled over – R was great. The time soon came for R to have a try; with shakes of their head and tears in their eyes, I held R’s hand and said:
“You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to”
R replied “...But I do want to, I’m just really scared!”
Whether it was being able to trust another person to take R’s weight, or the fear of going upside down and the disorientation that brings I’ll never know, but what will stay with me forever was the smile that erupted from that brave little performer having challenged themselves and conquered that move. The safe space that participating in the arts gives, gave R that confidence to better themselves and push through their own limitations set by their fear. R may not remember that moment forever, but they will remember the feeling of being fearful yet overcoming it, as I will remember the feeling of accomplishment in being a non-dancer in a dance workshop and the lady in Nottingham will remember that moment of release from her troubled world... The arts will always be there to give us that little something that we need, at a time when we need it most, and break down those self-set barriers we all place in front of ourselves.