Biodanza and it’s Influence on Building Community

Biodanza is a dance and movement process originating in South America that builds a very strong sense of community, firstly amongst the participants of the group doing it, then the wider Biodanza community locally, nationally and internationally, and finally globally with humanity as a whole. It does this by reconnecting individuals with their own essence – the body, the emotions it houses, and the instincts. The modern day tendancy for human beings to be ‘mental’, cerebral, logical, thinking ALL the time, is at odds with our basic biology. Nature has designed us to move, to be engaged with our environment, to have experiences, to express our feelings and emotions about those experiences, good or bad. Our instincts, the guardians of life, guide us and keep us safe throughout this process (that is called LIFE!).

But how many of us live like that nowadays, totally aligned with our biological nature? Hardly any of us. A few tribes in the fast disappearing Amazon basin perhaps and that is it. What happens to the rest of us is the ‘progess’ we are proud to call çivilisation’ or culturalisation which begins in our childhoods. As babies, we are all movement and emotional expression – as any parent can tell you! We have no problem experiencing our feelings or feeling our experiences (in stark contrast to mature adults). But little by little we are taught that there are good emotions and bad emotions. We are rewarded for smiling and being ‘nice’ and chastised or even punished for being angry or upset. We start the never ending process of repressing our emotions in the name of civility.

Later, we start to repress even so called positive emotions. At school we are told from day one to sit still, be quiet and listen – completely unnatural behaviour for 5, 8, 11 year olds who feel to do exactly the opposite! So, our natural joy, vitality and spontaneity is progressively trained out of us, until as adults, our range of emotional expressivity is pitifully small. Some cultures may show a little more than others, the Italians spring to mind, or the Brazilians, but most western cultures produce adults who wear a mask of civilsed behaviour and expression in complete contrast to what they are feeling underneath. A controlled, tightlipped smile greets every experience regardless of what it is. In Britain (where I come from) the ‘stiff upper lip” retains its Victorian ascendancy. Be it tragedy or comedy, “Don’t let your emotions get the better of you, stay cool, stay detached – don’t express what you are feeling!” is the message.

This attitude poisons our relationships. We don’t express our anger when we are angry with someone. We don’t articulate how much we love and appreciate our nearest and dearest for fear of being judged as over-sentimental, especially if you are a male. This gap between what we feel and what we show causes a massive and continual build up of internal stress in our bodies, and a retreat into the head to cope with it. If you live in the world of the head, the mind, always thinking, you do not feel. Feelings and emotions reside in the body and often are revealed through movement. If you cut off from the body, you cut off from those troublesome, stress-inducing feelings. Problem solved!

Equlibrium, of a sort, is achieved. Only this is not Life. It is survival. It is a mechanical, monotonous, shallow existence. Look at any morning commuter train, packed with dead-eyed, uncommunicative disengaged zombies glued to their phones, books or newspapers for fear of initiating interaction with their own species. Spontaneous behaviour is considered far too risky as it might engender a feeling and what would one do with THAT (being so long out of practice)?

Biodanza seeks to redress the imbalance between this mental state and the feeling/emotional state. Each class gives you multiple opportunities to feel LIFE again. We offer you exercises of vitality to run, jump, skip and dance to feel your natural exuberant life energy flowing through you again. We offer you creative dances and games to recover spontaneous expression and playfulness again. We invite you into physical contact with each other to develop the capacity of the senses and discover the natural affectionate bond that exists between people when we come down from our heads – so often filled with judgements, criticism and separation.

Touch is one of the highest forms of inter-human communication and is as much of a need as food, air, water and shelter – but often un-recognised as such. Many studies have shown the absolute necessity of touch to the proper healthy development of a child. This need does not stop once we pass the stage of being cute and cuddly. It lasts a lifetime, and is tragically un-fullfilled in most adults, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not. Biodanza reintroduces the body to nourishing, nurturing, sustaining, healing and pleasurable touch.

Biodanza also offers exercises to connect to yourself, the inner you, your spirit, your core essence, your heart – love. Not your individualistic personality as expressed externally into the world so beloved by marketers and advertisers  When invited to connect with the heart, the sweet commonality we all share as human beings – the desire to love and be loved – becomes clearly apparent.

Practicing the stimulation of these aspects of being human relieves a lot of the stress of living so inauthentically with our feelings. It brings many lost, forgotten or denied parts of ourselves together. It is a process of reclaiming and integration, leading to a sense of wholeness and well being that feels like a tremendous relief. We begin to see and sense the alien-ness of much of our lives to our true nature. We begin to welcome the return to more open and flowing connection with the world, where feeling is not seen as an enemy to be ruthlessly suppressed, but rather the natural consequence of being alive. And as such, to be celebrated in all its fullness and diversity.

When we feel free and alive, able to be ourselves without the straightjacket of expected, conformist, ‘normal’ behaviour, open to love, life, people, the world, a natural sense of community emerges. It feels right to be in the body – not strange, alien and uncomfortable. It feels right to be with people – not strange, alien or uncomfortable. It feels right to be open, to share and collaborate – instead of closed, selfish and uncooperative. The important phrase here is FEELS right. No amount of good intention, goal setting or positive thinking can overcome the inherent separation, and sense of mistrust, engendered by our upbringing. We are a seething mass of unexpressed emotions held somewhat in check by an overdeveloped cerebral cortex, but run completely, though we do not know it, by our subconscious!

Progressively and sympathetically, Biodanza enables each individual, in their own time and in their own way, but together, in a group container, to make the journey back to feeling their own lives. Allowing that expression AUTOMATICALLY enhances communal feelings of fraternity, altruism, love and respect. We feel a band of brothers and sisters again. Our tribal roots are recovered. Many may recognise this as desirable in theory, as a ‘good idea”, a concept, but unless we feel it from within our bodies it will remain just that, a good intention. Just another hope, a dream, without the means to translate it from fantasy to reality.

Biodanza serves to create these very real, living links to community. Bigger than shared ideals, greater than shared vision, Biodanza creates the vital element, without which all communities’ foundations remain shaky, the SENSE of community. It just feels right. Biodanza awakens an ancestral memory deep within our psyche, of the times when we lived close the earth, close to each other, dependent on one another for our very survival, in small groups or tribes. Our biology has not changed since those days, but our behaviour has – causing the great tides of existential unhappiness we see in the world today.

The message of Biodanza then is to return to a simpler way of living that respects the natural systems and processes of life, that returns to us our freedom of expression, our sense of self and trust and belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity and the sanctity of all of life.

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