The need to understand the power and breadth of what we offer as dance practitioners is the inspiration for this blog. So many practitioners are doing amazing work which needs far greater recognition. With a clearer understanding of the impacts of many facets of our work, we will be better able to advocate to the powers that be.

I recently contributed to a Zoom Professional Development for dance practitioners who work with older people presented collaboratively by Gold Moves Australia & Dance for Parkinson’s Australia on 19/8/20. I spoke on the topic of how to respond to people who may express reticence at returning to in-person sessions post COVID-19 isolation.

Coming into the talk, I was certain the people on the zoom would be responding to their participants respectfully with care, and as one zoom attendee mentioned, it was great to have their approach affirmed by my words.  Following the presentation, they mentioned how it was useful to understand some of the underlying rationale.

For this piece I will just stay with our words, the way we might speak with our participants. I recall early in my counselling studies, a lecturer spoke of her love of the power of words, how delicious they were and how she found that so exciting. She asked about our responses to words in general, and amongst the range of responses my answer was a lot less enthusiastic, fearing a poor choice of language for a given context. It was the range of responses that was sought by the lecturer as that attests to the power of words to have many different effects.

We may be teaching dance or choreographing but because we use language in our communication, we cannot afford to be less rigorous in our choice of words than in our choice of movements. Also, we cannot afford to forget that our body language is a major part of how our words are received.

Let’s look at just one example – greeting people on arrival at our dance session. Our initial greeting, what we say and how we deliver it, can affirm a person’s existence, remind them they are connected to you and that they belong to this group. This may contribute to a person’s identity and their resilience in dealing with life’s ups and downs. Ageing in western society does not always afford older people the respect or care they deserve. Invisibility can creep up on them.

Your greeting can make them visible. This may make a huge difference to an individual who has perhaps lost some confidence in making their way in the world, and let’s not make the assumption that it has any less effect on every one of us! We tend to take many social interactions for granted without understanding their significance in each of our stories.

How do you greet your participants?

Happy thinking on your words. I’ll return to this topic of the significance of how we relate to our participants many times. It’s part of GMA’s focus on relational practice. Stay well. Dance on.