"Diversity of Movement"

By Lisa Corston (and Jacqui Chan)

So many of us long to dance again, whether it’s been a whole week since the last dose or 40 years.

Our bodies love to dance, to move in a way that feels good, experiencing pleasure through simply allowing the body to move in its own natural and creative way.  Every body has its own genetic make-up, no two body’s naturally move in exactly the same way.  Our bodies change as we adapt to the lives we are living, we will have body parts that remain flexible, strong, and supple whilst other parts of us may become restricted.  And so each body really does have its own unique movement vocabulary, its own way of dancing.

Some people say they can’t dance, they feel or have been told that they are ‘not a dancer’ as if dancing must look a certain way. It is normal to feel self-conscious when trying something new and different, easy to stay at home rather than take a small risk for fear of doing it wrong.  Some people feel they have ‘two left feet’ when it comes to dancing, feeling shy, awkward, or un-coordinated, as if somehow they lack the ability to dance ‘the right way!’

On the Open Floor we welcome all types of feet, all sizes, shapes. Shy feet, timid feet, extroverted, sassy, courageous, quirky, playful, curious, quiet feet, fast, slow, reclusive, light-footed, sure-footed.  All feet are welcome to come dance.  Every body is welcome.  You are welcome.

A willingness and curiosity about how your own body enjoys moving easefully and creatively are simple ingredients needed. You are warmly invited to come explore your own creative way of moving whilst within the good company of others moving just as they are.  There are chairs on the dance floor for people that need them as well as for extending movement explorations.

“Diversity of movement for all bodies. This is the reason why we offer chairs on the Open Floor. Dance responsibly!” – Kathy Altman (a founder of Open Floor International)

“I love the concept of relaxation and dancing and letting your hair down! …. It’s a tremendous help that you are not tied to your aches and pains … something that can be done where you don’t have to be good at it!” quote from a wonderful 95yr local woman.

“dance is an integral part of ones being, like breathing and talking … it is a part of being in touch with others and the world … like poetry, dance touches on the indescribable …” quote from another wonderful 79yr local woman

On Thursday 19th April a new afternoon class will begin for everyone 60yrs and above, 2-3:15pm,  Anglican Church Hall, Coro (weekly for 6 weeks).  This first class (April 19) will be free! An opportunity to come be in good company and enjoy the pleasure of dancing again.  See below for all further details

AND our Thursday evening classes are now happening WEEKLY!! So we get to DANCE even MORE!!!

New upcoming 60yrs and above classes: April 19, 26, May 3, 10, 17, 24, Anglican Church Hall, 2 – 3:15pm, Entry $5 - $10 (choose as you can afford), APRIL 19 is FREE.                                 

Tuesday Morning classes at Mana Retreat Centre 9:30*—11:30am
April 3, May 15, 22, 29

(*Please arrive a few minutes earlier to settle in. Come up to 15mins early to enjoy a longer warm-up, If you are new we invite you to arrive 10-15min early so we can welcome and orient you.)


A Milestone for Open Floor

By Lisa Corston and Jacqui Chan

We did it! Jacqui and I completed our final module of training in Feburary and are now fully fledged(fully certified) Open Floor Teachers.

And oh my! This training is certainly not for the feint hearted! We have been prodded and
encouraged to fully show up, stand up, and speak up!... and in doing so further honed our own individual voices, and our own unique flavour of teaching. We are brimming with inspiration and enthusiasm to start our WEEKLY CLASSES — BEGINNING IN MARCH!!!
People came from Italy, Uk, America, Japan, Australia and NZ to complete their study of this deep,life-resourcing dance practice. As they return to their home countries they will be taking thispowerful movement practice to diverse interest groups: youth and adolescents, mothers andchildren, seniors, the mental health sector, men's groups, women's groups, groups exploring gender diversity, hospice, corporate organisations, schools, refugees, prisions — as well as the generalpublic. The group also included therapists who have done specialised training to incorporate the Open Floor work into their therapy practice.
As we mark this milestone I (Jacqui) realise the way I define Open Floor has evolved. What I valuemost about Open Floor is the way it helps us tap into the wisdom of our moving bodies and ownunique dance so that we can develop inner resources to support us through the multitude wonders and challenges life brings us. A Open Floor mantra is "move and include", meaning we bring our whole selves to the dance floor — not only our physical bodies, but also our day-to- day emotions,the workings of our clever creative minds, and those deeper levels that some call soul or spirit. The dance floor is a juicy space where we encounter ourselves and others, and attend to ever-changingrelational needs. We learn to honour when we have a need for solitude, a desire to connect, a longing to belong to a group or community, or a yearning to contact something much larger than our little selves (be that nature or a bigger mystery). Throughout this fun and sweaty practice, music is a
vital ingredient that supports and enlivens our experience. As teachers we treat music as medicine, selecting compelling and diverse music to soothe, stir, envigorate, challenge and move us.

One of my (Lisa) roles through the three training modules was to create enlivened installations. These installations changed and grew in response to the curriculum content, as well as the mood, ideas and creativity of the group. This offered my love of art-making a new challenge. At one point (well it took a whole winter of making to get to this one point) I built a human sized dragon, with articulating joints made of pipe, hinges bolts and washes, elastic for tendons and ligaments, a spine that could undulate, ribs, frost cloth as a kind of fascia, cushion padding for muscles, and with skin made from a rich dark brown bejewelled fabric from our local bizarre. Thus Open Floor practice has also extended my art practice into areas I would never imagine!! In this way Open Floor as the potential to incorporate visual arts alongside dance as a means of expression.

As always you are extended a warm and open invitation to come join us, just as you are. Every body welcome — all ages (18+), genders, differing physical abilities. No experience is necessary, newcomers and visitors welcome.


Two years of Open Floor training almost done!!!

By Lisa Corston (and Jacqui Chan).

Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, January 2018 issue.

THANK YOU!!!! To every single person who has joined Jacqui and I on the Open Floor in Coromandel, both at our cosy community Anglican Chrurch Hall in Coro Town and up at the beautiful Mana Retreat Centre.  This February Jacqui and I complete our 2 years of Open Floor teacher training and we feel immense gratitude for the willingness, support and trust shown by each and every-body that chose to come play, explore and dance.  It is a privilege to be able to share our love of dancing and conscious movement, exploring the inquiry of what it means to feel fully alive and at home our bodies.  To take something that one loves, and lives, learning in turn how to articulate and share that love with others has been, and will always continue to be, a huge learning curve that deepens the strength of our own practice along the way.

Due to the final training module occurring in February we decided to take a small break from the fortnightly Thursday classes (during February only) and come back fresh and fully charged to begin offering classes again from March onwards!!!

As always you are extended a warm and open invitation to come join us, just as you are. Every body welcome. No experience necessary, newcomers and visitors welcome.


DANCE YOURSELF SANE IN THE SILLY SEASON

By Jacqui Chan.
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, December 2017 issue.

As the silly season draws near life is picking up the pace. And as the days get longer and fuller it's a time to really lean into our practice.

How can I stay grounded amidst all the busyness?                                                                        How can I stay centered in myself in social or family situations?                                           How do I pause to take time for myself?

 These are the very questions we ask in Open Floor Movement Practice. And it is our dance that yields the answers. For the body has an innate intelligence: knowing how to ground itself, knowing how to find centre, and knowing how to pause and restore. The dance floor is a place where we listen to the wisdom of the body. The dance floor is a place where we can practice skills (of grounding, centring, pausing etc.) so that they can support us in life off the dance floor.

NEW YEAR DANCES

To celebrate the New Year we will be offering two dance opportunities.

We will be leading a class in the morning at Mana Retreat Centre. The focus will be on the personal transition into the new year.

We will also offer a Community Dance in the evening in Coromandel Town (in the Anglican Church Hall).  This is an opportunity to come together and simply celebrate through dance.  The evening session is longer and includes time for sharing and social time at the end.  We will provide chai and homemade bliss balls.

Every-body is welcome to both sessions - bring your friends.                                  Newcomers and visitors welcome.                                                                                             No experience necessary. 


TAKING TIME OUT

By Lisa Corston.
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, November 2017 issue.

Each time I step on the open dance floor I am reminded how really good it feels to just move and be.  Allowing my busy mind to settle into the background, my body resting into the music as if curling back into a cosy, comfortable, perfectly cushioned armchair, and all with a deep audible sigh of relief.  Enjoying the simple pleasure of my curling wrist leading my dance, or the delicious stretching and unfolding of my shoulders, perhaps letting my feet play with the myriad of ways they can carry me through the room … and all without these movements needing to be a function towards being ‘on task doing something!’

Taking time out to pause and be in a way that feels good helps to bring a sense of simplicity back into my day.  And for me resting into the dance offers exactly that. Moving just however I feel, no concern for how it looks, because it’s the quality of how I feel as my body moves that matters the most, not how my dance is perceived from the outside.

It can truly be that simple!  Dancing has this wonderful habit of feeing really, really good!!


Dance just as you are

By Jacqui Chan & Lisa Corston.
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, September 2017 issue.

On the Open Floor we honour the importance of creating a safe space for people to turn up and take time to simply be, just as they are.  People gift themselves time to arrive home to their own bodies, and get an opportunity to discover their own unique way of moving and dancing.  Any movement exercise offered up by the teacher is designed as a doorway inwards, each person’s movement response will be different and just right.  

Lately we've had several people express that they are hesitant to dance right now because they are nursing injuries or their energy levels are lower at the moment...

We would like reiterate that this practice is about honouring your body and it's varying capacity to move from one day to the next.

If you have an injury, the question becomes: What kinds of movement are possible with this injury?.... the same is true for lower energy... (or for any physical / emotional / mental / spiritual challenges for that matter). In fact, nursing an injury can open up new possibilities of creative movement as we become more inventive with using other parts of our body or using supports (the chair or the floor). This becomes a more advanced approach to practice.  There is no rule that you need to turn up to a class in ‘full optimal health’ every single time … Open Floor is Life, however that is for you in any given moment.

If you have some kind of physical (or other) challenge right now and are wondering how we teachers can support you to continue dancing, please feel free to come along 15mins before class and we'd love to discuss ways of "moving and including" this in your dance. Or give us a call.


Moving Meditation and Music Medicine
on the Open Floor

by Jacqui Chan
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, August 2017 issue.

So what exactly is Open Floor?
This is a common question we (Jacqui and Lisa) get asked.
"Is it like ballroom dancing?" one dancer was asked by her friend.
Well the answer is no, and I hope to demystify what we do a little further…

For it can feel like a terrifying big step the first time you choose to come to a dance class…
"What should I expect?"
"What should I wear?"
"What if I can't catch onto the moves?"
"Will I make fool of myself?"
"What if I'm too unfit?"
"What if I'm too uncoordinated?"
These are all fairly common anxieties that run through the minds of brave souls as they muster courage for their first class.

I think the reason Open Floor can be difficult to explain is that — as the name suggests — it is quite 'open'. When we dance we're not learning set moves (that rules out the uncoordinated question — phew!). Instead we explore how our own body moves: how our body wants to move today, with whatever joys, sorrows, aches and pains today brings. For although we call Open Floor 'dance' because we move through space to music, it could equally be described as 'moving meditation'. It is a meditation in the sense that we bring our full attention to our experience of moving in the moment. And, as with other forms of meditation, we include all the contents of our experience — whether it's a sense of excitement to interact with others, a busy mind churning over the events of the day, or an emotion that’s stirring in the moment. We allow these things to bubble up through the dance and include them in our dance. And the magic is when we move our bodies our feelings and thoughts move too.

A vital part of the experience is the music, which supports and often inspires our movement. In Open Floor we use music is medicine. As teachers, we spend hours collecting and compiling beautiful, diverse, soul-moving music. This spans from quiet meditative music that supports stretching and attention to small movement, to music with strong beats and irresistible rhythms that carry our more energetic dances. Each class focuses on particular a body part or a particular movement skill and each demands specific music. For example: music with a strong clear beat to emphasize the feet and our connection with the ground; quirky upbeat jazz to explore the content of the mind; or music with strong crescendos and decrescendos to experiment with ways of expanding and contracting our bodies. Some music naturally draws us inwards into our inner worlds, some music sparks social interaction. This diverse music weaves together to create a soundscape to our dance journey.

And yet we are not slaves to the music — as dancers we honour our own needs and energy levels first. Sometimes when we're feeling lower in energy or nursing an injury we might move half the pace of the music (we also might move on the floor or a chair). At other times when we have excess energy to release, we might move twice the speed of the music. Sometimes one particular layer of a song might resonate with how we're feeling— perhaps the clear beat, or the soaring melody. Attending to our own needs and experiences from moment to moment fosters self-responsibility.

So although Open Floor maybe described as quite 'open' there are clear threads that we follow in our dance. These include the contents of our inner experience, our needs in the moment, the beautiful music as well as the specific inquiry guided by the teacher.


A FIRST STEP ONTO THE DANCEFLOOR...

By Lisa Corston.
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, July 2017 issue.

We can often feel vulnerable and exposed when we step onto a “Dance” floor for the first time.

17 years ago it was my (Lisa’s) turn. People around me had been talking about how good it felt to be going to these dance classes up at Mana where people were encouraged to dance their own dance, no prescription moves, no way to get it wrong. I saw on their faces the residue of pleasure from enjoying a morning of dancing just for themselves. And so I finally gathered my courage together and stepped onto that dance floor, with all my shyness, my fear of being seen. I smile now at the memories of that first class when I glued myself to a spot in the room - as far from the teachers table as possible - and somehow managed to enjoy a very close-in dance that was probably not very visible on the outside. There was something though that drew me back again and again through the following weeks and months. My shyness began to soften as I realised I was not being “watched”, that everyone else was enjoying their own dance, that the teacher was aware of all of us without singling any of us out. These classes became a safe place, a haven which I treasured with growing zeal, where I could put aside my roles and responsibilities and for two hours I could just be. Those first few tentative steps unfolded into a life-long practice of offering myself the enlivening gift of time just for me, to be just as I am.

On the Open Floor we honour the importance of creating a safe space for people to turn up and take time to simply be, just as they are. People gift themselves time to arrive home to their own bodies, and get an opportunity to discover their own unique way of moving and dancing. Any movement exercise offered up by the teacher is designed as a doorway inwards, each person’s movement response will be different and just right.

AND it just simply feels so good to dance! To feel the quickening of your pulse, enjoying the pleasure of being alive and waking up your body, such wonderful medicine for this wild ride of life.


Come Join us this winter

By Jacqui Chan.
Published in the Coromandel Chronicle, June 2017 issue.

Come and discover your hidden love of dancing this winter — warm your bones and get your circulation going on the Open Floor. Come just as you are! Every body welcome.
WINTER SPECIAL: Your first time is free in June or July.

Here is article for June's Coromandel Town Chronicle:

Open Floor is a fun and fulfilling dance practice. Because there are no set moves to learn, there’s a great feeling of freedom in discovering our bodies' own unique ways of moving. As one of the founders of Open Floor, Lori Saltzman puts it “We don’t come to learn to dance, we come to learn from our dance”. And what we learn is movement skills that expand our ability to move on the dance floor and through life. For example, we might explore the skill of centring ourselves. On the dance floor this might involve finding, feeling and moving from a centred place in our bodies. And this, in turn, helps us find our centre in the throws of daily life. We also practice “moving and including” whatever's arising in the moment (and in our lives). This means, be it emotions of excitement or sadness, our busy creative minds, or our soul longings, we welcome them all into our dance. The magic and medicine is that with movement these energies can shift and change.

So going to an Open Floor session is nothing like Ballet, Rock n Roll or Tango class. You can’t get it wrong — so you won’t end up embarrassed about being uncoordinated. You’re free to move in whatever way fits the moment — walking, rolling, stretching, gliding, skipping... As teachers we play a diverse and beautiful music to inspire creativity and fun. And rest assured we give plenty of guidance along the way. Classes begin with a gentle warm-up to arrive in our bodies and prepare for movement. The music usually gathers energy to help us let go deeper into our dance. Then we introduce a specific theme or inquiry to explore, followed by time to do your own dance. 

Sadly the label “dancing” has connotations of performance and what looks like "dance". So we suggest newcomers instead focus on the internal feeling of moving. Hence people often describe Open Floor as a type of movement meditation. Of course it's natural to be self-conscious the first time — since we don’t usually move this way in ’normal’ life — but soon you'll feel the joy of coming home to your body, amidst a friendly group. 

Dancing on the Open Floor builds a beautiful sense of community. There's something powerful about gathering with others and giving full expression to ourselves without words. It's a caring space of inclusivity, without judgement. We sometimes dance alone, we sometimes dance with others. And through this we learn about our changing needs for connection in our lives.

People join us who range from twenty to eighty. It is said, if you have a body and you’re still breathing, you can dance. You don’t need to be fit, you don’t need to be energetic, you don’t even need two legs… We invite you to come along and connect with your body and whatever way it likes to move.