A Weekend of Dance with Touchdown Company.

Tanvir Naomi Bush Disability, photography, Visual Impairment, Writing 0 Comments

Into the dance studio we go!

A sunny dance studio space. To the foreground a dancer in an orange t-shirt is on all fours whilst another dancer slies over their back. behind them another couple are doing the same exercise.

Excellent way to make friends! Photo T.Bush (c) 2017

My eyes are finding it hard to adjust to the dark shadows of the wide dance studio space interspersed with occasional dazzling pools of sunlight. I am, however, prepped and perky and I am wearing ‘gear’ for the unknown, i.e. doubled sports bra/ tank top combo (experience has shown it to be almost as effective and certainly less painful to remove than duct-tape), track suit bottoms and huge cotton knickers. (All ladeez understand why we don’t do anything thong or nylon when unsure about potential sweat levels.)

I am already nervous-sweaty. I can feel my underarms slickening. Please don’t make that farting noise when we do pirouettes, I beg them. This is my first dance workshop since those  Jesus Christ Superstar try outs in Zambia over  20 years ago. My armpits were younger then…

We (my visually impaired colleague Sarah and I),  are met by Katy Dymoke, the work shop leader and Holly Thomas, one of the VI dancers. They look disarmingly ‘dancerly’,  normal, scarily lithe and very kind BUT my spider senses are telling me that, sprawling across the wooden dance floor and just inches from our feet, are several bodies, flat-out, cheek to floorboard, arms outstretched. Some of them are letting out occasional low groans, although whether in ecstasy or pain it’s rather hard to tell.  It is slightly disconcerting. Sarah, I notice, is trying to make enough eye contact to ask me if we are at the right workshop?  I nod reassuringly just as one of the floor people flops heavily over with a slightly too orgiastic breath release for this time on a Saturday morning. No one else seems to bat an eyelid.

The weekend is wonderful although…

Silhouetted against the light, a man is on all fours with dance partner balancing on his back, arms up over her head and knees raised.

Holly Thomas and Robert Anderson demonstrating a sequence. Photo T.Bush (c) 2017

Interestingly, no one ever thinks to explain to us why the other dancers use the hefty groaning, sighing thing. All day, as we learn to move differently, intuitively, instinctively – and for me with the joy of being able to shut my poor eyes completely and allow my own body to make and keep contact, trusting the other bodies and just move, – no one thinks to explain the haarrrammmpppphhhss and ooohhhhhhsssssss.  After a while I just join in.  It feels as if my body rather expects it. (Not you, I remind my armpits…)

The current company includes six dancers with training in dance, theatre. somatic practice and martial arts… There is a strong somatic (relating to the body as distinct from the mind), movement aspect to the work which enables an experiential, person centred and accessible methodology.  The four key approaches that are integrated into the methods are  Yoga, Akido, gymnastics and Dance.
Touchdown Education Pack 2015

 

A slim woman in a long grey sleeved top and black legglings is on all fours in teh middle of a dance studio. A tall young man in orange T-shirt and jogging pants lies balanced on her back, facing the ceiling. His arms are raised and he is raising his legs.

Trust, strenght and balance! Katy Dymoke and Robert Anderson mid demonstration. Photo T.Bush (c) 2017

I loved the workshop weekend. I loved not only working with professional visually impaired dancers, but the sheer physicality of the days, allowing my body to roll and bend and slide and glide and play, almost like a child but with rather more clunking. And most importantly, I spent much of the time with my eyes shut, trusting myself, my body and whoever was working around and with me.  These days, when my limited sight means I am grappling to see every moment and focussed all the time it is wonderful to have some real space to move ‘blind’ but without fear or judgement or anxiety (armpits allowing), was incredibly refreshing and very, literally, moving. It hurt later but damn it was worth it!

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