The last two Wednesdays of October, Claire Melbourne, a fellow 1st year MFA student, and I held creative movement workshops for oncology nurses at the James Cancer Hospital. The project was initiated by Lisa Blackburn, a clinical nurse specialist in pain management, who was interested in bringing dance into their programs for nurses to help them deal with the stressors of life as a nurse, one of which is compassion fatigue.
Claire and I both come from backgrounds of teaching creative movement practice in nontraditional settings. Claire brings years of experience teaching children and adults, and I offer my experience working with older populations and teaching yoga. With an attention to mindfulness, we built a class plan centered around introductory ideas to creative movement, such as shapes, levels, and body parts.
With any new experience, I am always curious to find out how others will react, and also how I will react in the moment. There are always people who are natural risk-takers, and there are also usually a few who are shy or feel uncomfortable. Finding a balance between the two is key. My interest in teaching creative movement practice lies in helping people three ways: 1. help them enjoy and pay attention to moving their bodies, 2. offer them skills for relationship building, and 3. help develop their ability to deal with the unknown in healthy, mindful ways. The goal is not to always do crazy moves that everyone is going to love; the goal is to connect to self and others through movement expression and choice. Along the way we encounter the unknown, make choices around it, and move on to the next challenge, much as we do in life. The creative movement practice becomes a training ground for the how we live in the world.
In our class plan, Claire and I planned several activities for working in partners. It wasn’t until the middle of our first class that I realized how appropriate it was for nurses to be working in duets. One might argue that the nurse/patient relationship is actually a duet, a dance of bodies, gesture, and energy revolving around the care of the patient.
This second class fell on the Wednesday after the Presidential Election 2016. Needless to say, Claire and I both felt a little ungrounded. Regardless of anyone’s political beliefs or choices in that election, the tension in the air was palpable. The world felt a little unstable. Starting class slowly, calmly, and with an attention to breath felt important.
In the end, this class went along as most classes do. We warmed up, we moved, we explored, we learned, and hopefully, we came away with something we didn’t have before. That’s the beauty of the class experience: its very nature and structure allows for transformation. Of course, not everyone loved their experience, but many did. In the end it’s not about convincing people that what I love about dance is going to change their lives, but about offering something that I know to the world, and allowing the subtle power of movement to do its work. If we use our bodies to listen, to be kind to ourselves and others, and maybe even to play a little, we can’t possibly come away the same as when we started.
Claire and I hope to continue working with nurses at the James this winter in an eight week workshop.