I was very happy recently, to be invited to speak at the Ready to Move? Symposium in Nijmegen, Holland, as part of the launch of the new National Center Performing Arts (NCPA) initiative.  The NCPA is spearheading an exciting partnership to bridge the arts, sciences and medicine in the spirit of knowledge development and dissemination of best practice and research.  This inaugural event, Ready to Move?, was held at the University of Applied Sciences HAN campus in Nijmegen on 17 February 2014.  A range of professionals, students, practitioners, teachers and researchers gathered to hear three presentations by Matt Wyon, Jurjen Bosga and myself – all intended to capture the spirit of what it is to be ready to move, not only the actuality of the moving body, but also figuratively representing the launch of the National Center Performing Arts itself.  The presentations spanned the breadth of physiological preparation in enabling student dancers to be ready to move from a periodization perspective; the preparation and utilization of the motor learning and control systems in readying the self to move; and the application of a positive psychological framework in optimizing learning, teaching and performance.  The evening itself was informative, with lots of new and applied information being proposed and discussed amongst colleagues from all disciplines.  The spirit of exchange and sharing pervaded the event, and lively discourse after the presentations I hope seems to have sparked a hunger for more of these events, to build and sustain connections and having found ourselves ready to move, to now move forward with renewed vigour.

A week later, and I find myself now reflecting on the trip to Holland, its meaning in terms of my own professional development but also its significance in acknowledging the many ways in which we can be ready to move, initiate and bring about change.  It is easy to remain in the safe-house of what we know, we have trained long in our respective disciplines and in many cases bring with us a long tradition of practice.  Yet to stick one’s head out above the parapet, so to speak, is bold, even bolder to take a step into new directions, which are foregrounded by research but perhaps not the long traditions with which we ourselves have been trained.  My own interest in positive psychology has helped me to take a bold step over the last few years and to privilege the spirit of enjoyment and pleasure we get from our involvement in what we do, be that dancing, playing an instrument, undertaking sport and so on.  I argue that our original desire to do what we now do, was originally fuelled by enjoyment and pleasure – we like what we do, and for people to be ready to move, initiate and change, they also need to like what they do.  As a dance educator, I find myself questioning whether I provide opportunities for exchange, pleasure, happiness and satisfaction to evolve and seek ways to foster that amongst the people with whom I work.  Sometimes it’s a disaster!  But this week my question to students I have encountered both in secondary school and Higher Education back in the UK, has been to enquire what meaning they create from their learning and involvement in dance.  And by realising this meaning that they create, how does this contribute to their being ready – to move, to tackle a new assignment, to enter into discourse and ultimately to move out of their comfort zone?  A young girl at school today said:

“wow, that was good, I had fun, it was hard though, way harder than I had thought it would be when we started.  It’s made me realize I am made of stern stuff, I can do things, when I put my mind to it, and that doesn’t have to be a painful process actually… it can be quite a special process, of enjoying the process of working it out as well as the process of performing, of taking a risk and stepping into unchartered territory.  And I feel really good about myself, I know I can do it, you don’t need to tell me that Miss, I know I can do it.  I can’t wait to do more of that again.”

So, perhaps from small changes and shifts in our practice, new ideas and praxis can emerge – the NCPA will act as a catalyst for this by providing the platforms for discussion to take place and change to instigated – exciting times in Holland, I look forward to the next chapter.

Elsa Urmston
March 2014
Written as a relfection on NCPA’s inaugural symposium “Ready to Move?”
Photo by Marleen Kuipers / Visual Minutes

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