Soul therapy

I don’t cry. I know. That makes me a freak of a woman. Actually, that’s not quite true. I cried once last year. On a Sunday morning in July. So maybe once or twice a year. Notable occasions when some sudden hurt shocked me into an involuntary response.

It’s not that I deliberately hold the tears in. I have no problem with crying. I have friends who cry. A lot. It doesn’t bother me. In fact, what bothers me more is when they apologise for crying. Can’t they see how envious I am, how I would love to let the tears flow freely?

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the inability to cry makes me unfeeling or hard-hearted. I’m not. I feel a lot. My heart aches inside my chest. My emotions are intense. Just trapped on the inside.

I blame my upbringing. No, blame is too strong a word. I put it down to my upbringing. An environment in which tears were a sign of weakness. Any emotion was a sign of weakness. My natural affection was frowned upon. I was criticised for wearing my heart on my sleeve. Life was all about mind over matter. Feelings were not to be trusted. Best ignored. Can you see now why I’m the way I am?

I learnt to not listen to the call of my soul. I suppressed all my natural desires and yearnings. I conformed. I led a normal life. On the outside.

Until I couldn’t any more. I sank into depression. I withdrew. I couldn’t reconcile the outside with what I felt on the inside. My soul rebelled.

Enough! I can’t do this any more! This isn’t life!

It wasn’t pretty. Finding myself – the actual me – was confusing and frustrating and very, very scary. Oh, and just to be clear, I haven’t arrived. I’m not sorted. I’m still a huge tangle of emotions and desires and yearnings. A work in progress.

But I do believe in soul. The essence of me. I don’t know what it is or where it is or why it is. But I know it’s there. It’s the part of me that when I’m alone, cries out to cry out. The part that craves connection and understanding. The part that sometimes feels desperately sad for no apparent reason. The part that is young, really young sometimes. That needs nurturing and cradling. And yet it’s also the part that reaches out to the divine and when it finds connection, soars like an eagle. It’s the part that responds to a glorious sunrise or a pounding rhythm or pale pink blossom.

And so I’ve been working on integrating the inside and the outside. Expressing outwardly what’s on the inside. I write. I sing. I play the violin. I run. None of that is quite enough. That’s what drew me to dance, I think. That’s what prompted me to last year makes a New Year’s Resolution to learn to dance. And to stick to it.

I tried Ceroc but that wasn’t right for me. I gave it ten sessions before admitting that. And then I stumbled across the Martha Graham technique. And immediately knew this was what was going to help me. This was going to be my soul therapy. If I was going to ever cry, this studio was going to be the place.

spaceInterestingly, Martha Graham herself was all about soul –

Dance is the hidden language of the soul

She understood that to link movement to the expression of the soul was going to create truly moving, authentic dance. Not necessarily pretty. Not necessarily technically perfect. But real.

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.

And so my dance class on a Tuesday night has become the highlight of my week. I’m not a good dancer. Never will be. But that doesn’t matter. I am connecting with my soul and allowing it to be expressed outwardly through my movement and I never dreamt that I would find a way to do that. This is precious. So you may think £7 a week is a lot, but it’s cheaper than therapy! And there’s a good physical workout thrown in at the same time!

In that hour, I am fully present. Nothing else matters. I bring all that I am. I work hard. It’s challenging and uncomfortable and frustrating at times. But so gloriously life-giving!

All that is important is this one moment in movement. Make the moment important, vital, and worth living. Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.

It helps that I have such an amazing teacher in Eliot Smith. One of the few genuine exponents of the Martha Graham Technique currently in the UK. And he’s here, teaching classes to people like me on the Newcastle Quayside! He allows you to bring yourself – encourages it even. He doesn’t want you to leave your baggage at the door.

Bring your baggage to class! Use it. Express it. Let your baggage fuel your movement.

And so last night, I did. I had a fire in my belly – a swirling mass of purples and oranges and reds that contracted in to a tight ball and then opened out, this raw energy flowing out through every pathway in my body to the ends of my fingers and the tips of my toes. I’ve no idea what that looked like on the outside. On the inside, it felt amazing, a true release. Exactly what my soul needed.

Eliot demands this kind of raw authenticity. From everyone. From himself and his students and the dancers in his company. That’s what makes his work so special. And the contribution that he is making to helping people understand the depth and intensity of the Martha Graham Technique in the UK has not gone unnoticed. Lorenzo Pagano, one of the dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company, wants to come over and choreograph a brand new solo work especially for Eliot Smith. This is big! MASSIVE! An incredible opportunity to spread the word about the Martha Graham Technique in the North East and to see the world premiere of this unique piece. Of course, the Company needs to raise money to fund this, so they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £1500 in one month. Have a look at the video to see what I have been talking about in action. And even better, give a little to support this project.

This is my soul therapy. I’m so grateful that I discovered it. And I’ll let you know when the tears start to flow…

Photo credit: Jason Holcombe Copyright Eliot Smith Company

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1 Comment

  1. Alison April 12, 2016 / 12:24 pm

    This is really great, Helen. Lots of echoes for me. Thank you!

    (This is Alison from Eliot’s class – see you tonight!)

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