“The meaning of the lotus hand gesture is that we touch the dark, murky, scary places, but we always bloom into the brilliant day. In other words, don’t worry if you make mistakes because it’s all part of the process of learning to dance.” (Nericcio-Bohlman and Adams, 2014)
American Tribal Style (Nericcio-Bohlman and Adams 2014) has its roots in Spanish, North African to Egyptian, Turkish, the Middle Eastern and onto Indian culture. It's a thread that sews them together. Think of that thread, linking all of those cultures who have been trading, sharing, goods, ideas, music, dance and stories, from all across the world, for centuries.
This dance is about the group, the community. It is a dance of inclusion and shared joy. It is about women dancing with each other and for each other. It works on the principle of a flock of birds. The leader is self appointing, taking her place when the time is right, when she knows she can lead the others.
The dance focusses on eye contact, each dancer checking in with each other, to see where they are, are they connected, are they nervous, are they ready to lead. Leadership is decided by the breaking of this eye contact, when this happens the others know, because they are watching and aware. They fall in, forming behind the new leader and they are ready, watching for signs and signals of what will happen next, how will she interpret the music?
This system has a vocabulary of specific steps and formations, dance moves in two beats, four beats, eight beats, sixteen and thirty-two. A language in movement.
A sequence is initiated either by the placement and twist of a hand, a glance over a shoulder that will let you know what the next move, position or flourish. The leader's job is to know who her followers are, what they know, to be aware and understand what their ability is, what they are confident at. The leader needs to be able to be clear and precise in their instruction and to make everybody perform the best that they can, the success of the group is the success of everyone within it. All of this is done without seeing them. Knowing that they're there. Leading from the front, but understanding who you've got with you and that you want to make them look the best. I really love that principle of the dance. If your ego gets the better of you, and perhaps you want to show off what you can do, without regard of the others - the dance will fail, it will look uncoordinated, a jumble.
This form of improvised dance was inspired from North African dances. When you travel in Morocco, you'll see different types of dance. But the ones that I really like are the Berber, Amazigh dances.
You will see a line of dancers, men or women, or sometimes two lines of facing each other. Their shoulders will be touching. What's happening is the same principle as our improvised dance. Theirs is an improvised dance. Theirs is a vocabulary in dance. The moves reflect daily life, domestic life, celebrations.
There will be a leader in that lineup, but you don't know who they are, or where they are and the leader will change. They communicate through the touch of their shoulders, what and when the next move is going to be. You see the communication rippling up and down the line. For me, both of these formats are fantastic examples of communication through artistic movement practice. I think it's powerful stuff. It means so much to me.
Dance is a way to embody leadership, how you communicate, the purpose of leadership. It is in your body, your posture, your movement, your presence. It allows you to play with who you are in the moment, the leader, people see you differently and react to you differently. Play with it.
“be upright, balanced, open, grounded and relaxed - physically in the face of difficulty and uncertainty - physical embodiment of the practice of seeing everything as an offer, is in itself very empowering. You can start with your body. Adopt this physical attitude and you become more likely to be able to deal with the difficulty.”