Friends General Conference

Nurturing faith and Quaker practice

CANCELLED Dance it Out, Dance it In - for Caregivers

Workshop Number: 
Jaya Karsemeyer Bone, Rachel McQuail
Who may register?: 
Open to all adults and high school
Experiential Activities: 
only full time attenders (participants should attend all week)

Caring for others asks a lot of those engaged in this service - mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This workshop for parents and caregivers will invite us to connect with and listen to ourselves, each other, and Spirit, as we explore these dimensions and their inter-connectedness through movement and dance.

Workshop Description

There will be a mix of suggested-movement (following a short sequence or exploring a specific exercise), and open-ended movement opportunities which will range from the provocative to the playful. We will use movement wherever possible to explore ideas, and use gentle queries related to the caregiving experience to guide some of our movement explorations. Containers for this exploration may include personal explorations in the manner of Authentic Movement (movement guided from within); witness - which invites Friends to hold the space for a dancer to be present in their bodies; Contact Improvisation (if the group is amenable), where conversations of movement flow between the bodies of dancers; word-cues for guided movement; and more structured games and exercises. Worship sharing around our experience of physical responses may create space to be more open to generating new responses through being mindful of our physical experience. 

We are both coming from a place of being immersed in the day-to-day of caring for our young families. As such we are intimately familiar with many of the challenges and joys inherent in the service of caring for others. Often, in this service we are required to put ourselves aside in order to address the needs of those in our care, and as such it has been our experience that it's helpful to create time and space to both connect with ourselves, and to connect with others who are sharing in this experience of caregiving. Our hope is to create a community where parents and caregivers can connect to explore the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of this work through movement and dance. No previous dance experience is required, just an openness to exploration through movement, whatever your ableness. 

We will ensure that the space is safe by having clear check-ins and making it easy for Friends to step out if they are emotionally overwhelmed or in need of solo care. We will ensure language and expectations around this are clear from the beginning. We recognize that it can be intense and triggering to engage in explorations with our physical bodies and so want to note that neither of us are therapists, and will do our best to provide a safe container for all to participate. 

An overview of how we anticipate the sessions being structured:

9-9:20 - Welcome & warm-up of our bodies with grounding and limbering exercises

9:20-10 - Individual personal explorations guided from within, and by some gentle queries/word provocations relating to the caregiving experience. (These explorations will primarily focus on the "Dance it Out" themes below) 

10-10:15 - Drink & bathroom break

10:15-11 - Specific movement exercises & explorations (Primarily focusing on the "Dance it In" themes below and using a variety of exercises, some of which are briefly outlined below)

11-11:45 - Worship sharing around what people are experiencing and feeling in their bodies

Our initial session will centre around "Introducing movement as a form of worship", through the invitation to listen to ourselves, Spirit, and each other.

Themes we may want to explore in our "Dance it Out" explorations - feelings of: 

  • Sadness, sorrow, regret, disappointment
  • Anger, irritation, frustration, resentment
  • Fear, anxiety, worry
  • Overwhelmed, defeated, weary

Themes we may want to explore in our "Dance it In" explorations - feelings of: 

  • Forgiveness, acceptance, faith, trust
  • Joy, delight, playfulness, silliness
  • Connection, support, community
  • Groundedness, being in the flow, expansiveness

Movement Exercises that we may use, particularly in the "Dance it In" explorations:

  • Invitation to movement (invite your next-to person)
  • Movement phrases and word phrases (“Dance it out—dance it in”)
  • Adding a sound (big noises, big moves)
  • Letting it be what it is (don’t shrink from your body)
  • Listening and responding to another’s movement (mirroring game, extended version)
  • Hearing/waiting/stillness (taking a beat)
  • Laughter as a movement (the belly game)
  • Expand a movement (zip zap zop with inflation)
  • Observation and Witness (stepping into the centre)
  • The conversation of witness - When you are being seen lovingly, what is possible

Please Bring: Comfortable clothing to move in, and a water bottle.

Leader Experience

Jaya Karsemeyer Bone - One of my favourite workshop leading experiences is with the Quaker Quest Traveling Team (QQTT). Although Quaker Quest is quite structured, it's an incredible container for connecting, honouring participants' voices (and particularly their experiences of Spirit) and creating an exciting shared vision for the Religious Society of Friends. It is what I have endeavoured to emulate in my classroom (I am a public school teacher when I am not a stay-at-home mom), in my other workshop facilitation, and in any group where I have a leadership role. When facilitating Quaker Quest I always included my own movement exercises, which are not just "body breaks" but integrate the material of the workshop in an embodied way, usually using a few cue words to bring attention to a specific body part or movement, and connecting that to an intention. For example, "Let your breath open your lungs, feel the rise of your chest, and notice the stretch of skin from that expansion. On the next breath, let that expansion be one of air, and heart. Feel your heart widening beyond your body, beyond this room. [wait] On this breath, break the room open with your heart, and stretch your arms up, feeling the stretch from the soles of your feet to beyond your fingertips." Do it! It's so joyful!

My background in dance is both training in modern dance (a performance company for four years in my teens), and as the daughter of a dance therapist. This means I was exposed at an early age to dance as a means of dealing with conflict and emotional situations, not to mention my mother's intuitive and rich way of using movement. More recently I have trained as a Nia instructor; Nia is a form of dance fitness appropriate for those with no dance background whatsoever. I am always amazed at the creative movement that even those with no dance background are able to engage in their first class. Many participants are between the ages of 50 and 70. The range of movement, the movement vocabulary, and the playfulness exhibited by all participants is truly incredible. Nia has definitely deepened my belief that dance is for all.

Rachel McQuail- Offering this workshop speaks to my current condition as a parent of young children (4 & 6) and the day-to-day realities of this service, and to my experience of movement and dance as a source of grounding and connection to self and Spirit throughout my life. I have always sought out dance classes, and have studied Martha Graham based modern dance technique for over 10 years now. This is a dance form that invites us to fully connect - mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually in our movement and dance. This approach to movement then formed the foundation for my explorations over the past 3 years in our improvisation and composition class. This class has opened me up to an even deeper listening within, for guidance and inspiration in both personal and group explorations. This was initially outside of my comfort zone, but through the invitations and explorations offered I have found myself re-connecting with the voice within and a sense of self that I had lost in the initial demanding years as a parent. It is this that I hope we can offer parents and caregivers through this workshop - the invitation to explore and connect to ourselves and each other through the use of movement.

As this is my first time leading a workshop of this nature I am grateful to be collaborating with Jaya, with her dance background, leadership training, and previous experiences leading movement opportunities for Quakers. I look forward to creating community and exploring the possibilities movement opens up during our week together at FGC.