School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: May Newsletter
Interview with Rosie Perks

This is the second of a series of interviews with the faculty teachers of the School of Movement Medicine, who play an important part in the School through their teaching and coaching and their support. Enjoy, as you are finding out just a little more about them and their relationship to dance, embodiment and Movement Medicine. Questions by Hanna and Patricia.

What has been your personal path in relation to embodiment, dance and movement; and how did Movement Medicine come into your life?

For me I have always loved to dance so it has always been an important part of my life – one of my earliest memories is of seeing ‘Pans People’ on Top of the Pops (a late 1960s early 1970s dance group that would dance to Pop songs on this music show – not at all PC!). I was utterly inspired by them and would dance in front of the television with them.

MM came into my life through working and living alongside and dancing with Susannah and Ya’Acov. I was their designer and had danced 5 Rhythms with them for many years before they set up the School, so I was alongside them as they developed MM – I remember the call at 5am launching the website when the School was born! I first danced 5 Rhythms with them in 1990, I was 22 and my Mum took me to a weekend for women with Susannah in Dartington – funny that is where my local teaching is now based. Mum was their friend, close ally and main organiser until she had a massive stroke in 1994. My journey with MM is intricately linked with my Mum, I often feel like the dream I am living is intergenerational, hers, mine, possibly my daughter’s too as she develops into an amazing young contemporary dancer and talks about it like a complete hippie! I started to write about my journey with MM and my Mum a while ago, one day I will finish that story and publish it here.

What would you say, is the unique and personal flavour that you bring into your offerings of MM, from/ of your own passion and your journey?
And, vice versa, which flavours of that MM have most strongly started weaving into your own work, living and being?

I’m not sure I can answer these questions separately, my experience is that of a constant feedback loop, I learn from MM and discover more of who I am, as I bring more of who I am I feel more strongly the flavours of MM in my life and work. So what I could identify as unique to me I also find reflected in the flavours of MM that weave into my life and work. I guess this reflects the nature of the mesa that S&Y talk about, it supports us as we support it – like breathing in and out.

I walk a path in my life and in my teaching between the innately every day and the gossamer threads of the unknown. The more I accept the ‘medicine’ element of who I am and the more I bring that to MM, as a teacher and dancer, the more I understand the mesa and its teachings. For me stepping into that medicine woman place has been hard to do, I’ve had such a strong fear of and resistance to it, maybe it’s the history and risk we feel as women stepping forward into these places of earth medicine, maybe its the general desecration throughout history of more shamanic ways experienced by both men and women, maybe it’s that I grew up in an environment with rather liberal hippy parents and spent a lot of my childhood desperately trying to look and feel ‘normal’! Probably all of these and more.

On our apprenticeship many people were getting drums, although drums have always reached right to the core of my bones and I feel the breath of my heart in the beat of a drum, I didn't feel to get one – to be honest I was pretty resistant and judgemental – not for the first, and probably not for the last time! However, towards the end of our apprenticeship I found myself on Dartmoor by the river with my beloved dog feeling the need for a drum, it was such a strong pull. So I secretly got a drum and began to play it, mostly out in nature, it felt so deeply personal and it took a while before I tentatively brought my drumming self out into the MM world. Gradually I have come to understand this part of me more and value it as a vital part of what I bring as a teacher, through this I have also discovered my voice – using drum and voice and inviting others into their voice too is something I use more and more in my teaching and it nearly always brings something so vital and unexpected into the room. I spent many years living in the story I had somehow swallowed that I couldn't sing and was not musical. It is only very recently that I have remembered that I spent my days as a young child walking around making up songs endlessly singing away to myself – how did I so easily forget that part of me?

When I teach and am on track I feel like I am ‘plugged in’, reaching out into the realms of spirit and down into the depths of the earth, remembering the beat of the heart of who I am. I have a visceral experience of the interconnection of life and feel the threads between dancers in the room. I feel immense gratitude for nearly 20 years of dancing the 5 Rhythms, the heartbeat journeys, the endless up and down the room through flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and into stillness where I learnt the extensive language of my body, where I inhaled the incredible skill of Susannah and Ya’Acov in teaching people to inhabit their bodies and move their hearts. I sense the support of this in my teaching now and the amazing resource of understanding how to get the body moving and the myriad possibilities of movement there are. For me working with the heart in movement feels like home and I am so glad to be using the heart maps more – I am happy to be offering more and more my workshop on dancing with grief, Out of Ashes that embraces the wisdom of the moving heart and my desire to help it breathe.

What is your own personal 'definition' of Movement Medicine? How would you describe this practice to a complete outsider?

Ah, now that varies from day to day and who I am speaking to! But it goes something like this: MM is an opportunity to dance, receive yourself as you are and be awake to your own evolution. Always with awareness that your evolution is innately linked with that of your fellow beings and all of life on earth.

On the MM dance floor you will be encouraged to listen to, trust and follow the impulses of your body in movement, connecting the landscape inside you to the space around you and between you and others. MM practice brings alignment to body, heart and mind. We dance with the elements, fire, earth, air and water as a vital resource for life, and recognise the interconnectedness of life, spirit and the great unknown that we all feel but (thankfully) can't quite pin down.

What role would you say Movement Medicine may play in our global community, and in the whole bigger picture of today's world and shifts?

Ah this is a question I often ask myself – how is this of use on a world scale? The world looks like it could do with a bit of help right now, or at least the human race does! Sometimes this feels a little overwhelming and working with groups of mainly middle class white people I can judge as rather self indulgent. Yet, what I see is people understanding and accepting themselves more, stretching their edges, including and seeing each other more and I think that does have an effect. It means when we go out into the world we see and treat others better, we are better resourced to offer support where it might be needed – or at least that has been my experience. One of the things I think MM gives us that is really helpful in the world right now is an embodied experience of interconnection so it lands in our cells and therefore is no longer just a concept but a lived experience. Once we have that experience it is harder to dismiss the issues of the world as something separate from us.

Is there any current project you are busy with, and would you like to share about it?

Yes! The current project that I am passionate about is creating spaces for dancing with grief. I wrote in a newsletter some time ago about part of my long journey with grief and the massive challenge of this and the vast riches also in it. Now I am teaching from my digested experience of this, maybe not totally and utterly digested, I think there are some things we spend our whole lives digesting and learning from.

I feel the value of my experience not just for myself but also as a tool for supporting others to navigate and grow in this rich landscape. I have complete trust in this place and feel no fear of it, I know and have lived with many of its faces and I know that behind them lies deep deep love that is a vital resource for life. The more I work with this medicine the more respect I have for it and the purity of its offer to us. I believe that in our culture we have chosen to largely cut off from our grief and I feel horrified when I hear the pressure people feel under to keep their grief hidden, even from themselves.

Someone was talking recently about the wars we went through last century in Europe (and beyond) and the massive extent of the horror, they said that they felt this hugely impounded our cutting off from our grief and the rituals we had for it – it was just too much – now we still live in the cut off. This made sense to me. Just before the first Out of Ashes workshop I taught something happened with my Dad that meant I was really with the impact from the loss of my Grandfather in the Second World War (my Dad grew up without a father, or any strong male figure in his life) so the resonance with the impact of the wars we have been through and this workshop speaks to me.

I am being invited to teach Out of Ashes in more and more places throughout Europe and for this reason I am so glad for that. I know more and more people are working with grief these days and I am glad to be a part of that movement. Connected to this I am about to do the last module of my Processwork Facilitation for Leaders year programme in facilitating relationship, community and conflict resolution, part of their Worldwork programme. This training has been amazing and I have learnt so much about relationship, conflict and the world. With this I am even more aware of the relationship between conflict and grief, Ben Yeger and I are doing some work together with this and I am interested to explore and deepen this work.

What is the most precious gift you discovered through MM?

I have received numerous precious gifts – not all of them were recognisable as gifts to me when I first received them! I am deeply grateful for them all.

Next Out of Ashes workshop with Rosie Perks:

May 19–21: Out of Ashes. Cork, Ireland.
How much we love becomes visible when we grieve what we have lost. This link between the grief of loss and the power of love are part of this safe exploration of Movement Medicine, where participants are invited to journey with their very personal relationship to loss and grief and the love it emerges from.
Eliixxchel: 086 3350801;

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.