Last week I danced with the polarities between structure (imposed, sometimes oppressive, but also supportive), and freedom (for wild pioneering but also with the risk of losing your way) within academia… There were 6 or 7 of us in the studio, all engaged in dance research, and each of us following our own movement practice. The background to which I move is the undefined space of just having started a new job, and finding myself pulled between old and new paradigms, between longing and despair, between excitement and fear.
Initially, despair engulfs me. Despair with stifling limitations of the traditional bureaucratic academic endeavour, where we get rewarded for answering the same old questions. I push into the wall that keeps me in. Invisible boxes squeeze the natural pull to explore out of my lungs. “Don’t put your toe out of line, or else you are not allowed to play with us!” Walking along the parallel lines of the wooden floor, there is an odd twinge of relief of not having to think, of doing what I’m told – despite the heaviness of impact and output pressure, which forces me to keep my head down. I realise ‘the system’ got me right where it wants me. Cowering in a corner I buried my dreams, frozen, too afraid to move, too afraid to take a risk, to not belong, to plunge into the unknown. I have a metallic taste in my mouth.
STOP! This doesn’t make sense at all! It feels off, curdled, ill, stuck, like stagnant water that slowly starts to smell… The disjointedness of limbs that don’t talk to each other, the unbridgeable space between here and ‘there’. Where is my breath? Where is the wildness, the adventure?
I let my deep longing for exploring new horizons quietly grow. First it gently bubbles inside me, then it ripples out, softly, fiercely. Moving away from the wall, its presence offers a cosy-ness in these stormy days. Power sockets provide the ability to play music and use other technology, or to simply clean the space. The presence of other dancers offers a more abstract support of shared explorations, shared vision, a shared dream. How can we live and celebrate the ‘art’ of research, appreciating (and widening!) the rules and requirements as supportive structures (yes please, bring in those grants), whilst not shying away from wild creativity?
Breath deepens and I find pleasure in listening to the movements that arise from nowhere, somewhere… There is an intense joy now and deep gratitude, for being in a place where path-finding is encouraged. For meeting people with similar passion for the unorthodox, for crossing and widening the academic boundaries….
Although plans for this blog were long in the making, this dance, this particular dance, fired the initiative for establishing a creative clearing full of soul, art and poetry, that bridges dance, academia, and the mystery of life. So thank you for joining me here, and I look forward to reading-feeling-sensing your experiences with the territory of freedom and structure art/academia/research…
Here’s to all explorers, pioneers and way-pavers!
Photo: Lynton © Eline Kieft, 2015