99 experiments

1. Create a safe space for your dance practice.

Space for dance can be anywhere: a two foot by two foot corner in your office, the soccer field behind your school, a restroom stall, a running track, a dance studio, a yoga mat. What matters is your intention to create a space where you, and maybe others, feel safe to move freely.

Creating space can be part of the practice itself.  Smudge. Light a candle. Close the door. Mark the boundaries of the space with masking tape or a bit of string. Do what feels right to signify to yourself and to others that your dance is special–sacred even–and that you are safe to explore within the boundary that you set.

2. Simply stand. Breathe. Notice.

3.  Dance with Daily Ritual

What are the movement practices you perform every day without thinking?  Tooth brushing, flossing, putting the car keys away in the same place every day. Create a dance movement that is based on one of these movements.  Washing the dishes. Stacking wood. Carrying water. Give the motion all of your attention. Notice. Exaggerate. Play. Notice. Simplify. Notice. Slow motion. Notice.

4. Play peek-a-boo

Bring out your scarves, veils, fabric scraps. Hide, dance, play, tease.  When we dance we reveal ourselves to ourselves.  Sometimes stripping away can be frightening, Sometimes we’re ready to bare all, but sometimes we’re afraid of what we might see.  Sometimes we need to hold back until we’re ready. Sometimes we want to guard a mystery or a secret, the veils can protect what is fragile and precious deep inside.

Teasing keeps our interest. We can play deep without getting suffocated and falling in forever.  The veil keeps us connected with the identity we’ve built up for ourselves.  We don’t completely let go.  We save the best for later.

Play peek -a-boo in your dance. Look inside, but just for a moment. Cover up.  Look inside. Come back out. Repeat the cycle, hide and surprise, hide and surprise. Deeper and deeper, further and further each time.

5. Peel back the layers.

Dance the dance of peeling.  Stand in one place. Dance as you most normally do. Do your default dance with your habitual moves. Imagine this dance as if you were peeling off the image that you offer to others.

Who is under this mask, this costume that you wear? Now use gestures to peel back the outer layers. Dance the dance without the mask. Without the costume.

Once you’ve found that a new dance that you’ve uncovered, peel that layer off. Dance the dance that you’ve newly uncovered.

Once you’ve found that dance, peel the new cover off as well.

Continue to peel.  Continue to allow new layers of your dance to emerge.  Continue until you think you can go no further, and then peel back another layer.

How is this like a strip tease? Does the exposure of selves within selves leave you feeling embarrassed, exposed?  Is it titillating? Can you expose this new self in the world?  Is there some protection that some of the layers offer you?

6. Define dance

Look up the definition for the word dance.  Dance without music. Dance without feet. Dance without rhythm. Create your own definition of dance.

7. Create a name for your own dance practice

Visit Liberation Movement Dance Practice Name Generator .

8. Grass stain

Get  group of friends together on a wet spring day. Put on white clothes. Dance on a grassy hill.

9. Dance like Harold with his Purple Crayon

Create entire worlds with the power of your own creation.  Forgotten how? Let Harold remind you.

10. Get permission

Write yourself a letter on paper in ink in your own handwriting. In the letter simply state.  —-your name—has been granted the permission to dance, To move.  To look as silly as you want to.  You have the permission to dedicate yourself to this effort even when you don’t feel like you should.  You have the permission to enjoy and to learn.  You are worth the time and the effort. Get an envelope and put a stamp on it and actually mail yourself the letter to your own address.

Take it to a deeper level. Have somebody else write the letter for you, a friend who you trust, for example.  You can tell them what to say and give them the self addressed stamped envelope.

Take it to a deeper level still. Think of somebody who you fear might judge you poorly for taking on a dancing practice. Talk to them about how much you want to make dance a daily practice. Tell them that you’ll need their support. Ask for them give you permission in the form of a little note, and while it may seem silly, ask them to mail the letter to you.

11.  Dance with mirrors

Mirrors make intimidating dance partners. It helps to know that the mocking, awkward image you see is not reallly you. It’s just an image. Make fun of it. Play with it. Ignore it. Have a staring contest. Show it compassion.

12. Mirror dance part two:  Challenge the mirror with a dance-off

Try to do something that your image can’t do. Can you move faster, slower, trickier than your mirror self? What happens to your mirror self when you turn around? When you turn the mirror around? When you break the mirror? When you turn out the lights? When you show it another mirror?

13. Mirror dance part three: The portal.

Think of the mirror as a looking glass a la Alice in Wonderland. The mirror is your passage into another world where everything is the same but in reverse. Dance that you are the reflection and that the image you see is “the real” you.

14. Mirror dance part four: Dance with a partner.

Be her mirror. Everything she does, you do. Everything you do, she does. Challenge your human mirror to mirror dance experiments parts one, two, and three (see above).

15. Tug of war.

How does it feel to be tugged at in opposite directions?  I hate feeling torn worse than anything.  And yet I feel that way almost all the time. I chose vanilla when I wanted pistachio. I want to play but I’m supposed to work. I want to be with my family but I feel called to travel. I feel the struggle when I can’t seem to make up my mind, when I can’t resolve a conflict, when I want to be good, but can’t help being bad.

Imagine that you are participating in game of tug of war and that you are the rope.  You can do this alone simply allowing your arms and legs and your center of gravity to be pulled and pushed from one side of an imaginary dividing line.  Try to feel the impulse to be tugged one way or the other to come from outside your body for a while. Then try allowing the impulse to be tugged or pulled to come from deep within your core. Pull and tug. Be pulled and tugged.

Option B: With the help of two very trusted friends who actually do tug and pull on you form either side, be the rope.  What does it feel to be tugged at?  Do you feel out of control, angry, silly? Is that uncomfortable?  Familiar? Play with the tugging and pulling. Pull on somebody else.

Option C:  Tug of war literal version. Get a rope. Divide your group into two teams separating each team on opposite ends of the rope.  Teams pull together until they pull the entire group over on the other side.  Add rhythmic playful music and dance as you pull.

16. Dance with resistance. Add some weight to your dance.  Look around for something heavy, pick it up, and dance with it: hand weights, gallon jugs of water, a watermelon, a medicine ball, a boulder, a back pack, a child, a spouse. Feel the earth’s magnetism pull on you as you move. Make your dance weighty, heavy, substantial, significant.  Dramatize and exaggerate the pull of the earth. Allow your movements to help you feel grounded, earthy, heavy. As you heave and ho, imagine all that drags on you, weighting you down. Feel this dance working you over, pulling you to the earth as you push back. Feel this dance working in your body, your bones and muscles resist and grow strong.

17.  Where Am I Now?

Ever ask yourself the question Why am I  here? Or What’s it like somewhere else?

If I move across a room very carefully, with all my attention, I can prove that I am here because someplace else does not exist. For example. When I move from that space I call here to that other space that I call there, then there instantaneously becomes here.  Try to move somewhere else.  What happens when somewhere else becomes here? Dance the dance of somewhere else becoming here and here becoming somewhere else. Look at somewhere else over there:  another corner of the room, outside, under the covers, inside another room.

Now go there to that space that was empty. Fill up the empty spaces with yourself. Dance the infinite dance turning there in to here and here in to there.

18.  Dance with an ancestor.

Think of a dead relative. This could be a parent or aunt or uncle or grandparent or someone unrelated by blood but is very much related to you. Remember a gesture or a move that you’ve observed. (Grandma’s sweeping the porch, Uncle Marion’s gesturing with a cigarette) Dance their dance by exaggerating their style of movements. Repeat these moves over and over again as a rhythm. Feel the move enter you. Repeat so that the gesture moves you. Allow yourself to forget, even if only for a moment, that you’re doing your ancestor’s gesture.   Mocking people you love may seem disrespectful, and it may start out that way.  But exaggerating their moves is like dancing with them. Honoring them. Allowing them to live with you and nourish you. See my post on this with dream work.

19. Dance your family tree.

Move in honor of what has come before you. Create your physical lineage as a fractal pattern that you trace with  movements.  Notice the branching patterns within your own body. Start with your heartbeat, and feel the surge of your life’s blood as it travels through the arterial branches growing more refined throughout your body and returning through veins to the heart again. Use your hands and fingers, feet and toes to trace the pattern of your nervous system with large nerves branching into smaller nerves into smaller nerves. In the same way, dance the family tree. Follow your branching roots back as far as your imagination will allow. Naming names and recalling faces is not necessary. Dance to honor your parents, your parents’ parents, your parent’s parents’ parents’ parents. Feel them in your blood, your breath, your movements.

20. Dance to the tune of your body

Go to a place where you can be very, very quiet. Turn off all music. Close the windows and stuff a towel under the crack of your door. Be very still.  Plug up your ears with your fingers and listen. Listen deeply to the sounds inside. Listen to your breath. If you can quiet enough, listen to your heart beating. Listen to the static buzz in your head. Listen to the voices. (No, you’re not crazy. We all have voices in our heads.) Move to the sounds that come from within. Let your breath lead. Let your pulsing heart lead. Let your growling gut lead. Listen to the buzzing in your head, and let it move you. Listen to the voices, the ones that say “I don’t hear voices” and move to what you hear.

21. Dance in the tub

Do the same as #20 above with this variation: submerge your naked body, including your unplugged ears,  in bathwater. Listen, move. Move, listen.

22. Dance with the inner voices that tell you not to dance.

While we’re on the subject of inner voices, try dancing with the inner voices that keep you from dancing. See Dancing with demons.

23. Dance with your vocal chords.

Sing and dance at the same time.  No need to learn the lyrics, you can make it up as you go along. See Dancing with the improv choir.

24. Surf your way home

Lost energy? Stuck in the vortex of inertial despair? You’re already in front of the computer, so you might as well dance along. See links at better than doom and gloom for inspiration.

25. Dance about architecture.

“Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”

Steve Martin

Experiment: Offer your attention to the building you’re in. Take a few breaths while noticing its features. Move your arms shoulders elbows knees feet in response to the lines holding the structure that surrounds you. Dance the planes, the contours and the corners of the walls, the floor and the ceiling.  Dance the angles of the windows.  Dance the edges, dance the surfaces.

Are there types of architecture that lend themselves to dance? Do some buildings speak to you more than others?  What is it about some environments that lead you to dance and others don’t?

26. Dance the words you dare not speak

With your fingers* in the air, trace the letters to make words only you and your movement can see. Tell your story as a dance of words. Tell secrets. Tell lies. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and everything else including the truth. Ask for forgiveness. Offer gratitude. Trace words in cursive, in script, in a mythic language only your imaginary friends can understand.  *Why stop with your fingers? Dance your words with your elbows, your hips, your knees and feet.

27. Dance like a newborn

Ever see a newborn baby dance to human speech? It’s really quite amazing.  Talk to a baby.  Really get her attention and talk and coo and sing.  Watch carefully and her limbs will follow the pattern of your voice.  Now it’s your turn. Try dancing like a newborn.  Listen to someone speak and move your limbs in synch with the sound of their voice. Forget about the meaning of the words and let the rhythm of the syllables guide you.

28.  Dance yourself as the universe looking back at itself. Watch old episodes of Cosmos and dance along. Dance along with star charts. Dance under constellations of stars at night.

29. Accept yourself in all your imperfection. What if you could accept everything about you and all your faults and foibles   as you are, no matter what without judgment.  What would that dance look like? Dance that dance even if you don’t feel it right away. Keep practicing.

30. Dance with what’s missing. What are you hungry for? What are you craving? What is your longing? Move with your hungers and your cravings and your longings. Exaggerate them.

31. Dance with someone far far away. Set up an appointment. Meet them on Skype. Dance together over miles and miles away.

32. Dance your heart out. Dance until you feel like your heart is on the outside. Dance as if your heart were on your sleeves.

33. Dance your yoga practice. Play with your asanas. Allow yourself to be imperfect. Do your sequence in a different order. Exaggerate. Simplify. Add a beat. Slow it down. Speed it up.

34. Dance yourself silly.

35. Dance like an empty-headed space cadet. Contemplate the vast emptiness of the universe. Contemplate the vast emptiness within the atoms that make up the molecules and cells of your own body. Move the emptiness into the emptiness around you. Breathe in the emptiness. Fill yourself with emptiness. Empty your emptiness.

36. Dance while singing. Sing while dancing. Sing and dance while singing and dancing.

37. Dance v e r y, v  e  r y, s  l   o   w  l   y. How slow can you move and still be dancing?

38. Dance a prayer of healing. Dance for your self or for someone else.

39. Dance with the sounds around you. Turn the music off. Dance to the distractions. Dance to every sound you hear.

40. Dance with the dead. Anyone can dance with you. The living can dance. The dead can dance. See dreaming of the dead.

41. Dance your grief. What have you lost? Dance in honour of what has passed. Give your grief a safe place to express itself. Let it move you.

42. Dance a canon. With a small group of other dancers, choose a piece of music in the form of a round or canon. Each dancer takes on a repeated movement or phrase to interpret a phrase of music. Repeat. Repeat again. Allow your dance to evolve.

43. Share a set of headphones and slow dance with your friends in the grocery store.

44. Spin. You already know how. Need a reminder?

45. Dance to the music. 

46. Dance against the music.

47. Dance without any music.

47. Dance as if everyone were watching.

48. Dance for a witness. And witness other dancers, too. Witness for each other without judgement.

49. Dance the story of your life. Use a timeline. Follow the order.

50. Dance the story of someone else’s life.

51. Dance yourself well.

52. Dance in constraint

Get a partner. Take turns wrapping each other tightly in a blanket. (Better yet, use something stretchy, like Spandex.  How does it feel to move with a little constraint. How does it feel to be a seed, waiting and  ready to emerge?  How does it feel to be a chick waiting to hatch from within an egg? How does it help to pull back and to hold back, winding up like a clock? What other metaphors emerge?

53. Let every breath create a movement, one body part at a time.

54. Dance with a partner at opposite sides of a very crowded dance floor. Maintain eye contact, or not.

55. Dance a poem. Recite as you dance. Let every syllable inspire a movement.

56. Let your dancing inspire a poem. Let every movement inspire a syllable.

57. Dance with fire.  How does fire dance? Does it smoulder, spark, smoke, steam, hiss, rage? Does it burn, warm, cook, melt? Does it clear, destroy, clean, devastate? How does fire move? How does fire change things?  Do you have a fire in your belly, in your blood, in your bones? How can this fire move the world?

58. Dance with water. Consider that you are water. Most of your body is, anyway. Dance with this water. Dance with a body of water that’s outside of your body (if you’re lucky to be nearby one). What lessons are there to learn from the water in your world? Dance in the rain, in the hail, in the sleet. Move like the water falling from the sky. Move like the water evaporating from the earth. Dance the whole cycle around and within you. Dance in thanks to the water in your life. Can you dance in a puddle after the rain. Can you dance in a shower of snow? Dance in the rain? Can you stay very, very still and let the water within you dance on it’s own?

59. Dance with your distractions.

60. Rock. Like a baby. Just rock. Rock for comfort. Rock like a rebel. Rock in rhythm. Rock hard. Rock soft. Keep your rocking consistent and steady. Let your rocking vary.

61. Wind up. Wrap yourself up tight. Be mechanical. Move tighter. Constrict. Restrict. Refine. Define. Intensify and store up the energy. Constrict your breathing. Then, little by little, Unwind. Loosen up slowly. Take slightly deeper breaths. And with each move more freely.

62. Take on another persona. Pretend you are something or someone else. Become something or something else. Move. Let your new persona evolve naturally with your movements. (For inspiration, pick out an archetype at random from a list, or try on a costume, or act out a character from a dream.)

63.  Make fun of something or someone that irritates or angers you. Think of something (or someone) that really gets on your last nerve. Mock their mannerisms. Exaggerate movements. Don’t worry about looking the part or being literally accurate. Play with the motions and dance the movements in repeated phrases. When you get to the heart of what’s bothering you, make your movements even more exaggerated. Wallow in your irritation and anger if you must.

64.  Dance with visions of a monster who scared you when you were a little kid.

65. Dance hide and seek. Take a group of friends with you to the park. Play hide and seek as you dance.

66. Walk across the floor. Change your walk and do it again. Change your walk and do it again. Speed it up. Slow it down. Point your toes inward. Point your toes outward. Walk on your knees. Walk like your mother. Walk like a model. Walk straight. Walk crooked. Walk like a toddler. Walk like a teenager. Walk underwater. Walk in heels. Walk backwards. Walk like a sumo wrestler. Keep changing your walk. Repeat. Change. Repeat. Change. Repeat.

67. Fall. Get up. Fall. Get up. Fall.

68. Hunker. Squat deeply. Move like an animal who hunkers. Go outside and hunker in the grass. Climb a tree and hunker some more. Hunker with some friends. Be an animal who hunkers regularly.

69. Brachiate. Find something sturdy and strong, like a scaffold, treebranch or a tall person’s arms that you might hang from. Swing. Reach. Swing. Grab onto something else. Fall to the ground and hunker down again.

70. Dance with your shadow

Shine a bright light on a wall. Get in the way of the light and dance with your shadow as your partner. Experiment with the light. What happens when the light is brighter? What happens when you use more than one light? What happens when you get closer to the light? Further away?  What happens to your shadow in darkness?

71. Move as if you are an expert in a movement discipline you know nothing about.  With all due respect to the real experts, see what happens when you pretend. Try faking Tai Chi. Fake Ballet. Fake Tango. Fake Hip Hop. Fake Sufi spinning. Fake tennis. Fake surfing. Fake butoh. Fake yoga. Make up your own poses and give them names. Make it convincing.  (Thanks to InterPlay for inspiring this suggestion.)

72. What are you afraid of? What’s the worse that can happen? Dance with what scares you: little embarrassments, public humiliation, natural catastrophe, unnatural catastrophe, supernatural helter skelter, growing old, being neglected, post apocalyptic dystopia.

73. Dance with Gravity  Feel the unconditional attraction the earth has for you. Lift and sink. Find your centre of gravity and move it off centre. Fall. Dance the metaphors: Fall in love. Fall into place. Fall apart. Fall to pieces. Dance as if gravity had no hold on you and you’ve lost all your weight and you are floating away. Dance as if gravity were amped up and you can hardly move. Come up with 99 experiments for dancing with gravity.

74. Practice Safe Dance Before dancing in public, protect yourself. With movement and sound, try donning a full-body “psychic condom” that protects you from distractions, interference, or anything you want to avoid.

75. Do a transformation dance. What metaphor for transformation speaks to you?
From caterpillar to butterfly? From seed to plant to blossom to seed? Coming of age? Alchemy? Birth to death? Move to change, not just to tweak. Be willing to move differently than you’ve ever moved before. “Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.” James Baldwin

76. Zig Zag. Dance on the diagonal. How much slant can you move?  “Tell all the truth, but tell it slant.” Emily Dickenson.

77. Dance your superpower. What is your superpower? Can you sing? Fly? Dream? Turn lead into gold? Water into wine? Hear the voices of trees? Let your superpower of imagination dance through you.

78. Re-member your body. Imagine that the parts of your body (your members) have become disconnected and it is your job in this dance to put the pieces back together again.

79. Dance with body memory. Choose a complex action you do easily and automatically without thinking. What does your body remember? Walking? Running? Swimming? Shifting gears in your car?  Break the action down into bits. Break the bits into bits.

80. Dance as a magician. Dance as if your movements hold magical power. Pick up a wand if that helps, but really it’s the movement that makes you magical. (Be careful. Dance magic can be powerful.)

81. Dance like the freak of nature that you are. Dance like an outsider, an alien, a misfit, a foreigner. Never mind that to feel like an outsider is pretty much universal, and that to be special is to be like everybody else. Dance your longing for belonging.

82. Learn about the Danse Macabre Find some appropriate music. Dress up as the rich and powerful. Create your own danse.  Celebrate that no one is immune–no matter how rich or poor–from death.

83. Dance for forgiveness. Ask to be forgiven. Forgive someone.

84. Dance with the seasons.  Celebrate the change of seasons with a dance. Feel the old season battle with the new. Let one win.

85. Dance your chores. Pulling weeds, washing windows, planting seeds, folding laundry.

86. Dance to tell a story to your local community. Or at least dance to bring in the storytellers.

89. Find a video of a dance you like on the internet, and then dance your own cover. Post it on YouTube and send a link to the dancer whose dance you revisioned.

90. Dance your workout in a public space, at the gym, or at the park. No one needs to know you’re dancing but you. Create moves that resemble calisthenics if you’re shy. Create repetitive sequences that you perform with a look of intention.

91. Get a set of fancy headphones, play a pop tune on your mp3 player, and dance in front of some beautiful place and make a movie.  See davey dance blog for inspiration.

92. Galumph [gəˈlʌmpf -ˈlʌmf]vb(intr) Informalto leap or move about clumsily or joyfully [C19 (coined by Lewis Carroll): probably a blend of gallop + triumph]

93. Wiggle  all at once, all over.

“A living body is not a fixed thing but a flowing event, like a flame or a whirlpool: the shape alone is stable, for the substance is a stream of energy going in at one end and out at the other. We are particularly and temporarily identifiable wiggles in a stream that enters us in the form of light, heat, air, water, milk, bread, fruit, beer, beef Stroganoff, caviar, and pate de foie gras. It goes out as gas and excrement – and also as semen, babies, talk, politics, commerce, war, poetry, and music. And philosophy.” Alan Watts

That’s all for now. Still working up to 99.  Feel free to add your own experiments with your comments.


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