Life in Lockdown: Wednesday w/ Emma Houston

Life in Lockdown | 10 June 2020

A Week in My Mind

Day 3

Towards the end of May I was a part of a project on Zoom run by poet, writer and all round dreamboat Adam Kammerling. A beatboxer, a drummer, two movers and myself all came together in Zoom squares for 4 days of transformational work. I won’t go into too much detail about what happened for the sake of the privacy of the project and the individuals, however, it was an incredible week that facilitated breakthroughs I didn’t expect. On the first day I found myself in streams of tears, brought on through relating to another person’s family story. It was intriguing and nicely surprising to be able to connect with a group so intimately and honestly whilst still being in my own presence in my own space. Two of these people I hadn’t met before and by the end of the 4 days I feel like we are genuinely friends.

A zoom call featuring Emma Houston

Partaking on a project via zoom was a really interesting experiment, to listen and share whilst having a safe boundary of distance to monitor my own energy and emotions. I was a bit apprehensive about how much I would be able to physically do in the week, seeing as I was experiencing bad head tension/ headaches and feeling dizzy. Through listening to my body and its current limitations, I found a gentler more grounded way of moving and connecting, that ended up channelling presence and purpose in quite a profound way for me. I let myself take time, with a less is more approach, as well as an interrogation into catalytic thoughts that brought me into movement in a more connected-to-self way. I realised that I’d gotten so into the habit of ‘doing’ and ‘moving’ over the years, that slowing down and re-connecting to stillness first was/is what my body wanted and so desperately needed.

I’d be interested in more conversations with dancers about this: the pressures of consistency and repetition to solidify technique and fitness (which also opens doors to creativity) vs moving more from a place from within and listening to our body and what it’s telling us (the danger of becoming ‘lazy’). We are often taught to override what our body might be saying and to ‘push through’ to remain consistent, and to achieve more and be time efficient. It all hangs in a fine balance, and everyone’s balance and equilibrium is different: so how do we find and operate from our optimum all the time, also when that optimum will change over time depending on different factors? How do we find a healthy balance of pressure vs letting ourselves off the hook? What works for you? I noticed I was pressuring myself with ‘shoulds’, and a lot of the time that was motivating me but other times it was stressing me out. Being in the position I am in now, with no option but to listen to my body and take it at a slower pace, has provided invaluable insight. How do we negotiate that in the workplace though? When we feel we are being asked every day to go above and beyond our own limitations to detrimental effect? We have signed a contract, after all. Where are the limits here? To detrimental effect could be physical, mental, emotional or otherwise. I think it’s so important to respect our own limitations and for people running the room to do that too. Whilst having a certain amount of challenges upon ourselves simultaneously. But we know when an environment is asking for ‘too much’ from us. But what happens if we can’t negotiate our way out of that? This is a conversation we need to bring into the dance industry more, I think. At what point do we give everything over to a project, to what end? To the decay of our physical, mental, emotional health? Where can we regain power and clarity, if we are not being listened to by those in charge?

I hope you enjoyed my musings today, hold tight for tomorrow!!

Five images of Emma Houston dancing

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