A story of embodied love

  • Jo and Sarah - Open Floor teachers in Melbourne, Australia
  • Jo and Sarah - Open Floor teachers in Melbourne, Australia
  • Jo Woods - Open Flor teacher in Melbourne, Austrlalia
  • Louis Armstrong - What a wonderful world

Posted by Open Floor on Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 3:28am

Open Floor dancers may be familiar with the idea of the “third body”. There’s me - first body, there’s you - second body and then there are those moments in which our awareness expands and we fully experience us - the third body. It’s me... and you… and something else. It’s the dance we create together. It’s that wordless conversation that embodies something that’s more than the sum of its parts.

Jo Woods and Sarah Winter first danced together 5 years ago. The third body they both became aware of in that first dance had a special quality to it. Although they had never met before, had never spoken and were both in relationships at the time, they felt a profound, life changing connection. When I ask them to tell me more about that moment, they smile at each other, seeming both a bit lost for words. Jo says simply: “Well, it was love at first sight.” Sarah sighs and adds “I had this incredible desire to know more, like I was meant to know this woman on a deeper level.” They danced together for another year before starting a relationship off the dance floor.  “We got to know each other through dance. We didn’t talk much that first year, really. We got to know each other in an embodied way.” says Jo.

As I explore love and relationships in the context of Open Floor, I am curious to talk to couples who have met in dance to find out more. In the age of internet dating, selfies and sexting, are relationships born on the dance floor different? How does an awareness of the third body shape these relationships? What does a shared experience of embodied movement add to the mix?

When we meet on Skype, Jo and Sarah - both 44 years old and training to be Open Floor teachers - are tucking into breakfast in Melbourne, Australia whilst I’m sipping my evening herbal tea in London. They’re sprawled on their sofa, I’m curled up in my armchair and it immediately feels convivial, like we’re old friends sitting around having a catchup.

We talk about what having a shared conscious dance practice brings to their relationship. They both agree it makes a big difference. The word compassion keeps coming up. We talk about how much easier it is to feel compassion for someone when we witness them dance and can step back and see them as a whole person rather than getting sucked into the dynamics that all couples have to deal with. When we communicate through our bodies, when it’s not about you or me, it’s about us, the third body.

“We are able to find each other and communicate through the dance what can’t be said in words. So rather than getting stuck in talk, we’re in our bodies. Even when we’re not actually dancing together, I can tell how Jo’s doing by watching her move. It’s a language that doesn’t need words.” says Sarah

Jo agrees: “The conversation we are open to having after dancing in the same space for two hours dance is totally different to the conversation we had before we stepped onto the dance floor. Dance is a profound moment to see the other as they really are... it’s a leveller, it irons out distance. Wherever we are at, I fall in love with Sarah every time I see her on the dance floor."

I ask them how this translates off the dance floor in their relationship and Sarah tells me how the Open Floor embodied movement vocabulary has given them a broader and richer way of expressing themselves and supporting each other to stay open and mindful in their relating when things get tough.

“For sure!” replies Jo, grinning. “The Open Floor language filters down into every day life. We often talk about the need for a ‘pause’ or ‘hunger for solitude’ or use the Core Movement Resources to describe what’s happening between us like what we feel drawn ‘towards and away’ from or “vector” to bring clarity and intention to our relating. It’s become a part of how we view the world and how we view each other.” she adds

Along with their other Open Floor classes, Jo and Sarah run a 'Community Dance' class dedicated to parents and children, a first for Open Floor in Melbourne, and I’m curious to find out more about their experience.

They talk about the challenges of working with a loved one and how they used the skills they developed on the teacher training to figure out ways in which they were compatible and complemented each other to create something more than the sum of it’s parts. 

They are also clear that the hard work they put into their relationship, shows up in other ways in their work. Their commitment, openess and their awareness of something greater than them - there’s the third body again - is transmitted to their students.

“Over half the dancers in our Community Dance classes are kids. As two gay women, who have children, teaching this practice means our personal relationship is under public scrutiny. We represent every time we teach. We bring our relationship onto the dance floor and that really breaks down the “us” and “them” mentality. It’s very empowering.” explains Jo.

“The parents who come tell us what a difference it makes with their children. They come back and tell us about finding love and connection they thought they’d lost with their kids” says Sarah, “With dance they can witness their children without words. When there is no talking, you have to engage with yourself and they are able to see their children as people, not as stories. It’s all about compassion again.”

As we get ready to wrap up I ask them if they have a favourite track that sums up their relationship. They ask for time to think about it. A few days later they send me this email:

We had a funny conversation about 'the track' that reflects our relationship...It became a silly medley or montage that started with What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong and turned into Fuck You I Won't Do What You Tell Me by Rage Against the Machine and then swung into Shut Up and Dance with Me by Walk the Moon and ended in a soppy Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes. The short answer is, no, we don't have any single track that reflects our relationship... but we seem to have created a weird and strange movement cycle/playlist. Anyway, we had a good laugh trying to think of 'one'.

By Audrey Boss
 

Comments

1

I met Jo and Sarah on the dance floor in Melbourne earlier this year, and so delightful to share space and dance with them both. Beautiful, warm, fun energy! And to read their story and know a little more of them is an absolute treat as I navigate through the tail end of a challenging Tasmanian winter! Much love to you both, Kate