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Finding intimacy on the Open Floor

Reviewed By: Charlotte O’Donnell-Young

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Charlotte O’Donnell-Young

Language availability: English

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Charlotte Young has been dancing for fifteen years, in Melbourne, then in the UK, Belgium and now back in the Southern Hemisphere again. A few years ago, Charlotte young went to a talk about pornography and young people. She learned just how pervasive the porn industry is and how it impacts all of us and just how crucial it is to develop that somewhat vague notion of intimacy. As one of the speakers at the talk said: “We need to make intimacy as magnetic as porn, that’s what’s going to change things for our young people … the only problem is … I don’t know how.”

Charlotte tells us more about how she has been bringing her exploration of intimacy into her Open Floor Movement Practice and how she has fallen in love with intimacy.

“For the first year, I danced in the corner with my eyes shut which you’re not meant to do (not conscious enough!), but thankfully I didn’t know this. I needed that year to get intimate with myself and it was way too distracting if my eyes were open. I was getting to know ‘the soft animal of my body’ – as Mary Oliver puts it – and how I loved to move, without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

And then, I admit, once I’d discovered how light I felt when I was dancing, I used it in the same way I’d used drugs and alcohol in my youth; to get out of my head, to escape and to connect with others in a different, edgier way. There’s a definite high to be had when you allow your body to be collected by the music so your mind can’t keep up and you dance yourself into a trance. For years, I danced weekly, the same dance of release, the build-up, the glorious peak and the fun slide down the other side into a satisfied collapse. When the facilitator invited us to move with a partner or in a group, I felt like I was learning a new language; unsure, fumbling but alive. It was up to me and the partner if our bodies touched. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. These were the initial baby steps towards intimacy with another.

The giant step came during my first weekend workshop which was an intense learning curve where my mindful witness sprang into being, in awe and in judgement of my dancing self and how she could be in the moment, brimming over with life-force. Mostly though, I was witness to and in the experience of love. In love with self and others. Dancing bodies held in safety by an experienced facilitator, create a field of love. It sounds so hippy to wax lyrical about a love bubble but there’s no other way around it. A weekend love bubble of music, movement and connecting with a group of people who are “all in this together” (Ben Lee). So many opportunities for intimacy and meaning, both solo and with others; familiar, cosy, close.

As the years have gone by, I’ve become adept at throwing off my armor as soon as I hit the dance floor, so presence, expression and connection come easily. The three key ingredients to intimacy whether moving mindfully, or not, are as relevant on the dance floor as they are off it:

  1. Presence—The body is as much a part of the conversation as the mind, with all cells firing, moving and alive in the moment.
  2. Expression—We allow ourselves to be seen without the usual armor; we are naked without our defenses and this is where intimacy thrives.
  3. Listening—whether we’re connecting with ourselves or another, we need to feel like an honest, open-hearted connection has been made, which means listening; Mark Nepo’s description of listening is the best I’ve heard yet, “To listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”

By giving our attention to what is before us, completely and freshly we can co-create a portal with another, or a space inside ourselves if we’re dancing alone, where all sorts of magic arises, if we allow ourselves to move and express ourselves freely. Not the kind of top hat, surprise it’s a bunny kind of magic but the edgy, unknown feeling that arises from participating completely in the present, without knowing what’s going to happen next, or what my body is going to do next, or my partner, or the music. There’s no time or space for judgements or narratives (yes, they may come later, but later is later), only for being, right here, right now, in intimacy with the self or with another.

This for me, is much more exciting than anything I might happen across onscreen … as for the young ones … who am I to say? But my wish is that they experience many moments of intimacy, full of presence, expression and listening.”

Charlotte Young is a dance and embodiment passionista, as well as a writer and cycles awareness teacher and Open Floor teacher from Melbourne, Australia. This article is an edited version of a piece Charlotte originally published in Living Now Magazine.

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