Honey for the Human Soul: On Art in Motion with Sarah Davies
Reviewed By: Sarah Davies
Sarah Davies, Audrey Boss
Recommended Reading Program: Art in Motion
Language availability: English
The first time I hear Sarah Davies say, “Art is the stored honey of the human soul” * I file it away in the Arty, so not for me… section of my brain and leave it there with all the other vaguely interesting, but arty-so-not-for-me stuff I’ve picked up over the years.
I have a far more pressing concern: the sense of impeding dread I’m feeling as I look at the materials that have been laid out for the Art in Motion session that Sarah is introducing. Large sheets of poster paper have been taped around the perimeter of the dance floor. Next to each one: boxes of crayons and pens, little pots of paint, scissors, glue sticks, charcoals, craft paper…the lot. An “arty” person’s wet dream. My own version of hell.
My heart sinks even more when Sarah asks us to get into small groups and stand next to one of the blank posters. Not only am I going to have to do something I’m terrible at…but I’m going to have to share my pathetic attempts with others.
Sarah asks us to check in with ourselves and notice if anything about how we were approaching this task feels familiar… And all of a sudden, I’m six again. I’m sat at my grandmother’s kitchen table colouring in. There’s a pile of crumpled papers in front of me. Rejects I’ve angrily discarded because I’ve made a mess of them somehow. Across the table, my older sister is plugged into her Walkman, happily absorbed in her task, surrounded by perfectly coloured-in sheets, little gems of intricate colours and shapes. I look at them, and then at mine, and feel crushed. Mine are so messy and clumsy in comparison. There’s something wrong with me. I can’t make anything look pretty.
Standing there watching the others in my group get busy with the crayons, I feel ashamed and angry at myself for being so rubbish. Sarah’s invitation to move with whatever comes up is a welcome relief. I love Sarah’s music, every single track she plays touches something inside me. I throw myself eagerly onto the dance floor, anything to get away from the arty stuff…
For the next hour and half, Sarah gets us to alternate dancing and art work. At one point, my six year old finally listens to Sarah’s gentle coaxing to get messy, take risks and be curious about the outcome…I grab a crayon and before I know it i’m furiously making marks on the paper. Then I rush off to dance again before I can tell myself off for getting it wrong or making it ugly. I get bolder with every round, adding slicks of paint and gluing shapes I’ve cut out of scrap paper. Every time I step off the dance floor, our piece of art has morphed and evolved into something new as each member of the group brings their own “stuff” to it. I never know what’s going to come out and I’m surprised by how liberating it feels not to care about what it looks like or what the others will think.
What I realize at the end of the session is that it isn’t about making art or painting pretty pictures. I love the beautifully imperfect riot of shapes, colours and textures that our group had given life to because it tells so many stories. Because it is tangible proof that it’s possible to challenge the limiting beliefs of a life time. To access those creative parts of ourselves that we have shut down. To nurture the six year old so many of us have inside us who thinks she’s not good enough…
I came away from that first experience with a thirst for more and – by a bizarre twist of fate – a job organizing Sarah’s Art in Motion workshops in London… I love it when life delivers exactly what I need!
In the 2 years since, I’ve had the privilege of dancing Art in Motion many times with Sarah: on her workshops, in the Open Floor teacher training and on the Libido workshops she assists. Every time I get to practice staying connected to that essential, creative part of myself. And for days or weeks afterwards I find myself being more creative and making “artful decisions” – as Sarah puts it – in my everyday life…taking more risks at work, being more flexible in my relationships, seeing things from a different angle, taking pleasure in the simple beauty of nature…thinking outside the box.
But it takes practice to keep that creative flow open. So often, life gets in the way and I resort back to my default settings…to firefighting…to reacting rather than taking action. I shame myself by making judgements about how things “should” look and stay small and paralyzed by my fear of getting it wrong.
This is why I’m so excited about Sarah’s new ongoing group, Dance Your Art Out, starting in January. I love the idea that I get to flex my creative muscles on the dance floor in the workshops, and then keep strengthening them by working on a project at home in the weeks in between. I’m especially looking forward to the weekly webinars and group check ins. Making a commitment to having a regular creative practice, with my fellow “dancing artists” for support and inspiration and Sarah’s generous and inclusive guidance, will mean I get a dose of stored honey for my soul every day.
It looks like I need to update the file… ‘arty’ might be for me, after all!
Workshops coming up with Sarah… openfloor.org/members/sarah-davies
Words by Audrey Boss
As editor of this blog, it has been both a privilege and a gift to be trusted with all the stories I’ve gathered. I’ve interviewed such a diverse and fascinating range of dancers and each story has touched me. It feels vulnerable to be on the other side, and yet I’m so passionate about the work that Sarah Davies is doing with Art in Motion, that it feels like an honor to share my personal experience of dancing on her workshops with the OFI community…
Photography by Audrey Boss & Sarah Davies