Joan McCarthy on the Open Floor

What was your life like before dance?

I am now in my mid-fifties so I have lived well over half of my life already. Of course, I would say my life has been very good before I came to dance. I have had a good deal of experience with other kinds of self-development work e.g. therapeutic breath workshops, family constellations and personal psychotherapy. I am also a philosopher and so I have had the opportunity to think and talk about what it is that makes human life meaningful and joyful. I guess that’s it: I have done a lot of work ‘in my head’. I think it was time for me to move from ‘I think, therefore I am’ to ‘I dance, therefore I live’!

What happened when you stepped onto the dance floor?

I felt shy and self conscious at first but also drawn to move with the music. I was very lucky to have a gorgeous dance teacher who has absolutely toe-tapping soul soaring music – it was an inevitability that I would fall in love with her (a little!) and with the music (a lot!). Also, the group that meets in Cork, Ireland where I live are a very gentle humorous irreverent bunch of people and it was very easy to open up on the floor with them and let all the different sides of me come out to play. As a ‘dyed in the wool’ lesbian feminist (1980s vintage!) it was also important that I felt my life and loves were not ‘another’ issue I had to deal with and I found the opposite to be the case.

Was there a turning point moment?

Given my atheistic and skeptical turn of mind I am very allergic to too much ‘woo woo’ about life nature and the cosmos. Thankfully, having been at quite a number of workshops with various Open Floor teachers here and abroad, I realized that I didn’t have to subscribe to any ethereal belief systems in order to ‘make sense’ of the philosophical underpinnings of Open Floor. In short, it was a turning point, in the sense of a moving deeper into Open Floor practice once I felt confident and at ease that I was welcome no matter which way I leaned when it comes to the divine mysteries of life.

A more physical psychological turning point, well several really, happened when my teacher(s) helped me to identify different shapes, positions, habits, repetitions that opened doors to further movement inside and out.

What would you say about your life now that dance is in it?

More joyous, more free for sure. I am fitter and more fluid now (inside and out) than I was in my late thirties and early forties. For example, I used to have chronic frozen shoulder, back problems and fears – all gone!!