before-wedgeFinding My Voice & Belonging in a Community:

Finding My Voice & Belonging in a Community:

A Week that Changed My Life

In June 2014, I attended the JUMP RHYTHM® Jazz Project Summer Intensive with limited JUMP RHYTHM® knowledge, no expectations and an open mind to what could await. The week was more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined.  I worked with passionate, talented teachers, met amazing people, learned a lot about the technique itself and fell in love with the overall atmosphere.  However, despite the time I spent embodying the technique, what stuck with me the most as I returned home to Canada and back to “real life” were the ideas of finding my voice and being part of a community.

What does it mean to find your voice?

As an artist, as a dancer, as a person, as a member of a community….

To sing

To yell

To speak

To question

To share

To admit uncertainty

To agree

To disagree

Well, the truth is, studying this technique, I learned to use my voice coupled with movement so that literally while I danced, I sang the rhythms.  For me, this approach enriched the movement while adding accessible, raw human emotion to the material.  Being vocal while dancing pulled me away from my comfort zone and was a challenge after years of training without vocalization.

This notion of finding my voice, however, spoke to me on a much deeper level than simply singing the danced rhythms.  I recalled situations both in and out of the dance studio where I have remained silent and later regretted it.  I was plagued by moments where I had scripted what I would say in my head and then became too fearful of judgment to say it aloud.  It is easy to remain silent, to become submissive and agreeable, to take the path of least resistance both in life and dance.  It is much more difficult to question, to disagree, to be resistant and to fuel a debate.  We are raised to be “good” (whatever that is) and to say yes instead of no especially outside of the familiarity of family.  When Billy teaches, he frequently asks people to share their thoughts and to agree or disagree with the material he is presenting.  This week made me more aware of my tendencies to agree.  More aware of my ingrained habits to smile and nod instead of thinking for myself, forming my own opinions and speaking up!

What is community?

Contributing to the common good?  Feeling a sense of belonging?  A non-judgmental group of people with whom you can share your insecurities?  A non hierarchical collective?  Hard to define but I know that it’s something I don’t experience enough of in my everyday life.  One of many memorable things that Billy said is that we, as human beings, are meant to function ¾ of the time as part of a community and ¼ of the time as individuals.  I really, truly believe this to be true, yet at the same time, I recognize that for myself and for so many others in Western society, this is not the norm.  In our busy lives, it is easy to get caught up in individual tasks and, like an isolated robot, accomplish such things.  But how does this make us feel?  Isolated, disconnected, lonely?  In a JUMP RHYTHM® class, everything contributes to the sense of community.  Warm-ups are interactive, everyone provides and graciously accepts feedback, you make rhythm together, you make eye contact with fellow dancers and you share weight through holding hands in a partner dance.  Again, it is not the details of what was happening but the way it made me feel in the moment.  I felt like I trusted and respected each of the other intensive participants and that we were on this unfamiliar JUMP RHYTHM® journey together.  It felt warm, safe and full of support.

Hmmmmm? Isolated, disconnected and lonely or warm, safe and supported?  Seems like a no-brainer right?  Easier said than done, but it made me think about how I live my own life and the choices I make every day that either pull me toward or away from that feeling of belonging in a community.  The cohesive group that we established in one short week made it difficult to say goodbye to the other intensive participants and the teachers.  I can only hope that I can create even a small glimmer of this fulfilling sense of community for myself now that I have left the JUMP RHYTHM® crew.

So, there you have it….a blog about my JUMP RHYTHM® experience and how it relates to my life on so many levels.  The week fueled my love of rhythm, music and dance but also filled my buckets, so-to-speak, in terms of some major thought-provoking realizations.  I have officially caught the JUMP RHYTHM® bug!

Originally from Ontario, Canada, Terra Plum trained at California Pacific College of the Performing Arts and completed her BA in Contemporary Dance at the University of Calgary.  She has performed with contemporary dance company Kloetzel&co, Front Row Centre Players, Storybook Theatre, The University of Calgary’s Operetta Company and The Young Americans.  Terra most recently completed her 3rd year in the Professional Training Program at Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

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