Thursday, 9 August 2007

Leaps to Freedom

Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.
Published: Aug 07

Jaap Van Manen - My class is all about opening up the self with movementFor Jaap Van Manen, dance is not only a way of life, but also something that helps you break free from hangups

Jaap Van Manen from Netherlands, turns on the music and tells the five dancers to move. Move, they do, with each one following not the music but their own body rhythm. Neither is conscious of the other, and all moves are independent and at their own pace.

Jaap is watching; his face cradled in his palms. He watches every move intensely. The music stops, he calls the dancers and tells them: “You stayed in your own space till now, but now if you make eye contact with the others around you, what will happen?”

“We start to interact with the others through movement,” comes the response, which pleases Jaap so much that he claps his hand and turns on the music again. Suddenly you notice that there is a smile on each dancers’ face as they make eye contact with the others and they seem to be aware of what the other is doing and try to choreograph their own body movement to blend with the other’s. Now they all move as one unit.

“You see dance is such a beautiful tool. You just have to open the window and let the person find his own way using it,” says this man who is a theologian, dance teacher and “life coach”.

For him, dance is not only a way of life, but also something that helps you “break free and overcome all your inhibitions. I do not dance with them but only act as a facilitator who gives them ideas and help them discover their own space. You have to become a child with your movement and not an inhibited adult ,” explains Jaap.

With a true blue Christian upbringing, he took to theology to discover spirituality and according to him “spirituality is broader than a religion. Religion specifies god and the ways to him. It is like breaking that one source into pieces. Spirituality is important for me as it is the source of any work. Dance is also a way to find that spirituality. It is more about the self. But when you go deep into that self you are bound to discover your connection to the supernatural because the self in you is connected to that large source of life,” he says.

Jaap started a dance company called Mobile in Netherlands in 1998 with the aim to “develop a person’s potential and dance with a flow. Our goal is for people (in companies) to move and develop themselves, so that they behave authentically and act naturally.” He uses themes as an impulse for movement. For instance, “I can use an element like water and ask the dancer to move smoothly like a river or like a roaring ocean. The dancer thereby moves with an image in her mind. This way you can express the theme water in its different moods”.

He feels bad about the current lifestyle that has taken people away from movement.

“Dance and movement are innate. Our body is designed for movement — walk, run, jump, but because of our education and the lifestyle we have restricted our movement.” So Jaap is very happy when he has a person with no dance background walking into his class.

“If it is a workshop for adults then I take them back to their childhood. My class is all about opening up the self with movement. If I find the person a bit too rigid only then will I dance along, yet as an example and not as a model for that person to imitate me. If he does copy me then how can he evolve from within?”

If this principle is applied then Indian classical dance is all about fixed movement and expressions and hand gestures. So does it mean that Indian dance is not evolved?

“If dance is used as a tool to make someone free and aware of themselves, then its duty is fulfilled. Coaching should not be like setting yourself some goals, like business or for success. But as a true teacher I will forget myself and the development of the other person becomes important,” explains Jaap, who has worked with children, adults and elderly people in “different settings” for more than 20 years. At Stichting de Santenkraam — a workshop for biblical spirituality and creativity, he combined theology and dance and worked as a choreographer.

Jaap now looks forward to work in India, and his focus is not just the dancers “but for anyone who has a passion for movement. Even people who want to learn it for therapeutic values or for those who want to discover themselves can walk into my class,” he says. Jaap can be contacted on or Jaap’s workshop in the city was organised by Rainbow Inc.

This column features those who choose to veer off the beaten track.

Source: The Hindu

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