Transformational Dance and the Role of the Group

By Ingrid Mann

My way of expression is not really verbal. I speak through my body, through what I do: through gestures, smiles, through walking towards or away from a situation. Some people tell me that they can read my mind. They can see through my facial expression and my body language what is going on inside me. I think, I started to shut up and distrust the spoken word when I was a child, school-age or before when I felt that what people were saying didn’t match with the feeling that I got of the message behind the words, the unspoken thoughts or feelings expressed through the body, tone of voice, or gestures. And I loved to dance! As a little girl, I gave performances to my grandparents and friends. I wanted to become a dancer.


I studied chemistry instead, fascinated by the inner structure of matter and the way in which matter transforms when the conditions change: how water becomes steam through adding heat, and through cooling it down, can become ice; how solutions change colour when another substance is added; how the particles spin around and, through the interaction of two or more substances, something new is formed. Now I am interested in what is going on inside people and between people. I am inter­ested in their feelings and thoughts, in the beauty of the soul that is hidden in con­ventional clothes, in conventional ways of expression.

In my work, I help people to turn their attention inside, to give attention and love to all the different parts of the body, to give form and to manifest all the richness that is there, the different personalities and qualities that are there potentially, in gestures, sound, movement and dance.

Blocked Feelings

Often there are blocks in the way of freely expressing what is inside – the dancer that you see in your dreams, the woman you know intimately, the powerful creative man, the child that has been ridiculed or shut down because somebody felt disturbed by your particular expression of life, spirit, soul, because it was threatening or inconve­nient for them. But nevertheless, our soul wants to be incarnated, our spirit wants to manifest itself.

If it is hindered by outer circumstances and more often by our own fears, the limit­ing beliefs that we have taken on in order to survive – if we don’t express truly who we are, we become a distorted caricature of our most precious potential. We become sick and we suffer quietly, resenting our ‘fate’, repeating the drudgery of the life of our parents, grandparents and of many generations. If on the other hand, we let our soul dance, allow it to manifest itself freely, we discover the beauty of our existence, the joy and the meaning of incarnation. We become that particular flower that we are meant to be.

I do not promise you that the path of unfolding will be easy. You need to be willing to get up and move, let yourself be moved, surrender to the inner urge of growing and living. “When the body starts moving, it will heal itself,” is how Gabrielle Roth put it. And in this way, our dance becomes a transformation, a resurrection, a birth – the birth of the soul.

Group Dynamics and the Role of the Group

As human beings, we are connected, consciously or unconsciously, with each other. We influence and reflect each other, we learn from and through each other and we model each other. Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan expresses this beautifully in the phrase: “In order to become what you are, you have to see yourself in another self, who is bet­ter able to express that which lies dormant in you.” Seeing somebody else’s process, their way of expression, of movement, can help a person that is shy or has fears and blocks, or is simply not used to other than verbal expression, to open up.

The group provides a framework for experimenting, for practising new behaviour, for acting out certain roles. “Acting as if…” is a well-known tool used in psychosynthesis and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Actors use it all the time, and for a while become the personality they act out. Working with sound and movement, music and dance, many processes happen on a non-verbal and unconscious level. Therefore it is hard to describe how the transformation is happening. But never­theless, the results can be noticed – in a changed posture, a smile, a gesture. And something will change in the way the person feels or acts.

A Few Words about the Methods and Tools used in my Work

The group sessions which I have been leading vary according to the amount of time we intend to spend together and the needs of the participants. The sessions usually include some warming-up, moving all the different parts of the body; then exploring and practising different rhythms of moving: fast and slow, flowing, staccato, chaotic, etc. The participants alternately move individually or with a partner, finding their own particular movement and way of expression, their dance. We use specially selected music – drums, disco-music and classical. There is time allowed for quiet and reflection and talking about the experiences. Sometimes we also include circle dance, where everybody moves with the same simple steps, folk music and medita­tive music. Sometimes we use free dance, with focus and special attention given to one person with the support of the group.

The Group Process

I like working with groups as the process becomes more intense, the energy increas­es, the pressure builds up. The rhythm of the music, and the rhythm of the bodies moving create an energy field with a certain quality.

In a group that has been together for a while, where trust has built up, conscious­ness expands and a sense of freedom allows those in it to move beyond their usual, often self-imposed, boundaries and limitations.

The thoughts and feelings of each person in the group create a certain energy field, which is not just the sum of its parts, but a synthesis of the individual energy fields. This in turn acts and affects those who are in it. When one person in the room is angry, or sad, others might also get in touch with their own unexpressed feelings and allow them to come out in movement or sound. And through that, healing and cleansing can take place, the release of old tension and memories in the body, to make space for manifesting more of the inner potential that has not been given the space and attention so far.

Equally, if one or more people in the room are very calm, or with their awareness on a finer energy level, that will create an atmosphere in which others can tune in, are carried by and supported.

The Dance

A group consciousness is formed when there is a common goal, conscious or uncon­scious. Focusing on an individual’s process in this framework, the group can be encouraging and supporting just by their attitude, their attention and presence. They can communicate non-verbally. through reflecting and mirroring – through cre­ating a dance together.

Ingrid Mann is a psychosynthesis guide and NLP practitioner. Her work is based on the concepts of psychosynthesis, the rhythm work of Gabrielle Roth and spiri­tual teachings. At present she lives in Berlin and offers seminars in different coun­tries throughout Europe. For information on seminars in Ireland, contact Maire Kelly, 4 Dromcarra Grove, Jobstown, Tallaght. D 24. Phone 01 452 3733]