I feel that the relationship between these two worlds of dance and psychology is not a straightforward one. I had spent a decade focusing on one field (dance), and then an additional decade focusing on the other (psychology), and only in the recent years I have started to draw links between the two.
Over the years, I have witnessed many struggles and difficulties that dancers – including myself – were facing, yet oftentimes, the nature of dancers’ environment (e.g., competitiveness), will impact their ability to share about these challenges with each other (or with authority figures), and therefore might not receive the support they need in order to cope in a more beneficial way with their difficulties.
One of the main advantages of the “Dancing with a Healthy Mindset” project is exactly its ability to be upfront – out in the open – about some of these often unspoken challenges related to the dance world, as well as attitudes towards dance in general. For some context, “Dancing with a Healthy Mindset” is a new community initiative led by Voirelia and I have the pleasure of being a co-lead in this initiative. One part of this initiative is a series of interviews and conversations with people from the dance community, focused on the topic of dance, mindset, and psychology. We are curious to hear different perspectives and to share them with our community, building an accessible archive of experiences and ideas about what helps people engage with dance in a positive, fulfilling way. “Dancing with a Healthy Mindset” will also include workshops – the first one is free and coming up on September 14, 2019, as part of Dance Days at the Scotiabank Dance Centre.
Back to the topic of dance and psychology: through relating to others’ experiences, dancers will, hopefully, be able to feel less alone, and more connected and understood. In addition, sometimes hearing people’s point of views helps others become more aware of things they did not notice, or were not aware of, in the past. This greater awareness, in turn, might facilitate in making a desirable change (e.g., in one’s approach towards dance, in one’s behavior in a certain situation). Furthermore, the more someone hears about a subject, even if they do not agree with the viewpoint, it often helps to better formulate their own opinions, thoughts, and feelings towards the subject presented.
On the other hand, I feel that there are certain circumstances, which are related both to the person and to his/her environment (and these two can interact), that can lead to a positive and thriving relationship that the person experiences with dance. For example, a dancer can be quite judgmental about their abilities as an artist or mover, but if the dancer’s surroundings are more focused on empathy, learning, and developing rather than criticizing and striving for perfection, then something new can evolve. This combination can lead, over time, to a positive relationship with dance (that the dancer might not have experienced had their surroundings been different). To summarize, I personally think that dance can have either a detrimental or beneficial impact on a person’s well-being, depending on the circumstances, which are related to both the characteristics of the person and their environment.
In this blog post, we bring to you the perspective and experiences of Ariadna Montfort, a dancer who has taken an interest in the study of psychology, and she will tell us a little bit about how psychology and dance mix in her world.
-Gaby Hanga, Voirelia Consultant (dance/psychology/mathematics). Learn more about Gaby on our Team page.
Brief biography of Ariadna Montfort: Ariadna is a choreographer, dancer, and movement teacher. Born in Barcelona, she studied dance in her hometown and completed her studies at École-Atelier Rudra Béjart in Lausanne. She danced at the Stadttheater Bern before moving to Israel to join the Batsheva Ensemble where she danced between 2007 and 2009. She then joined Israel’s Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company until 2012 when she decided to return to Barcelona. She is working as a freelance dancer with La Veronal and with Joshua Monten Dance Company (Bern, Switzerland). Her last choreographic piece “Moaré” won the Institut del Teatre dance prize and was presented at the Grec Festival of Barcelona in 2018. Presently, she pursues her studies in Psychology, and is a certified Ilan Lev practitioner. Ariadna has been teaching Gaga since 2008. You can see videos of Ariadna’s work here: https://vimeo.com/ariadnamontfort
Interview context: Ariadna and Alina Sotskova, Voirelia’s artistic director, met in Barcelona in February 2019. Alina was participating in a dance workshop on the Gaga method (a type of contemporary dance framework). Ariadna graciously agreed to share her experiences with us. This is a small part of that interview, conducted by Alina. Other parts of the interview will be available soon!
Interview with Ariadna Montfort excerpt:
Alina: How did psychology studies enter your life?
Ariadna: “For 9 years, I was dancing for dance companies, and that was my life. Then at some point I got this job where the schedule was quite cool. I was finishing work at 4 in the afternoon, I had plenty of time, and that’s when I decided to start studying. It was like, “what do I want to do with my time?” basically my life was just putting sweatpants and going to work my body and stuff, and I felt I was missing something. I mean there is intellectual work in dance, but still, learning something from another field – and that’s when I decided to study psychology. And ever since it’s been in parallel, both. I’m still at the last year of the degree; it’s a 4-year degree in Spain. I’m doing it very slowly, it’s why it’s been already 9 years and I haven’t finished it yet, because I’ve been basically working, and dancing, and touring, and teaching; doing so much at the same time. So I take 3 courses a semester, or 2 courses a semester, or even 1. Now I’m going like [making the gesture of pushing a gas pedal] ‘gas…gas…’”
Alina: What made you choose psychology, and what helped you keep with this big commitment all these years even though you already have this very big commitment in your life to dance as a professional?
Ariadna: “To be honest, it wasn’t something that I’ve dreamt of doing and finally I’ve found time to do it. It was very much as I told you. Suddenly I had time in my hands, I felt the need of studying something to stimulate myself, to nourish myself, and I just checked in the university what they offer and what I can do online, and from all of the options I got, psychology appealed. And I decided to take a few courses and see how it feels. And I loved it.”
Alina: What did you like the most? What were your favorite parts?
Ariadna: “First of all, I loved that it was something so different from what I was investing my time in for the past. Maybe I didn’t study for like 7 years. My daily life was going to the studio, dance, tour, perform, go on stage. So after 7 years of not studying, suddenly I was in the university, and it was something that had nothing to do with what I was doing in the studio, on stage. But at the same time, it had to do with everything, because like everything I studied in psychology – I found how it applies to my daily life, and to what there is around, and that was fascinating: to get the theoretical level and explanations. It’s fascinating to me to stop, and analyze, and see how other people analyze and see how it’s been just stuff that’s there, that’s part of my life. First two courses I took were history of psychology and psychology of the perception, so it had a lot to do with the body, and how you get to feel things, and how you get to understand the world through your senses. I got the highest mark. That really motivated me: suddenly I realized I was very good student. I really enjoyed just going home, making myself a little pot of tea, read and write my paper and research, and get more knowledge, and then get rewards like marks, I was learning, and I was like… let’s take more courses.”
“Some courses were not super interesting to me, but other ones were fascinating. Over time, at some point I was very curious about neuroscience, at other times I thought I wanted to do research. Lately I’m finding that something that I think would make sense for me is to go into the peak performance psychology.”
Alina: How do you see psychology and dance intersect in your life? Whether you noticed that maybe sometimes it’s an idea, or practice, that you’ve picked up from your classes, or that dance has helped the opposite way to understand yourself or others you work with? Where do you find these intersect for you now?
Ariadna: It’s very dynamic. Sometimes the intellect and the psychology of the approach to dance and to life is really present, sometimes it’s very much shifted on the other side, where all the knowledge comes from my body. But what’s very clear, and more and more clear, is that it’s inseparable, it’s kind of part of one same thing, and both need to be aligned, like body and mind. I feel you can’t work well when you don’t feel well in the body, and in order to feel well in the body, you need to feel very confident and comfortable. I feel a confidence in one’s body is critical. If you don’t trust your body, that your body knows, and you don’t know how to listen to it and how to get answers from your body, I think you’re missing a big part of what’s going on in general. And then in order to be able to trust your body and to get to listen to it, you need to be healthy up here (pointing to her head) as well. It’s a constant feedback that you go: body-mind, body – mind, body –mind.
Alina: I’m wondering on the topic of what makes for healthy relationship with dance. Whether you’re thinking about it from perspective of you and your relationship with dance, or from a perspective of a teacher and when you’re working with student and how to help them discover and create an authentic healthy relationship with dance I’m curious what to you are the key ingredients? Some things that help for yourself or for other people?
Ariadna: Rule no. 1 – enjoy. You can enjoy suffering and that makes suffering something good. What I feel is the most wrong when I work with people or students, it’s when I see they just don’t enjoy what they’re doing. And I feel a lot of frustrations comes from that, and then nothing can really work, and I think there so many ways you can experience joy from dance, and it’s not only by becoming the most professional star of the dance world. Some people will, because there are certain amount of circumstances that will help the person get there, but there so many other perfectly great ways to have dance in your life. So I think that as long as you enjoy what you do, the path will reveal and you’ll work the best way you can with your body and with the capacities ; you will take the best out of the people you’re working with and the path will be revealed. I believe this is rule no 1. And I feel it’s very important to have goals. As a student or as a young dancer, it’s important to have your references and know what goal you would like to achieve, but as long as it gives you positive drive. The moment this turns into torture and frustration, I think then you need to start readjusting things and I think the easy way to detect that alarm is the moment you stop enjoying. It’s a good moment to ask yourself questions. So whenever I can, I try to help the people I work with to make them feel committed.
AlinaL What have you seen that’s helpful to other dancers with different challenges that they’re facing?
Ariadna: “Those challenges – I think they always come from stress, from pressure, and lack of confidence. Being unclear of what you’re looking for is very natural in a creation process, in feeling lost, and to accept that being lost it totally OK. Self-confidence is absolutely necessary, otherwise you feel so terrible. You’re super judgmental, you feel you’re terrible, you’re failing, because you don’t know, because you got lost. So I think we’re already going back to what I’ve already said: I think it’s ingredient #1 if you don’t trust the process or yourself, or the being lost stage of things, then you can become very frustrated. You think that by being over controlling you might master the situation, and that brings terrible energy to the room, usually, cause sometimes to fake what you want, you become a dictator, so that you’re showing that you know what you want, but that comes from a place that’s completely wrong and fake. I think it’s lack of confidence completely. So, if I’m in that room, and I feel it’s natural to do it, then I just try to share that it’s OK, try to put the people at ease: you know, let’s get lost together; OK, premiere is in a week; let’s try to forget about that, or try to show some empathy.
In this blog post, Ariadna Montfort shared about her experiences regarding the intersection of dance and psychology in her life. Her perspective conveys the importance of confidence and trust in the mind and body (and their feedback on one another) in the creation process. It also emphasizes the value of positive emotions such as joy in this process, and the impact that lack of joy can have on dancers’ well-being. We hope that this invites you to reflect on your perspective on dance and movement. Let us know your thoughts! Write to us, share your perspective on this topic, and let us know if you want to get involved in Dancing with a Healthy Mindset initiative! Check the Dancing with a Healthy Mindset section of our website often for new content, including interviews, vlogs, and more!