Conscious Dance: Provocative or Positive, That is the Question?

May 18, 2010

A request for sharing song suggestions about “Mother” for Mother’s Day went out to all in the Conscious DeeJay group, sparking quite a fascinating debate amongst some members regarding the content of lyrics and the nature of the dances. The basic issue revolved around whether the dances were places to just uplift and raise consciousness or whether they were a place to process shadow sides of ourselves, both ways supported by particular lyrics to experience these states.

It began with one  deejay expressing his disappointment in the type of songs being offered and that all lyrical content should be thoroughly reviewed. He felt that “conscious” deejays should be playing tracks that were only elevating. “This means no demeaning, sad, shagging, negative, womanizing, put-downing lyrics…….,” he specified. I felt a pang of angst. Being a fairly new member, I may not have been totally aware of the protocol. One of my suggestions that I sent out was “Dear Mama” by Tupac, perhaps considered uncool because of his use of profanity at times. Yet, this particular song that he wrote for his mother is so heartfelt. Yes, he does mention that she was a “crack fiend” and expresses how it was hell “hugging on my mama from a jail cell.” However, he spends the whole song praising and thanking her…I consider it fitting for Mother’s day.”There’s no way I can pay you back…But the plan is to show you that I understand…You are appreciated.” I felt awkward having perhaps offended some people. I wondered if I should apologize and yet I wasn’t convinced that it was my submission that was in question or whether I actually really felt honestly apologetic.

Not sure  if something needed to be done, I was relieved to see the following response and decided to be fine with my choice of music. “Interesting, I thought being conscious means that all is welcome without preference, without attachment to things being one way or another,” a 5Rhythms teacher wrote. “I found a lot of sad people in my class today, missing moms, hating moms, etc. To make those feelings a dance and to make space for it all to move, that is a gift. I would agree that I am not fond of violence, and especially violence against women, yet even some of those dances evoke feelings that can be moved and released….The harder we push the shadow away, the harder it comes to bite us in the rear….”  I am definitely more in this camp. While I deeply care to uplift people in the dances, I also love darker songs that evoke anger and sadness sometimes. I feel that moving the energy of these emotions in dance is an extremely potent de-tox and release. Agreed totally that violent and profane lyrics should be avoided.

“I prefer and would love to see more CD (conscious dance) DJs choosing inspiring, uplifting music, still with a theme [anyone can do a theme] … Folks still move through stuff. Missing Mum or hating Mum still comes up even with inspiring music “Cos it’s there.” And cos the facilitator has created a container/safe place to express. And a release happens,” came another passionate response to the debate. “Since you are a 5R (5Rhythms) person you can do this BUT not all of us are……. You choose to do Shadow Work……..I choose not! And encourage others the same. Cos there are LOADS of Unconscious DJ’s out there and WE need more Inspirational Dances not less.”

This discussion invited some soul-searching on my part as a dance facilitator. My preference is to create some focus for most sessions, whether it is a certain chakra or totem animal, a body part such as hips, a state of being like “surrender. My idea is that it invites a richness of exploration and greater self-awareness. Yet, after this exchange between deejays, I wondered if I wasn’t manipulating the energy or narrowing the field too much. Honestly, I don’t have the answer to that and continue to be with the question.

People can decide whether they want to do shadow work or not; some like vanilla, some espresso. Therefore, they can choose whether they want to have dance be strictly positive or be open to a more provocative experience…. and sometimes, release happens regardless, even if you are not searching for or encouraging it, “…cos it’s there.” Hallelujah for the luxury of choice! For me, this dance practice is a meditation in motion, a being with “what is,” fostering greater self-awareness. Conscious equals aware… and that is ALL inclusive… as it is all one truly…no divisions. One love.



  1. It’s interesting how strongly folks feel about this issue. My thinking of late has been that life is a cosmic irony: without shadow light has no meaning; and without light shadow has no meaning. Can we escape from the contrast? Should we try to?

    I would offer that the challenge (for our egos, ahem… for my ego…) is in doing what we like to do — what we feel drawn to doing — without needing others to do the same. Some will want to move into light; some into shadow; some will vacillate between the two.

    When I find myself really doing what I love, I have no room for judging anyone else — I’m too enthralled with the Beloved to care about anything else. It just feels so good.

    This reminds me of a poem by Rumi. I even found it online: http://tinyurl.com/RumiTheQuestion

  2. Interesting thread, thank you. Personally, I respect each DJs choice to bring forward the music that works best for them and I treasure those who are skilled, sensitive and dedicated to the unfolding grace/understanding of their students. Yes, it’s true, lyrics impose emotion and sentiment on the dancer, inevitably & automatically moving us up from embodiment – feet, core, heart – into our heads to interpret the words. This is why instrumental music is the preferred choice in the various dance settings I frequent – 5R, Soul Motion, NIA. But as many teachers know, to set a room on fire with motion & light & zest, play a hit song … I can still vividly recall moments where teachers have played the Go Go’s We Got the Beat, classic U2 and The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony, etc. and everyone explodes into technicolour abandon & joy. Anyway, whatever the content of songs with lyrics, I simply urge moderation. Two or three per set, maximum. & don’t lead the horses to water again and again because there will come a point when we do feel manipulated. But if it’s Mother’s Day and there is one or two tracks that speak intelligently and/or provocatively to this theme, please play them! Give the day its ritual shape and special flavor, honour the moment & move on with as little judgment or pro/con reactivity as possible. Smile, release, let go, then dance some more! x

    • Great feedback. Occasionally there is nothing like an old favorite to set the house on fire. Lyric-free is definitely preferable. It is pure energy and therefore open to individual response. Thanks!

  3. Thanks for the thoughtful post, and I appreciate the comments also. This is such a rich topic – as rich as the role of music in our lives as well as in our dances, and I’m glad you took the time to share your thoughts. As a music provider and sometime facilitator, I’m very aware of the difficult balance you allude to between “narrowing” or even “manipulating” versus allowing rich and deep exploration in a certain domain. No matter what path we follow, including using silence as our “music,” we are making an invitation of a certain type, and some will benefit and some won’t. Sometimes I “play to the crowd” and sometimes I “play against the crowd.” My theme this coming Sunday is “Sweet.” I know I’ll include some sour in there as well.

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