Anatomy of Touch

Photo: © Olga Berdikyan

Anatomy of Touch

Touch is the most essential experience in our life. We need touch for food, we need touch to know that we exist. We are constantly searching for it, like other mammals, to make us feel loved and secure. We share our affection and love through touch, we communicate our intentions, our desires and our longings, we often receive more information in a simple touch of a hand than in 100 words. Touching and being touched is deeply human and undeniably healing.

We seek contact, consciously or unconsciously in the most diverse contexts of our life, but also make the most varied experiences with it. Touch can be soothing, health restoring, protective, affectionate, ecstatic, pain relieving, relaxing and arousing (and much of it at the same time), but also threatening, painful, boundary crossing and violent.

In holistic dance, contact improvisation, body work, applied anatomy, body psychotherapy, tantra, playfight and many other forms of movement and touch, we are looking for a deepening and holistic engagement with the subject of touch, beyond the everyday context of our western world. We are looking for the connecting, grounding and simplifying element that lets us relax again, that reconnects us with our Animal Body and reminds us that we are part of our environment, part of this Earth.

The topic of touch is not only personal, but highly political and ecological. More and more people are realizing that it needs a return, a return to a simpler, earthbound way of life. For this we need kind way of handling ourselves and others, an acknowledgment of our basic needs, to which touch is one of the first.

Many dancers have a natural approach to touch. In the negotiation with the body and movement, touch appears to be an integral part. However, many people have lost this natural approach and it is part of our job as dance educators to open up empathetic spaces for the "rediscovery" of this human need. This includes being aware of how powerful and healing touch is, but also how painful and deadlocked old wounds can be.

We have to deal with this discrepancy as a holistic dance pedagogue. The best way lies in our practice. The more we are in touch with the healing aspect of touch, the easier it is for us to keep the balancing act for others. Part of this is to face up to your own shadow, to learn again and again through your own research paths, to get support through trainings, supervision and body treatments.

Every one of us has had painful and traumatizing experiences. We do not have to rummage around in them all the time, but face them openly when they show up. The more we create exciting, creative and empathic spaces within the dance, the easier this process of transformation, that we initiate with people and for ourselves, will be. What makes our work so beautiful is the depth in which the lightness lives.