I have always had the belief that people are made up of far more than they know, and I've wished for a creative way to open a door to self discovery, so that new self-knowledge can be used to transform lives, and begin the healing of accumulated emotional blocks. Over many years I have been searching for a way to synthesise my past experiences with dance, art, creativity, healing and transformation into a workable model towards this end. I initially trained as a social worker, and obtained my honours degree in psychology and sociology at Rhodes University. It was then that I started dancing. After Rhodes I went to the Laban School of Contemporary Dance in London (now the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance), where I discovered my next creative passion, drawing. On the long train trips to and from college, I began drawing and journalling.
I became very depressed in London and my sister steered me towards spiritual breath work. Now began my real opening! I became a Sanyasin, a follower of Osho, studying all the meditations and doing as many courses as I could. This was a discipline that embraced dance as a means of accessing spirit. Doing daily meditational dances to stunning music, my spirit soared and I knew that I had come home. I had dreams and visions of going home to South Africa and seeking out black dancers. I had become very troubled by the split inside of me caused by apartheid. (I think that we don't often acknowledge the extent to which the cruel and divisive ideology impacted on our individual psyches.) I desperately longed for unity and integration.
When I returned to South Africa, I was eventually put in touch with Sonwabo Masepe, the leader of a traditional African group in Langa, who had the same vision as me. Together with Jenny van Papendorp and Alfred Hinkel, from Jazzart, we embarked on the groundbreaking, life-changing cultural dance collaboration called ABAMANYANI, meaning unity. Under very difficult circumstances, with no funding and with 30 dancers, artists, musicians and singers, we met weekly at Jazzart and work-shopped a creative dream of a new South Africa. Dance in South Africa was irrevocably changed by ABAMANYANI. Alfred acknowledged this as the roots of the new Jazzart. We performed to packed houses and standing ovations at the Grahamstown Festival in 1986, the depths of the horror of apartheid. We had a voice and we celebrated a previously unimaginable dream. 30 performers, from all cultural delineations, making art together... we defied the laws of segregation, and sang and danced our way to unity! I saw the power of our art and our creativity. I saw the power of manifestation against all odds. We made a difference and we shifted consciousness through our collaborative creativity. I have thus been struck by the power of creativity and physical expression to enter unchartered terrain and make major paradigm shifts, and that sense of the transformational power of creativity stayed with me. It was this power that I've wanted in some way to be able to harness and utilize, which is what I believe I have done with MovingArt.
From ABAMANYANI, I began my many years of collaboration in socio-political dance dramas, at the same time giving birth to two children and beginning a clothing business based on art. I did not stop dancing until my mother tragically and unexpectedly died. After that I gave birth to two more children, and the next 10 years saw me going through my darkest times. I was betrayed by my best friend with whom I had shared my precious gift of art on clothing, and who had been my partner. After our partnership split, she went into competition with a lookalike label, and that hurt me enormously. My mother had died, and I was flung into years of “panic”. I suffered panic attacks, which I thought were heart attacks, and after seeing a psychiatrist, I eventually was guided into accessing the enormous unexpressed grief that was lodged inside of me. I also began my slow move back to dancing. I discovered Nia, and Kathy Wolstenholme nurtured me back to joy of moving. So began the long road to recovery...
For seven years I taught the Nia technique, and over time came to feel that, powerful though it certainly was, it was not quite the right fit for me. I knew that I had to find my own way and my own path, to create my own system that would bring together my own knowledge, experiences and beliefs. It was around this time, as I was exploring other possibilities, that I found biodanza, meaning “to dance with life”, a dance system of human integration that fuses movement, music and emotion that originated in South America, under founder Rolando Torro. So began MovingArt, and the start of my integration of all that I am, and all that I have to offer.
Perhaps the first obvious manifestation of MovingArt as it is today can be traced back to my collaboration three years ago with Cathy Abraham and Lindy Solomon. It was our intention to help people to become more aware of previously unrecognised and untapped parts of themselves through a synergy of the arts, and we designed something that would incorporate our combined skills in art and movement. I ran several workshops, collaborating with a wide range of art activists. With each successive workshop, I became more aware of what really worked and what did not, and a clearer path towards my goal gradually emerged. The realisation that being in nature was an integral part of the transformation process was crucial in this development, as was the growth of the idea of a 12-week course in which I would attempt to guide people through the formation of their own dance narratives. It was only this year, however, that the MovingArt process as it is now had become clear. The crux was discovering and utilising symbol activation and association as the springboard through which to identify each individual's current personal challenge. Now there was a tangible way to progress through emotional barriers, towards the creation of an artistic expression of a soul dance.
- Balu Nivison