I find myself struggling to describe the magic and the miracles that our dancer in residence Louise Klarnett creates every time she comes to work with our mothers and minis.
To fully know the effect she has it is important to know how mums arrive with us, so far from being ready to risk a dance or an engagement that anybody could be.
Mums and children are traumatised.
Traumatised by the experiences that led them in to homelessness: Domestic abuse, family breakdown, domestic slavery, trafficking, having been hurt, used, cut.
They are often living within the trauma of being homeless. Insecure, unable to sleep, depressed, anxious, untrusting, in pain (emotional and physical).
For those who don’t know what Louise does it might seem incongruous to invite a dancer work with this group of women and children.
Surely we should concentrate on sorting out the practical problems. The housing, the income, the immigration, the need for safety, food, comfort.
Well, we do that too.
But our view is that babies do not stop being babies when they become homeless.
They do not stop developing – and needing the inputs and stimulation that is necessary for them to develop – because they have larger issues. In fact, they need these things more. They need play, joy, belonging, movement, engagement and creativity.
They need to be children, to move, roll, jump, hop, feel the joy and release of twirling, twisting, and turning.
It turns out that this is not just play:
It is development,
It is mood regulation,
It is building core strength both emotional and physical.
Being in the room with Louise is magic for these reasons.
We witness babies who are suspicious, stressed, silent begin to brave engagement. To come out of themselves and to move.
This is how Louise describes it.
Some bound over into my ‘space’ confident, open, tactile.
One little girl with long thick eyelashes and wide, wide eyes, silently notices me across the room through the noise, and people and toys.
She looks then looks away, looks
I align my midline and widen my perceptual field to include her in my improvisation from across the space, through the noise and people and toys.
This relationship builds slowly over the duration of the whole session.
She takes / catches my eye and is somehow a little nearer to me, navigating and testing the safety and the possibilities.
We look, blink, look away.
I smile, gesture a sort of ‘wave’, reach without expectation.
I sway in my midline and spiral in improvised motion with many other children from the sky to the ground and find stillness as well as energy, in and out of contact as appropriate.
She is still there, across the space, through the noise and people and toys.
Nearing the end of the session this little one initiates a movement conversation.
A wave for a word. A game, repeating but changing. Her wave, small, without eyes, bigger with eyes, bigger with eyes and in response to my gesture and eyes. A slight smile across her eyes, knowing she and I are playing the same game.
Closer but still distant in the room. I hope I might spark this dance again.