Posted by Kimberly Bryant · 2 June 2014
Creativity takes courage. — Henri Matisse
Several years ago, I was introduced to Dance Mandala by my friend, artist Li Li Tan. We’d connected over our mutual love of art and shared perspective on creativity — there is no right or wrong; only truth — and I related to how she painted: bright and colorful, almost childlike. If you’re a painter, you know how difficult this is to actually do; we all want to paint — and dance, feel, be — like children, but maintaining an authentic sense of innocence as we grow up is challenging. Perhaps if we were encouraged to ‘grow into ourselves’ rather than ‘grow up’, it would be easier.
Li Li Tan sits in the middle of a mural painting workshop she leads through her causal non-profit organization, ArtSpeak. Photo by Kimberly Bryant
“You’ll like the class, trust me.
” I did trust her. Still do.
Cut to three years and countless Dance Mandala classes later. Li Li and I find ourselves back at the Yoga Tree, sharing conversation about our creativity experience at our weekly session of this spiritual movement medicine. Ever since experiencing my first Dance Mandala class, I noticed a distinct shift in my ability to access a freer part of myself, a place that houses intuition and expansion. When I’m struggling to find peace with something — from writer’s block to photography struggles to logistical decisions — I’m usually able to come to some sort of terms with it by the end of a Dance Mandala session.
Dance Mandala frees my right-brain to make movement-inspired imagery with fellow dancers. Dancer: Sejin / Photo by Kimberly Bryant.
I’m not saying that dancing solves everything; of course not. But it lets me access myself (my authentic self) in ways that little else can. The triple threat of music, movement, and meditation invites us into an atmosphere of transformation. In it, we’re able to transcend our minds — and sometimes even our bodies — into another space, where dreams fly freely and possibilities are limitless. Dance Mandala has deeply influenced my photography practice, directly inspired my personal drawing meditations, as well as my general direction in life. In a nutshell, it has profoundly affected who I am — and who I am becoming. Li Li, likewise, has been inspired by Dance Mandala within her own personal and artistic journey. As a painter, much her work relies on an intrinsic motivation to produce works about what she feels, and how she sees both herself and life. Dance Mandala provides her space to let loose thoughts and emotions, and break into new creative territory. The initial visions for several of her paintings have been conceived during Dance Mandala sessions; and she’s even painted in a Dance Mandala class, which resulted in her dynamic piece, “Bursting Forth.”
Painting from heart Of the correlation between Dance Mandala and her painting practice, Li Li reveals: “Wielding a brush when I’m painting, or just using my fingers to paint, is an extension of my body. Dance Mandala helps me to build my core; to listen to my body and how it wants to move when I paint. Sometime during Dance Mandala, ideas and visuals for new painting appear because I am happy — tapping into my inner and outer physicality and spirituality. Dance Mandala allows me to let go, let loose, and paint!”
“Hear the music” is another one of Li Li’s paintings inspired by Dance Mandala. Of the piece, she says, “Rising above it all, free to dance or just to jump, feel, dream, live…Hear the music.” Oil, enamel & acrylic on canvas, 90cmx150cm / Photo courtesy of LiLi Tan.
Finding a mindful practice that allows us to embody our authentic selves can often be akin to discovering a portal to our intuitive creative center. Having a supportive space in which to explore our right-brained beautiful chaos is a true gift — and one with a ripple effect that shimmers with our natural flow, sometimes beyond our wildest expectations.
Everything you can imagine is real. — Picasso