YOUR INNER IMP
The word duende derives from the Spanish term for a mischievous creature who sneaks into your house at night to cause mayhem. We think we prefer Lorca’s version!
Participants have described this act of dancing as cathartic; a much needed release of pent-up feelings. “Emotions and thoughts come up while I’m dancing, but by putting them into my dance, rather than keeping them stuck in my head, they move, change and pass,” says Claire, a Wild Chocolate Club enthusiast.
Even for those who are painfully shy, who have never previously dreamt of dancing in front of other people, it’s possible to nd solace in the transformative power of ecstatic dance. “I’ve always been hideously self-conscious about dancing, unless very drunk, or at home alone,” says another participant, Ruth. “But during this experience, I had moments of joy, clarity and being genuinely lost in the music.”
Dancing like no one is watching can certainly be an emotional release. And, according to the manifesto of Morning Gloryville (www.morninggloryville.com) – a touring earlymorning rave where you hit the dance oor before you head to work – it also helps us tune into our younger, less inhibited selves: “We believe that barriers are created within the self as soon we forget to play. We want to help adults connect with their inner child, to play and enjoy the spectacle of life.”
Dance psychologist Dr Peter Lovatt believes that dance can indeed be a powerful tool for breaking down our self-conscious barriers. “When people dance in a trance-like state, it is thought that they can experience a loss of self,” he explains. Although this might not sound positive, it is actually a step towards freedom from worries: “It helps them stop thinking about themselves as others see them… People have told me that dancing helps them to switch o their mind,” Dr Lovatt continues.
So what is it about dancing that just feels so good? Dr Lovatt’s explanation is that dancing triggers a huge release of endorphins that “lift the weight of anxiety from a person’s shoulders and gives them an increased vigour and happiness.” This pleasure surge is similar to the
feeling we get after a quick jog around the park which, according to recent studies, stimulates the production of endocannabinoids in our bodies. This substance is almost chemically identical to the active ingredients found in marijuana – a natural high, no drugs needed!
For fell runner Ruth Allen, it’s the combination of these feel-good hormones with the physical demands of the sport that helps her to nd her
duende. “It gives me that meditative still point between painful physical exertion and deep mental peace,” she says of her jaunts around the lofty regions of the Peak District. “In that place, I am totally present and connected to myself and my wilder nature.”
So it seems that people can nd this blissful soul connection and emotional release through other physical exercise as well as dancing, but can duende also be achieved in activities that are more sedate and less pulse-racing?
Artist and teacher Lisa Pearn nds that an hour or so with her easel, canvas and watercolours, particularly after a hard day’s work at school, often takes her mind to other realms. “Painting is an autonomous zone. My mind goes completely somewhere else where colours, energy and ideas fuse, and that translates into my work. It’s meditation in motion. I feel so happy when I’m in that place – I always return from it refreshed,” she explains.
For writer Jo Tinsley, a long, slow walk in the countryside is a tonic for her racing thoughts and inner chatter. “I’ve got a restless and dgety energy. In order to nd emotional stillness, I need to wear myself out and immerse myself in nature,” she says. “Spending time outdoors works like a pressure valve for me. When I’m rambling on blustery moorland, there’s one mantra that always naturally forms in my mind: ‘This is real. Everything else is irrelevant.’ It’s really grounding.”
Singer and founder of Hereford Soul Choir, Jenny Frost, nds that exact same sense of inner joy and calm when singing gospel music. “Some people come to rehearsals feeling stressed out or weighed down by things, but after a couple of hours’ singing, they’re elevated,” she says. “When you sing gospel, you don’t just sing it, you feel it. You become part of the emotion of the song, and the emotion becomes real.” Jenny nds that certain songs can bring her closer to duende than others: “There’s a song I love to sing – No
More Drama by Mary J Blige. It relates to so many things for me. When I sing it, I feel like
I’m not even in the room; it’s that powerful. It’s almost like an out of body experience.”
Playfulness. Joy. Letting go. Meditation. Connection. It may seem like a mixed bag of words, but these all form my understanding of
duende, and concisely describe some of its bene ts. And while the creative, spontaneous and spiritual nature of dancing, particularly dancing like no one’s watching, is a sure way to
duende heaven, there are other wonderful ways to get your emotional x. If you haven’t discovered yours yet, get out and try a new activity or join a club – you never know when you might just stumble upon it.