School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: May 2008
To sing or not to sing!

By Susannah

Recently I’ve had two letters from people asking for advice with an interesting conundrum, “to sing or not to sing.”

These letters were both from people who have participated in my DanSing workshops and got turned onto singing. Their dilemma arose in a movement orientated evening class with another teacher, when they found themselves singing whilst dancing and were told (by another participant) that their singing was disturbing.  I thought I’d write my response here, as the themes of how to be an individual and be part of community are generic to many situations.

How do we strengthen our individuality and autonomy, whilst also strengthening our sense of connectedness, of mutuality, co-operation, community and co-creative possibility? How do we support diversity and unity? These themes are becoming a key part of Movement Medicine as it evolves.

My answer, so far, is that we need to keep practicing and balancing dual attributes; being yin and yang, receptive and active, listening and acting, being freed and connected, strong and sensitive.

And when this happens, when the net of interconnection becomes activated between us, what an amazing feeling of connectedness, of being part of something greater, which includes everyone and everything. Within this web of connectedness, each of is still a free, autonomous individual, making choices, the difference is being able to see and feel and hear the resonance of those choices.

Discovering how to open these doorways in workshop settings is giving me so much pleasure. Its visceral, you can feel it. Its like coming out of unconscious, self imposed solitary confinement.

Singing and music making is a wonderful way to practice this in action. If you do not listen to the others, and only focus on your own “freedom” you create a racket. If all the players feel no personal freedom and feel duty bound to stay within the structure that is given, nothing new can emerge and there is a mechanical feel to what is created. Great music is often the result of a powerful synthesis of these two aspects, of structure and freedom. Surrender and deep consent to the form allowing the individual expression to flow freely through it.


These elements are the ground of the intensive workshops ‘Resonance’ the weekend workshops ‘DanSing’ and (through movement without so much emphasis on voice) ‘Trance-Formations.’


So now I want to come back to the specifics of the question; “to sing or not to sing?”:

1 To grow we have to risk. As we grow, we will, from time to time, be clumsy, “inappropriate” as we learn to balance our power with consciousness, and refine our expression.

2 The voice is powerful. Your voice is powerful. It impacts those around you. It should! It does! And this means if we want to exercise this power in a way which is good for everyone, we need to balance our freedom with awareness of our impact on the space around us. I am beginning to think that something wise in us often holds back our power until we have developed the wisdom to use it wisely.

3 What is appropriate depends a lot on the context. In a class, the context is established by the teacher who is holding the space. So the simplest answer it to ask the teacher what they are willing/able to hold.

4 When we get feedback that something we are doing is not OK it is possible that there is something in our psyche that is expecting that negative feedback, and so we unconsciously position ourselves so as to elicit the response from outside which confirms our fears. “You see!” says our inner fearful voice, “I was right, you CAN’T do that!”. I’m sure we all know that one.

5 When we get feedback that something we are doing is not OK it is possible that it has nothing to do with us and we are merely triggering something for the other.

Most of the time, most interaction is a mixture of the two I think, my psyche interacting with your psyche, both of us co-creating our interaction. So if you want to grow, always good to check in! In my Gestalt training I remember being told that one way to measure someone’s maturity was to look at their capacity to do two things: 1) to put the group’s needs above their own, and 2) to be able to put their own needs above the group’s. The capacity to do both means a fluidity in one’s role, and a willingness to make judgements about levels of need, and to take responsibility for them, and being willing to risk “getting it wrong”.

So, I wish all of us the freedom, wisdom and grace to grow in a way which is good for all, and to be able to tolerate discomfort and mistakes when they occurs with as much dignity, generosity, humour and responsibility as possible, learning along the way and receiving the extra-ordinary gifts of being alive, being able to move, sing and give thanks, love and be loved,


Susannah Darling Khan


Susannah’s next Resonance workshop will take place Oct 29 – Nov 2nd and will be residential at the Earth Sprit Centre in Somerset.  To book please contact Susanne on 01803 762999 or




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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.