Think IN BED: Lucy Jane Doherty

Words by Elisha Kennedy
Photography by Saskia Kivilo

For Think IN BED this month, we speak to Lucy Jane Doherty, dancer, choreographer and cofounder of the One Dance Collective. Lucy’s personal experience with grief and loss have led her to become an advocate for dance as a tool for self expression, connection and healing. In her work today, whether it be through workshops, film, choreography or performance, she has assigned herself the task of “reconnecting people to the innate wisdom of the body”.

“I'm a first generation Australian from English and Irish descent. I live in Bundeena just south of Sydney in a tiny cottage on the water with my partner, Rob. My work revolves around dance, movement and how the body can be a vehicle for self expression, storytelling and connection. I work as a freelance performer and choreographer across film, television and live performance. I also run an organisation called One Dance Collective which aims to support emerging and professional dance artists through nurturing community and initiating ongoing opportunities for personal, creative & professional development.”

One Dance Collective first began as a production called "One" which I created in 2014 following my mum's death from breast cancer. I was overwhelmed with the community support I received to be able to stage and later tour the work in 2015 and I knew I wanted to keep the essence of "One" alive. One Dance Collective was born though I was not exactly sure what it was going to be at first.”

Community has always been the inspiration for the ways in which One Dance Collective has evolved over the years. For an art form such as dance, which is inherently about human connection, the worlds of professional dance can feel incredibly isolating at times. So my partner Rob and I wanted to create spaces where artists could come together, share honestly about where they are at and begin to use movement and conversation as tools to foster a greater connection with themselves and with others”

Currently we run weekly programs that support dance artists in personal, creative and professional capacities. We are also launching a performance company this year with the goal of creating and sharing our work with the broader community.”

Last year Lucy held a workshop on grief with the view to help others by sharing tools that she had learnt through her own experience.

“For me after losing my mum - dance, movement and creativity have been such big parts of my journey of processing grief. In recent years I've been working a lot with how we can connect with emotions which are stored in the body and so I wanted to share a process for connecting with grief and moving through it. Grief is such a big and heavy emotion, it's also so common in our lives and something we often don't give ourselves the time and space to feel and really move through. The body has an innate way of processing an emotion chemically, so when we feel it in the body and allow ourselves to move with it rather than suppress it or try to push it aside, it's a really cathartic process.

I ran this workshop over Zoom during the lockdown last year. The people who attended were experiencing different kinds of grief, from losing a loved one to grieving the way that life used to be before the pandemic. I think it helped being online as people felt safe in their own spaces to move and express themselves in the way they needed to. I loved the workshop because it gave me an opportunity to share dance with people of all ages and all different backgrounds, many with no prior dance experience. I think it's really important to encourage people to move and access the potentials of their bodies as in our modern culture it's so easy to become disconnected.”

“In a workshop I love to guide what almost feels like a meditation but through movement. So participants are given verbal cues and encouraged to explore their own bodies and movement in an intuitive way. So it's not so much like learning choreography and trying to perfect it, but rather going on a guided journey of connection to different aspects of awareness and exploring them through movement.”

For example I might begin by guiding some kind of connection with the space and to other participants in the class then moving into a personal exploration of the physical body through movement. This almost acts like a bit of a warm up and a way for participants to get familiar with how their bodies are feeling and the ways they might be capable of moving that day. Then I like to guide a process for connecting to emotion, finding it in the body and moving from that place. It can become quite emotional sometimes but it's so cathartic for people to allow themselves this time and space to feel and to move in whatever way they need to! I might finish the class by asking participants to set an intention for a feeling that people want to activate within themselves and to share with the space. We activate that from the body and then imagine sending that into the space. It's a beautiful way to become aware once more of the other participants and the experience we are sharing and contributing to as a whole.”

Opportunities for social dancing feel like they've slipped away over the past few decades, especially for those of us in our adulthood. However, Lucy has a few suggestions for people who might like to rediscover dance and movement.

I think it's really sad that there isn't encouragement or much opportunity for people to continue dance and movement in their adulthood! Having said that, there are things out there - you usually have to look a little harder to find them! Most major cities have at least one or two studios with adult classes at a range of different levels. In Sydney I'd recommend checking out DUTI studios in Newtown or Sydney Dance Company in Pyrmont. Groove Therapy has some great online classes, and there are events such as 5 Rhythms and No Lights No Lycra in cities that offer safe spaces to explore free and expressive movement!

There's so much benefit to moving your body through dance and I encourage anyone interested to have a search in your area or online and see what you can find!

I’m also working on recording some guided movement meditations that I'll be making available through my website later this year.