NUMBER 782• 8 JULY • DANCE
At a recent workshop I conducted in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia with child and youth care workers from Nexus, a group home, and several other agencies, I participated in a lively discussion of the notion of presence as dance. We also explored issues such as the relationship between commitment or calling and presence, as well as whether or not presence could “be faked.” Eyes brightened with the thought of rhythmic interaction being intertwined with presence. As on many previous occasions, this notion seemed to ring true with the experiences of workers.
Presence, as far as I know, can't be faked. Being real is being real. Commitment and calling can work for or against presence. If one is obsessed with commitment or zealous about being called to something outside or beyond one's self, it seems as if it would be difficult to be present in the moment. On the other hand, if a sense of vocation or being called to a moment is part of who one is, then it seems as if this is part of one's presence.At one point during the workshop, Thom Garfat raised the question, does presence exist if I am not present for you? His question, which we discussed later at dinner and with e-mail, was related to his ongoing study of presence as the locus of experience as it relates to meaning, or the way workers and youth make meaning. One response to this question is that presence occurs whether one is trying to be present or not. One can “be elsewhere” or distracted, which is perhaps the truest reflection of self at the moment, and the other can sense your presence, even if one is present only for one's self, or perhaps one's self and someone else.
It could also be that even though someone does not experience your presence in the moment, they might experience it later with reflection. The person might realize that you were present and the moment could take on a new meaning with reflection that contributes to one's overall sense of connectedness.
In an international e-mail conversation on CYC-NET (which was initiated by Kelly Shaw, an insightful worker from Nexus), Gerry Fewster, who has spent many years “working with the experience of presence,” came on line with the following comment. “It is possible, for example, to be present with Self, without necessarily being present for Other. It is possible to be 'present' while carrying a heavy agenda, though most people think of about it as 'being in the moment'.”
It seems to me that most of these factors come into play in the notion of presence as dance. In other words, if a worker is real — which means possesses the range of emotions, experiences, struggles, and successes that comprise self -then one creates an overall sense of presence for youth. The challenge is not so much to do it right, or to think of it as a technique, but rather as a way of being that one senses while trying to be in tune with self and other. And somewhere in this dance a youth experiences a number of moments of presence that become part of his or her evolving story. The youth takes these moments with him or her as he or she leaves the moment or activity or program, and in turn has a slightly new view of the world and a slightly more fulfilling sense of being with others.
Krueger, M. (1999) Presence as Dance in Work with Youth. Journal of Child and Youth Care, Vol. 13 No. 2. pp 69-70