The question I was asked to respond to for this, my first piece of writing for Ministry of Counterculture was, ’what does freedom mean to me?’. To be honest I was held in stillness for a while as I considered what I could offer to such imperative dialogue.
It is certainly one of the ‘big’ questions. As I look at the world, as I read and listen and as I meet people, I understand so many are living without many or certain freedoms. I do know that I value my freedom and I believe in the right for every human being to be free. When I think about freedom I think about our rights as human beings, rights that I deeply value. I think about our right to live free of oppression, discrimination, abuse and violence. I think about the right to access education regardless of gender, race or economic circumstances. I think about people’s right to love who they want, to express their opinions and ideas, to live the life they choose.
Therefore the question of what freedom means to me developed into a question that has many layers: it relates to the physical, the political, the cultural, the spiritual, economics, knowledge, ideas, philosophy, sexuality, information, creativity etc. When there are so many layers how do you see through to what the essence of freedom is, in order to be able to answer this question? It is a question that positions me to look outward to the world around me that I am part of and inward. When I looked inwardly though, I quite instinctually had an answer, not the answer, but an answer that resonated strongly for me.
I realise that there are countless important areas in this conversation that I will not be able to write about and perhaps these become departure points for further writing. Therefore below are reflections upon a few areas that have arisen for me as I have considered some of layers of the question.
From where I am: As I write this I recognise that I am in a position that many people in this world are not. It would be naive and irresponsible for me not to recognise this opportunity as a privilege, but I also recognise this as a right; a right to freedom of expression. I currently have the means and freedom to write this blog, when others are devastatingly living through persecution. To be able to undertake an act that many consider a simple thing, writing a blog or expressing ideas in a public forum, is an act I wish for every human being to be able to do if they chose it.
Words and actions: I do not feel that I can define freedom as acting on every feeling, impulse or inclination. This idea also seems to arise in other conversations around freedom (conversations I have read, including other blogs dialoging around a similar question of what is freedom and conversations I have had). We are an interconnected community and I feel we need to hold an awareness of how our actions and words have impact upon others. Perhaps an ideal that I am trying to find is a mindful compass of equality and respect which means that I act in awareness of self and others.
Freedom to engage with the arts: As a dance artist, I spend much of my time in the studio with many people from different histories, and this is one of my greatest and honored places for experiencing, learning, understanding and navigating. I work a lot with young people, developing their skills and offering spaces for creative exploration and critical dialogue. Freedom to engage with the arts is something I am passionate about. Not only as someone who themselves found personal creative, expressive and emotional empowerment through engagement with the arts in their youth, but as someone who has seen engagement with the arts offer empowerment to many young people.
I do feel I have witnessed engagement with the arts impacting how people then engage socially and politically and I have seen these to be positive outcomes. Maybe the more we engage with the arts the more we might nurture a space of openness, acceptance and critical dialogue that empowers the individual and this ripples through who we feel we are, how we see each other and therefore the actions we take.
Creative freedom: I feel that in the places I have lived, I have the freedom to create work about and in ways that I choose. The worst outcome could be that my work is not well received, but I will not loose my physical freedom because of this. Working with Belarus Free Theatre though I have come to understand more intimately what oppression and censorship of creative expression has meant for people.
Creative freedom for me is about the capacity to create art as a means to express the aesthetic, the spiritual, the instinctual, the emotional, the fantastical, the philosophical, the political, the aspirational, the furious, the undefinable; to articulate an experience, an observation or a question, to make a statement if you wish, without fear of persecution.
An internal space: I have, over my life, felt many inspiring moments of connectedness through various physical and mental practices that I have engaged with; there are certainly moments in my movement based work that have offered these where the mind, emotions and body and connected in acts of creation and expression. I love and honour these moments.
Over two years ago now I learnt Transcendental Meditation. This simple practice has had a great impact. When I meditate the brain is able to settle to a place of deep conscious rest. In this moment I feel as though I am present in a simple truth. So when the question what does freedom mean to me was asked, I knew that it is in my meditation practice that i experience a sense of freedom. It is freedom in the internal space, the peace and calm of the mind that resonates through the body, through the emotions and through my interactions with the world that creates for me a liberation.
Future MOC writing: In future writings for Ministry of Counterculture I look forward to looking at the body as an inseparable part of the experience of living, the body in its intelligence, fragility and robustness, the body connected to action, culture, politics and expression. I look forward to talking with people who are living with, advocating for and making work about subjects of change.
About Bridget: Bridget is a dance artist who’s work embraces performance, choreography, facilitation and development roles. She works within many contexts including professional company, independent, education and community. Bridget’s practice often collaborates with theatre, interactive media, video, site and new music.
Since 2012 Bridget has been working creatively with Belarus Free Theatre on projects, including: ‘Trash Cuisine’ (choreographer and rehearsal director), ‘Eyes for London’ (movement director on Young Vic youth parallel production), ‘Red Forest’ (researcher, movement and rehearsal director) and has taught students of BFT underground school Fortinbras both in Minsk and in Falmouth.
Originally from Australia, Bridget is now based in Manchester in the UK. Bridget is currently one of the four inaugural Moving Dance Forward Associates. Commissioned by the Moving Dance Forward Associates scheme: a consortium supporting dance artists resident in the North West of England led by Dance Manchester and MDI in partnership with the Unity Theatre, Contact, The Lowry and University of Salford.