During my 17 years of working in Ambient Jam I have grown, often imperceptibly, in lots of important life principles. In my current role as lead artist for the Friday Ambient Jam 1 improvisation events, I oversee the health and safety and practical hosting of each session, as well being part of an improvisation team of dancers and musicians.
This role has helped me to understand how my own personality is expressed and stretched within this context: I am learning about who I am and who I am not, and am affirmed afresh that it’s a role that will be embraced differently by other individuals. Feeling it’s OK to be oneself not just creatively but in a role too, is a gift rather than, as can often be the case, a constraint where we are required to perform a role to an exact template!
As well as being a trained dancer, I worked as a support worker for many years with adults with a broad range of ‘disabilities’, primarily supporting individuals in their homes and in accessing the community. As much as our intention was to relate with a sense of equality and individuality to those we were supporting, it was at times a real challenge to do so: The practical challenges of wheelchairs and physical needs requiring much attention, rotas, budgets, corporate and team dynamics and more meant, as in many other work contexts, the ideals in my heart often seemed hard to see materialise.
People’s physical needs in everyday life and how society responds to these, can hinder opportunities for being creative. The creation of a safe space where our basic needs are attended to but not the focus; where a person can let go of being dependent on another person, and the unique creative expression we bring is received, highlighted and welcomed, is rich in terms of connection and potential. The Ambient Jam environment has facilitated some amazing times together!
In weekly Ambient Jam sessions we seek to create a learning space where there is a similar opportunity to grow for everyone, in ways I have been able to explore for myself within my role. In collaboration with our members with complex disabilities we try to arrive at moments of creative equality, which celebrates individual quirkiness in all of us.
This particular approach to being part of a social and group space feels radical and refreshing, and often counter to our own lifestyles and the way our society operates.
In Ambient Jam I love the way in which we seek to create a freeing space where the focus isn’t primarily on tasks and needs, but essentially more on creating a space together, where our own individual core identities flourish. This is often a slow and gentle process that takes place through a long term association and building relationships and trust. It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to witness the rich potential in growth and development in our members and ourselves, and what is really possible over a long time.
It’s still gritty: The reality is that we may need to navigate together someone amongst us having a seizure or needing to be changed, or feeling distraught, and more. We have to grow in resilience, understanding and working together at such times. However these moments are woven seamlessly into our music and movement work together.
Somehow in our small expression of community we are seeking to push beyond a focus on just care needs, and see each of us as an individual with a life affirming creative contribution to bring to the improvisation. We are learning to embrace each other (whether ‘able’ or ‘disabled’) as unique in our own identity and gifting.
So, as I seek to explore my own creative identity, I delight in contributing to a context that also releases others. And, as many of us have discovered, such a space is an amazing gift and one that continues to be a growing and re-calibrating environment on all sorts of levels for us. It has also been good to witness it as a rich space for those (such as research students and volunteers) that visit, and dare to ‘jump in’ too!