On Comfort Zones

Most people tell you that it's good to get out of your comfort zone. But is it always? Can we go too far, and then perhaps not get back? What do we, and those around us, gain from it?

It’s the first day that musicians and dancers have got together to start the creation of this project, and there is a specific feeling in the air. It takes a while to realise what it is, but as musicians line up against a wall to receive their orders from a tall, fashionably mustachioed Swedish choreographer, Adidas tracksuit bottoms in place of the usual jeans, it becomes suddenly apparent: they are eight years old, standing in their gym clothes in P.E. class, waiting to be singled out.

At least no-one’s picking sides this time - the scales are set a little more fairly. Everyone in the row is an adult, everyone is a creative person, and everyone is in the same boat. But still, when you’re flung out of your comfort zone and into an Edinburgh dance studio and made to wear exercise-related clothing, you are probably going to feel fairly uncomfortable. Peers - people who respect, admire and pay you for the incredible things you can do, with each one of these presenting its own worries - are going to be watching you do something you can’t do. And what you can’t do is dance. Never said you could, never said you would, until a rumour goes round your group - your musical group - that the next tour is going to involve costumes, and moving. Next to professional dancers.

But once any initial bursts of panic begin to subside (distraction is a wonderful thing, for the mind), you realise that what we’re really dealing with here is tolerating discomfort. As the musicians began to move around, doing some simple exercises intended by Öjan to gradually, softly introduce the idea of moving around a space with other people, what united each one was that they were all performers. As such, they will have experienced a certain level of not only discomfort before, but nerves, fear, apprehension, sometimes extreme; all emotions which many others will only feel rarely in their daily or professional life. So maybe they can handle this more? Or, working in a field where there is less forgiveness for mistakes and more pressure on being incredible, the best of your field, will it feel worse to be an absolute beginner?

Öjan begins to incorporate movement by using what they know: music. Asked to make a sound with their body, the sound is then linked to an action. This is more familiar and there is a tangible easing of tension in the room. But it's fleeting; now, they’ve been given twenty minutes come up with a “phrase” based on this pairing of sound and movement, which they will then perform in front of each other.

As they split off alone to rehearse their self-choreographed dance solos - because, like it or not, it’s become apparent that that’s what they’re heading towards - I realised that over the course of this project, as the nature of the performance and its process unfolds, curls back on itself and goes off on tangents, one thing is certain: we're going to learn a lot about comfort zonesand the consequences of leaving them behind.

[Rosie Davies]