First blog post for Confidence Centred Coaching and its about a very impressive, thought provoking presentation I went to at the end of last week – delivered by my partner, Dance Artist and Choreographer Anne Colvin showcasing some work she is developing called Imprint.  I think there is so much to learn in coaching from the work of contemporary dance and other forms of creative expression and movement.

Photo by Zoe Manders

Photo by Zoe Manders

Imprint is all about people’s connections with nature.  In this research phase Anne gathered a wide range of stories, impressions, drawings and mark makings from people, young and old, who had a connection to one of two wonderful natural sites: the iconic Seven Sisters at Birling Gap; and an almost mystical yew tree grove at Kingley Vale,  north of Chichester.

Working with three very talented, creative dancers they used these stories and connections as the stimulus to create short beautiful, mesmeric, flowing dance pieces in the two sites – for example in Kingley Vale mimicking the extraordinary, unpredictable spread of the trees’ sprawling, intertwined branches – bowing down into the ground and reappearing to form a new growth.  At Birling Gap the slow motion, unstoppable crumbling of the cliff edge seemed to provide another inspiration.

But you can see all this and more for yourselves in the beautiful film by Zoe Manders:

So what’s this got to do with sports coaching?

First off, there is something extraordinarily deep and at its most sublime to do with creative space in the world of dance.  Those familiar with Confidence Centred Coaching will already know the emphasis on place – on how as coaches we create a space in which learning can take place and how we also seek to enable those we coach to reframe, reshape and redefine the place they are occupying to feel more in control and focused.

One of the special things about Imprint was how Anne and her dancers used the natural space, amongst the intertwined sprawling yews and on the stony beach as if it were their natural playground – each movement in tune with the place.  Another lovely feature was having children and their parents within the space – not sat outside passively spectating but an intimate and engaged part of the experience.  And at the presentation this continued, with space created for everyone to draw, paint or make mark their impressions whilst picnicking.

Another impression the work had on me is a rather envious awe for the dancers' fluency of movement.  So much of my own physical development as a triathlete has been about a fixed moving forward as fast and strong as possible – all heading straight ahead, whether through the water, on the bike or running.  In triathlon coaching our focus can be rather narrowly on converting power and strength into that linear forward motion.  Even when we introduce stretching, mobility or Strength & Conditioning, more often than not it’s to reinforce those same movement patterns or to stay injury free in order to keep doing the same.  How amazing to see people who train and develop themselves to move freely, with a suppleness in every conceivable direction, seemingly effortless and with a fluent grace and expression.

In this respect I see in dancers two key things: a disciplined development of core strength and alignment from which they are then able to move in a controlled, balanced way; and a sense of being fully present in the moment of each movement in the place.  These are themes in the workshops and content on Confidence Centred Coaching when we seek to attune those we coach to a mindfulness of form, effort and movement.

As we develop Confidence Centred Coaching it will be fascinating to see and learn from other areas of sport and creative arts where these two big themes of disciplined development of strength and technique for movement and mindful, attuned presence are shared – or where quite a different focus is needed.

In the meantime you can follow the progress of Imprint using the twitter hashtag #IMPRINT.

Photo by Zoe Manders

Photo by Zoe Manders