Robin Lamarr has been the only person of colour in a movement class. With this personal experience and her own desire to make mindful movement accessible, the movement educator and community activist had been thinking about how she could address the lack of representation in the movement community.
When she obtained a physical space for the studio she founded, Goodbodyfeel, she saw it as a good time to introduce a designated space for people of colour. The result was the first Movement Melanin Expression workshop on Feb. 24. The two-hour, three-part workshop was designed for individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous or people of colour.
“The intention is to create a space where folks who usually feel like they don't belong can feel belonging. And then, because it's an exclusive space, we can be open, raw, vulnerable and honest about what… we're feeling and why… [W]e can be super open about it without having to… defend ourselves against someone who might have white fragility for example,” said Lamarr.
The workshop was the result of a partnership with Hamilton-based visual alchemist and movement teacher-in-trainer, Stylo Starr. Starr joined the Goodbodyfeel Teacher Training last year when she met Lamarr and is almost finished her 200 hours of training.
Lamarr and Starr have collaborated on a similarly structured workshop before. Last summer, they ran a satellite workshop at the Art Gallery of Hamilton wherein Lamarr led a movement sequence followed by Starr leading a walking meditation involving collage material.
Similarly, Movement Melanin Expression began with Lamarr leading participants through her famed R&B Pilates movement sequence. The sequence starts slow and warms up the individual parts of the body before ending with an intense squat sequence wherein participants scream in order to release all their emotions.
After moving, a circle discussion took place. The discussion was intended to address how people of colour can take up space and reverse the lack of representation in the movement and wellness industry. Most importantly, the conversation was meant to be open and unrestrained. Starr hopes that the conversation acted as a catalyst for participants to discuss how they’re feeling with the people in their lives.
The workshop ended with Starr’s collage workshop. As she did with the series at the art gallery, Starr led participants through a walking meditation, allowing them to find pieces that spoke to them and create something there. The creative portion of the workshop allowed participants to express and liberate themselves.
“I've seen firsthand how movement has helped my creation. It's just a way of accessing a part of your mindfulness that maybe sitting still might not do for many people… I think it's really important to mesh these worlds because it's often implied that they're so different but they're actually very similar. In creating sequences for classes, it's a collage of different movements and they might not always look the same,” Starr explaining.
Approaching creativity through the medium of collage is one of the many ways in which this workshop made itself accessible. Unlike other forms of art, collage is not very intimidating for the non-artist and allowed individuals to express themselves with lesser concern about artistic skill.
Like several other Goodbodyfeel classes, this workshop had a sliding scale in place to reduce the financial barrier for participants. The studio also has clean clothes for participants to use and provides mats and props. By removing these obstacles for participants, the studio is hoping that no one is priced out of accessing mindful movement.
“I've been practicing some form of mindful movement since 2000 and… it's been a really big part of my healing journey. And so since moving to Hamilton and starting this community, my aim is to have as many people as possible benefit and have access to the transformative effects of mindful movement.
Why does the movement community need to even address race and representation? Well, because it's incredibly beneficial to mental health and well-being and everybody deserves access to it,” Lamarr said.
At the end of the day, the most important part of Movement Melanin Expression was the formation of community through movement. Starr and Lamarr intend to continue the class so that people of colour can continue to take up space in the movement industry and discuss more ways to break down the barriers.