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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

The temperature in HefHouse is around 18 degrees when lecturer Ginie Servant-Miklos starts the workshop with a video clip about a heatwave in Asia. Twenty students sit in a semicircle around the screen. “How hot is too hot for humans?”, it reads on the clip.

The news item covers the effects of the heatwave: in India, monkeys are cooling off in private pools; people bathe en masse in a water tank in Pakistan; the harvest of the famous Kampot pepper in Cambodia has failed; in Thailand, corals have turned white as algae disappears; and hundreds of thousands of fish float lifeless in Vietnamese waters.

Lecture: Dance workshop that is part of the Bildung Climate School, an educational programme on climate change.

Subject: Dealing with climate anxiety while bouncing through the room like a ball.

Lecturer: Ginie Servant-Miklos and Suzan Tunca

Audience: Twenty students from Erasmus University, Albeda College and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. At first, these future climate experts move hesitantly, but after that they really start letting loose.

Reason to attend: It’s fun and experimental. All movements and feelings are welcome. You walk in stressed, dance until your body produces oxytocin and leave for home all happy.

“This is the era of global boiling”, the presenter says in the video clip. “It is now 50 degrees in western Rajasthan, India. How do we survive that?” Her question is rhetorical. “Most human bodies can tolerate heat up to 40 degrees for a short period of time, but after that, our bodies are literally cooking in their own heat.”

The occasional sigh can be heard after the video. “Now I want you to take 30 seconds to take in this video”, says lecturer Servant-Miklos. “What does the information do to you? What do you feel about it? We will discuss it after the dance session.”

Breathing exercise

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Dance lecturer Suzan Tunca takes over the session. For this workshop, she’s using Double Skin/Double Mind  method, she tells the  students. “We are going to let our body process the information, because sometimes it is good to be engaged with your body instead of your thoughts”, she says.

The chirping of birds comes from the speaker of Tunca’s laptop, and she turns up the volume. “Find a comfortable place.” Her voice is soft, almost whispering, but audible in the room. “Spread your feet and feel the weight of your body. Wiggle forward and backward. Visualise the emptiness of your body, as if there is only a hollow space underneath your skin.”

The students follow Tunca’s instructions. A couple looks at each other uncomfortably – the others close their eyes. They wobble back and forth. Birdsong fills the room. “Interweave your thumbs, push your arms up and reach for the ceiling…”

Breathing exercises are followed by more active movements. Birdsong has been replaced by the sound of tambourines. “Jump, as if you were a ball. Explore the room”, says the lecturer. “Don’t think, listen to your body, focus on the movements your body makes.” The pace of the music quickens. “Connect with each other.” The rhythm of the tambourines gets even faster. “Hello”, “Hi”, “Hi, nice to see you.” The students greet each other and look at each other as they bounce around the room like balls. The more dynamic the music, the faster they move.

Tunca stops the music. Everyone stops moving. “Feel your body”, she tells the students. “Observe how it reacts. Concentrate on your breathing, your heartbeat, the warmth on your skin.”

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

Dance steps

In the final session of the dance workshop, students showcase their own dance style. Everyone moves around the room, some doing ballet steps, while others perform more of a tap dance. Opera music plays in the background. “Use your senses, feel the space, feel the sweat on your skin, feel the warmth of the people around you. Let yourself go in the music”, Tunca whispers. Everyone in the room is dancing with enthusiasm. The discomfort and doubt from the start is disappearing.

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

After the dance, the students sit on the floor in a circle. “What did you guys think of the dance session?” asks lecturer Servant-Miklos, who leads the discussion afterwards. “At first, it was hard to get into”, says one student. “But when I closed my eyes, I was less distracted and could concentrate on my own movements.”

“It felt weird, in a good way”, says one student who did ballet steps during the session. She danced regularly when she was younger, she says. “It was like I was in a trance; now I feel a calmness in my head.” A student next to her responds, half-jokingly: “For me, it’s weird too, in a weird way.” He laughs. “Dancing is not something I normally do. Well, not this kind of dance. So for me it felt counter-intuitive.”

Regaining control

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Image credit: Pauline Wiersema

“I am very anxious during this period because of exams and deadlines”, says a student sitting cross-legged. She quickly fixes her hair with a blue hair tie. “Before the workshop, I had no energy to care about the world. I was so overwhelmed by my own stress, but now I feel like I’m in control of my body and mind. So the exercises do work.”

This is not the case for another student. “I enjoyed moving, but I experienced it very differently from my fellow students. Maybe I’m too sober for this?”, she wonders. “The connection between dance movements and climate anxiety is simply very abstract. When it comes to unwinding and switching off your thoughts, strenuous exercise like weightlifting works better for me.”

Each month, editor Feba Sukmana and illustrator Pauline Wiersema attend a lecture at EUR. Together they describe and illustrate how the class is being taught, what happens inside the lecture hall and how the students feel about the lecture.

EM is looking for the best, funniest or most interesting lectures at the EUR. Should we pay a visit to your lecturer? Tip us at [email protected]

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