Dancer creates honest, cathartic experiences for non-dancers

Barbara Dametto

by Petra Nyendick

Barbara Dametto is a visual artist, dancer, actor/playwright, expressive arts practitioner and educator. She received her formal education at the University of Waterloo (B.A. Dance, Kinesiology, Theatre), York University (B. Ed. Fine Arts Education), and Fleming College (Expressive Arts). Over the years she has worked in Toronto, Port Hope, Peterborough, Bancroft, and Guelph as a dancer, choreographer, painter, actor, clown, school teacher, and yoga/meditation/sacred sound instructor.

In an interview, Barbara speaks with Petra Nyendick, who serves on Guelph Arts Council’s Board of Directors.

Image courtesy of the artist. 

GAC: Thanks for taking the time to share with us some of your many creative endeavours! I’ve noticed that you’re very active in the local arts scene. You dance, paint and practice sacred sounding. Have I missed anything? Do you consider one of these disciplines your favourite art form as a means of expression? 

BD: That’s a good question. Yes, I practice many different forms of art and am quite involved in the Guelph community. There’s the journey dance, my yoga classes, my paintings, and my sound healing practice. Many times artists have several different disciplines that they use to convey their messages. At times it feels most appropriate for me to use paint, and sometimes my body through dance and music, and other times writing or mask making. But to answer your question, I would say that dance has always been my true love! I’ve always danced and known I’d be a dancer. It’s hard-wired into my being. When I’m dancing I have no worries and no sense of separation from the music and the moment. It’s the most natural thing in the world to me. It keeps me deeply connected to the bigger picture of life – “the letting go of self and merging with the One” so to speak.

If dance is your true love, let’s talk about that first. What kind of workshops and classes do you offer and are they for beginners, or more advanced students? 

In the past I used to teach modern dance and contact improvisation classes. But recently I’ve become increasingly interested in providing dance “experiences” for people as opposed to technique-based movement. It’s probably because I myself have become less interested in that type of dance.  

I come from a ballet and modern dance background. As I’ve matured as an artist, I realize that dance really is an expression of one’s inner voice. It should be something that everyone has access to practicing regardless of age, gender or background. 

Journey Dance is something that I am a big fan of. It’s a form of freestyle dance that follows 12 unique rhythms. In a nutshell, I carefully prepare a 1.5 hour long playlist of music that follows the journey dance flow. Participants gather in a large, open space and I lead them through the 12 different sections. People are encouraged to go deep into their own bodies and drop into the moment. They listen to the music and use the associated themes presented for each rhythm to express themselves. The process is fun, cathartic and often intense. At the end of a session, people often say that they feel a deep sense of peace and awareness. 

I believe that this type of dance (which I refer to as conscious dance), can be very healing and help people to connect to themselves while creating a sense of confidence and community.

What advice would you give to people that are inhibited dancing in a group setting? How can one just “let go”?

Most people have reservations about dancing with others. It usually takes a wedding or a club (and lots of alcohol) to get people warmed up and over their inhibitions. To be able to let go and trust the Journey Dance experience takes courage and commitment. 

When I lead a conscious dance event, I spend time, in the beginning, sitting in a circle and checking in with participants. I ask for one word. This gives people an opportunity to express how they are feeling. I usually hear words like: “excited, scared and curious”. I think that all these words are totally appropriate.

Dance allows us to lose ourselves and find ourselves at the same time. That is indeed a scary business! So, I always congratulate people for taking the time to show up and dive into precisely what frightens them most. Yes, it may be intimidating because people are generally afraid of the unknown; of being exposed in some way. But I remind people that we are all here to become more alive!

Dance opens us in a way that is unique and often revealing. And, it is also fun, invigorating and playful. It builds stamina, trust, perseverance and courage. Please remember that people are invited to express themselves in any way they want. There are no rules or prescribed steps. So, in essence, they give themselves permission to be totally honest and authentic. When in life are we EVER given permission to do this – to celebrate our uniqueness and to do so in a supportive, safe environment?

Once the workshop comes to the end, people often feel totally transformed and at peace. We gather again in a circle and sit in silence because there often are no words to express what just happened. And besides, words can’t pay justice to a totally immersive experience that transcends our logical minds. However, I often ask the group for one feeling word to close and hear words like, “peaceful, complete, open, grateful and blessed.”

So, I suppose to answer your question, I would say that “letting go” takes practice and once we get better at it, our lives can change. The Journey Dance experience can actually help us to trust life in a deeply meaningful way. It speaks for itself.

Thanks for the interview, Barbara! Would you like to tell us about your upcoming classes and workshops around town and how people can register if they are interested? 

My Journey Dance events are basically once a month (except for July and August) on the last Sunday from 2:00-3:30 PM. They are always at Guelph Youth Dance Studio (42 Quebec St.) which is a really beautiful, large space! Sprung wood floors (newly sanded and finished), big windows, nice vibe.

You can check out a sample of what and how I facilitate at the Guelph Dance Festival Dance Market on Saturday, June 2nd, at 1:00 PM at Exhibition Park. The Dance market will feature local health and movement practitioners allowing for a fantastic networking opportunity for movement specialists and for patrons to learn more about what’s offered in Guelph.

My co-facilitated events with Gary Diggins called, “Moving the Body, Sounding the Soul” generally take place the last Tuesday of each month at Silence (46 Essex St.) from 7:30-9 PM.

I also teach an 8-week long Chakra Yoga course at Silence on Monday evenings from 5:00-6:30 PM. Check out my website to see when the next one is:

Other than that, there are several other events that I co-teach with local talented artists and workshop facilitators that are posted on my website.

I also hold private sound healing and yoga classes out of my house in Guelph. I have a beautiful space there set up with all of my sacred instruments and yoga equipment. Simply email me to set up an appointment: [email protected].

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