Momentum festival celebrates community through movement and mindfulness

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On Saturday, Nov. 4, students gathered at the Interfaith Chapel for the fifth Momentum Festival at UVic. The Momentum Festival started in 2015 and occurs twice a year. By conducting workshops, a community dinner, and mindful dancing, this event aims to bring people together in a sacred celebration of the mind, body, and spirit.

This year, students had the opportunity to learn about Indigenous history in Canada, try out their balancing skills with acro-yoga, and learn the art of Capoeira, an exercise which combines elements of martial arts and dance. Participants also learned how to move their bodies in a mindful, self-reflective dance through a Postural Poetics workshop. This led into an electronic dance party, which lasted late into the night.

Electronic dance music is not something most people would associate with the Interfaith Chapel at UVic. But according to Max Rosenthal who graduated from UVic last June, this type of music, and the dancing that goes along with it, are closely linked with the message of the chapel.

Rosenthal is the director of what is known as Conscious Dance at the Momentum Festival. According to him, the role allows him to “[facilitate] an event where people can come and consciously explore movement and connect with one another in an environment that’s free of substances and alcohol and promotes community and connection.”

This sense of community is one of the first things you notice when entering the chapel — it’s all around you. It’s in the friendly greeting of the volunteers by the door, in the warm hugs and warm mugs of tea available to all, and in the peaceful feeling that surrounds you as you step through the heavy wooden doors. This community is reflected in its dedicated members, who worked hard to make this event happen: it took some amazing teamwork.

A group of volunteers worked together last week to cook a delicious vegetarian curry and an apple crumble for everyone to eat. Throughout the festival, the kitchen was bustling with activity. Everyone was happy to help wash dishes and chop up vegetables to share.

The Momentum Festival is not only special because of the strong sense of community and togetherness it creates, but also because of the diverse range of workshops offered. Over the years, they’ve offered workshops that are “hands on, expressive and exuberant,” says Henri Lock, United Church Chaplain at the Interfaith Chapel. Because there is such a diverse range of workshops, there is truly something for everybody.

“Each one of them have been good,” says Lock. In particular, the Blanket Exercise, which explores the history of Indigenous people in Canada, was “very powerful.” In this exercise, students played the role of Indigenous people in Canada, standing on blankets to represent the land. Gradually, the blankets are taken away, leaving the students with very little space.

“[We did the exercise] with First Nations elders there, taking us through this narrative of what it must have been like to be on the receiving end of the colonial attitudes of the newcomers,” Lock explains. “It opens up new ways of seeing our relationship with the land and the First Nations people.”

Lock is passionate about creating a community environment  not only through events like the Momentum Festival but through the weekly meditation circle that he leads.

“This event rose out of the community that was already formed through the meditation club.” he says. “[Meditation is] a spiritual practice that anybody can participate in. You don’t need to be part of any religious tradition.”

The next Momentum Festival is happening in early March in 2018.

“It’s a great opportunity for everyone to get experience doing something that otherwise there’s no access to,” says Max Rosenthal, “I think a lot of people take away from Momentum that feeling of togetherness . . . that they were part of something unique and special.”