As “dance instigator” my primary aim is to invite people into an embodied recognition of their own innate childlike freedom. This is not a freedom that comes from great effort, but rather from great allowing. It’s not a freedom rooted in spiritual solemnity, but rather ordinary (extraordinary) aliveness and childlike play. It is also a freedom that recognizes with ease both one’s own singular brilliance as well as the individual and collective brilliance of others.
I cannot remember a moment growing up that I did not love to dance yet never once did I consider myself a “dancer.” For one thing, being a dancer seemed to require dancing other people’s dances, an endeavor my body could never quite grasp nor fully enjoy. It also seemed to imply that movement had a “right way” and a “wrong way” and that “getting it right” was at best difficult and counterintuitive and at worst, dispiriting and a setup for failure.
And so I danced the way most people do– at weddings, high school dances, college parties, outdoor music festivals, in living rooms and in the occasional kitchen. Every so often however I was lucky enough to catch a whiff of something deeper:
- As a young child I attended creative movement classes with Mrs. Ruth Boozer, an anti-nuclear activist who ran a dance & theater school out of her Atlanta garage during the 1960s and 70s. Mrs. Boozer believed that children needed (in contrast to formal dance instruction like ballet) “a freer kind of dancing where they could work out their fantasies and feelings and creativity.”
- While living in Washington, D.C. after college I took weekly Synergy Dance classes with Charmaine Lee, a former South African ballerina and political refugee who fused dance & movement with Polarity Therapy as a means to healing herself and others.
- During graduate school in Princeton, NJ I audited a modern dance class with Aleta Hayes and got my first soulful taste (as an adult) of exploring movement from the inside out. Dancing with Aleta was a joyful revelation– and yet still the identity of “dancer” remained a preposterous, even flighty, notion to me.
It was not until my first JourneyDance class at Kripalu with Toni Bergins in 2009 that the deep resonance of free-form movement finally clicked into recognition. I remember feeling as close to a state of flying as I had ever experienced before in my life. At the end of the class Toni walked up to me and said matter of factly: “Dance is clearly your sadhana” (spiritual practice). I went on to become a JourneyDance Facilitator, teaching for a number of years in Rhode Island (in local dance & yoga studios as well as the women’s state prison) and as visiting dance teacher at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY.
Since then I have sought out conscious dance communities wherever my travels have carried me– from California to Georgia, Idaho to Texas, Florida to Maine. I have danced numerous forms (ecstatic dance, 5 rhythms, contact improv, biodanza, soul motion, drum circles, prayerdanse) in churches and warehouses, beach parks and forest domes. The more I dance, the more Toni’s words ring true: dance is my sadhana. It is both my practice and my offering to the world.
(Pictured: Michael Molin-Skelton, Toni Bergins, Rick Benjamin, Aleta Hayes)
In a bow of deep gratitude, I offer this list of dance, movement and wisdom teachers who have significantly shaped my own capacity to Embody Freedom, in reverse chronological order:
- Michael Molin-Skelton, Soul Motion teacher and co-founder of Spirit Weaves, Port Townsend, WA
- Alton Wasson, Contemplative Dance / Authentic Movement, Haydenville, MA
- Elizabeth Robinson, co-creative conspirator & JourneyDance teacher, Providence, RI
- Bentinho Massero, Founder of Trinfinity Academy, Boulder, CO
- Laura Geilen & Vivian Gladwell, Nose-to-Nose clowning, NY & UK
- Toni Bergins, Founder of JourneyDance, Great Barrington, MA
- Dr. Madan Kataria, Founder of Laughter Yoga, Mumbai, India
- Tom Gillette, Eyes of the World Yoga, Providence, RI
- Divya Epstein-Lubow, Divya’s Class, Providence, RI
- Joseph Goldstein & Sharon Salzberg, Insight Meditation Society, Barre, MA
- Rick Benjamin, poet, co-founder of the PotLid Sangha & dear friend, Providence, RI (now Santa Barbara, CA)
- Aleta Hayes, Modern Dance teacher at Princeton University, now Artist in Residence at the Institute for Diversity in the Arts, Stanford, CA
- Charmaine Lee, Founder of Synergy Dance, Washington, D.C.
- Mrs. Ruth Boozer, art educator and anti-nuclear activist who ran a creative movement school out of her Atlanta garage, circa 1977.
In addition to “dancer” I am a long-time meditator, certified (RYT200) Hatha Yoga instructor and Laughter Yoga Teacher and have a Masters in Public Affairs. I have taught a unique blend of mindfulness, movement, laughter and play in diverse settings (prisons, Universities, studios, hospitals, pre-schools, nursing homes, etc.) and have also lived and worked in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I currently reside in Providence with my honey, daughter, 4 Russian tortoises and a Shepherd-mutt.
“What are you? Some sort of gazelle-butterfly-unicorn?” (All time favorite question anyone ever asked me on a dance floor, The Sacred Space Miami, 2016. 🙂 )