Tag Archives: Dance

If You Have A Body – You’re a Dancer – Do Your Dance

Spirit in Motion

I was just your typical cute 3 year old with long arms and a nice head tilt.

I remember loving the tiny ballet slippers my mother had dyed gold for a recital.

My parents have a framed picture of my first recital in  the living room.

10 years later I would be ashamed to dance.

I didn’t stop. I just hid it.

I danced in secret because I couldn’t not dance.

In my mid twenties I thought teaching aerobics would give me my dance fix. It didn’t.

Nia did.  For almost 10 years it did. Recently I had an epiphany. I don’t have to be ashamed to dance.

I also don’t have to dance like anyone else.

I don’t have to dance according to someone else’s definition of dance or who can dance.

I don’t have to strap myself into a leotard and pink tights – a bit more like a circus act than a dressing experience.

I don’t have to take lessons.

I don’t have to speak French (though my father would argue!).

I don’t have to be a certain size. Or be a certain age.

I don’t have to remember patterns and sequences.

I don’t have to have a recital to wear a tu-tu!

I don’t have to have spine-splintering flexibility.

I can just dance.

No one needs to be ashamed to dance. Unless they choose to be.

Dance, for me, like perfume and spirituality is personal. All dance intrigues me, but not all dance connects.

A few Fridays ago, my adult “beginner” ballet class took wings and become an intermediate ballet class. I wasn’t ready. My mind understood, my brain was processing, but my brain-body connection was not ready to make all of the connections necessary to create (or produce) a logical movement statement.

I am learning a “new” language. A language I spoke at an earlier time in my life, but a language I stopped practicing to speak another that was less demanding  in many ways.

Dance is a language and each style a dialect of its own.

I never imagined myself a performance dancer. I never imagined that I would dance with a company. I just wanted to dance. Going back into a ballet class has served me in a number of ways. Stepping back into that studio experience helped me to face and let go of the anxieties and disappointments of my childhood dance experience. And that allowed me get un-stuck. Entering the ballet studio, I no longer have to be the clumsy, painfully shy, overweight 13 year old frozen in time. Ballet is hard as hell and demanding, frequently elusive and heartbreakingly beautiful. I chose ballet because I’ve always loved it and because I wanted a new set of memories for ballet class.

It no longer matters what the angle of my turnout is in degrees. It no longer matters if my hair stays in place. I don’t hold my breath in horror when I miss a step, wishing only to disappear from the face of the earth. I giggle to myself or roll my eyes in the direction of my daughter (a better technical dancer by far) or when I do get frustrated, sigh and add it to my list of Take Home and Practice.

Dance, whether it has a title or is my own personal practice, offers a way to communicate in ways we simply do not have words for. Body Language at its clearest.

Dance belongs to all of us. It is the little extra perk that comes along with having movable joints!

Claim your gift.

It’s waiting.


Up Into Red

It’s here.


Autumn Magic 2

Shorter days.

Breezes turned nippy.

Leaves, abandoned and seeking earth.

Everything returns to the earth.

A time of letting go.

It’s coming… Halloween.

Dark Forest with Eyes

What now?

We dance! What else?

When and Where?

Harvest Moon 2

Sunday, October 27, 10:15 am Good Samaritan Health and Wellness

Wednesday, October 30, 7:15 pm Downers Grove Park District

Thursday, October 31, 7:00 pm, The Deck

Costumes? Of course!

You dance free on The Deck Thursday night if you come in costume!

MovementAlchemy@yahoo.com for more information

I Passed the Korn Test!

Carmen by Ralph Steadman

This morning, after our 10:15 Nia class, I passed the “Korn” test!

This is a big deal for me. It is also a tangible example of how much healing I’ve been able to manifest recently.

5 or so years ago one of my favorites songs to dance to was Coming Undone by Korn. About the same  time I felt compelled to spend 6 weeks on the couch and in physical therapy – not dancing to Korn or anything else – and not teaching at all.

As this post was brewing (often a multiple day thing), I was finally able to admit to myself, out loud, something I have not been willing to whisper in the dark:

that I might have to stop dancing.

The irony of this is that I already had to a significant degree. My personal movement practices had become safe. I couldn’t remember the last time I had stayed after the 10:15 class to really dance. Little by little the pain in my hip was stealing me away from myself and fear was allowing it to happen. Yea, when I don’t dance I don’t hurt so much. I wasn’t healing either. More like a form of avoidance rather than addressing the issue.

This morning I almost didn’t stay. “Maybe I’ll wait another few days. After all, it’s not even been a week.” I turned off the stereo system and my iPod. Then I turned it all back on and danced. Really danced. I let go of the micromanaging I’ve been doing in terms of awareness and conscious movement. It was time to get out of my head and trust my body again. I wasn’t disappointed.

Without reservation and without pain, I slipped through Korn’s staccato piece with the equally staccato choreography I had developed for it. Then I did it again. Not wanting to push my “luck” or offend the gift horse, I packed up and went home after the second tango.

Almost 10 hours later and still no repercussions.

This past Friday was my first test. Teaching 2 classes (9 am and 6 pm) with an hour to an hour and a half drive each way. I wasn’t exhausted when I got home. Later, during the night, I didn’t wake to an inability to turn over without catching my breath from SI joint pain and a “locked” hip.

After experiencing the joys (not to mention the pain and effort) of physical therapy for every joint in my body except my wrists over the years, I’ve turned to exploring a place of no pain instead. Pushing through the pain only resulted in a loss of self-trust and the ball-and-chain of dread as I moved closer to losing my dream.

I don’t want to hurt anymore.

Not everything has to hurt.

Not everything has to be hard to be worthy.

Today I define success as ‘doing less’. I’ve never felt quite as successful as I do right now.

It wasn’t magic. It was a week of cultivating “laziness”, gentleness with myself and getting out of my own way.

For the next post.

(Photo: Painting “Carmen” by Ralph Steadman)

More Pleasure. Less Effort.

Softening to Flow ChocolateLearning to go through life with less effort.

Spending time in FeldenCAMP and Awareness Through Movement Feldenkrais classes with Julie Francis has helped me to become aware of how much tension I hold just lying around. The classes are also showing me the places and parts of me that have not been given adequate attention and where awareness is lacking.

The focus for this morning’s class was head and eye movements and I felt like a Picasso painting with one eye feeling huge and the other feeling more like a tiny slit.  As I worked through this lesson, I noticed how much effort I was exerted to move my eyes up and down behind closed lids!  Not to mention the amount of focus required for me to stay connected to this lesson. To move my eyes.

I found that my eyes did not tract smoothly and it took awhile before I felt as though they were moving together! This thought makes me giggle every time I think it. I can imagine my eyes all googly, wandering up and down independently, without any regard at all for how they’re supposed to be moving. I can only think that they are, indeed, moving the way they’re supposed to, considering the neglect they have endured!

Awareness on a new and deeper level.

“Simply” lying on the floor with my eyes closed and moving up, down and neutral brought sensations of little electrical sparks of nausea running down my spine, a stiff neck, a headache and managed to interrupt my normal breathing pattern. I also experienced a particular crispness to my vision and the differences in my contact lens prescriptions were far less noticeable. My body also felt better moving through space. I left with a peripheral awareness that this lesson had affected my nervous system, but I’m not sure how to accurately describe it yet. Interestingly, my hip stayed loose, relaxed and deliciously mobile all day despite the amount of time I spent sitting and reading between the Awareness Through Movement class this morning and my Nia class tonight. That looseness never happens – never.

I don’t fully understand how moving my eyes can affect the condition of my hip but I suspect that the fact that it elicited sensations through my spine is a clue…

The breathing lessons in FeldenCAMP last week and class this morning have both changed the way I move – and the way I feel in my body. On Sunday I played with the sensations of simultaneous root and uproot to creating smooth, light and grounded movement. I felt as though I was dancing in a flow that was effortlessly strong, patient and buoyant.

Dancing in the flow.

I want more of this!

It’s About the Dancer, Not the Dance.

Dance ParadeNY FireDancer

It is about the dancer not the dance.

The journey within.

Guided by Sensation.

Guided by personal pleasure.

Perfection is indigenous when pleasure is present.

Move and express from the inside out.

It all begins with breath – our natural rhythm.

Inhale. Open. Expand. Fill. Nourish. Begin. Renew.

Exhale. Release. Let go. Deepen. Rest. Close. End. Fulfill. Trust.

Dance of Life.

Liquid. Gas. Solid.

Dancer. No approval needed.

Without the Dancer





Photo: Dance Parade New York

Awareness of “I” – Knee-Jerk, Habits and Patterns

Titania Fairy Queen Green Nature

Once upon a time

I joined Stone Soup & Lemonade, a women’s group dedicated to personal and professional development.

I went to my first gathering on Sunday. We would be celebrating Earth Day.

About 10 minutes into the agenda I noticed that some of my buttons were being pushed. I immediately went into habitual defensiveness.

So there I was, sitting in discomfort,vacillating  between feeling misunderstood (a very big and heavy piece of baggage for me) and considering how this might possibly have everything to do with how I was receiving the communications.

My body felt restless. Unconsciously I refused to place my feet on the floor. I realized that I felt vulnerable and wanted my knees closer to my abdomen. I let my body do what it was asking to do. Gradually, I felt my body agree to open and relax.

Instead of shutting down, as is my habitual response to believing myself misunderstood, I posed other possibilities to myself.

In not shutting down (completely), I learned the following about myself:

my lack of impeccability and clarity of communication lead to responses disconnected from my intention. In other words, I didn’t say what I really meant and the response, while appropriate was not satisfying. My words and my thoughts were incongruent.

This is one of my patterns. Here’s how it usually works.

I arrive with the Judge reminding me of my inability to verbally communicate with impeccability and clarity in the company of strangers. When I “prove” the Judge right, the Victim chimes in, “See, you did it again and now people think you’re an idiot – hysterical – overemotional. So not fair. Think small and maybe you can disappear. Keep quiet next time.” and the Judge, “If you were really as smart as you’d like to believe, you would be a better verbal communicator. You’re not so you’re not smart.”                                                               And the armor is once again, in place.

After the meeting portion of the gathering, I was scheduled to present my passion. In the past, I let the Judge and the Victim convince me and effectively siphon any Joy I had coming into the situation. On Sunday, even though I still felt the push and pull of being in the middle of a significant shift, once I started to move the Joy flowed.

My awareness had been the antidote.

Staying present helped me to remain open so that Joy did not end up dammed and suffocated.

In retrospect, I am surprised by the amount of energy if took for me not to respond out of habit. I felt as though I was chest-deep in mud trudging forward. Every step, every choice was deliberate out of necessity. If I didn’t place my “feet” mindfully, I would end up sucked down into the pit of vipers that the Judge and Victim provide.

Celebrating Earth Day brought Titania to mind. Earthy chocolate swing pants and a top of flowers and vines seemed appropriate. The sensation of loose hair spilling and swinging around my shoulder blades felt perfect. Another integral part of the shifts, changes and transitions flowing through my life is the evolution of my inner face.

My “inner face” is what I show when I get to wear a costume. Halloween has always been perfect for revealing what I keep hidden.

In my Nia classes until 2 years ago, every Halloween I shared a frightening, dangerous, ugly inner face. 2 years ago she was a reflection of the scary becoming something else, something softer and gentler. She was “witch”, “vampire”, “zombie”, “dead elf,” “dead fairy”, then the “fairy queen” more suited to a Jim Butcher Dresden novel. A year ago and this past Halloween, she continued into this new identification. She – I still didn’t have a name. On Sunday the connection was to Titania and I felt downright beautiful and richly inspired.

Vulnerability surrounding me like deceptively delicate fairy wings, I managed to hang onto the inspiration that brought me the Earth Day playlists and my love for delivering Nia and dance. Knowing that I had caught a glimpse of what could create a far more satisfying and rewarding way to share what I love, I felt my feet on the ground. Quiet. Certain. Relieved. Happy.

And lived happily ever after.


Until the next wave in this transition surge arrives to rattle my cage.

Thank you to the lovely, authentic women who shared this time and space. I am grateful.

No Limits

Flames like Liquid

Open the flood gates and let your body moooooove – in ways previously unbeknownst to you!

Within it, every step has a million possibilities.

Colors. Shades. Hues.

Sounds. Instruments. Rhythms. Mood. Color. Tempo. Expression.

Splash. Wave. Pulse. Quiver. Shake. Drip. Pop. Pipple. Ropple. Jip. Tommel. Careen. Womp. Vrooooooom!

Every move holds the potential for an untold number of expressions, flavors and inflections.

One move + 7 pieces of music = a move for every day.

One move. Any piece of music. How does the move to music I love differ from the same move to music I don’t like?

Creativity transcends like and dislike. What will I discover within myself when I give my Spirit a chance to dance in the dark?

Why am I locking myself into defining and re-defining within the same narrow parameters?

When I can knock the doors down, rock the walls and blow the roof off!!!

And don’t stop until it feels gooooooood. Really good!

Move. Adapt. Heal.

Keep moving like a kid long after you aren’t a kid anymore!

Fire in the Soul Fire and Moon

Movement Alchemy, My Tool Box

I can Help you  Reconnect to your  Body Through Movement and Awareness   


60-Minute Interval Classes:

  • Alternating periods of High & Low intensity work
  • Nia-based simple Dance choreography designed to be personalized by You.
  • Strength Training Toys & Techniques

60-Minute Dance-Movement:

  • Simple , Nia-based choreography for Movement Variety
  • Improve Balance and Coordination

Body Healing & Body Giggles:

  • Unique 30/60-Min. Body Healing Movement Classes  with an   emphasis on  learning to create body connection, flow, and release through Awareness.

Nia classes:

  • an energetic, fun way to get fit, connect to community and get your dance fix! 52 Moves fuse the energy of martial arts, dance arts and healing arts for a perfectly balanced fitness program.

Labs and Workshops:

  • that are perfect if you are new to movement or Nia. Labs and Workshops that are also rich opportunities for all of you veterans and teachers to dive more deeply into your somatic practice with others in the Nia community.

Sole Practice:

  • Keep moving like a kid long after you aren’t a kid anymore!
  • Play with a variety of toys: bands, balls, scarves, music, BrainDance to stimulate your nervous system.


  • Increased Strength, Agility, Overall Flexibility, Joint Mobility, and Functional Stability for Movement Longevity
  • Improved Balance and Coordination
  • Sole Practice is one-on-one sessions that incorporate your personal body history and natural movement style. This information is a treasure map that will lead us on a journey of mind, body, spirit and emotional fitness, well-being and pleasure.

Nia is much of what I share, but Movement Alchemy is how all of the tools fit in the tool box.

Movement Alchemy describes the transformation through movement that is accessible to every body.  Transformation that honors every body in its uniqueness and life history. Movement Alchemy is the culmination of the work I’ve done; the different disciplines of movement I’ve delved into, the variety of injuries I’ve befriended as well as the various methods of healing I’ve explored.

Awareness is the key to everything.

Want to Feel Better and Move More Easily For Longer? Pay Attention.

Not to me, though you might want to finish reading this post! You want to pay attention to your body.

Collaboration. Cooperation. Success.

Hard + Soft = Balance

(These 2 little word plays are part of a thread.)

You’ve just started reading this. Before you read any further, adjust your attention so that it is on body sensation. If you are not accustomed to this kind of work, take a little time to listen to the kinds of sensations your body is giving you right now. Do you notice tension in your neck? Does your chest feel open and free or closed? Bring your attention to the other end of you, to your feet and ankles, what do you get? Give it 15 seconds, then slide up to your knees. Did your shins have anything to report? 15 seconds and up to your hips. A more complete body meditation will come in a later post. I’m going to move on but you’re welcome to continue with your body check, ofcourse. I’ll be here when you’re ready.

Oh, and did I mention no trash talking?  There is not mind chatter, no scores, and no judgment. It is you noticing how you do what you do, with respect, honor and love. So if you’re still paying attention and I interrupted, please continue and I’ll be here when you’re ready to move on.

I like the expression “being in your body”. I use it with my students and I’m looking forward to using it with one-on-one clients.

“Being in your body” identifies a state of presence.

Like most states of being, there are several levels. You may simply be aware of your body’s existence. You know that you have a body, you are aware of the shape of your body and chances are pretty good that you have defined what sort of mover you are.

If you are managing an injury, the injured area may be what draws your attention, possibly to the exclusion of the rest of your body. This injury may affect more than your attention to your body; it may also affect how you live in your mind. It may be that this injury has damaged your ability or desire to move as you did before and it may feel like a natural shift to spend less time living through your body. You may be more cerebral. Injury can also affect how you interact with the world outside yourself and negatively affect how you manage your emotions. It may change you.

You may become acutely aware of your body when you have strong emotional reactions. A pounding heart that accompanies fear. Shaking hands and wobbly knees that follow a fight or flight shot of adrenaline. The ache in your chest from having lost someone. The expansiveness of joy.

You may notice when creativity kicks in and you are totally immersed in the process. Cramping fingers from hand writing, drawing or painting longer than usual; blisters from guitar strings. A stiff back from sitting in one position. Tight trapezius muscles in your upper back and neck. You may even be aware of a tension headache.

Every day of our lives we are in relationship with the body in which we live. We go about our usual schedule and the body gives feedback. If we pay attention to the information our body is giving us, we can create a better existence. When our bodies are properly cared for, we can spend more time out of our heads and more deeply enjoying life; we have a sense of confidence in moving and a certain level of self-trust.

Our body speaks to us through sensation. Sensation can be considered the language of your body. Unless  neurological damage is present, every inch of you experiences sensation. If you’ve been reading me, you know that I have a penchant for repetition. So…

Every inch of you experiences sensation.

As Debbie Rosas Stewart, co-creator of Nia shares, every single one of your 7ish trillion cells has access to sensation.

Often, even those areas with nerve damage will register the sensation of pressure since the brain processes pressure a little differently and even processes the types of pressure differently.

If you don’t believe me, take a little field trip with your hands. Even if you know this is a true statement but haven’t tried it for yourself – don’t take my word for it – go on. I’ll wait.

Ok, so you’ve made a discovery or two or a dozen – that’s cool.

So now what do you do with this little jewel? How about building a sensation vocabulary? You won’t need any awesome new toys, but you can get one to keep up with this new life project if you like. All you need is your attention – every so often. You can begin with once a day. Get your phone and set an alarm or put it in your calendar – whichever one you prefer. At this time (you pick it, you know your schedule), you’re going to pay attention to the sensations you’re getting through your body.

You might start by asking yourself – your body not your mind – if you’re comfortable. To be clear comfort is not the absence of pain, it is a sensation unto itself (and yes, I did just say “unto”!). When my body is experiencing comfort, I am relaxed or able to relax. I am settled into a position that, for however long it is comfortable, is creating ease. I feel as though I could be in this position for the rest of the day. Does this sound familiar? While we all have generally the same parts for locomotion, there are details that make us individual. Movement history, trauma and injury history. In other words, the way we have lived in our bodies. What I described as my experience may or may not be similar. How do you experience the sensation of comfort?

The truth is that I probably couldn’t be in that same position for much longer than a few minutes. I have joints and a couple of muscles imbalances that will ask me to adjust. Let’s go back to the fact that I have joints. We all have joints. If we didn’t have joints, movement would be enormously limited. So limited, in fact, that we might give it up altogether and evolve into something else! Joints come in several varieties, some more movable than others. What they have in common is that they need to be used in the way in which they were designed to stay healthy.  Synovial joints are the most movable. The facet joints between the vertebrae are examples of synovial joints. “Synovial” refers to the nutritional lubricant or fluid that every one of these movable joints has. This fluid acts as a shock absorber, and helps to keep friction to a minimum (’cause you know that the more friction there is, the more heat and break down is a likely consequence). Enough with the technical stuff.

How do you keep your synovial joints happy and healthy? Move them. Experiment 2: move your joints and notice how movement is created without force. Move and listen to the feedback your body gives. If comfort is present, you know something about your design. If pain was created, you know something else.

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through. Here we go…

Pain is not a sensation to be worked through.

Pain is a guide. Pain is a way of alerting your mind that something is wrong or maybe just not-quite-right and needs to be tweaked. If the pain is a whisper, then a tiny shift may be all that is necessary. So tweak your movement. If the tweak does not resolve the pain, create a slightly more significant shift in how you’re doing what you’re doing and make an adjustment. If pain persists, change the movement altogether and do something different – if you’re running, walk. Making these shifts before pain is screaming and chronic is a smart way to stay healthy, mobile and excelling at whatever movement you love.

What if you’re a type A, hugely competitive athlete? More reason to learn to pay attention. You may drive your body harder and it is especially important to listen to the cues your body gives you. Whatever type you are and however you move, give your body what it asks for when it asks and barring any unforeseen natural disaster, chances are good that you will be able to do whatever you love for a very long time.

Floor Play – Playing with Mobility

This morning’s focus for class was Systemic Integration which is just another way to say ‘moving all your parts as though they’re connected’.

My classes at the Indian Boundary YMCA are in the Fieldhouse – on the basketball courts. This affords us alot of space in which to move.

We began on the floor at one end of the courts using the song One Good Dub. With a piece of music that’s 8 minutes and 15 seconds in length, we had plenty of time to roll, wiggle, shift, undulate, rock, push, pull, ooze, and reach our way to the other end. Before the song was over, we got to our feet and continued to move – in the same way.

I love Floor Play. I love the floor – particularly wood floors and I spend quite a bit of time on the floor in and out of class. I am a devoted student and child of Floor play. My body tells me that the possibilities for fitness, wellness and overall functionality are greater than I’m taking advantage of.

We are built to move on the floor.

The fact that many people over 50 struggle and many over 60 “can’t” is not due to our design. It is due to our culture.

First, we’re an either/or culture. We are conditioned to believe that we only have 2 choices – yes no, black white, creative or not creative, athlete or non-athlete, smart or not smart, dancer non-dancer, strong weak, masculine feminine, young old, red or yellow. Really? Nothing in between? Dance professionally or go home?!?! Create a da Vinci or put away your art supplies!

Each of us is a remarkable blend of traits, characteristics, strengths, and works-in-progress. How does this get back around to Floor Play? Culture took us off the floor and sat us in chairs and other pieces of furniture that doesn’t truly honor our body design. Culture told us that only children sit and play on the floor – and either/or – I am a child and I can sit and play on the floor or I am an adult and I do not. Once deemed an “adult” I begin the slow painful journey to certain loss of mobility and potential illness as a result of poor circulation (since muscles contraction is often directly responsible for blood moving through veins)

I’m very, very fond of the color orange and I think I’ll be an adult who sits and plays on the floor.

I received information through my body during Floor Play today that I had not received this way before. The contrast of moving up on my feet had never been quit so stark. So stark that I guided the class back down to the floor. I felt limited on my feet. I have felt vertical limitation before, as a relatively normal human managing the affects of gravity. I’m not a gymnast or acrobat for Cirque de Soleil so I have some pretty distinct limitations. It was my awareness and sense of my body moving through the usual space that was different.

Floor Play definitely feeds what I do on my feet. If I did not have the relationship with the Earth that I do, I would not be the mover I am on my feet.

Moving on the floor takes a different awareness, perhaps a shift in awareness. My feet are no longer the foundation from which I am moving. This changes how I am in relationship with all of my body parts. When I am on my feet, my feet and legs are under me, my femurs/thighbones suspended from my hip joints and my shin bones (tibia and fibula) rise out of my ankles toward my knee joints. On the floor the relation-ship changes. My leg bones are resting on the earth. The muscles that surround, support and are responsible for vertical leg function now have to adapt. It isn’t strength that is needed for walking, it’s flexibility as muscles are stretched. To create strength requires that I think of my relation-ship with gravity in a different way.

Now my pelvis may be my new foundation, or my hands or perhaps my spine.

After a few minutes, I rediscovered the comfort of moving on my feet and the momentary awkwardness gone.

More deeply I wonder about the correlation between the social expectations of being permanently vertical, our waning relationship with the Earth and the tendency of ours to disconnect mind from body. Considerations for another post…

We began on the Earth and to lose the sense of the Earth as our foundation is to lose ourselves and our ability to move freely on our feet.