The Power of Groups

When we work in community (group classes, community environments,…) change happens on a larger scale. This sense of community cannot simply be more bodies in space. It means more bodies, with minds and intentions directed toward a shared experience, even if people do not interact with each other. It is a guided tour of what it means to be “in this together”.

Individual attention is desired and needed. Enjoying safety in numbers allows for greater supported risk, when the group feels connected and supported.

As the master of the movement experience, the role of instructor or facilitator not only serves as tour guide but as anchor. When the anchor models vulnerability, flexibility, non-judgement, and exudes compassion– even love for movement AND the dynamic of the group– everyone propels forward as well as deeper.

Individual work is desired and needed. Groups remind us that we are not alone in the things that often make us feel isolated such as tricky knees, frustrating backs, bouts of anxiety, and more.

Feeling a sense of self in a space with others, allows us to remember we are one part of a larger whole. Because we ARE all in this together.

Let’s move.


From 50,000 feet

A few weeks ago a colleague kept using the phrase “from 50,000 feet”. Every time he said it, I nodded but over days and weeks I have really been HEARING it and trying to PRACTICE it.

What does that mean?

It means pulling back. Observing from a distance, letting be, and setting aside. It doesn’t mean not caring, it means right-sizing and scaling appropriately.

For example, I have spent so much of my career teaching that I naturally give a lot of detail or rationale. Yet not every situation requires that much information nor do most people even want it. What a relief! To think: if they want the info, they can ask for it, and I can provide it! I don’t necessarily need to anticipate the needs of people to whom I am speaking, in every scenario- just those in which I am *actually* teaching or parenting.

So, perhaps this will help you with as the start of fall brings intensity and change:

Does this issue require that much detailed thought or attention? In fact, is the detailed thought getting in the way and creating secondary issues?

Is the examination of fear or trying to understand your fear getting in the way of just  doing? What if instead of understanding the fear, or whatever other emotion is there, you just decided to move it out of the way?

Might you be giving too much weight to the actions/beliefs of others? What if you simply did what you needed to do for you?

What if the WHY of what you do matters and not so much the WHY NOT?

Is there a space in your life where you can just “l i g h t e n  u p?”

Sometimes “it is what it is” and that’s as deep as it needs to go.

What do you think?

Mad at Dance

For the last few years, I have been mad at dance. Recently, though, I used a different phrase. I was finally able to articulate that I am not really mad at dance. I am mad at the consumption of dance.

For me, dance speaks to the human condition. It is a process by which we enter mindfulness and connection with ourselves and others. Yet, the product most readily consumed and now, in my recent experience, most coveted by young dancers/families is  the sport of dance.

I get it. Sports do a lot of great things. There are great interpersonal and intrapersonal skills developed there. Physical skills, too. Students are taught at school and many homes that achievement is success. I get all of that.

I am not  mad at dance as sport. If that is what you love- love that. I just wish we could call it what it is- dance sport.

I am mad at the illusion that this is what dance should be.

This isn’t a culture. In many instances, it is a numbing. Adrenaline is not an emotion, it is a chemical that provides sensation. It doesn’t provide depth. It doesn’t provide feeling. And we are interacting with dance (and other arts) in ways similar to how we are interacting with other parts of life and we are sharing them with our kids. Success means over-work, over-train, over-caffeinate, over-indulge, over-use. The underlying story is that you are either not enough or you are too much.

If we were truly inviting dancers to move from social and emotional understanding, their gestures wouldn’t all look the same. We, as people, don’t all look the same. Or think the same. Or feel the same.

What are we doing about it?

How do we support kids interfacing with their actual emotions in an appropriate, artistically-based setting? What kind of supplementary experiences are we promoting to help them process who they are as people and then assist them in translating that information into artistry. Or simply character. Personally aware, culturally literate people with empathy, sympathy, compassion, reason, and creativity.

We must be able to articulate if we are able to express. Articulation involves discernment and practice in being present– time and space to feel and be with our feelings. It sounds woo-woo but I find it to be imperative. I can’t change my experience if I don’t fully acknowledge what my experience is.

Isn’t this the art of living? Isn’t this the work of Art?


Movement Connects

This week, I co-led MAEIA Re-Ignite!- a day-long Professional Learning event for the Michigan Arts Education and Instruction project (MAEIA). We used Simon Sinek‘s The Golden Circle as a lens to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and the arts-education community at large. Representatives from individual schools, school districts, local and state arts organizations, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA), Creative Many Michigan, the State Policy Pilot Program (SP3) and the Michigan Department of Education were present. It was a moving day, one in which I felt reconnected to people and the ideas which have driven my work through the years.

There were a few important lessons which I needed to hear, and ironically, came out of my own mouth. Have you ever had that experience? For me, it is one of the motivations for presenting. I am often reminded that the answers to questions I am holding ARE in fact inside of me.

This time:

-Movement connects.

The purpose of my work is to reconnect people to themselves, to each other, and to the world-at-large. For a few years, I have been calling my community-driven, movement class Creative Self-Care. What we do, though, is process life in broad terms and for the invididual to apply the more narrow terms. Sometimes I get distracted by the what/how of what I am doing– worrying too much, perhaps, about the movement modality and less about the purpose.

-Go to the people.

This can be conceptually, but it can also be physically. I am currently without a base studio to work out of but have a list of community, arts, and academic venues. I am currently booking classes and workshops for the coming year which are taking me into interesting spaces with interesting intersections of people. (Let me know now if you’d like to book!)

-Operate from openness.

Anytime you plan a big event, propose to move people away from their standard operating positions, there is risk. Though I enjoy presenting and do this often, there is always vulnerability involved- bringing with it a vulnerability hangover (as coined by Dr. Brené Brown). But it is ALWAYS worth it.

-Communities make change.

We need each other. We rely on each other to hold us accountable, honest, and to drive the work further. Even when doing the internal work to improve ourselves, it is helpful to do this with a community of others to remind us the work is worth it, and so are we.

I am ever so grateful for the movement and education communities to which I belong for pushing me to dig deeper and be better. For reminding me I am not working in isolation, and for sharing vulernabilities, discoveries, experiences, and stories.

What have you been up to this week?

Action Items

I always feel better when I have a list of steps to complete. It is how I know my goals aren’t just wishes.

This year is about branding and launching for me. Putting my work into tangible means to share with others and extend my reach in new directions and deeper folds.

It has already required me to revisit some thinking, assess my language(s), and examine what has been working. I started this, really, two years ago wanting to make my work available to multiple generations of people who looking to move for a variety of motivations. I have been witnessing the need of creative and expressive movement in people’s lives, coupled with a low-risk way to develop movement function first. The last two years have been about understanding  the obstacles for my clients and students. They do the hard work, and own it; I have just found a way to walk them in.

Setting out with my theory, the curriculum which had worked for school-aged kids, and the understanding more people need this, I felt rushed and pushed to know all of the answers. It was frustrating. It still is. It will continue to be. That is good.

It has worked though. I have learned a lot. I have made some mistakes. Clients are telling me how it is useful. They come back and they bring their friends. The process/progress has certainly included pathways through back-space. As we know, success is not only forward-moving. It takes many directions, pathways, and levels to get there. And success itself is not stagnant. It is not an isolated destination but a living practice which keeps expanding and contracting- like breath through the body.

What are you practicing? What are you acting upon?

The Year of Making It

A few years ago, I had a year of “Yes”. It was before Shonda Rhimes published her book. It was a time in my life where I needed to reorient my work to include MYSELF. I was giving so much to my students and my colleagues that I left myself out of the equation and soon I was wondering why I felt burned out, over-capacity, and holding on to extra weight and extra baggage that was no longer serving me.

I decided to try new things. In short, to say “Yes” to things which might expand my comfort zone (though not my safety, of course).

The result was fun. I felt freer. I felt more confident. I felt empowered to change more things. I credit that year to establishing a bouyant foundation which cushioned a daring career change and propelled me into new possibilities.

This year, it is the Year of Making (it). I feel compelled to chase that feeling again; to honor myself and my creative ambitions. I am taking steps which allow me to interact with more of you on a more regular (and moving basis) and I am also honoring my other creative streaks. Things I have previously thought would be nice, seem to have entered a “why not” stage of development.

Will you join me? Want do you want to make?

What are you making?

This weekend I had the luxury of conversation with a wide range of women. The organization I work for was celebrating our 40th anniversary. Some of the conversations happened verbally, some through movement, more through observation as the event was blocks away from the Women’s March in my state capitol.

In one of the pieces performed, there was a soundscape which included an excerpted interview of Vickie (Vera Blaine)  talking about helping dancers know they have a choice in performance- execution, rather- during any given moment.

It is true. It is also true of the lives we are performing our ways through.

I like to imagine the answers many of the people I interacted or observed this weekend and through-out my life if I were to ask them, “What are you making?”

I hope I am making connections for people- to themselves and to new ways of seeing/being and inquiring.

I know I am making a life worth living.

I am pleased to be making deeper and broader communities of people.

When we join to make things together, we are transformed.

What are you making?

The Truest Thing

I am humbled to have been a guest on Jenna Zaffino’s podcast, Pilates Unfiltered. Jenna is a force in the world and I am lucky to know her. She is inspiring because she does good work but more so because she MAKES THINGS HAPPEN.

Here is the link to Jenna’s website, specifically to the Pilates Unfiltered podcast.

And here is the wave washing over me right now.  For Brené Brown readers, there may be a little vulnerability hang-over mixed up in this. (It might make the most sense if you are familiar with my work in Creative Self-Care and/or listed to the interview.)

The goal of my work is to reach the truest thing.

Jenna and others have described my work as pioneering. Maybe- I am not convinced.

If it is, it is because the value of what I do is placed on– no, offered to– the general person and not the “dancer”. The seed of my work is honoring the person, in their most revealed form, and in individual and collective contexts- through movement. My offer to them is space, time, and a guide for how to articulate to themselves and others, WHO THEY ARE RIGHT NOW told through physical means. Multiple movement vocabularies are used so feel free to read pilates and somatics into the following use of the word “Dance”.

Dance, to me, is supposed to shine a light on the human experience told through the body. Dance, for me, needs to reflect the collective human experience when placed onstage- but in the studio, needs to shine a light on the human being(s) in the room. The movement vocabulary does not, for me, define dance. Dance defines life.

In that sense, life is most useful when lived out loud. For others to take in, and to move in response to (hopefully rising above typical comment threads and small-mindedness). In this way, I think of my work along the lines of Alain de Botton’s School of Life– in that I want movement to be the vehicle by which people understand how to live and how to make living artful.

As a field, I think Dance struggles with credibility unless you reach a tier of Artist (big name, big reputation, big company).  I think the entertainment lens has something to do with that, as well as the distractions of athleticism and the reward of compliance in training and discipline over projection of most authentic self. The same could be said for pilates and the fitness lens.

When I think of professional dancers, this is what I hope to see– those who simply are their best selves and are sharing that identity through live or recorded performance. It is a transformed existance, a willingness to investigate that existance and share it. People who bring all of their intelligences with them wherever they go.

Yet we are often openly defining ‘professional dancer’ (or swap ‘educator’ here) status to those earning a paycheck or who have completed a degree or have passed some measure of compliance and external achievement. Without much personal inquiry beyond the superficial:  “I feel best when I am dancing”, “I want to teach (dance) (pilates)”, ” I want to help people”, etc. We all start there of course, but that is just it- that is the starting point, not the end game. So what then?

I think the question is WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE, not just what do you want to do.

For me right now, my “what then” includes how to develop the credible work while living in a small midwest location and not a major city- where people aren’t necessarily used to having access to people with big ideas nor how to interact with them. To do the work which is at par with the company I would like to keep (Artists sharing deep work in a variety of disciplines) without having the privileges of big name, big reputation, big company. How does one build a body of work which has a philosophy and an ephemeral domain? How do we give evidence to the credibility of the work?

I am going to start with one dynamic breath, one session, one group class, more inquiry, and more conversations.

What do you think?

What you waiting for?

I keep finding myself in conversations with people who are telling me what they want to do, somehow not realizing they have the resources they need at their disposal right now.

I have started saying, “What are you waiting for?”

I have started saying it to myself, too.

With the shifting of my career and the new responsibilities I have taken on, I sometimes feel myself get stuck in the comparison of tasks I am doing now versus the work I want to be doing.

One of those areas has been to get back to writing. So, here I am.

Another has been developing new creative relationships and exploring merging of my varied interests. It means finding ways to share projects with people who work in other disciplines so I have a range of interesting endeavors.

I think sometimes we lose track that we hold the agency to create the life and the work we want.

What are you going to stop waiting for?

Stop Shoulding

I would like to remove “should” from our vocabulary. There are so many better ways to make a point, suggest improvement, make an observation than “should.”

Whenever “should” appears in a conversation, my guard tends to go up. Not all the time and not with everyone- but with many people, and always with specific people.

“Should” falls so easily into shaming (you should do that, because whatever you are doing isn’t good enough). “Should” implies there is more to do, that the reasoning behind whatever is being done is lacking somehow, or that the person who is using the word knows better.

People think if they say it with a laugh, or playfully offer it is advice or encouragement, it makes it okay. I don’t think it does.

Truth is, I am guilty of it too, though my “shoulds” are very consciously not directed at others. They are directed at myself. You know, usually in some form of negative self-talk. “You should lose weight.” “You should do that differently.” ” You should stop this. You should start that.”

This morning I tried on bathing suits for an upcoming trip. I walked in expecting to “should” again and again. “You should lose weight. You shouldn’t have put on those pounds after losing them, how could you have let that happen….”.

But you know what? I didn’t. I didn’t try to avoid it, I just really looked at myself.

I realized I have the body I have earned.

A body which has carried two children. A body which has danced and moved with many motivations- sometimes in performance, in healing, in repetition, in connection. A body that has expanded and contracted in size, shape, line, and time- not to mention courage, patience, acceptance, grief, peace, and humor.

Just as my sense of purpose, clarity of direction,  professional and personal goals have morphed through time- my body has and will continue to do so.

So, what if I chase what feels good and follow that instead of allowing “shoulds” to dictate my actions.

What if we treated people with the same courtesy- the compliment of interacting with them wherever they are and not where they are not.

What if we released the responsibility of telling people what ought to happen and invite them to wonder what could happen next.

Do we have the courage to practice this ourselves? I am trying.