Myself When I Am Real

At 21, I created a solo to Charles Mingus’ score, “Myself When I Am Real.” This morning, my husband played the record knowing it remains close to me, perhaps sensing the nostalgia might bring me comfort in this annual season of personal grief.

At 21, I felt the depth of the dance depended on the depth of the musical composition. I returned to Mingus time and time again, and have continued over the years.

In my early 30s, I made dances with story and identity in mind and have continued over the years.

At 40, the dances are about experience but experience is also calling me into inquiry -doubt, examination, revelation, reflection and the like-of my understanding of dance, and my needs of it. The contexts. The purposes of moving.  The relationship to audience and participant. The label of dance to meaningful and intentional movement as a vehicle or a distraction. The weight and the strength of humanity in motion. How I want this to appear in my life and specifically, my work.

For me, the dance no longer only exists solely for performance on stage, in-studio, but in witness of being, no matter the reason or venue. Acknowledgement of presence in teaching, in moving, in living. These days, I occassionally find myself wondering if I am interested in making dances again. Not dances for students, but dances for me. For inquiry. For knowing. That feels surprising, tentative, and curious. Maybe confusing.

I am watching and reading about others’ metaphoric dances- their journeys, calling into their inquiry (or not) the choices which have made or unmade their lives. I am aware of the perspectives others share from their vantage points- judgement and critique is so easy and covers up so much, or so it seems. It doesn’t, to those willing to look and see and respond. What is my role in those interactions and transactions?

Every season offers the inquiry of “myself when I am real”. It is an evolving practice. The challenge comes in organizing a life- a career and relationships- in which the realness carries you through and earns you a living. What is the most efficient way of not getting wrapped up in the distractions of noise and the illusions of people?

Every dance offers the inquiry of what it means to be real- not in the training of the dancer, but the authenticity of the movement- where the truth comes from the body and through the movement, where motion is clearly generations-old, and the soul is cast beyond the soma for all to connect with, not just see. The challenge is coaching movers to admit their realness, to live in it physically and experientially. People are hiding in their physical actions, their  habits, their silent quests for approval. Inhibiting examination, honesty, and growth. It is hard for me to understand. It impedes progress.

Weight and strength. Waiting  for the weight and strength of realness. I am waiting desperately to see people act with weight and strength of realness so I may feed on it and take it back into the world of every day folk, and so each of us knows we are not alone.

Stop hiding. We want to accompany you in your realness. We hope you’ll do the same for us. What might connection be like, really?




Following the Interesting Questions

There is a wonderful young woman, who I am mentoring, who continuously pushes me to reflect on my experiences and offer her advice. While I hope she knows advice is always subjective, the process of reflecting on the over-arching themes of my career has been really satisfying and its has prompted great conversations with like-minds who have experienced very different pathways.

Lately, I keep coming back to this:

My career has been about following the interesting questions and very few of them have turned out to be where I expected to find them. It turns out, I held a lot of myths about dance, education, and satisfying work.

Myth #1: Higher Education is where the thinking happens in dance.

Fact: Thinking can happen anywhere in dance and in life, if that is what you want.

I love intellectual stimulation and physical expression. The connection of those things is where I find my “flow” where I lose time and feel most alive. Working in higher ed has been where I felt this, actually, the least. Perhaps due to the programs I was teaching in, we were able to promote students taking their work outside the studio and stage contexts, but very little of that was in practice when it came to the work of the faculty. At several points of contract, when deciding to take a job or not, I found myself wondering if I wanted to teach about why should be done in non-traditional ways, or if I wanted to actually go do it.  As it turns out, I want to do it AND teach about the why.

Myth #2: K-12 Education is for the people who couldn’t cut it as dance majors.

Fact: I didn’t actually hold this myth myself, but I know plenty of others who do. I do think K-12 Dance Educators are robbed of the benefit of professional immersion into the creative process and performance opportunities often reserved for those planning on a performance career.

Myth #3: The “real job” is the one with bureaucracy, salary steps, and health insurance.

Fact: I now work for a non-profit. It is as glamorous as the reputation of non-profit work suggests, but I must admit, it is rewarding. My CEO has joked that in watching me in other postitions within “institutions”, she thought I had the real job, as if she was just playing house. Now here, I see this is where the “real work” is- the real questions, the real needs, the real problems in which we are able to develop creative solutions. We are able to do as we like, as we see it best, for those we serve.

Following where the most interesting questions are- has brought me to the people, in the community, and servicing the field.


The Water

A few weeks ago, a friend was describing a teaching residency themed about water dances in which she and a collaborator worked with three classes. Two of the three classes flowed through the project and the curriculum as planned. The third class resisted, wanting to return repeatedly to their personal (and social) definitions of dance with social dances I don’t know how to spell.

As she disclosed the turning point in which the adults eased into relaxation and allowed that class to function differently than the others, our conversation turned to the brilliance of the learning for the adults and the value of that brilliance for the students.

I said something along the lines of:

You became the water. Turn that into an intentional conversation with students about perspective, resistance, flow, obstruction, and all else- and you have still nailed your learning outcomes but in a more meaningful way.

Since that conversation, “become the water” has been a running mantra in my head. I have been teaching the difference between “flow” and “fluidity” in several of my classes. I am riding the waves of transition and taking note of movement (read: change, transition, growth, expansion…) being the only constant in life.

Just as I think I have a plan and a trajectory, a carved path- life seems to put me back into the water. Over the last 18 months, I have made several clear-ish decisions to move away from the path I have known. Interestingly, I find myself being brought back in. This time the known path is putting me closer to my goals outside the familiar landscape. That has been a surprise.

With it comes the usual vulnerabilities- am I selling out and choosing strengths out of safety, am I giving up, blah blah blah. I have to redirect my thinking- be the water. The path is shifting but the truths are not. My opportunities to do The Work I want are surfacing they just look different than I had predicted. That is not a surprise.

When I get anxious, I tell myself to become of the water.

Here’s to a return of documenting this dancer’s life in movement. Through text.


I am nearly 9 months into my career leap. Here’s what I am noticing:

1. Vision is sometimes clearer from a distance.

My leap was prompted by the desire to:

  • do meaningful work full-time, in environments which recognize and embrace the need I seek to fill; moving to improve the quality of one’s life.
  • strip away the pieces of my teaching that others can do well and to focus on what makes my teaching specialized.
  • engage with communities that could benefit more from my work because they are open and willing, and ready to immediately apply the work to their lives in real time- not down the road. It is the difference of working with people engaging in their lives versus those that expect life to start after college or expect that somehow learning is for future use and not the immediate present.

Up close, sometimes the minutiae of making the work possible can over-shadow the work inside the studio. Sometimes I wonder why I need to invent my own path and not merely complete the certifications that are close to the work I am developing but do not quite hold the whole picture.

I think this is partially the plight of the pioneer, as a mentor described it, in that getting the work off the ground and into the awareness of our community takes so much effort and can elicit so much groundlessness….

There are times I need to remove myself from the immediate proximity of the “job” in order to reconnect with the “work” and remind myself how other methods don’t quite fill the void I see. Taking the time to zoom out, reconnects me with why I chose to leap in the first place, then informs how/where to zoom-in again now.

2. Grounding is necessary.

My grounding has revolved around:

  • drinking from the well of others. For me, this has been monthly interactions with a cohort group at McEntire Pilates, deep conversations with my colleagues in regard to the philosophy of what we are doing and why- identifying the company we’d like to keep, and accessing professionals in other disciplines negotiating similar challenges.
  • saying “no” to the opportunities that do not add spark nor new experiences. My latest filter has been, “does this opportunity reflect where I have been or where I want to go.”
  • writing. I haven’t figured out how to make it happen consistently but I am acutely aware of how not writing makes me feel isolated and insular. Writing helps me organize my roles and identities- which sometimes feel inwardly conflicting and competing as I create new work locally but with a vision that could scale universally.

3. Starting over is humbling. And freeing.
It can be hard to shift from having a reputation/routine/role within one context to entering another with what feels like complete anonymity. The perk is that you are also allowed to reinvent yourself.

You have a chance to, as Seth Godin says, “Be personal. Be relevant. Be specific.” You don’t have the obstacle of preconceived notions about you or what you do, you can assert yourself with a relative freshness. You also have the opportunity to allow your new experiences to continue to reshape this new image. It is all fluid until it is not.

Mainly, I have experienced this:
When you are committed to a vision and open to possibility, people appear to help you along your way. Doors open where you never thought to look. And life is richer than you could have imagined.

How’s your leap going?

Mind=Fiction, Body=Fact

In my Creative Self-Care and Adult Modern classes, we have been moving in response to the notion that the mind creates fiction and the body is holder of the facts.

Our minds are a fertile ground for picking up stories and developing them into tales of twisted and contorted truth. We fill in gaps, as Pema Chödrön would suggest, to find a sense of grounding- attempting to pour anything we can think of into the holes of a story in order for it to make sense to ourselves.

Our bodies, on the other hand, are ever-present. Our bodies walk us into various scenes and scenarios; documenting place, person, and our perceptions of a situation. Our senses record the evidence of our interactions, positive and negative.

When we move in acknowledgement of the stories our bodies hold, rather than in refute, our movement authenticates. We move in acceptance of our histories, bringing them into each motion, meanwhile engaging in a practice of discovery- one that allows us to translate our experiences beyond language but into other forms of knowledge- we make sense to ourselves.

How are you engaging with your self-knowledge?

My Narrative Body

Our bodies hold our stories and in those stories are great clues to how we perceive our identities and our perspectives.

The narrative my body holds spans a vast plain of roles and circumstances including my movement signatures, my emotional responses, embodied values, and histories of action.

My movement tends to be smooth, forceful, and perpetually in rebound. These days it aches post-performance, making my desire to perform less appealing. There have been times that this has been true in teaching, too. I have been glad to give up teaching 6 hours a day.

My left big-toe joint hints of arthritis and my stress moves up my spine from the site of two lower-back injuries. I loved both experiences that produced the injuries- not the moment of injury itself- but the pieces I was rehearsing and the artists I was working with. It is too bad those don’t comfort me more when the discomfort appears.

As a mother, my body often feels as though it is not my own. Sometimes this feels intrusive.

My hands resemble those of my mother sometimes. My face shows evidence of Vaughans and Barkers. My mannerisms, cooking habits, hand-writing and knitting reflect the legacies of my families.

Heat and movement have been the sources of healing, as they were also included in the greater landscape when I incurred pain.

I process by placing myself within a context to directly interact with information or scenarios and I often do this physically.

And then there is the story I want my body to tell. To some extent, this is done with a simple change of perspective. To other extents, it involves a change of practice.

I am developing a new spine. Through my work with Trent McEntire in my pilates certification, I am at once challenged by and reinvented with movement outside of my current habits, resulting in new patterns. I feel interested and invested in ways I have not for years. I can help others do this, too.

By re-patterning my movement, I am feeling a re-patterning of emotional responses as well. The result is that the healed stays healed. More healing is invited.

I am changing my food story by paying attention to how my body feels in response to what I eat. I want the story to be healthful, socially and environmentally considerate. Mindful.

I invite stillness.

My body is the source of great affection and nurturing for the people living in my home. We are a cuddly group and I take pride in the source of comfort that I provide but also that which I accept. My daughter has a way of rubbing my back as she hugs me that elicits the same feeling as I had when my mother did the same thing. I realize she is mirroring me- this action has been passed down without words.

I am grateful for what my body is able to do, and for all it has done for me. There was a long stretch of time through which I pushed and pulled and expected my body to simply be there for me, because it could and it always had. Now, I seek to take care of my body.

That is the new narrative. One of care, gratitude, and history.

What is the narrative you embody?

How does it compare to the one you want to tell?



Tradition, Performance, and the Space In Between

In my teaching and in the philosophies that guide my work in healthcare, I have moved in thoughtful response to tradition, all the while heading in directions that deviate from the norm.

In my personal life, I find myself moving toward tradition in a familial way- in thoughtful, emotional response to the lands and people that make up my heritage. The holidays, and the stealing of time to acknowledge these practices, connect me to a community of people with whom I am related and yet didn’t necessarily know, along with those that are not family and yet have helped me reclaim my English roots by teaching me skills to better my practices.

I cook and I knit. There was a stretch of my life during which no one would have ever expected either of these things to be true. Ever.

Yet, here we are. At home on a Sunday, my greatest indulgences come in the form of walking the dog across any field I can find, cooking Sunday dinner, and knitting  while the kids do homework or play nearby. I find it funny that these tasks of necessity for the family members of yester-year are now the indulgences of my life. Practice becomes a performative habit rather than a mere act of practicality.

I enjoy the history and legacy involved in knitting just as I enjoy these aspects of yoga. The connection of breath to action is now a trend engaging all types of people from all types of professions and traditions. Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about what it is about yoga that has people flocking to studios.

I have been thinking about how the practice of yoga for some is the ritual and routine of movement, and yet for others it is about the execution of such feats- the performance based sensation that accompanies the unification of breath to action that results in a presence that transcends time and place.

I know the feeling well- I have spent my life chasing it as a dancer.

It is less about the audience of the public as it is the audience of the self- attending to one’s ability, skill, and self assertion into present time and place. It becomes meditative. It can become addicting.

It makes me wonder- is yoga the new dance? Or is yoga what dance could be, if dance were more socially-acceptable?

Is yoga the secret mainstream movement strategy that allows us to find the most sacred aspects of performance without the emotional and bodily damage of dance technique? (I know yoga can be pretty competitive and performance-type injuries are on the rise, but go with me here…..)

What can dance learn from yoga? What could happen if we teach the non-technical aspects of dance (improvisation, composition, theory) to the general public?

Would it result in the downfall of dance? I don’t think so. It might just be the key to developing practitioners and audiences alike.

Ask me how I am doing this and how I can help you.

Until then- I am making roast tonight and am on section II of Andrea Mowry’sBriochealicious“. Brioche has been a form of meditation, allowing me space to think and opportunities to decide if I shall quit or try again. As it turns out, I am addicted.


Leaping into Courage. And Community.

The holidays always inspire reflection. Often, it is the visiting of dear friends whom we only see a few times a year that has me gauging what has changed for us, or what has stayed the same.

Easily, 2015 has been filled with change. You know this, if you’ve been following my journey via this blog. The year has nearly left me speechless,  as I have commonly felt as though I am free-falling into new territory with new dimensions and new groups of people. I have traded authority and ownership for innovation and ingenuity. There has been, and continues to be, risk. There have been some sleepless nights, and earlier there was worry about whether or not this work could or would pay. I have been living trial and error. Regrouping and reasserting.

But you know what there hasn’t been? Regret.

Nor petty politics, seemingly pointless proving of worth, or fanning egos.

I have experienced more “yes” than ever in my career- both in the arts and in education. The sleepless nights have mostly been about solving creative problems and not rehashing scenarios of defense. The work has paid. There have been errors and some failures, but mostly there has been learning.

Overall, this year has taught me about trust.

Familiar faces from years past have resurfaced to play integral and interesting roles as I build a new line of work and shift the functionality of movement arts within a community. I am struck that without the trust established in years prior- and usually within a studio- the speed with which our relationships have deepened now would not be possible. Without those relationships, my new work certainly wouldn’t be building in the way it is nor with the same potential.

Those trusting relationships have brought forth new partnerships with new people who share some of my thinking and all of my commitment to doing meaningful work. We have met where we are and have helped each other fill in gaps.

For all the touting of community I have been doing over the years, I finally find myself within one that has exceeded all of my expectations.

I expected taking the leap to be….lonely.

Instead, I have found an entire community of people that are living just as courageously as I am attempting to do. They are reinventing their fields, taking risks to provide advantages for others, rethinking channels and pathways to  implement positive change. Now, we are doing it together.

I don’t offer this to brag. I offer it because if you find yourself pondering whether to leap yourself, it is helpful to know others who have. Different really can be better and it may not be as solitary as you expect.

1, 2, 3…..



Among Friends

Yesterday, as I was making dinner, my thoughts were moving over the people in my life and the roles they have played in shaping my perspectives, the directions I have turned, and how (if) they have moved me closer to the type of person I want to be.

I am fortunate in that the list is long and the experiences have been rich. I reveled in the time and opportunity to dedicate my thinking to such things as the turkey roasted, the stuffing was mixed, and the family played.

There have been some major concepts continually surfacing in my life. I find them to be reoccurring themes, really, yet right now they seem to be driving much of who I am and where I want to be- among friends.

Trent: Embodiment

You know, there are people that have philosophies and then there are people that live them. People whose every move rings clear with what they believe, who they are. This has always been true for my friend Trent.  As I think back to how I knew him in college, it was just as true for him then as it is now. There is no question of what he practices- his values are visible and palpable. It is no surprise that his actual work is teaching others to move with that same kind of integrity.

Nichelle and Catherine: Sharing

Dance can be pretty elitist. So can any other body of knowledge, especially in its treatment within education. Nichelle and Catherine bring the best of the information to the people that can actually use it. Readers don’t need to wait to be in college before having interesting dialogue with dance or with each other. Readers don’t need to sift through academic jargon to find the change they want to make in their teaching. Readers don’t have to worry about judgement for questions they have and don’t feel comfortable asking. They offer the real deal, discussed in real ways.

Missy: Openness

Missy looks for what is possible. She approaches every situation looking for the opportunity in it. She starts with yes. It prompts others to do the same and over the last few months, I have had the good fortune to watch this open doors and forge relationships that would not happen for other people. It does not mean she isn’t discerning. It simply means that she looks at how something can work rather than immediately jumping to why it won’t.

It doesn’t seem as though these people should be outliers, yet I think they are- particularly for how their qualities inform their work. How interesting that embodiment, sharing, and openness are qualities that I have rarely found in professional contexts.

These people push me closer to the person I want to be, personally as well as professionally. (How can those two things be separated, appears to be the real question, right?)

Likewise, I love the idea of choosing relationships for how they support you in becoming the person you want to become. (Thank you to my friend Alison for sharing this idea. Alison: Levity–she reminds me serious work requires serious fun).

I love the specificity this allows me in deciding who I spend my time with and why. It permits me the agency to say “no” to things or people that don’t serve me. It gives me clear motive in how I choose projects and colleagues-and even friends.

What are your friends teaching you?








A few weeks ago a colleague asked me if I have finally found my niche. She said she felt as though I have been searching all these years. Everyone I have shared this with since has nodded in agreement, sometimes looking as if they would like to hear the answer. I am grateful for all the thinking and conversation this has provided me.

That night, I responded by saying I feel I have had many niches. In some ways, I have come to consider them as seasons: a season of dancing and creating professionally, a season of teaching in higher ed, a season in K-12 public ed, and now a season in community health.

In that moment it dawned on me, that from the outside, I am sure it does appear as though I have been searching; as if I am sampling goods until I find my fit. I have shifted from job to job, from one aspect of the field of dance to another and covering nearly everything in between.

As of now, I have stopped teaching dance in public education (full-time; I still do residencies) and am embarking on a whole new endeavor. My teaching focus has shifted from coaching movement from the performance perspective, to the learning strategy, to impacting quality of life.

Admittedly, there has been a lot of change but I wouldn’t say it has been  searching. It has been research. I just didn’t see it as such all of the time and certainly didn’t speak of it in that way.

How does Art move people?
Which people have the right to Art/Dance/move?
How does movement create the right to a life well-lived (isn’t that the ultimate Art)?

It is accumulative. It is spiraling. It is the path to my truth and purpose.

It hasn’t been a path of OR but one of AND. Or I guess, THEN.

Each day brings me closer to my deepest work, my purpose. I am moved by the people I am meeting, inspired by the authenticity of my colleagues, supported by generous and courageous people that simply want to see my work/our work/our community succeed.

Though some of my decisions were in response to situations of employment ending or changing (as programs were cut, hours lost,…)- most have been in following the breadcrumbs. The road has been daring and unconventional yet it has rewarded me with riches of knowledge, relationships, connections, and unique types of security.

My intention is to live a meaningful life. To be useful. To see and be seen. To share and to connect. To reach my fullest potential by helping others move closer to theirs.

Maybe that is finding one’s niche. I have just never known anyone who has reached their largest potential by staying in one place.