Dog Dance at The Denver Art Museum

Dog Dance at The Denver Art Museum

I’m having a little experience lately, of Dog Dance being everywhere:

 

I’m walking with my nephew and he slows way down, falling behind.

 

I turn to look, and see his arms float up into the air, a slow motion reach, out into space.

 

I say curtly, “What are you doing? It’s freezing cold and I’m starving. Keep on walking kiddo.”

 

He says:  “But I’m doing Dog Dance Aunt Jo.”

 

My heart -- of course -- melts, and I feel like a fool.

 

photo by Glen Kalen, 2017

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stop talking

stop talking

A couple of weeks ago I attended one of my all time favorite events in Boulder, hosted by Intercambio, where English Learners from different countries are paired with more fluent English Speakers to have a conversation.


It’s set up like a speed dating thingy, so every 15 minutes there's a cue to switch partners and start a conversation with someone else.  


I’ve done it 3 times now, and each time has been so much fun, but this last time was particularly memorable.

photo by Jun Akiyama, of Kinisis Photography, 2017

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4 Ways to Drop

4 Ways to Drop

"Drop" means to let go of, release, and relinquish.

It means to LET FALL.

In every class I teach, there is a moment when I say “Fall into the dance.”

I used to stay “step into the dance”, but as I became more steeped in my own work, the sensation for me has shifted to fall.  So I have been using the word fall lately. 

But falling can be scary, so if you prefer to go back to "step in" or "move in" or "drop down into", please do.

You choose which works for you

For me, it goes something like this for me:

Painting by Alissa Davies, 2017, that she began working on after class one day.

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break break break

break break break

I went to lunch last week with a subscriber to this newsletter, Steve Wangh.

 

An artist, writer, actor, teacher, and do-gooder, Steve and I had a fascinating conversation about the current state of the world.

 

This phrase he said…it keeps knocking around in my brain:

 

“Art allows us to bear complication.”

 

painting by Laura Brenton, 2017, that she painted after dance class one day.

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daca, driving, and also dancing

daca, driving, and also dancing

Last Thursday night, a few of us from the community had dinner with a few DACA students currently attending The University of Colorado.

 

We listened as the students shared stories of how their families came to this country, how old they were when they arrived, what they were studying in school, internships they’d held over the summer, and hopes and fears they had for the future.

 

Two sisters from Mexico — the older one who is a DACA recipient and the younger one who was born here — spoke about the different paths their future’s hold, not because of dreams, ambitions, and desires, but because of who had been born on what side of the border.

 

Students from Mongolia, China, and Ecuador spoke about what would happen if DACA was rescinded.

 

The Anatomy of Improvisation. photo by Jun Akiyama of Kinisis Photography, 2017

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what do you love?

what do you love?

That thing is happening to my brain:

 

I walk into the kitchen and I can’t remember why I walked into the kitchen.

 

I start to give an instruction in class and half way through I can’t remember the instruction I’m giving.

 

I’m driving and I can’t remember where I’m driving too.

 

I’ve started saying words wrong, like when my nephew asked me what that body part is called that includes the thigh and the butt:

 

Class. Photo by Jun Akiyama, 2017

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Wild Life

Wild Life

 know this is a newsletter about dancing, but there is so much wildlife happening here this summer, I can’t stand it!


1. Hummingbirds in the courtyard.


For the past month we have been watching hummingbird parents fly in and out of the nest they built, to sit on their eggs.

 

Recently the eggs cracked open and now the parents swoop in every half hour or so to feed the baby birds, whose beaks point straight up into the sky.  The babies open up their beaks and urgently reach when the mother or the father fly in to feed.

 

The nest the hummingbirds built is stunning:  there are bits of flower petals — yellow and purple — mixed in with the weeds and the grass.

 

2. Coyotes howling, wild turkey’s fighting, deer feasting, last summer the sighting of a moose (not this summer though, at least not yet), bunnies hopping, bob cats prowling, foxes darting, ravens roosting,

 

3. AND my most favorite moment of all (I'm soooooo jealous I missed it):

 

photo by Glen Kalen, 2017

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The Hum of the Pelvic Floor

The Hum of the Pelvic Floor

We’ve been dancing from the pelvic floor these last few weeks in class.

 

At the end of one such class, when the buzz between everyone was especially high, Agness said,  “This strong connection between all of us today…I think it’s being generated from the hum of the pelvic floor.” 

 

We continued to speak about the pelvic floor in more detail, where it’s located and how it’s held in the body.

 

We spoke about the pelvic bowl, a basket-like structure where the organs, like fruit, sit and hover just above the floor of the pelvis, where there is a hum, isn’t there?

The Anatomy of Improvisation. photo by Jun Akiyama, 2017

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Between Everything and Nothing

Between Everything and Nothing

It’s a fine line between everything and nothing, and I am only at the beginning of understanding this.

I fall off the line daily -- bumbling along, until I climb back up and try again.

For me, everything is:

  • Bodies moving across the earth while carving into air.
  • Bodies expanding and contracting with other bodies that are also moving across earth, carving into air.
  • Breath:  my own and others'.

That’s the balance I'm trying to find on the little line that I am forever walking.

When bodies and breath align, all is possible in this great expanse of space and time.

And nothing is….

photo by Glen Kalen, 2017

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Women and Guns

Women and Guns

I am making 2 ginormous assumptions about the 400 or so of you who read this newsletter every week.
 

1.
I assume that each and every one of you respects, cares about, and is kind to women.  True, yes?

 

2.
I assume that you feel the same way about guns that I do.  I have no idea if this is true or not.

 

I am bringing this up because two things happened on my vacation last week related to these assumptions.

photo by Glen Kalen, 2017

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what if you danced more?

Like, everyday?10 minutes, right after you wake up perhaps. Roll out of bed, find your way to the floor. Notice your breath, see what arises and follow the thread, first thing in the morning. Two students of mine have been doing this for awhile now. They made a pact with each other — a simple nod when they see each other in class -- "I'm dancing every morning...you?" What’s happened is that they are able to “drop-in” more quickly, with more depth, and for longer periods of time.

The work I am embarking on in class, and in my performance work...it's elusive. It’s easy to wonder what the f**ck is going on when attention is not being paid to breath and sensation...when trust has not been formed in connection to oneself. It’s a slippery slope, and it’s easy to fall off if awareness to the moment is not being held with respect. So try dancing more to understand and trust that slope more fully. 10 minutes every morning. Ask a friend to join you. Give a simple nod indicating yes, I danced a little more this week. Sure, take the weekends off, that’s a good idea. And then start again on Monday. See what happens when you give yourself permission to dance every single day. Let me know how it goes by telling me about it here.

The poem below is from a writing exercise we did in class one Friday.

It's by Helen Turner, who dances, every single day:

What is this place, these 3 hours on a Friday morning?

Is this dance?

When is this dance?

When does this become dance?

Does this become dance?

My thoughts are pushing into my bones, through my muscles. They want to be included. Usually I wait for you to quieten down, fade into the sound scape, hangout with the train and the meadowlark, the sound of children’s voices.

I bake in the sun, half in and half out of the French doors. Skin and sun, the hairs on my skin, thinking, the sun on my eyelids making my mouth tilt upwards, thinking.

Let us make a space for everything.

An empty internal canvas dotted with the color of words, a stroke of magenta, now orange.

From the bones the thoughts move, tasting each bone. Is there greeting? There is greeting.

I want to kneel on just the one knee, like she does. My arms come together over the knee and suddenly I am here, right here, right now, and Jo says “5 more minutes”, and I think “Oh dear, I just arrived”. But then I think, “that’s what we have”, and I’m in the dance, a bit wobbly but staying with it and I’m here and gone and then there is another 5 minutes. So here we all are. It is enough.

And then, I find the birds and I know now why I showed up this morning.

With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com

PS:

1. SUMMER DANCE CLASSES:

The summer session starts on Tuesday, June 6th and runs through Thursday, August 31st...will I see you there?

“I was deciding between seeing the Dali Lama and coming to class today…I choose class.” – Simone.  “Me too!!” — Suzzy.  

"I feel free."  -- Linda Stonerock, Current Student of 13 years

"I can find someone else’s breath in the room when I cannot locate my own.” — Helen Turner, current student of 12 years

"I walk in the world differently because of this class." -- Nancy Ruff, Current Student of 4 months

"I am going to do this for the rest of my life.” — Liza Patrick, Current student of three years

Click here for more info about the summer dance session.

2. DOG DANCE, Performance and Workshop:

Performance:  This Friday, May 19th, 7pm at Floorspace, $10.

Workshop:   This Saturday, May 20th, 1-4pm, Boulder Circus Center $69 (includes ticket to performance on Friday night).  There is only one spot left in this workshop. Let me know ASAP if you are interested in attending.

“Joanna creates earthquakes.  She re-aligns the universe.”    — Julie Rothschild, Owner of Julie Rothschild Movement

“The generosity of Dog Dance is invaluable."  Audience member at February's performance 

"Stunning. Just Stunning."  -- Freddi Acora, Audience member at Current Student.

“Thank you for holding the space in which I could unfold…safely, quietly, loudly, in my own time.” –– Margaret Harris, student for 11 years before moving to Jackson Hole, Wyoming!

"(The workshop) was wonderful. I couldn't say why... because it is just too potent for me. I'm not sure I have words for it still, but they are coming....been dog dancing every day since... so rich." -- Abi Averitt, participant in Learning Dog Dance and Audience Member

“I was SO craving class after your STUNNING performance of Dog Dance last night” — Simone Key, current student of five years, participant in Learning Dog Dance, and audience member.

"Wonder. I've been thinking about wonder."  -- Helen Turner, student and repeat audience member at Dog Dance.

Click here for more info about Dog Dance.

 

Looking for Legs

My mom started taking a cocktail of medications for nerve pain in her lower back a few months ago. Because of the mix of meds she's on, she's hallucinating now and then.

She’s clear and bright eyed when she re-counts her latest sighting:

~ Looking out her window -- where big machines are moving around all day building new houses as fast as they can -- she sees a field of wild horses, running.

~ An old friend appears at the foot of her bed one morning, and they talk for hours about their lives, revealing secrets to each other that have never been spoken before.

~ She says I was there one night, and that I turned myself inside out.

~ She tells my nephew about the person living in the ceiling…she can’t recall much about him, except that his name starts with a T.

~ She says to me and my sister the other day:  “The hallucination I had last night was so funny!”  She turns to me, and says, as an aside:  “Oh, and your mother was there.”~ She re-counts a hallucination where she looked everywhere for the legs.

~ Friends from work, junior high, and college, visit regularly.

~ Family members, dead and alive, come over for a picnic.

~ Pets form our childhood return, and she sets out a bowl of water for them.

I taught a dance workshop for the Leadership Fellows at The Boulder Chamber of Commerce a few weeks ago.  At the end of our time together, one of the women said:

“The negative space…that’s where all the potential is, isn't it?  That’s where possibility thrives.”

My mother’s hallucinations  =  possibility in the in-between.

And Merce Cunningham said:

"Light or luminosity is created by the way elements are juxtaposed. They become reflective and a radiance comes from putting different things together."

Juxtaposing images and memories, my mother talks to the ghosts, and she is radiant.

Your dance mission for the week is to notice your breath, right now and throughout the day, to feel the floor beneath your feet, right now and throughout the day, while looking for the legs.

Find your own legs, right now.  Feel them, sense them, breath into the bones of them.

Step away from your computer for 3 minutes, and dance, letting your legs lead the way.

With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com

PS:

1. SUMMER DANCE CLASSES:

The summer session starts on Tuesday, June 6th and runs through Thursday, August 31st...will I see you there?

"I feel free."  -- Linda Stonerock, Current Student of 13 years

"I walk in the world differently because of this class." -- Nancy Ruff, Current Student of 4 months

“It’s always awesome, but today was extra awesome.” — Lucy Braham, Current Student of two years

"I love what you said yesterday about not taking it for granted, this incredible richness of dancing on a Tuesday morning.  I'm counting my blessings right now and dancing with you twice a week is way way way up there in my cup." -- Aileen Hayden, Current Student 3 years

Click here for more info.

2. DOG DANCE, Performance and Workshop:

Performance:  Friday, May 19th, 7pm at Floorspace, $10.

Workshop:  Saturday, May 20th, 1-4pm, Boulder Circus Center $69 (includes ticket to performance on Friday night).  There is limited space in this workshop. so if you are interested in attending, let me know ASAP so I can hold a spot for you.

“The generosity of Dog Dance is invaluable."  Audience member at February's performance 

"Stunning. Just Stunning."  -- Freddi Acora, Audience member at Current Student.

"(The workshop) was wonderful. I couldn't say why... because it is just too potent for me. I'm not sure I have words for it still, but they are coming....been dog dancing every day since... so rich." -- Abi Averitt, participant in Learning Dog Dance and Audience Member

“I was SO craving class after your STUNNING performance of Dog Dance last night” — Simone Key, current student of five years, participant in Learning Dog Dance, and audience member.

Click here for more info.

xoxo

i'm nervous that i'm not sweating

I know that’s weird, but it's true.

 

I thought dancing was about sweating and breathing hard:  hands on knees after a long and complicated sequence of movements, or a melt to the ground to rest and recuperate after spinning and leaping, catching and falling.

 

That’s what I've known and loved for many many moons, and yet it isn’t what I'm following these days.

 

Even if I try to make that happen, I can’t seem to find it right now.

 

Even when I’m pulled into a current of sweat and breath and balance, I step out at some point to follow my weight instead, bringing myself back down and into gravity.

 

WHAT IS HAPPENING?

 

I thought I was one way, and now I’m another.

 

I thought I understood, and now I don’t.

 

I thought I inhabited this human form with a set of rules and expectations when it came to dancing and yet...this isn't so.

 

I can’t seem to settle and rest, until I do.

 

And when I do -- rest -- I become curious about the body in space, carving through earth and air, as others also carve, draw, push through, and emerge.

 

I’m a mistake maker.

 

I make mistakes multiple times throughout each day:  small ones that nobody notices but me, bigger ones that get a side glance from time to time, and then the gigantic ones, where I have to clean up the mess I’ve made.

 

Is this one of those mistakes?

 

Have I made a mistake by turning my attention to the interior when I dance?

 

Have I made a mistake by opting out -- at least for now -- on the bigger, grander, more understandable way of dancing?

 

Have I made a mistake by not working harder, longer, faster?

 

Sometimes my mind does that thing where it wraps around itself.

When that happens, I can’t find the quiet of what I know.

 

I search and grab and search and grab, and then the dancing is flat and mundane, no matter how big, or how fast, or how strong.

 

But when I come up and out for air, I can feel it:   The outside is the same as the inside when the inside is given the time to slow down.

 

Then it doesn’t matter if it is a spin or a fall, a roll or a jump, a balance on one leg, or a crumple to the ground.

 

It’s all coming from the same place:  the body as animal -- sniffing around, scratching at the earth, digging a hole, running through the woods, being still, and burrowing in.

Your dance mission for the week is to do just that:

Sniff Scratch Dig Run Be still And burrow in.

 

Dog Dance is happening this Friday Joanna. There’s a workshop called “Learning Dog Dance” the very next day. Let me know if you are interested in joining me for one or either of these weekend events, and I’ll send you all the info.

 

With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com

Dancing and Aging

“To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.”— Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

 

Immediately after reading this,  I received an email from Johannah discussing her experience in class this past Friday.

 

Johannah has been taking class with me since I started teaching in 2003, and the Friday class has been a struggle for her at times:   I don’t always use music, there is very little instruction, and sometimes there is a minimal amount of big muscle movement  (i.e.. leaping, jumping, locomoting, spinning, swooping).

 

A question that continually comes up for Johannah about this particular class is, “Is this really dance?”

Johannah has been dancing since she was little, studying and teaching modern dance, so the work we are doing is disconcerting sometimes -- I get that, and I ask the same thing myself now and again.

 

What I love about her question -- “Is this really dancing?” -- is that at 84, Johannah is still asking questions, still wondering about it all, and still curious.

 

Anyway…her email:

 

I emailed first and said something like, “How did it feel to dance with no music and little instruction?”

 

She replied:

 

“Joanna-  

The bottom line is it was fine!  great even!  The longer narrative is something has happened that I am almost afraid to name.  It is like I am exploring my body from a new place.  I am interested and curious about what it can/ is willing/ is able/ wants to do.  Even Andrea said something about deconstruction and rebuilding.  The angst is gone; the conflict over “is this dance” is gone, the self consciousness seems to be largely gone.  I could even see how the music can get in the way.  I did love this Friday:  Sometimes listening/being aware of the outside sounds; the birds, the truck going by, the airplane not dropping bombs on us. Sensing the bodies around me.  And I still enjoy music, and hope there will sometimes be some. but this Friday I did not miss it.   It is like, oh my, what was all the angst and fuss about?   It is like meeting someone new and tiptoeing a bit to make sure the relationship is on sound footing…..so I haven’t said it “out loud” or tried to name it.  Right now it is enough to enjoy the exploration and be so grateful I am not railing against new restrictions.  They are more than compensated for by the pleasure of the exploration,,,,,Will wonders never cease?

Much love, J.”

 

This state that Johannah is describing will change and bump into itself.

 

You know that, and I know that.

That's why there's a little bit of fear I think, about naming it.

 

But the possibility of entering in, as Johannah did on Friday — it’s there now, and always will be, even if it's a long time before it happens again. She held it and then let it go.

 

Placed it in the palm of her hand and blew it away.

 

Named and saw herself within this circle that is us — human beings inhabiting a body, inhabiting an earth.

 

That’s it that’s it that’s it.

 

I think of Johannah — her wonder and delight at 84.

In the midst of all the clamor and expectation of living, thinking of her makes me want to turn off the computer and dance. You in?

Oh good.

Let's turn off the computer -- right now -- for 10 minutes, lie down on the floor and notice what we hear, sense, and perceive.

Let's let ourselves fall into whatever dance is waiting to take us, and then float us, down the river.

10 minutes...only 10 minutes and then you can turn your computer back on.

Let me know how it goes.

 

With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com