Quick Question

I have a question for you....well six actually! Would be willing to take about 10 minutes to participate in a quick survey?

Get me your answers by Mon, Sept 26th at 9am MST and you'll get a PRIZE:

A playlist of my favorite songs I use for dance class.

I’m working on getting a better handle on what you are experiencing in your creative life so I that can improve these newsletters and help you to reach your full potential as the weird and wondrous dancing fool that you are.

Here are the questions and you can email me your answers:

1) “My favorite thing about dancing is ______________”

2) “The reason I dance is because  ____________”

3) “The reason I don’t dance is because ____________”

4) “I would feel more comfortable about dancing if only _______”

5) “I would feel more free and at ease in my body if ____________”

6) “I am interested in (choose as many as apply):

Dance Imagination Creativity Embodiment Expression Presence Connection because _____________”

If you come up with a question that is more aligned with your own experience, then you can email me the answer to that as well.

I will leave you with a question,  and an answer,  which came out of the first week of the fall dance session that started last week:

“Am I allowed to feel this good?”

YES, you are.

Looking forward to reading your answers.

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


Do I give a rat’s squishy tushy about fashion?

Not in the least — which is obvious to those who know me.

But I had an encounter with a Prada store a few years back that re-wired the circuits in my brain in a most beautiful way.

I was driving to Marfa, TX to do a workshop with Nina Martin.

About an hour outside of Marfa, on a deserted and desolate desert road, with no topography to speak of and nothing to see except for sage brush and tumbleweeds, I saw -- out of the corner of my eye -- a rather chic and urban looking building to my right, with a sign that said  “Prada”.

I pulled the car to a screeching halt,  jumped out, and tried the doors to the Prada Store, which were locked.

"Strange", I said to myself.

I peered into windows, walked around the building, peered in again, knocked, walked, peered, knocked once more and then realized….

This wasn’t a store…this was an art instillation in the middle of the desert.

This Prada “store” sitting in the middle of the desert was so surreal, so bizarre, so out of place and context, that I sat down in the dirt, next to the sage brush and the tumble weed, leaned back on my hands, looked up into the sky, and laughed.

I told this story at the Colorado Creative Industries Summit last week as part of the panel I was on.

Someone came up to me afterward and told me her own encounter with a Prada store:

She and her husband were in NYC, touring the museums.

They walked into the Guggenheim Museum, and saw multiple Prada mannequins with dark sunglasses and black bikini bathing suits, the Prada price tag dangling off of the bottoms.

They wandered about in the museum for a bit, taking in the space between and among the mannequins, noticing and commenting on the multiplicity of the scantily clad plastic women, and wondering if the price tag and the bikinis were in reference to consumerism, americana, sexuality?  The dark glasses indicating “not seeing”, perhaps?

Then they saw the cash register.

 And they someone walking out the door with a Prada shopping bag.

They weren’t at the Guggenheim.

They were at an actual Prada store.  

The Guggenheim had moved locations, and Prada had taken over it’s former locale.

Oh, how I laughed when hearing this story.

It made me think about all of the random moments in my life where I have entered into a space or a situation and have been surprised and astonished at what I am encountering.

The time I was walking along 5th Avenue in Brooklyn, late at night, with a friend, and we happened upon a group of people all dressed in what looked like paper costumes, on the rooftop of a building, dancing.

The time I was leading a group of 5th graders on a hike, and one of the boys kept saying to the rest of the kids:

 “I can’t wait to have a soda from the soda machine when we get to the top of the mountain.”  

In turn, I kept saying, “We are on a mountain, in the middle of nowhere…there is no soda machine at the top of the mountain.”  

He would reply:  “Do you know that for SURE?  Are you 100% positive there is no soda machine at the top of the mountain?  Have you ever been to the top of this mountain before?”

“No.  I have not been to the top of this mountain before.  Have you?”

“No!  I hate hiking.  I'm only here my mom MADE me go."

“Okay, well I’m 99.999% sure that we will not stumble upon a soda machine when we get to the top of this or any other mountain.”

“So there’s still a possibility that there could be a soda machine at the top of the mountain, right?”

“Yes, there's still a possibility…a very small possibility, but a possibility.”

You guessed it:  

When we got to the top of the mountain, there was a giant vending machine, with all different kinds of sodas for the kids to choose from.

The boy beamed:  “I told you so.” 

Your Dance Mission for the week is to notice any inexplicable and astonishing moments you encounter in your day to day life.

These moments can be as small as witnessing someone having a private dance party at the coffee shop, seeing an animated conversation in the car next to you at the stoplight, or closely observing the walking patters and  near misses that take place in a big crowd.

Or these moments can be as big as stumbling upon an an unexpected happening or event that leaves you sitting in the dirt, mouth open wide, laughing, gawking, wondering….WHAAAAAAAT????

I would love to hear about what you notice, see, encounter, and engage with, so post about your experience here.


1. FREE DANCE CLASSES: May 31st and June 2nd from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center Email me if you plan to be there, and feel free to bring a friend.

2. Dancing this summer….lotsa lotsa opportunities.   Click here for more info. I would love to have you in class!!

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

I am a horse

Since running Joanna and The Agitators became my full time job, I have become a work horse. I have been working my whole teen and adult life, but I have never worked quite this hard.

The truth is, I could slow myself down to a trot if I wanted.

But I don’t want to, because the galloping is really fun.

As I write this to you, I am realizing that I talk about work and jobs a lot in this newsletter.

I don’t know why exactly, except that all of these weird and crazy dead-end jobs and all those times in my life when I didn’t have enough money for food or a subway token when I was living in Brooklyn, NYC, or when I couldn’t pay the heating bill and wrapped myself in blankets filling out job applications when I was living in Northampton, MA, or that time I ran out of money in Arizona. I was ok because the house I was renting had a grapefruit tree out back, and I lived off of grapefruits for a week until my next pay check came in.

Those times,

They have shaped me, as I’m sure they have shaped you.

I started working when I was 15 (babysitting since I was 12) and have been working ever since .

It’s only been recently, in these past two years, that this work has been entirely my own.

Before that, I was:

A Baby Sitter

A Salad Bar Girl at Sea Galley: My first experience with sexual harassment when the Salad Bar Boy takes a hold of my breasts and twists them like doorknobs.

A Data Enterer, a data enterer, and a data enterer

A Cookie Server at Mrs. Field’s Cookies on the Pearl Street Mall

An Environmental and Outdoor Educator at Cal-Wood (so much fun..that was a magical place)

A Worker at May D & F: Cashier Lancóme Lady Underwear Folder Hosiery Coordinator Christmas Present Wrapper

A Box Folder

A Box Counter

A Buser at Turley’s

A Book Duster and Alphabetizer at Norlin Library

A Barista (for 2 hours)

A Sou Chef (for 1 hour)

A Web Developer (for 20 minutes)

A Ballet Teacher (for one class, and then I get the boot)

A Personal Assistant (HA! That one lasted for a whole 2 weeks)

An Ikea Furniture Putter Together

A Massager for officey kind of people

An Administrator for the brilliant Alice Teirstein and the Young Dance Makers at Feildston High School

A Dance Teacher for Mentally Ill Senior Citizens at the most neglected and awful institutions in the farthest reaches of all the NYC Burroughs: Imagine One Flew Over Cuckoo’s Nest. -Far Rockaway (Sexual Harassment Up the Wazoo. Also, is Far Rockaway a Burrough or is it something else?) -The Bronx (Not Sexual Harassment, just sad and sweet: When I walk into his room to guide him through some movement, bedridden and very frail man says to me: “Are you here to make love to me?”) -Queens -Brooklyn -Staten Island

A Recycling Manager (more sexual harassment ensues. I duck as much as possible, and get by as best as I can, like so many of us did, and so many still do)

A Stage Manager at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange

An Environmental and Outdoor Educator at Sargent Camp

A Staff member at The Omega Institute of Holistic Studies: - Greeter and Luggage Carrier (had a little incident with Gabriel Roth’s luggage so I got transferred to Golf Cart Driver) -Golf Cart Driver for guests that didn’t want to walk to the Dining Hall (Lost control of the golf cart and it ended up in the stream by the Buddha Bridge, so I got transferred to gardening…when the gardening didn’t work out, they asked me to be the dance teacher….that one stuck)

A Dance Teacher and Leadership Facilitator at NYC Public Schools

An Adjunct Dance Faculty at Naropa and CU

A Worker and all around pain in the tucas at Long’s Iris Gardens on and off from 1987-2012: -Mowed the wrong lawn. -Cut the branches off of the Maple Tree instead of the Oak Tree. -Fixed the fence in the north field instead of the south field. -Painted the barn yellow instead of white. -Cleaned out the wrong outbuilding. -Backed the small tractor into the Lavender Bush. -When getting the iris plants ready for shipping, I labeled a plant Goodnight, Moon instead of Goodnight, Irene by accident because I was daydreaming that day. That was the only mistake I made where my boss Catherine got angry. Otherwise, she brushed everything off and said “Will I see you next summer then?”

And now?

Drum Roll, PALEASE!

As of two years ago my job is:

Running my own business teaching dance classes and making dance shows.

It’s a humble existence, for sure.

But it’s mine.

And I love it.

I’m not living hand to mouth anymore, it’s more like hand to………mouth.

(Did you get that? There is now just a little more space between my hand and my mouth. So it’s still hand to mouth, it just takes my hand longer to get to my mouth….Never mind)

And yes, it’s really hard work, and it’s totally worth it.


So, talking about being a workhorse, here we go:

1. The next Dog Dance happens in a little over a week: Friday, February 12th at 7pm. Floorspace. 1510 Zamia #101. $5

2. Goodnight, Courtney Love opens in a little over 2 weeks: Friday, Feb 19th at 7pm Saturday, Feb 20th at 7pm Saturday, Feb 27th at 7pm

In the Leisure Swimming Pool at The North Boulder Recreation Center.

FREE and Family Friendly.

3. Classes are full, and I am galloping along, at top speed.

Because I am in the pool a lot, rehearsing for Goodnight, Courtney Love, your Dance Mission for the Week is to imagine you are also dancing in a swimming pool. What sort of movement emerges when you are in the water: fully submerged, floating on the surface, sliding in along the edges with half of your body underneath the water and half of your body out of the water.

What happens?

Here is a chunky piece of music to get you going.

Share, post, make a comment…you know what to do.

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


ps.  Simone Key sent me this drawing she made on her phone, after class.  I love it.

A Guru? A Teacher? A Specialist? A Swami?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gurus and teachers and specialists and swami’s.

I’ve been thinking about the time when my swim coach yelled at me to shave two seconds off my time, and I nodded and I sputtered, and by god I shaved off those two seconds, and was then shamefully pleased when she gave me a friendly pat on the butt and a high five and a “Good job, Jo” at the end of the swim.

As someone who could care less about racing and speed and competition (Actually, I love competition, so much so, that I try to pretend  that I don’t, because it scares me how much I care about winning), why was I so pleased? 

And I was thinking about the time when I was in grad school, and seeing a Reichian Therapist. 

He had me stand about a foot away from the wall, with my back arched, and the crown of my head pressed into that wall.

Then it got quiet.

For a long time.

I waited, and waited, and waited.

Back arched, crown of my head pressed into the wall.

My neck was cramping, my legs were trembling, and I couldn’t feel my toes.

I don’t know how much time passed before I finally stood up and said, “I can’t do this anymore.”

Then the therapist said:

“I’ve never had anyone hold that position for as long as you did.  Why did you stay there, in that position, past the point of your comfort and your well-being?”

I nodded, and I sputtered, and I left that office as quickly as I could, and I never came back.

I’m thinking about the time I was in a workshop when I was teaching at The Omega Institute, years and years ago, and we did one of those awful exercises where you have to sit across from your partner and stare into each other’s eyes for a gazillion years.

My partner was the leader of the workshop.

I stared and I stared into his eyes.

And yes, his face did turn into a million different incarnations of all of the people in my life, and in one instance I saw my great-grandmother, and in the next I saw a lion, and then I saw all of the stones in all of the lands holding all of the suffering the world has ever known.

I saw myself as the lion, and the great-grandmother, and the stones.

When it was all over, and we had to share what we had experienced, I told my partner all of this.

He said:

“All I saw was you, without your clothes on.”

And instead of throwing up, right there in his face, and instead of calling out truth and honor and justice - loudly - I smiled and laughed and shifted uncomfortably in my seat, crossing my arms over my chest.


I’ve been thinking about the time I was in a dance class, and was told to follow what was true for me, rather than to focus on what I looked like or if I was doing it right.

I had no idea what this meant, how to do it, or why this instruction was given.

I ended up having my first major panic attack that day.

But I came back to the class, over and over and over again.

I slowly began to soften in my belly, and for the first time in my dancing life, I had a felt sense of my body.

I had a felt sense of who I was in relationship to everything around me.

I had a felt sense of my connection to the earth, and I discovered the larger delight of following my own instinct, intuition, and knowing.

Eventually, I developed an embarrassing crush on this teacher that was undignified and sloppy.

And yeah, we had to have the kind of talk that leaves one feeling flayed.

But we had the talk, which was honest and kind.

We had the talk, mortifying as it was, that was enveloped in deep respect and understanding.

The talk meant I didn’t have to walk away, or gossip about the crush with my friends, or create a story in my head that wasn’t real, or speak poorly about this teacher to keep my dignity in tack.

The talk meant that I could keep coming to class, and that I could continue to uncover and experience the listening, the sensing, and the perceiving of the body in relationship to the larger world that I still practice to this day.

Now THAT was a good teacher.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gurus and teachers and specialists and swami’s.

When to stick with them, and when to walk away.

When there is uplift in the teaching, and when there is not.

Those times when we leave an experience with a guru or a swami, a specialist or a leader, a teacher or a coach, and we feel liberated.

Those times when we leave that same sort of experience and feel a little ick. 

I don’t really have anything to say about any of this, I’ve just been thinking about it.

Your dance mission for the week is to put on your favorite song and dance.

Then turn the music off, and touch in with your breath.

Get a sense of how your body feels.

From there, from the quiet of your own body and your own breath, begin to dance.

Share this newsletter with a friend or two, post it on social media, and then tell me what you think and/or share your own story about a guru or a teacher or a specialist or a swami.  You can post your thoughts right here.

And here’s what’s happening these days with Joanna and The Agitators!!!

Performances and Showings:


Dog Dance

Friday, December 18th at 7pm, $5.

I will be doing my first showing of this new solo at Julie Rothschild Movement Studio, 1510 Zamia Avenue, #101.


Goodnight, Courtney Love

Sometime in February  in the swimming pool at The North Boulder Recreation Center.

Laura Ann and I are still waiting to hear back from the NBRC to confirm the dates and times of the show, so I will let you know as soon as I know.

This one is FREE and Family Friendly.

Class, Class, Class:


Holiday Workshops:


Sunday, December 27th from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 3rd from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 10th from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 17th from 10-5pm

A one hour lunch break from around 1-2pm, with 10-15 minute breaks throughout the day when needed.


One Workshop is $100

Two Workshops: 10% Discount, $90 each ($180)

Three Workshops: 15% Discount, $85 each ($255)

Four Workshops: 20% Discount, $80 each ($320)


The Boulder Circus Center.

These workshops are starting to fill up, so if you’re interested, or have any questions, email me and we’ll talk.


Anatomy of Improvisation:

The next dance session starts on February 2 and goes through the end of May:

Tuesdays:  11-1pm

Thursdays: 11-1pm

Saturdays: 10-12pm

At The Boulder Circus Center.

I’ll send more detailed information about this upcoming dance session next week.


Free Classes:

If you haven’t never taken a class with me, and you’re curious to know what it’s all about before committing to a whole session, these classes are for you:

Tuesday, January 12th: 11-1pm

Saturday, January 16th: 10-12pm

At The Boulder Circus Center.

Feel free to email me with any questions or concerns you might have about all or any of this.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


what is "real" dancing?

A long long time ago (isn’t that the first line to a famous song?), I got invited to teach dance in a one room schoolhouse in Cortez, CO.

It was like pulling teeth.

After each class, the smallest child there would ask, “But when are going to do some real dancing?”

And all the others would chime in, “Yes, when? We want to do real dancing.”

Each time this happened — which was every day, multiple times a day — I would say, in my calm and soothing teacher voice:

“This is real dancing. It is just different than what you are used to. Try to have an open mind about what we are exploring together in our dancing.”

And then this very small child would cross her arms over her chest, scowl at me, and say:

“No. This is not real dancing. I know what real dancing is, and this isn’t it.”

I would look around the room and see 15 little faces scowling back at me.

We went back and forth like this for awhile, all of us getting more and more frustrated, until I finally had the insight to ask what they meant by “real” dancing.

The smallest child immediately jumped up, grabbed the hands of her classmates, and they all started skipping in a circle with huge smiles on their faces.

“Oh!!!! You mean, “REEL” dancing!”

“Yes!” She bellowed.

We spend the last few days of my time there skipping in different formations while holding hands.

I stopped pulling teeth, and instead, relaxed into what was naturally emerging.

So what is “real” dancing anyway?

This scenario happened many years ago, but I still get asked this question all the time.

I also get told to change the name of what I am doing to movement instead of dance.

And since I’m a Taurus, I’m not changing the name, no matter how many times you ask.

I’ll keep pulling teeth on this one. Because what I am doing - what we are doing - is real dancing.

No, I don’t emphasize big leaps or spins, though if that happens, YAY for big leaps and spins. No, I don’t emphasize quick and complicated footwork, but if that happens, YAY for quick and complicated footwork. No, I don’t emphasize flourishes and high kicks, but if that happens, YAY for flourishes and high kicks. And no, I don’t emphasize making a pretty line. Crickets. I don’t care for pretty lines…sorry. Tangent:

I was on a dance excursion awhile back, and the photographer working with us kept yelling, “Extension ladies! Extend Please! Extend! Let me see a pretty line. “ Things did not end well. I have a long history of training in ballet and modern dance, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

I’m grateful for the hours I spent pliéing, barrel turning, and tour jetíng.

But my questions now, my curiosities now, my interests now, after all those years of training are:

Where does the impulse to move come from? How does it settle in my body? How does it arrange itself in space and in relationship to others? What sort of movement/stillness/sound is bubbling up inside me that is beyond form? What sort of movement/stillness/sound is bubbling up inside me that is inherent in form? What impulse/instinct/urge/inclination/sensibility is driving the dance? Is it the 1st or the 10th impulse that I act on? Is it the 2nd or the 700th? How do I listen and what I am listening to? How is my dancing connected to the larger world, outside of the dance studio?

To me, this is real dancing.

Living, breathing, and bona fide dancing.

Your dance mission for the week is to notice which impulses you move from.

Let me break it down a bit more:

Lie down.

Feel your body making contact with the earth.

Notice your breath.

Notice if there is a desire to move.

Notice if there is a desire to be still.

Notice if there is a desire to make sound.

Notice when you feel an impulse - to be still, to move, to make sound - and then notice if you follow that impulse or if you let it float on by.

Notice again when you feel an impulse - to be still, to move, to make sound - and then notice if you follow that impulse or if you let that one float on by.

Now, just see what happens.

Let the noticing soften.

Let your attention to your impulses soften, and give yourself permission to step into the dance, whatever kind of dance it is, that is already there, just waiting for you to begin.

Here is some music to get you started.

On another note:

My last free dance class of the season is happening on Saturday, August 22nd from 10-12pm at The Boulder Circus Center.

Will I see you there?

I hope so!

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

ps. To register for the fall session that is starting in a just a few weeks, click on the link below. There is paypal button about halfway down the page where you can sign-up for the amount of classes that work for you.


pps if you want to leave a comment on the blog, I would love that. You can do that here. You can also email me directly, that works too.

ppps. Feel free to share this newsletter with a friend, or facebook or twitter or instagram or pinetrest or in the town square.

xo jo

I hope you can join me

On Tuesday, July 21st, from 11-1pm, I am offering a FREE dance class for the community.

Come join me to remember and experience the joy, the rest, the expansiveness, and the delight of being in a body.

This FREE class will be at the Boulder Circus Center in the upstairs studio, and I would love to have you there.

Email me if you would like to come, and I will hold a space for you.

Feel free to bring a friend.

For this week’s newsletter, I wanted to give you a taste of what we all do in that upstairs studio — far out in the fields, on the edge of the city.

Sometimes we write, and it might go something like this:

“When I move I am just a little taste of delicious”  — Paulette Fire

or this

“When I move I see the world around me, When I am still I see the world in me.” — Christine Crotzer

Sometimes we imagine there is a carpet of earth covering our bodies.

Some people imagine the sea is covering them, some people imagine they are cloaked by a green field.  Some people imagine mountains, or a city, or a town.  Some people don’t imagine anything at all:  they just feel the cool weight of the earth blanketing their bodies.

Sometimes the class gets loud and wild and raucous.

Sometimes it is quiet.

Sometimes I stick with my plan.

Sometimes I don’t.

My lesson plans look something like this:

  • Sky Inside
  • Drones and Durational Work
  • 1,000 Bales of Hay
  • Shapes in Space
  • Read poem; Eat chocolate

Here is a list of some of the things I say over and over, in every class.

I never get tired of saying them.

I think because I am saying them to myself as much as I am saying them to my students.

You can say them to yourself too, when you are at home or at work or waiting for the bus:

  1. Imagine that your tongue is thick and wide.
  2. Imagine that your eyes are heavy in your eye sockets.
  3. Notice which parts of your body are touching the earth, and which parts are not.
  4. Notice the quality of that touch.
  5. Notice your breath: How long is the inhale?  The exhale?  The gaps in between?
  6. What are you doing with your eyes?  You don’t need to change anything, just notice. 
  7. Notice the sensations in your body.
  8. There is no right or wrong, you are just staying curious about what is emerging.
  9. Remember that the dance is already there…waiting.  All you have to do is step in. 
  10. Imagine that the stars are inside of your body, because I think in some sense, they are.

Some people have been dancing with me since I started teaching in Boulder.  They have been coming to class once a week for 12, almost 13 years now.  

(When I think about that, I wonder what has changed in my teaching since then, and what is the same.

I will have to ask them).

Some people have been coming to class for a few years, a few months, or they might have just started this summer.

What I love, what I can’t believe actually, is that I am still moved so deeply by what I see and experience in the classroom. 

I might pull an old exercise out of my bag of tricks that I have been doing for years upon years upon years and still, I am left breathless and stunned by what I am seeing and experiencing in the dancing.    

It is in these moments, these many many moments, that the dancing becomes the ground from which everything else emerges. 

Your dance mission for the week is to imagine you are covered by a blanket of earth, and to notice what happens in your body, your breath, and your imagination.

I like to listen to  Sigur Rós - Var   when I am blanketed by the imaginary earth on top of me, and the real earth below me.

After you have danced with your carpet of earth, post about your experience here.  I would love to hear how it went for you.

And then share this newsletter with a friend.

Share it on facebook or twitter or at the kitchen table.

And oh yes,

Email me back if you are planning on coming to the FREE class on Tuesday, July 21st.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and the Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

Bad Teacher

When I was living in NYC I made my living as a teaching artist in the public schools.

I was fairly young and ready to take on anything that came my way, including rowdy young ruffians making their way through the New York City Public School System.

My favorite and most difficult job was teaching leadership skills at an elementary school using an arts oriented curriculum.

I was assigned to work with a second grade class.  

Not 10th grade, or 7th grade, or even 5th grade.

But 2nd grade.

7-8 years old.

4 feet tall.

I had about 12 kids in my classroom.

And it was…intense.

Chairs were thrown, paper was ripped from the walls, physical fights broke out one after the other after the other.

One cold and wintery day, one of the dads snuck into the class and began to throw ice balls at the kids.  

(I tend to exaggerate when I tell stories, and this is not an exaggeration.  All of a sudden he was in the classroom with a bucket full of ice balls - not snow balls, ice balls — throwing them at the kids and laughing every time he hit one of the them.  I must have blocked out the rest of that day, because I have no recollection of how I got him out of there).

As the only adult in the class, besides the ice ball throwing dad I just mentioned, I was at a total loss of what to do.

And there was absolutely no support from the school.  

At one point I saw another teacher pick up a kid and throw him, really hard, against the wall.

When I went to the principal to report the incident, she said  “Was there blood?  No blood?   What’s the problem then?”

So one day, I am in the class, chairs are being thrown and paper is being torn from the walls, as usual, when out of the blue all of the girls get down on their hands and knees and begin to crawl around the room meowing and pawing at the air like cats.  

And what do I do?  

I send the girls to the office for detention and a pink slip.

Not the boys who are throwing the chairs and tearing down the walls, but the girls who are meowing like kitty cats.

What the hell was that about?

And I am ashamed to admit that at one point I came inches away from grabbing a kid by the collar and lifting him right off the ground.  

I didn’t do it, but holy mackerel, I was close.

I sucked at being a teacher.

Yeah, the circumstances were hard and less than ideal, but my skill level was so low, I just could not figure how to navigate the situation.

There was a lot I learned that year working with those kids, and by the end we sort of fell in love with each other.  

We began to have some fun and we were able to explore and create together because of a simple exercise my roommate told me about:

I would have the kids sit in a circle and one at a time each child would make eye contact with the person sitting to their right and say “Good morning Jimmy, how are you today?”

And Jimmy would also have to make eye contact and say “Thank you for asking Brianna.  I am feeling sad today (or happy or angry or whatever it was they were feeling).

And then Jimmy would look to the person to his right and begin the process all over again.

The first few weeks of doing this were hellish.  

Chairs were still being thrown and fights were still breaking out, but I was able to get the girls to sit with me, make eye contact, and ask each other how they were doing in a very formalized manner, by bribing them with the promise that they could be cats when we were done.  

Slowly, one by one, the boys started to get curious and come over to see what we were doing. 

By the end of the year, if I skipped over this exercise, the kids begged me to let them sit in a circle, make eye contact, and ask each other how they were doing.

The exercise evolved on its own and we began to extend it to include asking each other more questions and beginning to share things from our lives

A ton of other things happened with that group of kids:  like the boy who whispered for me to slip him some pink construction paper when no one else was looking; or when that same boy did a charade of what he wanted to be when he grew up. His charade was simply to sit quietly, swing his legs, and whistle.  When we finally gave up and weren’t able to guess what his charade was, he looked at all of us with pure exasperation and said “Couldn’t you see that I was sitting on a big block of gold, getting rich”; or, the girl who sang the most beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace while standing in the broom closet during the talent show because she was so shy.

But the most amazing thing, was that just by looking at each other and saying “Hey, how are you doing today”  it made it possible for us to find our way as a class.  

I have to keep reminding myself of that when I get overwhelmed and am drenched in my own insecurities and judgements. 

I have to remind myself of that when I feel unseen.

I have to remind myself of that when I have no idea what I'm doing.

I have to remind myself of that when I'm stumbling and falling.

And I have to remind myself of that when I'm troubled by the ways of the world.

So your dance mission for the week is to make eye contact with someone you wouldn’t normally make eye contact with, and then ask them how they are doing today.

Do it once a day for a whole week and see how it goes.

Tell me about your experience by commenting below and then if you wish, share this post with one of your really amazing teachers.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

ps.  Glen and I will be backpacking in Utah next week, so the next newsletter won’t be coming out until Wednesday, April 1st.

pps.  The dance classes are all almost full at this point.

If you haven’t signed up yet, and you want to take a class, go to one of the links below or email me so I can get you registered.