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Students from Mongolia, China, and Ecuador spoke about what would happen if DACA was rescinded.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



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.


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:



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

i've been thinking about you

I wonder how you are choosing to walk through the world after reading the news or not reading the news.I wonder how you are doing, hearing the first 12 minutes of this, as you hang the laundry.

I wonder and hope that you are going to dance class — because you must continue to go to dance class — even as you hear these first 12 minutes, and want to run, screaming into the streets.

Do run — screaming into the streets — but also:

Go to dance class.

We cannot let him take that away from us.

I wonder how you are moving in the world right now, in this moment in history.

I wonder where, and how, you are finding stillness.

I wonder if you are spinning.

I wonder if you are spiraling.

I wonder if you are sensing your weight — in space — as it shifts and drops, and then rises. It is difficult

to get the news from poems

Yet men die miserably every day

for lack

of what is found there

~ William Carlos Williams Katharine sent this me when I said "I don’t have time for poems right now."

I decided, then and there, to make time for poems. I've been thinking about you. I wonder how you've been doing. xo Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com

Let's get together and...


What if we all meet — in the middle — to take our shoes off, sit on the floor and roll around for a bit, before beginning the work of dreaming the world we want to walk in.


What if we all meet —at dusk —to watch the moon rise, and to sing a hallelujah.


What if those who gather are artists and politicians, teachers and mail carriers, front desk workers and chiefs of police.


What if those who gather are dishwashers and lawyers, tribal leaders and midwives.


What if you and I and everyone else takes a deep breath, closes our eyes, and dreams.

I can’t help but think of the Defense Council in Starhawk’s book, The Fifth Sacred Thing, which I have mentioned before in this very newsletter.


Do you remember this Defense Council I am speaking of?


This Defense Council made up of all the old ladies who lived in Starhawk’s San Francisco?


They gathered every week to dream, journey, and drop into the deepest part of their collective imagination.


From that place they came up with the solutions and strategies that would ward off outside invaders who were forever threatening their way of life.


Can we do that?


Can we be the ones who imagine and dream a world beyond what we know?


Can we be the ones who catch each other as we fall and surrender into curiosity, inquiry, and delight?


Helga is my new favorite podcast.


It probes and queries into questions of art making.


Art making that includes falling.


Art making that includes surrender.


Art making that includes awakening, imagining, and dreaming.


On this darkest day of the year, have a cup of tea, curl up underneath a warm blanket, and take a listen to this.

1. If you do want to get together and dream about what our role is going to be in the unfolding of this moment in history, sign up here to be on the Taking Action Email List. There will be a gathering to imagine on January 8th, and I would love for you to be there.

If you want to take a Free Dance Class on Tuesday, January 10th and/or Thursday, January 12th from 10:15am-12:15pm and you haven't emailed me yet, email me:
"You heard my insides." -- student after taking a Free Dance Class             
If you are curious about the upcoming dance session, and want to take class on an on-going basis, email me too:

“I was deciding between seeing the Dali Lama and coming to class              today.   I choose class.  Me too!!” -- Simone and Suzzy, students who are currently taking class.

4. The next Dog Dance is on Friday, January 20th.

It will be the 9th showing of this work in an on-going series of performances

Come if you can.

It is also a place to imagine:

"Wonder.  I'm thinking about wonder."  -- Helen Turner, audience member. With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com

A Naked Ballerina

A little boy came home from school and told his mom that his teacher had asked all of the kids in his class to come to school the next day, dressed as the thing they wanted to be when they grew up.  

His mother said,  “What are you going to dress up as?”


The little boy replied,  “A ballerina.”


The mother said, “Boys can’t wear tutus.”


The little boy said, “Oh.”

The next morning the mother told her son and her daughter to get dressed while she made breakfast.


The kids got ready and came into the kitchen.


The girl was dressed and the boy did not have any clothes on.


The mother said to her son,  “What in the world is going on?  Why aren’t you dressed yet?”


The little boy said,  “Today is the day we go to school dressed as what we want to be when we grow up.”


The mother said,  “And what would that be?”


The little boy said,  “A naked ballerina.”


With that, he lifted his arms over his head and pirouetted, leapt, and pas de bour·réed across the open space.


This story comes from a college classmate of mine --  he was the naked ballerina.


He told this story more than 20 years ago, and I still think about it sometimes.


That call, that yearning, that sense of self that propels us forward with or without a tutu wrapped around our waist.


It’s getting stronger, that call, for all of us, don’t you think?


Since the election, I can hear it in the night. It’s almost like a distant hum or a far away whisper that keeps saying over and over and over again, to all of us here on planet earth:


  • Be the naked ballerina.
  • Make that tiny tear in the order of things.
  • Re-wire the beginning.
  • Undo the ending.
  • Make space in the middle for a dance to come forth — a dance that we do not know and cannot understand —yet.


This dance in the middle, it is about being with the unknown. It’s about staying curious -- about everything. It’s about following the deepest part of your creative self. As that part of your being opens up and out, surfacing from the deep blue sea of you, things begin to fall and then land in new and thrilling configurations, patterns, and orientations.


Dig in.

Spend some time in this place of wonder.


When you do that  -- this dance that is in the middle  -- it will organically grow and deepen, creating a wide palette of synchronicity and grace that then becomes available to every single one of us .


This then feeds the capacity for listening, understanding, and empathy within the ensemble of this planet we call home.


Be the naked ballerina.


It’s time.


With Warmth on this Cold and Wintery Day, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com



I am currently starting a new email list that will be dedicated to taking strategic action and engaging with prudent organizing in response to this most recent election.

Sign-up here to be added to this email list.

2. It's time to take some FREE DANCE CLASSES:

Tuesday, January 10th And/OR Thursday, January 12th

10:15-12:15pm at The Boulder Circus Center

Email me if your interested in attending one or both of these classes.

Click here to learn more.

3. Dog Dance happens next Friday, December 16th.

1510 Zamia Avenues, #101 7pm $5

Hope to see you there.

xo jo


This appeared in my inbox a few weeks back:


It’s by Paulette Fire, who has been taking class with me for a few years.

The beginnings of Paulette’s work came out of a bit of writing we did in class.

It’s worth a read, and then another.

I’m going to leave it there because it’s enough for today — to read this work, to pause, and then to read it again.

It’s enough for today — to wonder about the path your body takes through space and through time.

It’s enough for you to read this work, to lie down on the floor, to notice your breath, and to take a few minutes, or more, to follow the inevitable unfolding of your body in its fullest expression.

It’s enough to ground you in the moment as nothing else can, so that each generation may pass through, leaving traces of themselves that linger on our skin.

Before I go, I invite you to join me for the next installment of Dog Dance Day Dreams.

It happens this coming Friday, Oct 21st, 7pm, at Floorspace.

Dog Dance Day Dreams is an improvised solo I share with my community the third friday of each month with conceptual/directorial guidance by Andrew Marcus (The Disappearance Project).

Post your comments here.

With Warmth,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


do-it-yourself dentistry

For the past two nights I have had the exact same dream:In the dream, I am the CEO of a very lucrative business called “Do-It-Yourself Dentistry” where subscribers pay $30 a month to learn how to fix their own teeth so that they never have to go to the dentist again. They receive dental instruments in the mail the first of each month as well as instructional videos every Monday teaching them how to hold a mirror in one hand, while scraping away tarter build-up in the other.

At 6 months, subscribers receive the Drill, and after a year subscribers get the Do-It-Yourself Oral Surgery Dental Extraction Kit. This is how my brain is dealing with the Presidential Election. How ‘bout you? But back to dancing: I received a postcard in the mail the other day from Linda Stonerock, who has been taking class with me since I started teaching waaaaay back in 2003. This is the quote she sent: “We reserve for art the power to transform, comfort, uplift, and inspire — to create in ourselves a state like grace.”  —- Jeff Macgregor, “The Art of the Impossible”. And this:  this is a video I recommend you watch, because I forget sometimes how much I love dance, concert dance that is done in an actual theater with thoughtful, intelligent and brilliant artists who are able to locate and place the work of dance in the broader context of current events and political activity. After watching the presidential debate on Sunday night I felt hungover, beaten up, and disoriented. It wasn’t until watching the video, especially the first few minutes, by the luminous Kyle Abrahams  and then reading the quote that Linda sent that I was able to come back to myself, and to remember who I am in the world, and how I am choosing to spend my time here on earth.

Your dance mission is a bit massive this week, so take your time, relax into what is unfolding, and notice what arises:

1.  Watch the video, especially that very first minute.

2.  Watch the video again, but this time dance with the dancers, in whatever way works for you.

NOTE: Don’t be a perfectionist right now!   Save that for the taxman.

Right now, all I I want you to do is to : Watch. Follow. Sense. Perceive. Listen.

Trust that you know exactly what you are doing and that what you are doing is exactly right for you. 

4.  Turn off the video and then dance, one more time. 5.  Get a drink of water and have a snack.

6.  Wonder about who you are in the world and how you are spending your time, here on earth while nibbling on said snack. Let me know how it goes, here or through a personal email.

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

PS: Dog Dance is now called Dog Dance Day Dreams and is happening on Friday, Oct 21st, 7pm at 1510 Zamia Avenue.

Looking forward to seeing you there.

xo jo


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

Middle Age

“Who you actually are, and who you think you are suppose to be — THE GAP BETWEEN THOSE TWO THINGS— that’s where disappointment and bitterness live”. I heard someone say this, I don’t know who, on the radio as I was driving home last Saturday night.

In fits and starts, with grunts of pain and howls of uncertainty, this gap is starting to close.

It’s getting smaller, every single day.

I think that’s what happens when one becomes “middle aged.”

Besides the fact that:

Perimenopause is now a word I use in day to day conversation. For the first time I am having pain in my body that I can’t ignore and shake off like every other pain I have ever had. A little girl said, “Excuse me. You, with the old lady hair” the other day, and it took her saying it 3 times before I realized I was the one with “the old lady hair”. I had a pile of dirty laundry I almost dropped into the toilet rather than the laundry basket this morning. I can’t read ingredients, menus, or instructions without squinting,

Besides all of that, I think that swimming in the age during this middle time has been quite a relief, precisely because this gap between “who I actually am” and “who I think I am suppose to be” is getting smaller.

In dancing, this means I am following a thread of curiosity that is unspooling before me from a place that is so deep inside of me that the thread is not actually coming from me.

It is coming from a much more intimate place than that.

In a certain sense this thread I am following, it has nothing to do with me or my body or the space surrounding me.

Instead, I think it has to do with what’s been forgotten.

It has to do with what’s been brushed over and left behind.

I have been told over and over again to stop moving the way that I do:

To stop dancing this way, or that way. To speed up, or slow down. To hold that line. To look up and out, rather than down or in. To stop dancing all together, it’s just not in the cards.

I’ve listened. I’ve nodded. I’ve followed all of the above in one way or another.

But in this middle age of mine — with my aches and pains, my grey hair and my eyes that can no longer read the fine print — I am unable to follow this advice any longer, precisely because it cuts to the core of who I actually am as opposed to who I am suppose to be.

I’m doing what I’m doing in the way I am doing it because it is exactly who I am at this moment in time, and I am unable to make any compromises regarding who I am, what I am interested in and intrigued by, and what I value in this life any longer.

That part of myself that used to be able to comply and bend to meet someone else’s expectations of me?

She has left the room and she isn’t coming back.

But the part that has stayed?

She is listening as closely as she can to what is bubbling up and arising, within her and outside of her.

And she is following that, no matter what, and no matter where it leads, because a world is being created that has never been created before.

But maybe that's wrong.

Maybe that world has been created over and over and over again, and it is only now that she has the patience and the where with all to experience it and take it in, as is.

She is following this slow unfolding of a new world or an old world, whichever it may be, because it feels like running naked, in a warm rain, in the hills and among the wildflowers, when no one else is around, on a summer afternoon, forever and ever.

That’s the part that has been forgotten.

That’s the part that has been left behind.

So this dance, it is about remembering.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to find those parts of yourself that have been forgotten and brushed aside.

Give those parts the space and time they require to bubble up, arise, and unfold in whatever way that they do. to create a new world or an old world, for as long as it takes to create.

Follow the making of this world with curiosity and breath.

Notice if the gap between who you actually are and who you think you are suppose to be, notice if it begins get smaller.

And then, let me know how it goes.

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

PS! ONLY ONE MORE FREE DANCE CLASS UNTIL NEXT YEAR! Tomorrow, Thursday, Sept 8th from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center.

Sign up to Dance with me in the fall Fall session runs from Sept 13th-Dec 15th, 2016

Dog Dance: The 3rd Friday of every month starting in September. The first one is on Friday, Sept 16th at 7pm at  Floorspace: 1510 Zamia Drive, #101. $5

xo jo

Learning to Sleep

I have a history of insomnia.

Insomnia that at one point got so bad, I stopped driving for fear of falling asleep at the wheel.


Instead of driving. I rode my bike up and down the mountain every day.


I was on a sleep restriction program during that time, and could only be in bed for 5 hours.


I had to get up at the same time every morning, even if I had fallen asleep only 30 minutes prior.


My time to be in bed was from 11pm-4am.


During those 5 hours, I was up and out of bed again and again since a large part of sleep restriction entails getting out of bed if you are not falling asleep after 10-20 minutes of lying in bed.


You are told to get out of bed and read, fold laundry, knit, etc until you are tired enough to go back to sleep.


The grueling discipline of being on a sleep restriction program was surprisingly exuberant, and dare I say, uplifting.


Ironically, it restored a sense of curiosity and wonder for me during a time when I had lost any recognition of myself in the world.


The program itself was brutal, but there was something about it that was profound.


I think it was the acceptance piece of it.


Cultivating trust for a process that retrained my body to sleep again allowed me to laugh at the absurdity of it, notice shifting patterns around it, and wonder about the whole gosh dang thing.


To be held, so tightly, by an exquisitely versed doctor who guided me through a period of excruciating exhaustion, only to lead me out the other side so I was eventually sleeping solidly for 8 hours a night?


That was a glorious thing.


That time of being on a sleep restriction program went something like this:


Glen would be sleeping soundly while I was in and out, of bed all night long.


I would climb into bed at 11pm.


Then I would feel that awful agitation and anxiety creep up on me.


I would get out of bed and clean the kitchen, sweep the floor, or dust the bookshelves until I could feel myself nodding off.


I would crawl back into bed and just as I was falling asleep, a jolt of anxiety would wake me up again, so I got out of bed once more.


This time I would tackle the bathroom or the closets or the attic.


(An aside:


I am a messy, messy person by nature.


During this period of time, my house was so clean you could lick pudding off the floor and roll naked through the halls).


I would finally fall asleep at around 3 or 3:30am.


My alarm would go off at 4am.


I would leap out of bed and immediately start doing jumping jacks so I wouldn’t fall back to sleep.


I would run until 5:30 or 6am every morning before getting on my bike and heading to town.


Moving my body and getting out of the house was the only thing I could do to keep myself awake during the day.


After the first 6 weeks, I got to extend my time in bed to 4:15am.


That first change to my sleep schedule called for a huge celebration, so Glen and I had a huge party at the house.


A few weeks after that, I got to extend my time in bed until 4:30am.


I slowly kept adding 15 minutes to my wake-up time until I was sleeping soundly for a full 8 hours every single night.


Sometimes I even slept for 10 hours a night.


I fell madly in love with the doctor who led me through and guided me out the other side:   The doctor who promised me that one day instead of saying “I suffer from insomnia” I would say, “I have a history of insomnia”.


This doctor is really good with boundaries, so when I told her I was in love with her and brought her a bouquet of flowers and a box of chocolates, she activated those well honed boundaries and declined my gifts -- and my proclamation of love -- with grace and care.


We parted ways, and there was good cheer all around.


I have spoken with her recently because I am struggling with sleep again.


It's not as bad as it was the last time.


I am currently struggling with a common sleep pattern that I have heard happens to many women my age whose hormones are fluctuating.


With one 15 minute phone call, she got me on another, much less rigorous, sleep program called Stimulus Control.


I am already sleeping more soundly, and for longer periods of time, after only 3 nights of participating in the program.


It feels good though, to be reminded of what happened all those years ago.


How dreadful it was:  not sleeping for all of those years;  how barbaric the sleep restriction program sounded when I first heard about it;   and, the surprise of tenderness, and honestly glee I felt at times, while moving through it.


It’s rare to find those kinds of doctors, teachers, lovers, friends, and leaders who walk us through the fire, and are then able to stand with us as we come out the other side, refreshed and fortified.


So here’s to those who are able to walk us through and who hold the line with respect and integrity.


Here’s to those who know that a firm but gentle hand is needed when the fire is burning -- white hot.


Here’s to those who know when we need a little push to get us through a bad night.


Your Dance Mission for the Week is to dance.


Just dance.


However you want, whenever you want to.

Sometime this week, make space to dance.


With Warmth and Vibey Jibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannaandtheagitators.com Here are the PS’s for the day: Free Dance Classes Coming Up Soon! Tuesday, Sept 6th and/or Thursday, Sept 8th from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center.

Email me you plan on being there, and feel free to bring a friend along. Sign up to Dance with me in the fall  Fall session runs from Sept 13th-Dec 15th, 2016 Dog Dance: The 3rd Friday of every month starting in September. More Info Coming as we get closer to the start date.

xo jo

The Ugly Dance

Yesterday in class we were discussing the idea of “ugly dances” and what that actually means.

Agness said this great thing, which was this:  “Beauty and grace can be natural, but ugly is more natural.”

I love that.

I told you awhile back about being on this “making a dance movie” rafting trip I took in the Grand Canyon awhile back, and how the photographer, the male photographer, kept saying to the dancers whenever we did a photo shoot:  “Extend everyone, I want to see a pretty line”.

Mind you, all of the dances and photo shoots took place on jagged rocks or in rushing white water, or while balancing on a cliff or climbing up the side of a canyon wall, so making “a pretty line” or “extending” was not the priority.

It was not the truth of the experience in that particular situation.

Being the ornery and rather bratty sort of human being that I am, I ended up ignoring the photographer and not getting into any of the photos or the film because “extending my body and making a pretty line”  especially for the male gaze…it’s just not in my DNA, and it isn’t what I care about.

It’s a problem sometimes, for sure.

But back to ugly…

What is ugly, honestly.

Who gets to decide?

And what does that even mean?

Sometimes I think we confuse the word ugly with what’s actually true.

And if it’s true, and if it’s expressed through a spirit of inquiry, then there is no ugly.

The uncharted territories of dance that take us to the edge of what we know and leave us hanging…I understand why we might perceive that as ugly.

Maybe it’s not in the lexicon of our understanding.

Maybe it’s different, or peculiar, or odd.

Maybe it’s a part of ourselves that we have been hiding, the most natural and human part of ourselves, that’s been hiding in the guise of pretty lines and extended bodies.

The teachers that have influenced and shaped me the most have simply provided a space for me to remember who I am.

They have guided me in unearthing those parts of myself that have been lying in wait.

They have helped me excavate and uncover exactly who I am….and that includes ugly, and messy, unkempt, and undone.

What excites me about dance is the humanity of it. 

The sweat, the struggle, and the lumpy mess of it. 

It’s ugly and it’s pretty, it’s surprising and it’s delightful, it’s deep and dark and murky, but most of all, it’s honest.

That’s what I care about in dance, when I’m doing it and when I’m observing:

The honesty of the human body in time and space;  taking on forms that disintegrate and reemerge, again and again and again.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to do an ugly dance, whatever that means to you.

Email me or tell me how it goes here.

With Warmth, With Jivey Vibes, With a toast to the ugly dance in every single one of us,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


Less is More

I’m editing out almost everything I know about dancing:

I’m taking out the leaping and the twirling.

The ups that take you spinning out of the earth, and the dives that take you right back down.

The swoops and the bursting forth.

The rushes of velocity, speed, and momentum.

For now, at least, I’m editing it all out because these elements of dancing are not showing up for me at this moment in time.

These elements of dancing are no longer urgent.

There’s a bit of a loss around this.

A bit of confusion.

A bit of questioning and concern about where it has all gone.

At the same time, there is a hunger for dancing that I have never felt before.

For the first time, I can’t wait to get into a quiet space by myself, and begin to work.

I’ve never been able to do that.

In all my years of dancing, I’ve never been able to be alone in a dance space and to use that time to dance, fully.

Remember Flashdance?

Remember Jennifer Beale, alone in her warehouse apartment, dancing and sweating and flinging her body through space?

I sooooo wanted to know how to do that!

I’ve always had to have someone there in the room with me, to play off of and converse with or I fall into an existential despair that leaves me empty, angsty, and wandering for days.

Something has changed in me recently though, and now, for the first time in my life, I look forward to dancing for multiple hours on my own.

I’m hungry to be alone in a dance space, and to dance.

My dancing is slow and detailed and rooted. 

It is filled with stillness.

And silence.

And because of that, I feel like my body is pushing up against a tidal wave of sound and speed.

I feel like my body is pushing up against everything I know about dancing.

I feel like my body is pushing up against everything I know about myself.

Because I know myself to be big and loud - weird - outlandish and absurd.

I know how to put that part of myself out into the world as a performer and dancer.

But this stillness?

This silence?

This slow descent of weight that pulls me into the center of the earth?

This never ending and unhurried spiral — that I get caught up in for for hours at a time —while the rest of the world gets stuff done?

That’s a part of me that I always knew existed too, but I pretended that it didn’t.

I was a little embarrassed by it, a little ashamed, so I kept it hidden most of the time.

And now….now I can’t stop.

I can’t stop this slow descent of weight, this spiral, this snake.

I’m 46 years old, and I think I might be at the very beginning of finding my voice as a dancer, choreographer, improviser, and performer.

And this voice I’m finding is editing out everything I know about dancing.

What’s left is…..

I don’t know yet.

I don’t know.

I don’t know anything at all.

All I know is how to find my way to the floor.

All I know is how to notice my breath.

All I know is how to wait and see what emerges.

I will wait for as long as it takes.

And when this steady drop of weight pulls me in…when this intricate and perplexing spiral tugs at me from the inside…when I feel the snake moving through me….only then will I let myself begin.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to wait.

Give yourself 7 minutes (can you give yourself 7 minutes right now so you don’t forget?), and find a comfortable place, either lying on the floor, sitting in a chair, leaning against a wall, walking in circle in your living room.

Notice your breath.

Notice your body making contact with, and pressing into the earth.

Notice your body making contact with, and carving into the air.

Imagine your tongue is thick and wide.

Imagine your eyes are heavy in your eye sockets.






For 7 minutes.

Notice what happens.

Is there movement?

Is there stillness?

Is your state of being shifting, transforming, or staying the same?

Let me know what happens for you.

And feel free to share this newsletter with anyone you think might enjoy it.

As always,

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending



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

What are we doing?

I am filed with wonder.

I am finding something inside of myself that I did not know was there.


That isn’t true.

I have known it was there, for a long time.

But I thought it would be better if I kept it hidden.

My work with Andrew has given me permission to be exactly who I am, and to bring the part of myself I was hiding, out into the open.

I am different because of this.

As a human being, and as an artist.

I see and experience the world from a new perspective.

I am giving myself permission to follow my imagination with trust, curiosity, respect, and dignity.

A student asked me the other day,  “What are we doing?  I don’t understand.  I feel lost.”

Which was funny, because I had asked Andrew the same thing a few days before, in almost exactly the same words.

Because of the work I am doing with Andrew right now Because of the way I am teaching my classes Because of what I am learning from my students in those classes, every single day Because of my own inquiry into creative process and dance making Because of an urgent desire to bring this work out into the world,

in my very humble opinion, in our tiny little corner of the universe, this is how I understand and distill what we are doing:

We are taking a deep dive into the depths of creative inquiry. We are asking questions. We are wondering.  We are excavating what is necessary, urgent, and relevant in each moment. We are working, researching, and pondering the current climate of where dance is now:  What are the restrictions of dance?  How do we push up against them?  How do we move forward  into this next phase dancing, artistic expression, and creative inquiry? We are listening.

“As artists, we create worlds.  And at the same time, the world creates us.  We are gently pushing civilization forward,”  Said Andrew when it was my turn to feel lost and when it was my turn to ask what were we doing.

We are on the edge of moving this art form forward, along with so many others who are doing the same thing, in their own way, and in their own geographic location. 

This edge -- it is quiet, small, and almost invisible.  

But it is there, and it is vibrating, and we are sharing ourselves and our vulnerability through the innate desire for expression, as we search for and seek out what is true. 

As we search for and seek out what is changing and shifting within us and outside of us. 

We dance for ourselves, we dance for each other, and we dance for something that is bigger than that.  

We dance to find out what is underneath that which is known.  

We dance to reveal what cannot be spoken.  

We dance because we are beginners in this inquiry into creative expression.  

The more we know, the less we understand.  

So we start from the very beginning, every single time.

With whatever fears, anxieties, hurts, questions, and curiosities we carry, we always start from the beginning.

The beginning is the breath.

The beginning is the body.

The beginning is waiting to see what sort of dance one will step into, in a particular moment in time.

The beginning is the gathering that takes place among those who are asking these same sorts of questions. 

The beginning is the gathering that takes place among those who are willing to follow what arises in the dance when we are together.

The beginning is the gathering that takes place where each and every one of us has the opportunity — always — to step into the dance that is already in the room.

If you would like to join me for this type of gathering — the type of gathering where we follow our imagination with trust and curiosity, respect and dignity, click here to learn more about the sort of dance opportunities I will be offering this summer.

If you liked this newsletter, would you share it?

If you know someone who would be interested in joining the conversation, have them sign-up here.

Post and comment, as I am curious to hear your thoughts about what has been said.

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

3 Things People Are Saying

I’m sitting here this morning, sipping the espresso that Glen just made me with our brand new espresso press, wondering what to share with you today.

I’m wondering if I should share the silly story about the time I auditioned to be in a ballet project with Jacques d’Amboise when I was 12 years old.

He came right up to me in a room that was packed with kids, and said: “Are you in 4th?” (He meant 4th position, as in the ballet position — I thought he meant 4th, as in the grade).

I said, “No, I’m in 6th.” (There is no 6th position in ballet — I was referring to the grade).

He looked at me with disgust and said “Well aren’t you a brat?”

He turned his back and walked away while shooing me out of the room.

That was the end of my ballet career with Jacques d’Amboise (I was so upset I tore the satin off my point shoes)!

But I think I’m not going to talk about that, except to say:

While looking up Jacques d’Amboise on Wikipedia just now to make sure I was spelling his name correctly, I found out his name was not Jacques d’Amboise.

It was Joseph Ahearn!

And he was born in Dedham, Massachusettes, not France! 

Did you think he was born in France?  I thought he was born in France….sheesh.


I’m going to stay quiet today, and let my students speak:

This, from Linda Stonerock  who wrote to me after last week’s newsletter went out about being 10:

“It’s so funny to me, your take on 10. 10 was a pivotal age for me, and it was when i began to know MY OWN mind, distinct from what my parents, teachers, the Bible, or any other outside entity told me about reality. I actually made a conscious decision to take what i felt was true more seriously than what anyone else said….and i also decided that i would not necessarily share my POV with someone, especially adults, who might try to make me wrong. This truth was precious and to be explored, validated, questioned or discarded by me and me alone.

i felt 10 was the sweetest year in my life. A watershed. It’s still up there in the top 5 best years, even at 63!!

xo Linda”

This, from Helen Turner, in conversation, after class recently:

“I can find someone else’s breath in the group when I cannot locate my own.”

This, from a writing exercise we did in class this past Sunday:

Could not do the warm up

It was a warm up for other people and their bodies

Not for me.


Where is my body, the body I used to have?

Did I forget it at home?

Whose body is this?

The one that takes 15 minutes to walk across a parking lot

The one that has blood drawn again and again

The one that can't stand up


On two feet

Or walk across the floor

That limps and lurches

The one that seizes danger


A cough

A sneeze

A shift in the pavement

A pain

A spot

Anything could be dangerous.

Whose body is this?


This is mine

(No. It can't be.)



It is.

My mother had a way of judging people.

She would say that woman wouldn't have lasted a day in Auschwitz.

What would she say of this body of mine?

— Paulette Fire, Sunday, March 13th, 2016

And there is nothing left to say.

With Warmth,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


Remember When You Were Ten?

Do you remember turning 10?

How exquisitely sad that moment was for you?

You were - and would be for the next 90 years - a double digit.

Never EVER would you be a single digit again.

The agony of that.

I cried for hours the night I turned 10, cuddled in bed with my sister and my mother.

My sister, only 7 at the time, was curled up behind me. 

She clutched a handful of my pink flowered nightgown in one hand, and patted me on the back of my head with the other.

My mother, who was lying on the other side of me, held my hand and stroked my forehead.

It was sweetly painful, to feel the deep loss of my singular digit status.

I am in a similar state now, not because of any age I am turning, but because there is a profound loss happening.

And though it is devastating in a certain way,  it is -  in another way  - sweet, pleasurable, and immensely gratifying.

I am talking about dancing.

This is what is happening:

I am attempting to sift through the debris until the root of dancing is found.

I am asking myself:

What is essential?

What is true?

What is urgent, necessary and vital?

I am waiting.

Waiting for the dust to settle.

Waiting for my body and my being, to be free.

Waiting for the cellular frame - both inside and outside the body -  to shift and re-locate itself so that the fall into the dancing may begin.

This dance finds itself within a mysterious, complex, and ever changing relationship to the human form.

Movement systems connect and couple with this molecular re-patterning within the body, inside of the universe, and among the stars.

The stars, which, when one is dancing, are essential.

Essential, because it is through the dancing that there becomes a  “felt” sense - rather than an intellectual knowing - that we are made up of the same material as the stars, and the stars are made up of the same material as us.

All separation then, dissolves.

Time and space tilt, rupture, wrinkle, fold, and twist in on themselves to unearth the thing that has always been there:  the magical, supernatural, shamanistic, mystical and witchy realms of  the human experience.

In the minutia and never ending to-do lists  of daily living, we forget that this element of existence is there at all times:   shimmering under the surface.

I am attempting, in my dancing, to bring the shimmering out from underneath.

I am attempting, in my dancing, to encounter and shimmer with the witch.

do not choose the lesser life.

do you hear me.

do you hear me.

choose the life that is. yours.

the life that is seducing your lungs.

that is dripping down your chin.

-Nayyirah Waheed

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


xoxo jo