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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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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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.




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:



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

What Happens When You Dance?

What happens when you dance ?When you are in motion, what do you feel, sense, perceive?


What about stillness?


What about the in-between?


Just yesterday I was dancing with my class and a new pattern emerged.


I felt the thrill of new and old laying ground.


As I sat on the sidelines later on to watch, long moments of fullness and ease moved in, and stayed for awhile.


I felt, sensed, and percieved awe.

When you dance…do you feel stirred?




How so?


What is happening with the systems that are inside of you, and also, outside of you?


Do you ever wonder why we all are not dancing, every single day, for most of the day?

Or is that just me — because I wonder about that a lot.


I know that dancing isn’t for everyone.


We all follow our own path and one path doesn’t fit all.


I know.


But sometimes, I wish, that just once, we all could take a day off -- together -- to notice what parts of the body are in contact with the earth...to hone in on the detail of that.

To move into and engage in a dance that is waiting -- patiently -- for all of us to step into and be swept away by the thrill and awe of dancing.


Floating, burrowing, excavating, carving, resting, and flying in shape, form, time, and energy.


Ah dancing…you are on my mind these days!  

How about a dance mission since we haven’t done one of those in ages.


Back to basics perhaps?


Find a comfortable place to be — lying down, sitting or standing.


Notice your breath.


Notice your body against the earth.

Notice your body carving into the air that is surrounding you.


On your exhale, see what movement emerges.


On your inhale, find stillness.


Do this over and over again:  Move on the exhale and find stillness on they inhale until one bleeds into the other as your movement and your stillness find their way to the surface.

And the dance?

It's already happening.

Trisha, Angela, and Helen

Getting ready for Dog Dance after hearing Dr. Angela Davis speak this weekend about undoing structures and re-thinking assimilation.

Getting ready for Dog Dance after hearing the incredible Judge Helen Whitener speak about understanding the codes -- the rules of conduct -- and advocating from within.


The opposite of what Dr. Davis was speaking of perhaps?


Not sure, though the back and forth between these two women had me sitting at the edge of my seat.


Getting ready for Dog Dance after a weekend spent in Florida listening, learning, and struggling to understand the systems that have shaped a world that is not fair or just.


Getting ready for Dog Dance and wondering about the fate of the NEA, the EPA, PBS, NPR and all of the things that I care about and participate in. Getting ready for Dog Dance and paying attention as best I can, so as not to miss any steps.


Getting ready for Dog Dance and feeling lost sometimes, found at others.


Getting ready for Dog Dance and reading about Trisha.


I wonder what she would have said on that panel with Dr. Angela Davis and Judge Helen Whitener. Would she have steered the conversation in an entirely new direction that we can't begin to imagine, or would she simply have started to dance?


Warmth, Love, and Wonder, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending www.joannandtheagitators.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

are you awake?

I am. The wind is blowing the house down.

So I’m up,

I’m giddy and unable to sleep because something woke up in me last Wednesday — right after I sent you that last newsletter.

That something has been groggily waking up for a long time now, but last week it got me sitting up straight, eyes wide open.

This thing I asked us to imagine?

It’s taking shape, in a way I couldn’t have imagined, and it’s moving fast.

I promised myself that this newsletter would be dedicated to what it’s always been dedicated to:

  • Dancing.
  • Creativity.
  • Imagination.
  • Our beautiful world.


I promised myself the new newsletter, the one I am sending out on Mondays, that it would be dedicated to:

  • Taking action.
  • Organizing.
  • Mobilizing.
  • Our beautiful world.

But thats misguided.

These things are the same.

They come from the same place and swim in the same body of water.


My longtime friend Kate is visiting.

(She’s sleeping upstairs as we speak).

Last night we stayed up late:  Envisioning, Dreaming of, and Wondering about this event I am putting together for January 8th.

After lots of conversation

(and cake.

and wine.

ice cream too),

Kate said:

“You're planning a dance class for January 8th.   Sure, it's taking on a different form, with different players.  And no, nobody will know it’s a dance class…it won’t even enter their mind.  But you’ll know:  You'll know that what you all are doing together is dancing."

She's right.

When people leave the event I am getting together for Sunday January 8th, I hope I don’t hear them say:

“Well, good.  I know exactly what to do now.  I have a plan.  Glad that's over and done with.”

I hope what I do hear them say is:

“Hmmmmmm…….we're just at the beginning, aren't we?"

*|FNAME|*, your Dance Mission is to enter into and engage with your experiences and your encounters this week by saying "hmmmmm.....is this a beginning?"

Just for practice.

Let me know how it goes. With Warmth, always, 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

dance ideas

"You should be breaking through the walls, breaking up the universe trying to find new things for yourself, & develop more deeply those that you have been working on.”  — Martha Meyers, Dean Emeritus at The American Dance Festival. This is the dance that is building inside of me:

Working title:  Cooking with Roy

Note: My father wanted to name me Roy, if I had been born a boy….can you imagine?

Roy Rotkin?


Long Red Nails that are really really long Amy Winehouse Beehive Hair-Do with things stuck in and out of it, like twigs, like birds, like bugs High Heels? Movement from deep inside

Run to me! Run to me!

Arms over head, shoulders to ears Barking/Hoofing Horse prances with that sound Head shaking, body bent a little bit forward while standing still Scooting all of the still and lying down people to the back of the stage and piling them up there

Pick up things and put them in my mouth

A Feminist Contact Improv Duet:  Gather everything from the floor and try to hold onto it all

Crawl backward and say ooh ooh ooh like a rescued chimpanzee and then stand still for a very long time.

Slow movement, noticing what is moving in my body and what is still in my body while grunting… but the grunting happens very rarely…it is more like a throaty moan. A dog house A Hazmat suit A Bert puppet and an Ernie puppet, talking earnestly about something precious Mouth on ground, butt up in the air, legs walking, arms to the side….building 

Sniff the air Slow and low down movement on a doctors table Folding and unfolding with a hunched over back Ice age sound while doing something hard

Folding chairs filling the stage or being moved off the stage or being carried the whole time on the stage A trench coat 


That's my dance, the one in my head.

It's a dance that may never be made.

Or seen.

Or realized.

Or it may.

I don't know yet.

What about you?

What's the dance that is building and burning inside of you?

Tell me about it here.

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

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


Are you in pain?

Is that why you aren’t dancing so much?  

Or is it because you feel:

  • Old
  • Achey
  • Ugly
  • Restricted in your movement
  • Lumpy and/or schlumpy
  • All of the above.


I hear you, I hear you, I hear you.


And you know what, that’s not a good enough excuse.

These things will change your dance of course, especially if you are in pain, but it doesn't mean you have to stop dancing all together.


You can feel all of these things — lord knows I do — and still continue to expand and unfold into your dancing life.


You can be stuck in bed with whatever it is you are stuck in bed with, and you can still be dancing.


So chin up buck-a-roo, it’s not over yet.


True, you may not be doing those barrel turns and back flippy things like you used to — though who knows, you may surprise yourself — and true, you may not be able to do that quick spin combined with a high leg kick anymore, but honestly, who cares?


It’s time to move on from that frame of reference anyway.


Yes, we live in a smooth skinned youth obsessed culture of gloss and perk that doesn’t allow for lumps and bumps, crooked lines, or tufts of hair -- anywhere.


This is all true.


However, if you are reading this newsletter, you obviously are not interested in the status quo.


So why let the status quo of aging stop you from doing what what you love?


Let me say one more thing before we get to practicalities:


This whole ugly thing?


It’s a killer.


It’s a killer of the creative quest you are on because the amount of energy you spend worrying about what you look like takes you away from the truth of the matter.

And that truth is that you need to be following your own imagination, regardless of what you look like on any given day.


You know what someone said in class last week?


She said:  “What a relief it is not to worry about whether or not I look cute in this class.”


You know what someone else said in class right after that?


She said:   “And I feel so ugly and old sometimes, I can’t concentrate on my dancing.”


And this, this is what we need to unpack.


Because who gets to say what is ugly and what is not?

And who gets to say what ugly even means?

If you can, let the ugly thing go.


You have more important things to focus on. I know how hard it is too slough off years of internal messaging about appearance, especially for women.  As someone who has always thought of herself as ugly, I do not say the above lightly.  I get that it is a lifelong practice to stay focused on your creative quest and imaginative unfolding, rather than on what you look like while doing it.


I get it.


But you CAN do this.


You can focus your energy on finding the truth in your expression and sensation, rather than on spending time worrying about if you are ugly or pretty, cute or beautiful, young or old.


Now, if what you are uncovering through your dancing is ugly and gnarled, if itis crooked and hairy, if it has thorns growing out of it’s spine, then, wow, what a magnificent and beautiful dance that is, because it is true for you.


Your being, your essence, and your outward appearance are not ugly, and will never be ugly,  for uncovering, excavating, and understanding an aspect of yourself that has been waiting to be found for a very long time.


Right now, while you are reading this, with whatever aches and pains you are experiencing, and no matter how lumpy you feel, notice your breath.


(Side note:  I feel particularly lumpy today.  My back is aching because I missed my appointment with my body worker person this week, I haven’t showered,  I’m still in my pajamas, I ate a pint of ice cream for breakfast and now my legs are restless and jittery from the bounty of sugar I consumed…..nonetheless, I am able to notice my breath, and so I do).


With each inhale, imagine your body getting a tiny bit bigger.


With each exhale, imagine your body releasing and sinking into the earth.


Now look at your hands.


Continue to notice your breath, imagining getting a tiny bit bigger on the inhale, releasing and sinking into the earth on the exhale, and notice what is happening with your hands.


Sense, see, and follow what is unfolding.


Let the detail and articulation of what is opening up in your hands envelop the rest of your body, with a deep respect for your own timing in the unfolding.


This exercise can be done in bed, the bath, while sitting at the kitchen table, taking the bus to work, or lying on the floor after a long day at the computer.

It comes from a beautiful email I received from Hannah Denison, who lives in Vermont:


“Just saw About Kazuo Ohno at a small space in Burlington.  Japanese man who got enamored of Kazuo and even though he never saw the old master dance, recreated his dances from films that were equally ancient.   In the Q&A he spoke of Kazuo’s fingers and hands and how intricate and compelling they were, how if he just focused on the movement of the hands, the rest of the body followed and expanded.  Also, he spoke about Kazuo’s son who was caring for him when he was close to death, used to lift him out of his chair from behind and stand holding him as he danced his last dances.”


We will all be in some degree of pain at some point.


If we are lucky, we will continue to grow older.


The dance will need to change because of these two things.

That is a beautiful and curious thing, and it should not be discarded:

"Let everything happen to you:  beauty and terror." - Rilke With a wish for you to step into whatever dance is waiting for you, hoping you will open the door.

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

Holy Moly

My jaw is on the floor.  

The response from last week’s survey was amazing:


I received emails from Colorado, California, The Pacific Northwest, Minnesota, Montreal, New York City, Connecticut, and Tennessee.


Nice job dancing queens!


I have enough material from all of you to read and consider your thoughts on dancing for many months.


With intimacy and honesty, you shared hopes, fears, delights, and struggles in regards to living this dancing life.


Thank you for that.

The next few months of this newsletter will be dedicated to distilling and then exploding open the answers you provided by looking at how your responses play into the larger context of dance and creative expression, and how that connects you to your own body, to those around you, and to the larger world.


“Freedom”, “presence”, and “connection” were mentioned over and over again, so we are good:


The foundation for discovery has been set, and we are ready to fly.


As someone mentioned in class yesterday:


We are nothing but a “wild rumpus of bodies in space.”


When we listen closely enough to that rumpus, we are able to “hear what is going on inside” every single one of us, and to proceed accordingly.


I want to leave you with a Dance Mission that comes directly out of this survey:


What to do when there is no one around with whom to dance?


Being alone in a space dedicated to dancing, and expecting oneself to dance in an allotted amount of time, can be daunting for some of us.


I have avoided this situation myself because it can leave me feeling empty, flat, disconnected, and yucky. But if there is no one around who I can dance with, that means I won’t be dancing, and that doesn’t work either.


So try this:


1. Dedicate a time to dance this week.  I would suggest setting aside 20 minutes to do this. If 20 minutes feels way to long, go for 10 minutes.


If 20 minutes feels way to short, go for 30 or 40 minutes.


You do what works best for you.


2. Email me and let me know when you have set aside time to dance this week.


3. When your time to dance rolls around, begin by letting go of all expectations, or at the very least, have low expectations.


4.  Situate yourself in a manner that feels comfortable to you, and then simply be.  Notice if any desire to move arises within you.  Be prepared that there may be no desire for movement,  AT ALL.


Well, that’s interesting!

And totally okay.


5.  Wait, notice, and continue to keep your expectations low.


6.  If no movement arises, If the desire to move is nill. If you feel like you are going to fall asleep, you have a few options:


1) Let that be:

This is information for you, and it is important information.  Don’t override it with your own an agenda of what dancing is, or what dancing is "suppose" to be.  Listen to your body's desires and follow that.

If this means you will be in stillness for 20 minutes, this means you will be in stillness for 20 minutes.

This is the dance that needs to emerge in this moment in time.

Trust it.


2) If the above is excruciating and/or unacceptable to you, try this:

If there is no desire to move, begin by noticing all of the micro movements that are occurring all the time within your being.

Begin to accentuate and hone in on the detail, rhythm, and quality of these micro movements.

Play with repeating these movements.

Make them a bit bigger.

Try doing the same micro movement in a different part of your body.

Notice where this leads you.

Follow the detail.

Trust in the detail.

Let it take you where it will.




So what.


Keep going.


Underneath boredom is that slowing down piece that most of us override, most of the time.


Wait, listen, notice detail, and go from there.


If you have the playlist I sent to you as a thank you for answering the survey questions, use that as a doorway into this dance, this dance that is already in the room, waiting for you step inside.


The first handful of songs are designed to help you drop in, drop down, and slow down.


Follow the detail…it won’t lead you astray.


Let me know how it goes, and share this newsletter, if you wish.

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


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

Are you Feral?

Last week, a friend called me feral. After we parted ways, she immediately sent an email explaining that when she said feral, she meant it in the “nicest possible fuzzy creature kind of way”, and she hoped I hadn’t taken offense at her remark.

No offense was taken.

A few months back, someone asked me where I teach.

I described the location, which is on the edge of town, in the last rural section of the city.

She said:  “Oh, you mean out in the fields?  That’s perfect for you!  That’s exactly where you belong.”

No offense taken there either, although I have no idea what she meant by that statement.

And so it goes, because to be perfectly honest, there is a part of me that doesn’t quite get the nuance of living in this world in a way that is expected and understood.

Most of the time I don’t ever think about this:  I am living and working, taking the beagle for her walks every day, and taking my nephew out for a hamburger and a drive in the mountains.

Minding my own business, basically.

But sometimes I wonder…am I missing something?

Is everyone else around me understanding, seeing, or getting something about this human experience that I am not?

Is that why I belong “out in the fields”?

I’m really bad at the elevator speech thing, and when I'm asked about what I do, I mumble something about dancing, and then try to change the subject as quickly as possible because the word “dance” is so loaded with people’s preconceptions, and I don’t have the language to break it down in a minute and a half while riding on the elevator.

I’m trying to get better at this though, and so the other night when a friend’s father was in town and he asked me what I do, I took a breath and repeated the elevator speech I have been working on, which includes the words dancing, improvising, presence, imagination, and curiosity,

The friends father latched onto the word dancing and said:

“So you and your friends come up with some dance steps that match the rhythm of the music your using?   That sounds like a nice way to pass the time. Good for you for finding something to do that you enjoy.  I bet you girls pick out great costumes for your shows.”








so I stammer,   “Um, no.  That’s not what I said, I….”

He turns to Glen -- who has missed this entire exchange -- before I have finished my sentence, and the two of them begin a conversation about Glen’s next furniture project:  two conference tables made of Claro Walnut.

I sip my bubbly water with lime and feel like the wife from “The Hours”.

As I continue to research and navigate my way through this dancing life, I am trying, in a huge and ginormous way, to be myself —totally —and if that means being feral, it means being feral, and if that means working out in the fields, than that means working out in the fields.

It is what it is what it is.

There was a moment, a few months back, after one of my Dog Dances, when I woke up the next morning and felt a kind of freedom I have never felt before.

I felt so solid in what I was doing, that I moved through those few hours with a lightness and a grace that I haven’t matched since.

I caught a glimmer of the power and freedom that comes from following what needs to be followed whether or not it “fits” into any expectations or societal norms.

In that instance the clamor of voices in my head quieted, and I dropped into myself.

For those few hours, I made my way through the world with an acute awareness of what was going on around me.

There was no judgement there, I was simply aware -- and I was feral.

Your Dance Mission For The Week is to catch those moments when you drop into your own “feralness”.

What does it feel like?

How does it show up throughout your day?

What do you perceive and experience in this state?

Let me know how it goes,  and share this newsletter, if you wish.


If you are in or around Boulder, CO this Friday, Sept 16th, stop on by and see the very first Dog Dance of the Season:

Conceptual/Directorial Guidance provided by:
Hosted and Supported by: Julie Rothschild of Floorspace

Dog Dance is a burrowing into the skin. It is a query into what lays in wait. It is a memory. It has always been there, underneath the dirt. Waiting to be unearthed, rooted out, remembered, and seen.

Friday, Sept 16th 7pm at Floorspace: 1510 Zamia Ave, #101. $5.

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

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

Linda Stonerock, who has been in class with me since the beginning, sent this poem to our class recently:

Ars Poetica By Leslie McGrath

To have

even a

lotto chance

of getting


within yourself

you don’t quite know

but feel

To cling

to the periphery

through the constant


re-drawing of its


To make

what Makers make

you must set aside


Leave it

a lumpy backpack

by the ticket window

at the station

Let the gentleman

in pleated khakis

pressed for time

claim it

The certainty

not the poem.

Then Glen showed me his newest creations a few days later:FullSizeRender (5)

The watermelons he is growing in the greenhouse he built, and a media cabinet, recently completed, made of Walnut and Karelian Birch.

FullSizeRender (6)

Photos of the Media Cabinet by Tom Sundro Photography, 2016 (If you want to see more of Glen's work, go to www.kalenwoodworks.com or go to kalenwoodworks on Instagram).

I look in awe -- at both the watermelons and the media cabinet -- at what a maker can make when they are able to leave that "lumpy backpack by the ticket window at the station."

And then THIS:

I got this email from Jill Sigman, and sheesh!

I though I might explode from the wonder of human beings doing the work of "setting aside certainty" and moving forward from that place.

I had the pleasure, the honor really, of working with Jill in NYC last month.

I was lucky enough to witness Jill in the midst of her creative process, making her way through an intricate maze of thought, imagination, and social & political query.

Jill and I worked at Lehman College, in The Bronx, where Jill has a residency through the CUNY Dance Initiative, and where Johannah Franke — who like Linda, has been in class with me since the beginning — taught Modern Dance for over two decades.

(I love this modern dance lineage that circles around, again and again, from The Bronx to Boulder and back).

For now, I've stopped watching the news, scrolling through Facebook, reading the NYTimes, etc., and instead am keeping my eyes and ears open to the inspiration, the courage, and the wisdom of those that are making, creating, building, shaping, generating, and bringing into being all that is true.

I'll get back to the news soon, but right now I want to focus on the beauty and the splendor of setting aside certainty.

Joanna, your dance mission for the week is to set aside your own certainty, again and again.

Put the lumpy backpack down.

Let your bones and your cells reorganize themselves in the face of not knowing.

Watch, notice, listen to what emerges, and follow it to the end.

Let me know how it goes.

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


Free Dance Classes are Next Week! 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 Hamsters Are Back

When my nephew was in 6th grade, he asked his teacher about the constant whirring sound he was hearing in the ceiling above the classroom.  

His teacher said, with a wink, that it was the hamsters, who lived in the ceiling of the school, running and running and running, in their little hamster wheels, to keep the lights on in the classroom.


My nephew missed the wink.

I missed the wink, and for a few days both of us were mesmerized by the vision of thousands of hamsters, running, to create a vital source of alternative energy for his school.


It was only when I wondered aloud about the intricacies of this innovative and cutting-edge method of keeping the lights on, that my ever intrepid partner Glen, steered me back to reality.


But sometimes:


When I am in that delectable state of surrender,


When I am waiting, noticing, and following the dance that is emerging, both from within me and outside of me,


When I hear the sounds of the world around me:  a dog barking, someone talking on their phone, a baby crying, the clicking of the computer keys, the birthday party next door, someone making a deal with someone else, across an ocean,


I understand that it is me who is the hamster in the ceiling, running.


I understand that it is the dancers, painters, singers and writers who are the hamsters in the ceiling - running and running and running - making sure that the lights stay on.


Let’s be the hamsters right now, you and I.


You know, and I know about the fear and the greed that is taking hold of The United States at this very moment.


You know, and I know that this fear, this greed, has the potential to strangle and twist our humanity into something unrecognizable.


Let’s be the kind of hamsters that are willing to do the work of keeping the lights on, so that when it is dark, we can use that time to rest and dream, with ease, contentment, and tranquility.


I’ve got my hamster running shoes on, do you?


I’m gonna start my run how I always start my run these days:


By lying down on the floor to give my nervous system a rest, as I wait to be moved by a dance that I cannot understand, and will not know until it begins.


"May we all move freely some day in bodies that are authentic and vulnerable and valued."  Said Margaret Harris, one of my first ever dance students, who began dancing with me 13 years ago when I first started teaching.

Margaret moved to Wyoming a few years ago, and I miss her terribly. As I begin my hamster run this morning by lying on the floor, feeling my body against the earth, waiting to be moved, I will let Margaret’s words wash over me, imprint on me, and descend into my bones.


Your Dance Mission for the Week is to put on your hamster running shoes, and wait.


Lie on the floor, notice your breath, and wait until you are moved to dance.


Wait as long as you need to wait.


Don’t hurry it along.


Don’t make it something it is not out of fear or anxiety.


Just wait.


The dance will emerge in it’s own time, and when it does - go.


Share this newsletter far and wide, so that we are not the only hamsters working to keep the lights on.


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

PS's for Today:

Free Dance Classes Coming Up Soon! Tuesday, Sept 6th and/or Thursday, Sept 8th from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center. Let me know if you plan on being there, and feel free to bring a friend along.

Sign up to Dance with me: Click here. 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