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

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


3 Simple Steps to Obtain the Perfect Dancing Body

I have spent most of my life cultivating the perfect dancing body, and I thought it was high time I shared some of my documented and highly flouted research on how to obtain the most perfect dancing body with you, my beloved reader.

Please know, that these 3 steps have been tested on over a million miceysubjects who were put through a rigorous series of dance steps - in a maze no less - in order to determine if indeed, they could obtain a dancing body, and the results are in:

They did it.

All of them.

All 1,000000000000 mice came out of the maze, dancing, with the most perfect dancing bodies.

This fact alone gives me license to guarantee that you too can have a dancing body, if you just put your mind to it!

This is not for the faint of heart, so get your grit on ladies, and let’s get dancing!

(Music cue:  That awful Justin Bieber song, What do you Mean starts playing NOW.  Please don’t google it.)

Step Number 1:

To obtain the perfect dancing body and to get into dancing shape FAST: Dance.

Step Number 2:

To obtain the perfect dancing body that gets you into dancing shape FAST: Dance.

Step Number 3:

To obtain the perfect dancing body that gets you into dancing shape FAST: Dance.

No more talk about bikini bodies people.

This is the season for dancing bodies.

Pack up those strappy sundresses, and get out your wool socks, your soft pants, and your favorite t-shirt.  The one with the holes in it.

Lay down on the floor and getting ready to work, hard.




Maybe even fall asleep.

And then watch your body instantly transform itself into the most perfect, the most dependable, and the most trustworthy dancing body that you ever could have imagined.

Your dance mission for the week is to repeat this mantra 3 times, every morning before you get out of bed:

I have a body.

I dance.

I have a dancing body.

I have a perfect dancing body.

To celebrate all of your hard dancing work, treat yourself to a hamburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.

Side note:  Some of you have asked how I come up with ideas to write this newsletter every week.  I have never  known how to answer this question, before now.

This week’s newsletter’s deadline was approaching, and I had no idea what I was going to say, when all of a sudden a very friendly man gave me the perfect idea.

We were talking about what we both did for work. 

When I told him I was a dancer, his response was:  “But you don’t have a dancer’s body.  How can you be a dancer?”

And that was that, this week’s newsletter came on like a freight train.

And yes, I did treat myself, quite happily, to a hamburger, french fries, and a chocolate milkshake after that conversation. 

Then I went to rehearsal and had a most fabulous time, dancing.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


This past Sunday, Glen and I watched a Talking Heads video on youtube of David Byrne singing Naive Melody (This Must Be The Place) from the early 80’s, I think?  

And it was amazing.


It was simple, clear, and essential.


It felt exactly right that those sounds and those words would come from that human being, in that way, and at that time.


And in this way, the generosity of the work was tremendous.


Then Glen and I watched a more recent version of the song, from 2012, and….hmm. I was disappointed.


Byrne was trying to be who he was 35 years ago instead of honoring who he is right now, 35 years later.


And so it felt contrived, affected, and not so generous.


Since watching these two videos on Sunday night, I have had repeated conversations with friends, in class, and at rehearsal, about why we yearn to do what we did in the past, instead of becoming giddy, excited, and abundant about who we are RIGHT NOW.


For me, some of the most beautiful, cell expanding, and life affirming moments come when someone is steeped in who they are, and the art - whatever form it takes - comes from that place, that elemental place, within their own being.


That moment might come from a student in class rolling towards the rest of the class with both eyes wide open. It might come from a performer on the stage imitating the sounds of a crying baby. It might come from someone walking down the street jigging to the music pouring out of their headphones. And, it might come from David Byrne, tipping the light back and forth while singing “Guess I must be havin’ fun”, NOT because he thinks that we, the audience, hope he will tip the light back and forth, but because how could he NOT tip that light back and forth?


I want to address this head-on with you, because this idea that we have to have the agility, strength, and verve of our younger dancing/singing selves just isn’t so helpful, and it holds us back from cherishing who we are right now, at whatever age that is.


It stops us from taking the time to discover what it is that we have to offer NOW, with the history and experience that we hold, rather than trying to replicate what we had 5,15 or 35 years ago.


I think I must have heard this story when I was around 18, and taking class with Remy Charlip at The Colorado Dance Festival. He spoke about the time he took out full page ad in the San Francisco Chronicle that said, “So you can lift your leg up to your ear? Good for you. NOW WHAT??”


And I guess that is what I am asking myself too.




What is essential?


What am I saying?


What is emerging in my dancing -- from my very innermost being -- that cannot be named?


And how does all of that connect to the larger world?


If you too have similar questions, (or if you don’t, but are still curious), why don’t you come dance with me in a few weeks?


It’s free, so there's really nothing to loose.


A student of mine just spoke to a friend about the class she is taking with me, and the friend said something along the lines of:


“So, this is also a class for people who are not comfortable in their bodies, but that want to be.”


Yes, that’s true.


Having comfort in one’s body is not a prerequisite for joining the class. In fact, not being comfortable is an incredibly wonderful place to start.


The TWO FREE classes are happening on:


Tuesday, August 18th from 11-1pm


Saturday, August 22nd from 10-12pm


Both at the upstairs at The Boulder Circus Center at 4747 N. 26th Street.


Email me if you plan to come.


I would love to see you there. Feel free to bring a friend.


And, as in every newsletter I send, post any comments you have here.


Share this newsletter with a friend, share it on social media, and share it anywhere else you can think of so that we can all start to have a larger conversation with each other.

As always,

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistenly upending


brainy beautiful fun

Something is shifting.

In this dance.

Some sort of revival is taking place.

Some sort of quiet hoopla.

I can feel it in the sweetness, delicacy, and verve of moving through space here on this earth.

I can sense it in all layers of reality that float in and out, sometimes entering in with a piercing clarity, and sometimes hanging out around the edges, just watching.

Yesterday, during a SPILL Movement lab 

(SPILL is made up of Cortney McGuire, Chrissy Nelson, Laura Ann Samuelson and I.   I can’t remember what SPILL stands for.   We came up with something we all really liked and never wrote it down.  Or if we did, I can’t find the piece of paper where we wrote it down.  Maybe it was Somatics/Performance/Improvisation/Lab/Lab??).

I sat behind a plant and pulled dead leaves off, crunched them up in my hand and threw them at Cortney and Chrissy.    

And that was IT. 

I understood the world in that moment and I understood how my body fit in with all of the other bodies that have existed in this universe:  past, present and future.

The dancing is expanding and a portal to something other than what we already know is available on a more consistent and regular basis.

Is it quantum mechanics or string theory or cellular reconfiguration?

I have no idea.

I just know that I am dancing, and that something is shifting.

Your dance mission for the week is to dance in silence for 3 minutes, then dance to this song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKhpsfpnWw0 and then dance in silence again for as long as you want.

Notice how you feel, notice your breath, follow what is emerging.

Please share this with two friends:  One who dances a lot, and another that doesn’t dance at all.

See what how they respond.

If they like it, and are intrigued, have them sign-up here to receive a weekly email from me.

And post it on any and all social media platforms, if you wish.

Then head on over hear to post a response, as you know how much I love hearing from you.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


A few spots have opened up for the summer session. If you are interested in experiencing some brainy, beautiful fun, email me and I will get you all set up.

xo jo

I have been on Facebook all morning

I know, I know. 

I am the worst.

I am sitting on the couch, eating leftover spaghetti, in my pajamas, scrolling through Facebook, and enjoying the hell out of it.

Bad monkey.

Very bad monkey.

But look where I just landed  in my vast and intrepid Facebook travels:

Humans of New York:

“God sends me little moments all day long to say: ‘You’re not alone, brother.’

Just a little while ago, an old hunched-over Chinese lady smiled at me with the greatest warmth in her eyes.”

“And you think that was a message from God?”

“I think that was God.”

So, my little apricot,

this is the take away:

Notice the world around you.

Notice the little moments that make you sing.

And see God everywhere, whether you believe in her/him or not.

The sheer force of nature is enough to makes my hair stand on end and leaves me to wonder.

I am re-printing one of the very first newsletters I ever sent out.

It’s about Magic. It’s about the Force of Nature. It’s about Agitating Complacency.

Sitting here in my shlumpy pajamas, eating cold spaghetti, I re-read it myself, and I remembered:

And so, it begins. 

This epic journey  of finding our way back into the giant world of the body.

But how? 

By agitating complacency.

By letting ourselves lose our minds a bit.

By setting aside rational thought, to-do lists, productivity, and ambition.

By seeing magic everywhere.

For those of you in Colorado, do you remember the flood?  How everything shut down? stopped? got quiet?  then loud?  then super quiet again? 

And we were scared and unsure and frantic. 

But also AMAZED at the awesomeness of the water rushing through our towns.

We couldn't control it.

And so at a certain point, a magical quiet descended, as we were trapped inside our homes, peering out the windows at the water.

And there was nothing to do but wait, and see, and breath, and hold on, and then let go.

And I don't really know what I am trying to say here, except that there was a kindness, a generosity, an outpouring of love that moved through the towns.  Neighbors helped neighbors who had never really spoken before.  Families took in other families who had to leave their homes in the middle of the night. We helped each other carry pets, and babies, and kids, and grandmas across the raging river to get everyone safely into the helicopters. 


I think

What I am trying to say

is that to find our way back into the body, it means being kind. 

To ourselves and to each other.

And it means watching the wild and unpredictable and scary and AMAZING rush of this life

with curiosity


limitless wonder.

That is your DANCE MISSION for the next week:

Be kind.

Hold someone's hand who hasn't had their hand held in a long time.

Offer someone food.

Put on the music that your grandmother wants to hear.

Say hello to someone you don't know.

Ask someone to dance.

And then make a dance. 

A dance that is about seeing the world. 

A dance that is about being kind.

Or don't. 

Ether way, let me know how it goes, what choice you made, and why.

And then leave a note, post a response, send me your passion.

I want to know how what you are experiencing, feeling, understanding, discovering.

Share this blog with a friend, post it on your favorite social media platform, and DANCE DANCE DANCE.

Let's start to agitate complacency, together.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

little white tennis raquets

The last time I took Samba with Quenia Ribeiro she was wearing a turquoise unitard decorated with little white tennis rackets.  I LOVED it (both the unitard AND the Samba class).  It was one of the best dance experiences I had ever had.

The class was so fast, so rhythmic, so intricate, and so HARD that I made sure to stand front and center to keep my eyes on the whirling tennis rackets sluicing across the turquoise spandex.

About 20 minutes in, Quenia tapped me on the shoulder and said “I am moving you to the back of the room.  You are messing everyone else up rhythmically.”  

I sheepishly moved to the back row of a packed room, never to lay eyes on those tiny white tennis rackets again.  The room was bursting at the seams, and I couldn’t see through the swarm of bodies.  I spent the next hour and a half with my eyes glued to the backside of the woman in front of me, trying desperately to follow her rotating hips.

And even though I didn't come close to getting anything "right", I was gleeful, elated, inspired, and moved by the vibration and whir of the class.

This past weekend I was in NYC visiting a friend, and I took the same Samba class at the Alvin Ailey School.    I introduced myself to Quenia and told her I had been to her class three years ago, the last time I was in New York.  She peered at me quizzically and said “I don’t remember you.  And I remember everyone who takes my class.”

This time Quenia was in a tie dyed unitard with no back, barely any front, and just itty bitty strings holding the whole thing together.  I placed myself front and centerAGAIN, hoping to keep my eyes on the tie dye.

About 20 minutes in, Quenia tapped me on the shoulder and said “Ah yes, now I remember you.  Please move to the back of the room so the rest of the class doesn't get confused."

I happily found my original spot in the way back of the room.  Flailing and clumsy, totally wrong in every way possible, I found myself in a  state of pure ecstasy, dancing the Samba so terribly, but with so much joy, it just didn’t matter.

After class, I walked along 9th Avenue, humming.

Your dance mission for the week is to sign-up for an art class or art experience that is not part of your daily routine.

Notice how it re-routes the neurons in your brain. Notice how you navigate being a beginner. Notice how it feels not to know.

Notice if, and when, you compare yourself to someone else, or to yourself. Notice what happens when that happens.

Notice your breathing. Notice your jaw. Notice your feet. Notice where your eyes are. 

The Failure Festival is coming up, so this is a great time to flounder, stumble, and lurch your way into a new creative experience.

I can’t wait to hear about your Samba, Printmaking, Poetry, or Voice class.

Post about your experience here:

http://bit.ly/1u1Ytu1 or here http://on.fb.me/1tndQsd

(A little side note for you:  If you post here, which is the blog page on my website and the facebook page for dance missions, then there could be a conversation among everyone who is receiving this email, which I think would be kinda cool.  The personal emails I am getting from people should really be seen by a larger audience, and not just by little ole’ me.  So, maybe that could be part of the art experience that is out of your comfort zone and daily routine?  Posting on this blog in response to this email…hmmm…just a thought).

As Always,

With So Much Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending


Note about where I am at with Natural Disasters and the Improvising Artist, Part II:

I have gotten incredible responses from people about their experience with creativity and adversity.  The project has become bigger then I imagined.

So, I am giving it the time it needs to unfold and find its way back to me. I don’t know yet if that means it will be a week, a month, or a year before I write again aboutNatural Disasters and The Improvising Artist.  

Just know it is underway, and that something outlandish is emerging.

Here is a poem to get keep you and me musing about Natural Disasters and The Improvising Artist that Helen Turner emailed to me:

adversity definitely affects creativity

it can shut it off run it out make it wait and wait and wait

fuel it bite it lick it squeeze pummel love it

it can wash or change it fancy or plain it or never darken my door again

xo Jo