pay it forward

I took a workshop with Tim O’Donnell on Saturday that was luminescent and sublime.  

The dancing emerged from the colossal weight of the body in flight.  

And the flying happened in the air and on the ground and against bodies against bodies against bodies.

These are some of the things that were said at some point during the dancing and the whirling and the spinning:

“Dance so that you can find be found.”


I heard that, and my breath slowed and my bones unfurled in order to be open to the wind.

I saw a part of the world I don’t see so often.

You know the part I mean:

The part where the plants come up through the cement and the animals know to make their way to high ground when the water is coming in.

I was dancing with Chrissy and we came at each other in a way that was both fierce and tender.

And then Tim said:

“If you want to be seen, you must see.”

My breathing slowed even more and I became the animal making her way to higher ground seeing everything there was to be seen, even when my eyes were closed.

At the end of the day, I was dog-tired and exuberant.  

My hair was a mess (more then usual I mean).

Huge tangent:  

When my niece was in second grade, I picked her up from school one afternoon.  She got into the car, and with complete innocence and that pure kid curiosity she said: “Is that what they call a bad hair day Aunt Jo?”.  There was absolutely no judgement in what she was saying.  She was just understanding for the first time in her life what a “bad hair day” meant.

I was glad I could help clear that up for her.

And I didn’t care about my hair (apparently I usually don’t anyway), because that thing was emerging.

That thing that happens when I engage with creativity, art, and dancing in a way that is pure kid curiosity.

That thing about tapping into something bigger than me.  

That thing about swimming underneath the mundane and discovering the color, the light, the nuance, and the smell of the snow.

That thing that I fight for.

That thing that I long for and stay awake for and dig into with my bare hands.

That thing that I swallow whole.

The evening after the workshop ended, I went out to dinner with my family.

My mom, my sister, my niece, and Glen.

At the table next to us was a young family of three.

The dad was in his army uniform, the mom was young, maybe 22 or something like that, and the baby was just a baby who wouldn’t stop crying.   

Or screaming.  

There was more crying.  And then there was more screaming.

The mother lost her patience and pulled the baby into her, hard, and yelled at her, hard.

The dad kept reaching for the baby, sort of helplessly.

The baby kept crying and screaming.

When we were about to leave, my mom pulled the waitress aside to let her know that she would like to pay for the families meal.  She didn’t want them to know it was her, so to please be discreet about it.  She asked the waitress to just let the family know that this was someone’s way of thanking the dad for his service and his bravery.

And then she paid for their dinner. And we left. And that was that.

That moment was that thing also.

In some weird way, that moment was connected to dancing.  

It was connected to seeing underneath the surface of what was actually there.  

And I think that when we see, when we really see, between the spaces and the lines and the talk and the activity, 

that is when we understand how our bodies are connected to the earth,

And that is when we are able to find purchase so that we can fly.

Your dance mission for the week is to pay if forward.

Surprise yourself and do it without planning to do it, and do it without needing to be seen.

Just do it and then walk away and notice what happens to your body, notice how you feel, and notice your breathing.

Notice your feet making contact with the earth.

With Warmth,



Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending