That's so weird!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word weird lately. A friend and I were talking about it recently, and it got me wondering about what the word weird actually means, especially because I am someone who has always thought of herself as weird.

My dance work has been described as “weird” and the way I shape my life and move about in the world…its a little weird.

I’ve skirted the edges of the mainstream since I can remember, so using the word “weird” has always been the easiest way to describe my existence, at least in my mind.

But I think I have it all wrong in the way I am using the word.

I just looked it up on the computer, and skipping over all of the definitions that have a negative connotation, like: abnormal, crazy, eerie, and freakish, my eye is instead landing on the use of the word weird as a noun:

A person’s destiny.

Well, that’s interesting.

I like that definition rather than this definition:  “inducing a sense of disbelief or alienation in someone”, though I have to admit, my way of being in the world has done just that now and then, depending on who I am with and what the circumstances are.

It’s odd now to be revisiting the word weird, because in a certain sense, my life is becoming less and less weird, and more and more….uh….normal?

I’m still skirting the mainstream, I think I always will, so that hasn’t changed.

I’m shaping my life and moving about as we all do, with fits and starts, expanding and then contracting.

But I don’t feel weird….at all.

And as I said before, I used to feel weird all the time…it was the first word I would use to describe anything I was engaged in.

And now…. I don’t know if I would use that word so readily, only because I don’t actually care anymore about what the outside world thinks.

Because for right now at least, I’m at peace with what I’m doing.

I’m joyfully settled into this routine of dancing and teaching, which is new and surprising every single day.

I’m joyfully settled into this routine of spending time with my family and my friends, and watering the plants at my house, and baking chocolate chip cookies, and taking the beagle on a walk every day.

From the outside, my life and my work may appear to be “weird” (Recently I was part of a group of people had never met before.  We had to do that thing where you turn to the person next to you and introduce yourself.  I loved hearing about the person next to me did, which was teaching speech and debate at the University - my favorite subjects in college outside of dance — and when it was my turn to say what I did, I described the dance classes I teach and the work I am doing with Andrew for Dog Dance,  her smile began to fade.  She nodded curtly, when I finished and then turned away and began talking to someone else…oh well, can’t win ‘em all!)

To me though, the way I live my life and show up in the world feels perfectly normal.

If I were to use the word weird, I would now use it more like this version, the one my eye landed on a few minutes ago:

A person’s destiny.

If that is the definition of weird, than yeah, I guess I’m weird.

I feel pretty darned lucky to be able to say that.

With Gratitude to my students, who show up every day and are willing to drop down into the unknown, with courage, perseverance, and delight.

I could not be doing this work without you.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to think about, notice, contemplate, your own definition of the word weird.

I'd love to hear your thoughts about this, so feel free to email me or post your comments here.

With Warmth, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators

And the PS’s for today are:

PS PS PS!!! 1. There is still one spot left for The Dance Vacation happening on Saturday, August 13th! Do you want to take this last spot? I would love it if you did. Email me.

2. FREE FREE FREE DANCE CLASSES IN SEPTEMBER: Tuesday, Sept 6th and Thursday, Sept 8th from 11-1pm at The Boulder Circus Center. Come join me, and feel free to bring a friend.

3. This Fall: The Anatomy of Improvisation Fall Classes are filling up (whaaaaat?? it's only July!!), so consider signing-up soon!!

4. Dog Dance is happening again soon.

The 3rd Friday of every Month, starting in September:

Friday, Sept 16th: 7pm Friday, Oct 21st: 7pm Friday, Nov 18th: 7pm Friday, Dec 16th: 7pm

At Julie Rothschild Floorspace. 5$ Looking forward to seeing you there.

xo jo


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

There once was a cat...

I got nothin’ today.

My mind is swirling.

My body is restless.

My thoughts aren’t connecting.

I’m trying to decide if it would be better to share the story of the next door neighbor cat named Uh-Oh, the kids who lived with Uh-Oh, and the mother who followed us around with a rag, wiping away our fingerprints every time a child’s hand made contact with the walls in her house.

This is one of my earliest memories, but I can’t seem to connect this to dancing, imagination, creativity or anything other than what it was: 

A cat named Uh-Oh.

A mother who was horrified about a child leaving a mark on her walls.

Or do I tell you about the time I was living in NYC in my early 20’s, standing on the corner of my street one Sunday morning wearing my hot pink velvet biker shorts (I loved those shorts…they were so soft, and the pink was a perfect pink).

A car pulled up and the man driving asked if I wanted to get in, how much I charged, and to describe the services I would offer to him — in detail please.

I considered getting in that car because I was broke and anxious about my financial situation.

I was constantly worrying about how I would pay for the next meal.

I did not get into the car, and I never wore those hot pink velvet biker shorts again.

This one seems a bit easier to connect to societal structures and the current world order, but as I said:  my brain is a swirl this morning, and the dots are too far apart.

All I have for you today, is this:

I love dancing…so much.

I have been away from dancing this past week, and coming back to it yesterday felt like coming back to the raw material of being human.

If felt like coming back to this planet and burying my face in the dirt.

If felt like giving myself permission to slowly roll along the edges of the earth, making my way across the center, and then finding my way back home.

My to-do lists became obsolete, and all that mattered was my body pressing and yielding into the land, my weight pouring into gravity.

Your dance mission for the week is to find a comfortable position, whatever that is for you.

It can be lying down, sitting in a chair, or standing up.

Put a timer on for 5 whole minutes.

In the 5 minutes you have allotted,  I want you to imagine that your body is filled with sand.

As you are imagining that your body is filled with sand, let yourself fall into your dance.

Notice how the sand pours, shifts, and reconfigures itself, within your movement, and within your stillness.

Notice the quality and weight of the sand.

Notice what parts of your body are still, and what parts of your body are in motion.

I have an idea:

Don’t put your dance mission off for later.

It’s only 5 minutes out of your day, so:

Put your timer on NOW.

Get comfortable NOW.

Start your sand dance NOW.

And then, let me know how it goes.

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

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

The Horror of Being Human

It can be a horror sometimes, can’t it?

It’s a delight as well, of course, and that is mostly where I tend to dwell.

But this morning I am drawn for some reason, to the horror part.


This phrase, “The Horror of Being Human” came from Andrew Marcus last week, during a class, when he was speaking of the conundrum of presence, and it stuck with me.

It brought me, ironically, to a place of freedom.

“The human experience?

It’s a friggin’ horror show.

Glad we agree.

Let’s move on”

Is sort of how it felt.

When I was younger, dancing was a way to hover above the horror, keeping it at bay with momentum, flight, and velocity.

Always moving.

Always moving.

Always moving.

Now, as I enter into this next phase of human experience

(is this next phase called Middle Age…is that the correct term?  Egads!),

I enter into these same elements:  momentum, flight, and velocity,  but I enter in from stillness.

And this stillness….yes, sometimes it produces horror.

But within that horror, within that fear and possible loneliness, there is something else too.

Something else that is quiet and soft.

Something else that is perhaps broken, perhaps not, but that is in need of attention.

Something else that is asking to be remembered.

What is happening for me — particularly in the work I am engaged in with Andrew right now,  in the research and inquire into the Dog Dance Performance Series — is this:

As I enter  into my work as a dancer, performer, choreographer, artist, movement educator, and improviser with more precision and clarity, I touch something that is deep seated and acutely fundamental about my being.

When I touch this part of myself, when I allow myself to enter into and create from this place, the horror is quieted.

And it is from this place that I enter into complete and utter freedom.

In this way, what I am sharing in Dog Dance is my entire self, and what remains of myself  when everything I know to be “right” about dancing, choreographing, improvising, performing, entertaining and pleasing, when all of that is — with great respect and reverence — undone.

Your Dance Mission for The Week is “Un-Do” your own dancing and to “Un-Do” what you know about your own dancing.

Turn it upside down and inside out by letting yourself be still.

Notice the dance that comes from that place.

As someone who dances every single day, and who loves momentum, flight, and velocity, I know how hard stillness can be.

I couldn’t do it for a long long time, and many times, I still can’t.

There was a time, when I was living in NYC, desperately struggling with debilitating insomnia and anxiety when a dance teacher said to the class:   “Feel the delight and pleasure of being in your body.” 

My delight and my pleasure were so unreachable to me at that point, that I walked out in the middle of the class, and wept all the way home on the B-Train  to Brooklyn.


To whoever says New Yorkers are unkind and nasty:  Have you ever wept on the B-Train to Brooklyn?  If you haven’t, you should.   An old woman in a fake fur coat with long red nails and heavy gold jewelry, rubbed my back and then insisted on walking me up the subway stairs and pointing me in the right direction before giving me a hug good-bye.

So Try.

Try, if just for a moment, to be still, and  to notice then where the dancing - the momentum, the flying, the velocity - where do those elements, from where do they begin?

Most likely you will not die while you are in your moment of stillness, even though it might feel as if you will.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

PS #1: The pay pal button for the Summer Session of Anatomy of Improvisation is LIVE.

You know I like to keep my classes small, so click here now to purchase your dancing adventure for the summer.

Your purchase will automatically reserve your spot in the upcoming summer session. PPS #2: The Colorado Creative Industries Summit  happens on May 5-6th 2016, and I will be speaking on a panel about Art and Innovation with Kim Olson and Betsy Tobin.

If you happen to be in Carbondale, CO., stop on by and say hello!


PPS $3: UPCOMING:  FREE DANCE CLASSES: Tuesday, May 31st and Thursday, June 2nd 11-1pm At The Boulder Circus Center.

Email if you plan to attend


PPPS #4: The next Dog Dance is slated for September, 2016.  

Keep your nose to the wind for more info this fall.

Mind The Gap

When I was 13 years old, my father, sister, and I took a trip to NYC to visit my grandparents. 

We were waiting on the subway platform one day, right in the middle of rush hour.  It was the first time I had experienced the mass of humanity in this way and  I was wondering how so many people could fit into such a small space. 

My dad told me not to worry, that the government hired people who were called “sweepers” to push the hoards of people onto the subway tracks as a means of population control.

You never knew when a “sweeper” would appear, so you had to keep your eyes peeled.

Oh, I kept my eyes peeled.

Whenever I am in a subway station — still — I glue myself to the back wall, my eyes darting back and forth, back and forth.

I hold on tight until that train arrives.

And then that moment between stepping from the platform and  onto the train — stepping from here to there while hovering over nothingness for that split second — that is a moment of abject terror, but also it is a moment of sublime transcendence.   I can never tell if I am having a mini panic attack, or if I have stepped into a sphere of complete ease in the world.  They both feel the same, just for that moment in time, when I am floating, above the gap.

I tell you this, because in an odd way, this is exactly what we are practicing and studying in my dance classes, and it is exactly what I am researching in my own dancing right now:  Minding the gap.

Waiting to see what happens before, after, and within that gap time.

Johannah Franke, who has been working with me consistently for the past 13 years, and who comes from a rich and vibrant lineage in modern dance, wrote this to me last week, after a difficult experience she had in class, directly related to this gap moment:

“The gap I experience quickly becomes filled with fear.  This is what became so very clear last Friday.  I am so excited about all this!!!   It is completely congruent with, for want of a better phrase- my “spiritual “ path.  In a study group I’ve been in for several years with 4 other women we are reading Trungpa Rimpoche’s book, “Smile At Fear”.  This week: “ The first step... is appreciating who we are, what we are, where we are…Fear becomes our study material, our working basis.  We begin to realize we have no choice but to work with fear, and then to step over our fear and hesitation.”   It is the stepping over this fear and hesitation that I think can lead me from the warmup to the gap and into the true dance.   The loneliness comes because it is something one has to do with oneself, by oneself.  (This could be great preparation for dying!)  The "sad and tender heart”.  This takes, as you have often reminded us, bravery…this is a solo journey, and different for each of us.”

Yes, Johannah.

Yes, I think so.

I sometimes wonder, in relationship to dance, if this gap moment is harder for those of us who have been steeped in dance technique.

I wonder if the unwrapping of the training leaves one feeling too exposed in a way?

Too vulnerable? 

Too undone?

Too alone?

I don’t know if this is true, but I am wondering about it.

What do you think?

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to mind your own gap moments, and to notice your sensation and experience.

Let me be more specific: 

You are doing to dance this week for 10 minutes.

You are going to start in stillness and in silence.

You are going to wait to see what emerges.

You are going to let yourself be in the gap of unknowing.

You may come undone.

You may feel scared and alone.

You may not.


Notice what gently pulls you into movement, into stillness, into a combination of the two and everything in between.

What do you see?

What do you hear?

What do you sense?

What do you feel?

What, pray tell, transpires for you in these 10 minutes.

Share, post, talk about this newsletter with a friend.

And then, give yourself 10 minutes — just 10 minutes — and dance.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

100 hours

Did I tell you - I don’t think I told you! - that I spent over 100 hours this winter working on a huge, multi-year operational grant for my itty bitty organization, Joanna and The Agitators?

I was obsessed with it, couldn’t stop working on it, stayed up ‘till the wee hours of the morning for months - refining, caressing, holding it close. 

After all the sweat, tears, and blood that poured from my body throughout this process, — dripping and pooling directly onto the grant application — I can say with pride:


I didn’t get it.

Thank my lucky stars.

Sure, it would have been great to get a big ole’ check in the mail next week - who wouldn’t want that?

But then what?

Then I would be tied to a system, a paradigm, and a way of being an artist in the world, that I can no longer abide by.

I would be accountable to a group of people that frankly, I don’t want to be accountable too.

There are many reasons for this that I won’t get into here, but I will say that

there was a lot of i dotting and t crossing, and that just isn’t me. 

I don’t jump through hoops well — I always seem to miss the hole, and usually end up bashing my knee on the edges instead.

I’m an odd bird, always have been, and I don’t want to pretend I’m not.

But I’m proud, really proud of the work I did, because I walked through fire with this thing.

It almost felt like I went through some sort of dying ritual —  like I had to partake in this torturous process that turned me into a complete loon for a few months — just ask Glen — in order to finally let go, and to finally be free.

Sure, I’m poorer than I would have been if I had gotten the grant, but ultimately, at the end of the day, I have more freedom to explore exactly how I want to explore and investigate this creative life.

The classes I teach, and the people I get to work with when I teach, feel so rich, so honest, so potent, and so exactly right for me, that that is what I want to be doing more and more of.  That is what I want to spend hours and hours working on.  That is what I want to refine, caress, and hold close, as I fall asleep every night.

In terms of performing, art making, and dancing:

You remember the abyss, yes?


I’m OUT!


I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it, but I  clawed my way up those walls, and I’m OUT baby.

Just in time for spring too. :)

I finally climbed out on Friday, March 18th after the 4th Dog Dance happened.

The material I have been exploring for awhile now with Andrew settled in my body and my being.

It landed in a way so that I was able to stay the course.

I was able to follow the trajectory of the work.

This whole new side of my artistic practice emerged, FINALLY. 

(Phew, that was a hard run for awhile there).

And I know it will melt away and go into hiding sometimes.

I know I will fall into the abyss again and again throughout my artistic life.

But now I know that the possibility is there, and that that possibility has weight, substance, and


The weirdest thing happened to me while performing Dog Dance in March.

I maybe shouldn’t tell you, because it’s odd, and I don’t know what it means,  but as I was following the thread of what was unfolding, anytime I felt myself slipping away from that thread, thereby losing presence and attention to the situation, I would say to myself, in my head, over and over again:

I’m a Jew.

I’m a Jew.

I’m a Jew.

until I found the thread again.


I have never ever done that before, and I have no idea where it came from.

I was told by my friend and colleague, Jill Sigman, that my work has a similar sensibility to Yiddish Theater. 

Having never seen Yiddish Theater, I really have no idea what that means.


Wish you were still around to help me out with this one, ‘cause I’m a bit lost in regard to the whole Jew thing and how it relates to my performance work.

But back to not getting the grant.

So, I didn’t get it.

But some people did, and maybe you are one of them!  If so, congratulations!! That’s wonderful.  I can’t wait to see what emerges for you. 

For me and where I’m at now in my artistic life, in my questioning, and wondering about the meaning of it all:

I’m grateful I went through that dying process.

It allowed me to streamline, shed, and begin the process of finding out what is buried beneath everything I once knew and understood to be true.

And so now:

I’m dancing.

I’m dancing.

I’m dancing.

As a Jew.

As a Jew.

As a Jew.

What the frickin’ frack does that even mean? 

I’m scratching my head with one hand and typing with the other.

Your Dance Mission for the Week is to find the culture of your own body.

I have no idea how one does that.

So just try, ‘cause that’s all you can do anyway.

See what happens.

Here is a song to get you going.

Let me know how it goes.

Comment, share, and spread this newsletter far and wide, if you wish.

With Warmth, With Jivey Vibes, and With A Wish to Dance with you Soon - Somehow, Somewhere,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

PS:  Save The Dates, Save The Dates, Save the Dates!

Friday, April 15th:

Dog Dance




This will most likely be the last Dog Dance that happens until September, 2016, so I hope to see you there on April 15th.

Tuesday, May 31st & Thursday, June 2nd:

Free Dance Classes


Boulder Circus Center

June 7th-August 26th:

Summer Dance Session

Tuesdays: 11-1pm

Thursdays: 11-1pm

Boulder Circus Center

This upcoming summer session will run for 12 weeks with the option of purchasing an 8, 10, or 12  week card.  I will be sending out a link to the fee schedule in next week’s newsletter.

xoxo 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

Here We Go!

Before I dive in and tell you about the show that is happening in our local swimming pool this weekend

(Ha Ha get it?  “Dive In”….Oh.  You got that already didn’t you?  Way before I did.  My 14 year-old niece is rolling her eyes at me as I write this.  I’m slow on the uptake sometimes, okay?),

I want to share an email I got from my dear friend and colleague, Kim Nelson.

I was lamenting this abyss I have been talking about lately

— Let me say again, to one and to all:   This is a “creative abyss”  that I speak of, and I am totally okay.  I am better than okay.   Something is shifting, percolating, coming into being, and when I am not wallowing in the unknown and fear of that,  I am shimmering on the edges of it.   The abyss I am referring to is not a fall into a depressive or anxiety driven mental state.  I know that state well, from my own experiences, and from witnessing it with friends and family.  This is not the type of abyss I am referring too, so no need to fret.  That being said:  Thank you so much for your concern,  for your worried phone calls, and for your kind emails.   My mother is shaking her head right about now:  “I told you this would happen.  It’s time to climb of whatever “creative abyss” you are in and find a real job missy” —

when I got this email from Kim:

“I sense a wisdom in the fervent curiosity, a call as an artist, as a person, to go to a place that is not known, surrender, possibly feel like you are going to die, and maybe die, only to gather and strengthen a more layered knowing.  It is scary shit to have your mind, and everything you have known, blown open. You inspire me. I feel moved toward a desire regarding my own curiosities of a type of diving in and sharing.…It seems you are following the deeper current.  That deeper impulse does not always move me toward what feels good, but seems to move me toward what (is) a necessary dissonance.”

I have read Kim’s response many times over the course of these past few weeks, and I am slowly allowing myself to breath into, and follow the “necessary dissonance” that is unfolding.

Yes, it is hard and uncomfortable at times.

No matter, I will continue to dive in.

I will continue to follow the “deeper current” that is emerging.

I can’t imagine not doing this, no matter how disconcerting and bewildering the dive might be.

As I  was pondering all of this the other day - wondering if my mother was right about packing it all up once and for all - I got this lovely email from a long time friend and reader, Tyr Pinder, who lives in Wales:

“By the way, I am doing bird dances in many shapes and forms.  Come fly with me.  Let’s fly away.”

 I read that email from Tyr - far way in Wales - and I held my breath, and I dove.

Do you want to dive in too?

Speaking of…

GOODNIGHT, COURTNEY LOVE opens this weekend!

GOODNIGHT, COURTNEY LOVE is a site-specific dance performance created by Laura Ann Samuelson and myself that takes place in the swimming pool at The North Boulder Recreation Center:

Friday, February 19th, 2016 at 7 PM

Saturday, February 20th, 2016 at 7 PM

Saturday, February 27th, 2016 at 7 PM


The North Boulder Recreation Center

3170 Broadway Street

Boulder, CO 80304

All performances are FREE and open to the public.

It gets hot and humid in the pool area, so make sure to wear a light t-shirt or tank top underneath your other clothes.

Your Dance Mission for the week is to find a body of water, submerge yourself, and dance.

It can be the local swimming pool, as we have been doing in creating Goodnight, Courtney Love, or it could even be your bathtub.  If you are in a warmer climate, a pond, the ocean, a mountain stream would be amazing.  I am jealous if that is the body of water you get to dance in.

If you are local, I hope to see you this weekend or next Saturday.

If you are not local, have a wonderful week and I will miss seeing you in the pool!

For everyone, post your comments here, and share this newsletter everywhere.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

I am a horse

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

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

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

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

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

Those times,

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

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

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

Before that, I was:

A Baby Sitter

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

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

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

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

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

A Box Folder

A Box Counter

A Buser at Turley’s

A Book Duster and Alphabetizer at Norlin Library

A Barista (for 2 hours)

A Sou Chef (for 1 hour)

A Web Developer (for 20 minutes)

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

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

An Ikea Furniture Putter Together

A Massager for officey kind of people

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

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

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

A Stage Manager at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange

An Environmental and Outdoor Educator at Sargent Camp

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

A Dance Teacher and Leadership Facilitator at NYC Public Schools

An Adjunct Dance Faculty at Naropa and CU

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

And now?

Drum Roll, PALEASE!

As of two years ago my job is:

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

It’s a humble existence, for sure.

But it’s mine.

And I love it.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

FREE and Family Friendly.

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

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

What happens?

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

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

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending


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

My Mother

Oh Dear. My mother called after last week’s newsletter went out:

“Your sister tells me you have fallen into the abyss. Why did you fall into the abyss? Are you still down there? By yourself? Is Glen with you at least?”

(This the mother who, when I moved to NYC in the early 90’s, made me promise that I would never leave my apartment after 5pm: EVER. That I would promise to lock all of the doors and windows and to stay put until the next day, when the sun was way up and the day was bright. Only then could I venture back out into the city.

This is also the mother who, when I called to let her know I was breaking up with my boyfriend, while living in NYC, said “Is he hitting you?” “No, of course not.” “Then stay with him, even if you are a little bit miserable….you don’t want to be all alone, especially in NYC.”

Lastly, this is the mother who told me repeatedly, starting at about age 10, to never depend on a man. This is the mother whose favorite dinner time conversation centered around how important it was for my sister and I to find work that was meaningful to us and that we loved. More importantly, she said, that whatever work we did find, we needed to make sure that it supported us financially, enabling us to be independent and self-determining.

This is the mother who reminds me over and over again, to this day, to always have enough money in my savings account for a security deposit, and first and last month’s rent, so that I never have to live with someone just because I don’t have enough money to move out and find a place of my own.

This is the mother who bought me my first MS. Magazine when I was 12 years old, and continues to make sure my subscription to the magazine is current and up to date.

I say this, not in anyway to belittle my mother, but to point out how fear can propel us into unwitting compromise in regards to our own values and moral codes. In can break down the belief system we shape our lives around).

Okay, back to the abyss, and the phone conversation I had with my mother last week:

“It’s a creative abyss Ma, there’s nothing to be worry about.”

“A creative abyss? Who falls to the bottom of a creative abyss? Is Glen with you?”

No, Glen is not with me, (why would Glen be with me?) and I, I fall to the bottom of the creative abyss, willingly, and without apology or justification.

“Well, good luck down there. When you get out, call me. I need you to pick up some groceries for me tomorrow. And by the way, when are you coming to dinner? I made a meatloaf. It’s the one I used to make when you and your sister were little - you remember, don’t you? It was the recipe that called for the ketchup and the grape jelly. Remember how I made it every Wednesday night after your ballet class? You loved that meatloaf.”

Apparently a lot of people are falling or have fallen into the abyss, because the response I got from last weeks newsletter was overwhelming.

Here is what Gesel Mason wrote to me:

“What is the abyss? Not the reason but the actual abyss? What does it look like? Feel Like? Are you falling into it? I'm curious because I think I have an abyss like entity calling me that I'm excited to fall into or be subsumed by.”

For me, the actual abyss, this creative abyss - that Mom, I am totally fine scurrying around the bottom of, on my own, without Glen or anyone else there to help me out - feels like a crazy making machine. It looks like a cave that is so dark I can’t see my own hand when I bring it up to my face. It feels like I’m clinging to a piece of stone in that cave, a stone that is high off the ground, and it is about to give way. And oh yes, I am falling into the abyss, by all means I am falling: over and over again.

My abyss is this:

I used to know who I was as a dancer and a choreographer: I could do this and that, or that and this, and it worked well enough.

I knew what it was I was doing.

It had a name.

But now?

At the bottom of this abyss?

I have no idea what I am doing, and it certainly doesn’t have a name.


like Gesel, my abyss is also incredibly exciting.

I am choosing to let myself be subsumed by it, fall into it, claw my way out of it for a breath or two, before I slide right back down to the bottom.

I am choosing this because my god, this abyss continues to astonish and surprise me, leaving me astounded and bowled over.



Because although it is terrifying and crazy-making, it is also sublime.

It is bringing me back to my elemental self.

It is prodding me to trust something so profound and so complete, that I cannot breath sometimes.

It goes beyond making or choreographing or creating or planning.

This abyss - it circles back around to simply dancing.

Without any frills or ornamentation, accessories or embellishments.


That’s the abyss.

This abyss is that I am dancing.

Finally…I am dancing.

My abyss, my creative abyss, is that I am giving myself the time and the space to dance, without knowing why or what will come from it.

I notice what is inside of me, I notice what is outside of me, and I begin.

Again and again, I begin.

Your Dance Mission for the week is to find your own abyss, to fall into, headlong, and then to slide all the way down to bottom and notice what sort of dance emerges from there.

I’m curious about this dance you discover at the bottom of the abyss, so email me. Tell me how it goes.

Or post a comment here.

Did you like the newsletter this week?

If so, can you share it with your friends and comrades and colleagues. See if they too are interested in falling into the abyss.

If they are, have them sign-up here  so that they too can get their very own Joanna and The Agitators newsletter delivered to their very own inbox every Wednesday.

As always, With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending


When my niece was in 6th grade, she asked her teacher about the constant whirring sound she was hearing in the ceiling above her classroom.

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

She 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 her 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."

— Margaret Harris, one of my first ever dance students, who began dancing with me 13 years ago when I first started teaching, who now lives in Wyoming, and who I miss terribly.

Thank you Margaret.

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 this prayer 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

Very Bad Teacher

This memory came to me the other day, when I was in my clowning workshop with the amazing Elizabeth Baron (so many memories/images/complexities/connections/understandings/revelations came to me while I was in my clown, whose name happens to be Milkshake, but this one seemed the most urgent, for some reason, to share):

Dancers (or at least the dancers I hang out with) tend to change their clothes right in the studio or rehearsal space without going to a locker room or bathroom.

When I was living in NYC, the studios and rehearsal spaces I was frequenting didn’t have any locker rooms, and the one bathroom was always taken, so everyone just changed, right there in the dance space.

No problem.

Dance pants came off after class or rehearsal, and work pants got put on as we chatted and caught up.

It was part of the culture, it was part of what I knew and experienced, day in and day out.

It was a habit.

I forgot that most people don’t tend to change their clothes in such a public setting.

One of the many jobs I had while living in NYC was teaching dance in the public schools.

I had just been assigned a job teaching creative movement to a kindergarden class in Brooklyn.

At my initial meeting with the principal of the school, I had rushed over from a dance class in Manhattan, and hadn’t had time to change out of my sweaty dance clothes.

I had a fresh pair of dance pants and a clean t-shirt in my backpack.

After shaking hands with the principal and introducing myself, I stripped off my old sweaty dance clothes, stuffed them in my backpack, and was pulling out a clean pair of pants, chattering away to her the whole time, when I happened to look up and see her face.

She was staring at me, with her mouth hanging open, gripping the side of her desk.

I looked down and realized I was standing in the principal’s office in my bra and underwear, casually chatting away about the importance of introducing movement based curriculum to kindergardeners.

Oh the shame!!!!

I think my whole body blushed.

I quickly covered myself up, pulled myself in, and sputtered an incoherent apology/explanation/reason for my near nakedness.

Needless to say, my explanation didn’t go over well, and I was asked to leave right then and there.

I arrived home to my apartment, highly embarrassed, but also a little bit curious at the way habits and customs collide.

The way comfort and knowing for one, maybe be highly unacceptable for another.

The way perception of an event is shaped by one’s own understanding of the world.

I still change my clothes in the dance space, but I make sure not to change them at anymore job interviews, company meetings, or public gatherings.

I learned my lesson the hard way.

Your dance missions for the week is to have a Thanksgiving Dance Party.

Before, after, during your dinner: Dance.

On the side, right in the middle, and out back with the moon: Dance.

In your underwear, or fully clothed.

You decide.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending

You Might Now Want To Read This

But you're reading it did anyway, I see. So I guess I have to go ahead and bite the bullet then, huh?

I have to tell you about that thing that I’ve been putting off telling you about.

That thing that I was hoping would never come up in our conversation.

And that thing is that I’m terrified:

Terrified of dancing in front of people and looking like a fool.

Terrified I’ll be found out to be a fraud.

Terrified no one will show up.

Terrified that they will.

And on the other hand, I’m eager.

Eager enough to engage in the work of showing up so that the terror is quieted.


Sometimes the terror is so immense, I freeze in place and can’t move until the sun comes up, and even then it takes me a few more days to completely thaw out.

There was a long period of time when I was dancing in a way where I couldn’t feel anything.

I couldn’t feel my body.

I couldn’t feel my mind, my spirit, or my connection to something bigger.

If I wasn’t dancing though, I felt itchy, antsy, and unsettled.

So I kept dancing.

I kept executing the movement as it was presented to me, carefully following the instructions.

If I was dancing for long enough stretches of time, it kept the terror at bay.

And then….

Well, then the terror welled up in such a way that I had to stop, disengage, and withdraw from dancing altogether so that I wouldn’t disappear.

And what I have to tell you, which I don’t want to tell you, is that I’m in a place of terror again.

Something is different in how I’m approaching dancing, living, being, experiencing, sensing, and I am uncertain and afraid.

But this time, I’m not disengaging or withdrawing from the dancing.

I’m not freezing

(That is so not true: I’m totally freezing. But at least I can recognize that I’m freezing).

This time, I’m listening, as best as I can, and I’m leaping in.

I have no idea if this “leaping in” thing is the smartest thing to do in this situation.

What if I twist an ankle?

What if, mid-leap, I disappear?

What if, god forbid, I look like a fool?

I’m leaping in anyway, because I need to know where I will land.

You have two dance missions this week:

Take your long arms that you imagined last week, and now dance from the fingertips of those long arms. 2. Notice when you feel afraid. Keep showing up anyway, and when you are ready, leap.

Feel free to post a comment here.

And if you like what you just read, please share this newsletter far and wide.

The more people who read this, the more dancing there will be.

Which we need right now, desperately.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it got quiet.

For a long time.

I waited, and waited, and waited.

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

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

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

Then the therapist said:

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

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

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

My partner was the leader of the workshop.

I stared and I stared into his eyes.

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

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

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

He said:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now THAT was a good teacher.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get a sense of how your body feels.

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

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

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

Performances and Showings:


Dog Dance

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

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


Goodnight, Courtney Love

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

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

This one is FREE and Family Friendly.

Class, Class, Class:


Holiday Workshops:


Sunday, December 27th from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 3rd from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 10th from 10-5pm

Sunday, January 17th from 10-5pm

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


One Workshop is $100

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

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

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


The Boulder Circus Center.

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


Anatomy of Improvisation:

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

Tuesdays:  11-1pm

Thursdays: 11-1pm

Saturdays: 10-12pm

At The Boulder Circus Center.

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


Free Classes:

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

Tuesday, January 12th: 11-1pm

Saturday, January 16th: 10-12pm

At The Boulder Circus Center.

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

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending


I have tried really hard not to be a dancer.

It's difficult and painful, and I can’t let it go when I get home. 

It's all consuming.

It wakes me up at 3am.

Sometimes it makes me cry.

I fail all the time.

Sometimes in a big way, and everyday in a small way.

It leaves me in a state of imperfection, with flaws, cracks, and blemishes.

I never know what just happened, and yet in a certain sense, I know exactly what happened.

So much so that I am left crawling on the floor, melting into a puddle of goo.

I’m a dancer simply because I can’t imagine doing anything else.

I have tried, believe me, oh how I have tried.

But it comes down to this:  

Dancing is how I make sense of the day to day atrocities, doldrums, splendors, and glories of this world.

Dancing, with all of it’s contradictions and mess, is profound and complete.

I have tried really hard not to be a dancer.

And I have failed.


I have come close to letting it all go, more than once.

I’m glad that I held on.

This was one of those time that my strange brain kept me going:

I was working for a non-profit in Northampton, MA and was doing such a good job with my data entry skills (I’m very good at faking it) that they asked me to apply to be the Director of Fiscal Operations.

I thought,  “This is it.  This is what I was meant to do. I’m done struggling with these low-paying jobs that barely leave me any time, money, or energy to dance on the side.  I’m going to be the Director of Physical Operations.”

It felt like the perfect match for my background in dance and outdoor education, and I came up with a whole slew of physical activities that I would implement and facilitate for the staff:

Hiking, Swimming, Rock Climbing, Canoeing, Biking, Yoga, and of course, Dancing.

I went to the interview in my brand new tracksuit and sneakers (I wanted to look professional because I really wanted this job), with a set of movement exercises for the interviewing panel.

We started out lying down on the carpeted office floor, with chairs and desks pushed to the side, feeling our breath and extending through the diagonals of our bodies.

I was surprised that everyone was in pantyhose, skirts, and heels, but that was okay, I could work with it. 

As I gathered everyone into a group to begin flocking, the woman who had suggested I apply for the job, stopped me and said:

“Let’s pause for a moment and make sure we are all on the same page here.  We’re interviewing for the Director of Fiscal Operations.”

“Oh, I know.  I have a whole curriculum in place for the physical well-being of your staff.  I feel confident I can direct the Physical Operations of this organization.”

“FISCAL,” she said, “As in finance and money.  We’re looking for a Fiscal Director. Not a PHYSICAL Director.”

I paused for a moment and took that in.



“OH NO. You mean you want me to be in charge of your money?”

I started to laugh uncontrollably, and then everyone on the interview panel began to laugh too. 

When we all quieted down, I asked if they’d like to continue learning about flocking, since we had the time set aside anyway, and they had taken their high heels off at this point.  

We ended up flocking together for the next half an hour and had an amazing time.

Then I went back to my desk and continued with my data entry in my shiny new striped track suit and sneakers.

I stayed on doing data entry at that job for another year, and got along fabulously with the Fiscal Director they eventually hired.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings I came in an hour early to teach a dance class to the staff.

Oh Dancing!

You make my heart ache.

On another note, since I have finally accepted the fact that I am a dancer and this is how I am going to walk in the world - at least for awhile - I have two dance performances coming up.

Do you wanna come?

The first one takes place in the pool at The North Boulder Recreation Center. 

I am making and performing it with Laura Ann.

We rehearsed yesterday in our costumes, and it changed everything, so I can’t wait to see how this dance continues to unfold.

We will be working with the music for the first time tomorrow.

The show, Goodnight, Courtney Love, takes place from Thursday, Oct 8th-Saturday, Oct 10th in the Leisure Pool at The North Boulder Recreation Center.

It's family friendly and FREE!

The second dance is a new solo that I will be showing once a month.

It’s called Dog Dance.

I am presenting it for the first time on Friday, October 23rd at 7pm at Floorspace in Boulder.

It will be $7 and I don’t know yet if it will be appropriate for kids, so I will get back to you about that one.

Your dance mission for the week is to dance while you are working, whatever that means to you.

Notice how it makes you feel.

Notice your breath.

Notice how your body is making contact with the earth.

Here is a fun song to dance to while you are at work:

I would love to hear from you, so post any comments you have here.

And share this newsletter, if you wish, with friends, or on facebook or instagram or whatever social media platform that you enjoy.

Lastly, if you are not already signed up, do that here, so that you will get this newsletter delivered directly to your inbox every Wednesday.

As always, With Warmth and Jivey Vibes Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending


what is "real" dancing?

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

It was like pulling teeth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh!!!! You mean, “REEL” dancing!”

“Yes!” She bellowed.

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

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

So what is “real” dancing anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To me, this is real dancing.

Living, breathing, and bona fide dancing.

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

Let me break it down a bit more:

Lie down.

Feel your body making contact with the earth.

Notice your breath.

Notice if there is a desire to move.

Notice if there is a desire to be still.

Notice if there is a desire to make sound.

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

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

Now, just see what happens.

Let the noticing soften.

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

Here is some music to get you started.

On another note:

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

Will I see you there?

I hope so!

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and the Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending

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

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

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

xo jo

stop dancing

I want you to stop dancing.

For a whole week.

Stop doing those little jigs you do in the kitchen while you make dinner.

Stop bouncing up and down on the walking path with the kids.

Stop twirling in the living room when your favorite song comes on the radio.

(Do people even have ACTUAL radios anymore??)

Stop leaping from one lily pad to the next in your neighborhood pond.

Just STOP.

I know, I know…I’m suppose to be encouraging you to dance more — that is what Joanna and The Agitators is all about, right??

(If you’ve been wondering who the  actual “Agitators” are, here is your answer:  The Agitators are all the little people who live in my brain and tell me what to do.  They are very agitating.  And they snore).

For the next two weeks, I want you to stop dancing and do something else.

I know, CRAZY, right?

Do this instead:

Notice when you have an impulse to move.

Notice what it feels like NOT to follow that impulse.

And then chose to:

Ignore everything I just said and dance as much as you want.

Do something else, like gardening or cooking or drawing or playing guitar.

Do something else AND THEN start to leap from one lily pad to the next.


Because it is the start of summer and I think that calls for a slight shift in how the day is spent.


Because I think it is important to take breaks sometimes from habitual patterns and approach them again from a new perspective.

I have taken long breaks from dancing.

Days, weeks, months….even years.

And when I am ready to engage again, I enter into an entirely new dance.

I sense my body in a whole new way.

The space I am moving in seems unusual, and so I encounter new pathways, new relationships, and new impulses.

In this way, novel connections are made.

And in this way, change is created on this planet of ours.

So take your two-weeks off from dancing, and then…

Well, will you look at that!!!

How convenient!

The timing works out just so, doesn’t it?

After your two weeks of no dancing is up, the summer dance session starts!

Who knew???

All of us will be bright eyed and bushy tailed from our dancing break, ready to enter anew.

Click here for all the info.

Registration opened on Monday and classes are already filling.

And oh my, it is an amazing and irreverent and thoughtful and warm and funny and welcoming group of folks who are choosing to take the summer session, which means you will fit right in.

If you are so inclined, would you please share this newsletter with just one person who you know could benefit from joining this vibrant, feisty, and delightful dancing community?

And then share it on all those social media platforms too….twitter and pineglade and facebook and tumbler and instagram and….are there more?? 

Your dance mission is to notice when you want to dance, and then decide if you do or do not follow that impulse.  What happens if you do?  What happens if you don’t?

I would love to hear how it goes, so post your comments here.

With Warmth and Jivey Vibes,



Joanna and The Agitators

sweetly agitating/persistently upending

crying in the closet

I hid in the closet and cried. I was in 9th grade.

I was asked to be the first person in a group building exercise to go into the middle of the circle, and dance.

Instead, I stood in the middle of the circle, and froze.

I felt the fool.

Our intrepid leader said: “But aren’t you a dancer? Come on now, just dance. Show us what you got.”

And so I fled.

I found the darkest, most furthest away corner I could, curled myself up as small as I was able, and cried.

Oh, to be 14 again.

And a leotard - tights wearing 14 at that.

And now, in my soft pants and old t-shirt, I still feel the fool on many a day.

I am still filled with doubt. I still freeze. I still get heart palpitations.

The difference is, I don’t run away to hide in the closet anymore.

I just keep going, because I understand now that this is part of the dancing life.

The unknown and the outrageous.

The fear and the failure.

The unchartered and obscure waters that make this life so appetizing.

This dancing life is made up of millions of moments of fear and fooldum, right alongside trillions of moments of bliss.

This dancing life is made up of 3am sit straight up in bed moments too, because that is when the muse calls.


Just this morning I got a call from her telling me to put on some Spanx and talk about global warming on an old fashioned phone while making pancakes.

This dancing life is lovingly spent teaching and rehearsing and performing and fundraising and grantwriting, following what is there to follow, whatever that is, and however scary it may be.

This dancing life is earnestly spent listening and and sensing and perceiving and watching and discerning and noting.

This dancing life is rapturously spent dancing.

Your dance mission for the week is to lie down on the floor, and wait to see what happens.

Do you fall asleep? Do you begin to roll slowly? Do you feel antsy? Do you want to get up and start tripping that fantastic light? Do you begin to cry? Do you fantasize about a hamburger and fries? Or do you just wait, and see what emerges?

All of the above are good,


All of the above are part of this dancing life we call home.

Here are some songs to hold you, so you don’t spin out like I do into outer space, worried that you might not come back.

1. We Move Lightly By Dustin O’Halloran 2. Concert Ph By Iannis Xenakis 3. Tinge by Michael Gordon 4. Var by Sigur Rós

(Do you know how I can link to these songs directly? If so, can you email me??? Otherwise, you have to look up the songs and download them from itunes or spotify or something like that).


If you feel so moved, post a comment on the here, and then share this blog all over the social media universe.


With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending

PS: Summer dance classes start on June 13th. Registration is from June 1st-June 12th. Click here for more info. xoxo joanna