I view dance as a medium for life force energy cultivation; it is a matrix for various movement technologies. This feeling of heightened awareness is like an electrical current moving through my body. I have experienced this sensation through movement, music, meditation, and while observing dance.
I’ve been aware of this phenomenon since my early childhood. My father is a musician, and so I asked him why I had goose bumps when I listened to music. He explained that it was an effect of the aesthetic sense, but that felt like only part of the answer. I went searching for more answers, which I discovered through dance, yoga, and martial arts.
The common denominator that wove these modalities together has many names: àse, chi, prana, mana, and pneuma are all used to describe this concept of vital energy.
I was blessed to connect with teachers who furthered my understanding of the conductive nature of dance. One of my primary teachers was dancer, choreographer and anthropologist Arthur Hall. I also completed immersive studies with Yogi Nataraja Kallio and Jin Wei.
I dance because it recharges my human battery. For me, the effects of dancing extend beyond the benefits of exercise, lifestyle and diet. This nourishment has sustained me through some of the greatest challenges in my life. It is alchemical, meditative and therapeutic; it is a taste of freedom that I aspire to share in my service as a teacher.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share the story of my apprenticeship with master dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall. Arthur was one of the pioneers of Afro-American dance. I met him in 1996 and joined his International Dance Company. This community organization performed in my hometown region of midcoast Maine.
Dancing with Arthur was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. I’d never danced so hard or with so much intensity. I remember holding my wrists under the running tap water (a futile attempt to lower my body temperature…)
Dancing with Arthur was exhilarating and set the bar well beyond any of the classes that I took in my first year of college as a dance major. I took a leave of absence and moved back to Maine.
At that point the International Dance Company was starting to dissolve. Many of the older dancers felt that their bodies weren’t holding up. So Arthur offered me an apprenticeship position with his African Festivals in American Schools residency program. A quote from his Obituary speaks to his teaching ability:
As captivating a dancer and as unique a choreographer as Arthur was, he is perhaps most widely loved and remembered as a master teacher. He has taught classes for thousands upon thousands of people over the past half century, from the most strenuous technique classes for professional dancers to the gentlest call-and-response classes for kindergartners, Arthur was gifted with an ability to read his students and tailor his classes to individual needs. His therapy classes for the physically or mentally disabled were always joyful, and frequently produced near-miraculous results.
Arthur spent forty years developing his residency program. I spent three years traveling with him throughout Maine, Arizona and New Hampshire. We worked with thousands of people, primarily elementary and middle school students.
My responsibilities included assisting Arthur with large (50+ student) classes, co-leading warm ups, directing group exercises, and working with individuals and small groups of students. I performed solos from the International Dance Company’s repertoire and coordinated student dance performances.
It was a life-changing experience. I have a distinct memory of standing on a playground with Arthur surrounded by a sea of children. They were trying to hug us all at once so we couldn’t move. This was the kind of effect that he had on people.
Arthur was like a grandfather (Baba) to me. We spent countless hours together at restaurants and bars. To get me in the door he’d tell the bouncer that I was his daughter. It was a blessing and an honor to spend time with him.
I assisted Arthur throughout his battle with colon cancer. He was hospitalized at the end of a stretch of Arizona residencies. I substituted for that last week. It was essentially my final exam.
Arthur passed away in July of 2000. I attended four memorials in Maine, New Hampshire, Philadelphia and Arizona. It was heartbreaking but I am so very grateful for his influence in my life.
I tried to continue Arthur’s work with the New Hampshire Arts Council but they informed me that I needed forty years of experience or a college degree. So I went back to college to become a dance teacher. My life took some interesting turns which led me to become a yoga teacher.
Coming Full Circle
Dance is my first love and I’ve been searching for a way to begin to teaching dance again. I’m very happy to announce that I have found a way to do so. Stay tuned for more details…
Have you been to your local Walmart lately? Depending on where you live it can be a DISTURBING experience. I’m not saying this to be mean, I’m saying it because it’s true. There’s a cross section of middle America which borders on a zombie apocalypse. And it’s a real problem…
How did this happen? Diet is a big part, as well as the toxic cocktail of chemicals added to our food, water, air and medications. But it’s also related to social conditioning. Take a drive through your neighborhood one night and chances are you’ll see the flickering blue light of televisions emanating from people’s homes. Or maybe you’ll see groups of people at sporting events or playgrounds, where the adults are watching their kids exercise. Maybe you’ll see people at the gym. Maybe.
The Spectator Epidemic
Most likely you’ll find adults sitting at home watching television. It’s such an engrained part of our culture that no one really thinks anything of it. Television provides fuel for conversations – at work, the bar, and the dinner table. For many people television fulfills certain needs that are not being met in our modern day standard of living.
Part of this has to do with people being such visual creatures. When we watch dancers, martial artists or athletes, we experience something called the kinesthetic response. It’s a spontaneous reaction to a motion or stimulus that occurs outside of ourselves. The muscles contract and release in conjunction with the visual stimulation. So afterwards there’s a feeling of being energized or pleasantly fatigued.
Without actually having to do anything.
By and large, it’s much easier to be a spectator. Exercise can be challenging especially when the body is out of shape. Sitting around and talking about someone else exercising (did you see last night’s game?) is a piece of cake compared to actually doing it.
I’m not saying that you should never be a spectator. A good martial arts movie can be incredibly inspiring and hopefully you’ll do some kind of training afterwards. Playing video games or going to a sports event can also be great incentives – maybe you’ll feel really jacked afterwards. But if you don’t put that energy into your own life then what is the point?
Television addiction is an “undo-it-yourself” project that takes a little courage. Television breeds passivity so it takes time to shift gears. If you’re ready to become more of an active participant in your life a personal yoga practice can help.
Ready to take the next step? Book a FREE no-obligation consultation today.