Among Friends

Yesterday, as I was making dinner, my thoughts were moving over the people in my life and the roles they have played in shaping my perspectives, the directions I have turned, and how (if) they have moved me closer to the type of person I want to be.

I am fortunate in that the list is long and the experiences have been rich. I reveled in the time and opportunity to dedicate my thinking to such things as the turkey roasted, the stuffing was mixed, and the family played.

There have been some major concepts continually surfacing in my life. I find them to be reoccurring themes, really, yet right now they seem to be driving much of who I am and where I want to be- among friends.

Trent: Embodiment

You know, there are people that have philosophies and then there are people that live them. People whose every move rings clear with what they believe, who they are. This has always been true for my friend Trent.  As I think back to how I knew him in college, it was just as true for him then as it is now. There is no question of what he practices- his values are visible and palpable. It is no surprise that his actual work is teaching others to move with that same kind of integrity.

Nichelle and Catherine: Sharing

Dance can be pretty elitist. So can any other body of knowledge, especially in its treatment within education. Nichelle and Catherine bring the best of the information to the people that can actually use it. Readers don’t need to wait to be in college before having interesting dialogue with dance or with each other. Readers don’t need to sift through academic jargon to find the change they want to make in their teaching. Readers don’t have to worry about judgement for questions they have and don’t feel comfortable asking. They offer the real deal, discussed in real ways.

Missy: Openness

Missy looks for what is possible. She approaches every situation looking for the opportunity in it. She starts with yes. It prompts others to do the same and over the last few months, I have had the good fortune to watch this open doors and forge relationships that would not happen for other people. It does not mean she isn’t discerning. It simply means that she looks at how something can work rather than immediately jumping to why it won’t.

It doesn’t seem as though these people should be outliers, yet I think they are- particularly for how their qualities inform their work. How interesting that embodiment, sharing, and openness are qualities that I have rarely found in professional contexts.

These people push me closer to the person I want to be, personally as well as professionally. (How can those two things be separated, appears to be the real question, right?)

Likewise, I love the idea of choosing relationships for how they support you in becoming the person you want to become. (Thank you to my friend Alison for sharing this idea. Alison: Levity–she reminds me serious work requires serious fun).

I love the specificity this allows me in deciding who I spend my time with and why. It permits me the agency to say “no” to things or people that don’t serve me. It gives me clear motive in how I choose projects and colleagues-and even friends.

What are your friends teaching you?








A few weeks ago a colleague asked me if I have finally found my niche. She said she felt as though I have been searching all these years. Everyone I have shared this with since has nodded in agreement, sometimes looking as if they would like to hear the answer. I am grateful for all the thinking and conversation this has provided me.

That night, I responded by saying I feel I have had many niches. In some ways, I have come to consider them as seasons: a season of dancing and creating professionally, a season of teaching in higher ed, a season in K-12 public ed, and now a season in community health.

In that moment it dawned on me, that from the outside, I am sure it does appear as though I have been searching; as if I am sampling goods until I find my fit. I have shifted from job to job, from one aspect of the field of dance to another and covering nearly everything in between.

As of now, I have stopped teaching dance in public education (full-time; I still do residencies) and am embarking on a whole new endeavor. My teaching focus has shifted from coaching movement from the performance perspective, to the learning strategy, to impacting quality of life.

Admittedly, there has been a lot of change but I wouldn’t say it has been  searching. It has been research. I just didn’t see it as such all of the time and certainly didn’t speak of it in that way.

How does Art move people?
Which people have the right to Art/Dance/move?
How does movement create the right to a life well-lived (isn’t that the ultimate Art)?

It is accumulative. It is spiraling. It is the path to my truth and purpose.

It hasn’t been a path of OR but one of AND. Or I guess, THEN.

Each day brings me closer to my deepest work, my purpose. I am moved by the people I am meeting, inspired by the authenticity of my colleagues, supported by generous and courageous people that simply want to see my work/our work/our community succeed.

Though some of my decisions were in response to situations of employment ending or changing (as programs were cut, hours lost,…)- most have been in following the breadcrumbs. The road has been daring and unconventional yet it has rewarded me with riches of knowledge, relationships, connections, and unique types of security.

My intention is to live a meaningful life. To be useful. To see and be seen. To share and to connect. To reach my fullest potential by helping others move closer to theirs.

Maybe that is finding one’s niche. I have just never known anyone who has reached their largest potential by staying in one place.

Now presenting….

I have added a new page, “Current Offerings and Classes“. Now it is up to you to decide how where and when we meet.

I am teaching a full load of classes at Happendance (mostly the Lansing location, with a few classes at the Okemos location). Those classes include:

  • Mind-Body Connection (stress reduction, cognition/creativity, and strengthening/flexibility)
  • Movement for the Limited Body (Movement for those with physical disability and/or special needs)
  • Class for the Ageless (Mature) Dancer
  • Adult Modern
  • Adult Jazz
  • Adult Ballet
  • Creative Movement B
  • Family Dance Party
  • Baby and Me
  • Twaddler and Me
  • Composition 3
  • Ballroom

But don’t stop there- we have a full range of movement experiences taught by seasoned faculty and in two locations.

I am also offering individual and group session movement care. See the new page to learn more.

From Gas-light to Go

Gas-lighting. Have you heard of this?

I read an article last week that brought it to my attention and I have been thinking about it ever since. The term was made popular by a 1938 play, Gas Light, which was later made into a movie starring Ingrid Bergman. Guess what we’ll be watching soon.

Here’s the gist- it is a form of mental abuse in which a narcissist manipulates situations (dimming the gas lights) to disorient and confuse their victim by lying, denying, or changing information (no, the lights are just as bright) so that the victim questions their perception, memory, and ultimately, their sanity. It is about gaining control and keeping people in their place. Under their thumb. Quiet. Small. Insignificant.

I can think of a figure or two that have walked through my history with behaviors that could reflect this. One was even in a professional setting- how unfortunate and potentially dangerous.

But what this REALLY makes me think of (thanks to Brené Brown, of course)- is shame and fear. If you are unfamiliar with Brené’s work, watch this. Then, this. Then read all of these. Seriously. Then thank me. ;)

Anyway, I have learned that shame/fear is the voice that- when you are embarking on something new, deciding to teach something in an innovative way, or following your gut to challenge the norm- whispers (or shouts) things like, “what makes you so special to be an outlier?” “What makes you think you can teach this is a new way and not the way technique has been taught for hundreds of years?” or “What makes you think YOU are the person to lead?” I could go on, and on, and on. But it comes to this, my mind is playing tricks- to keep me in my place, to keep me small.

I don’t know of a single person that doesn’t go through this.

Usually, this is my own voice. For a while it was the voice of the gas-lighting person I worked with, even though it was the look on their face and their sneaky actions that did most of the talking. Regardless of the sound of the voice, when I am able to label it as fear or shame (Literally, stopping and thinking or saying, “this is fear”). I can let it pass. (Thank you Jon Kabat-Zinn).

When I accept not all of my thoughts are truth, I am able to produce again. To take the risk, to teach in an innovative way, to be an outlier of the norms that hold us back. To write. To move. To get back to who I really am and the reason I do what I do.

Are you?

Going Rogue

I have been teaching for a long time. As in, over twenty years long.

Somewhere along the way, within the last four years especially, the needs of my students changed. I became aware of their personal needs out-weighing their technical needs. Their needs are for a safe place to learn and explore, gentle support when taking risks, generous space and time to generate something personal and authentic, and then trust to receive feedback objectively and honestly. Yes, all of these are relevant to the creative process, to artistry, but are not innate to dance training, or school in general. When I have provided these things, students have verbally expressed their gratitude. They have validated that I am on to something.

My work has changed dramatically over 20 years. My work is with the person, then the mover, then the artist. We are all artists; our lives our greatest evolving masterpieces.

I have broken with the systems that have been holding back my work and this break feels like “going rogue”. It is empowering and feels like the right thing to do. It is necessary. It is also unsettling, scary, and I am feeling really vulnerable. I am attempting to live on my edge- guided by my gut, my knowledge, and in response to where I see the need. We need space and time and methods for reconnecting with ourselves, with our communities, with the world at-large. I know how to help.

Which systems are holding you back from doing your best work or the work you feel is most needed?

Biting Your Own Teeth

According to Pinterest (I know, I know) Alan Watts said, “Trying to define yourself is like trying to bite your own teeth.”

I have written about defining and labeling at several points over the years on this blog as well as for Dance Advantage.

I am in the midst of change with my relationship to dance and the proportions of focus through which I see and do. I think I write that every summer.

In my graduate study, I explored a movement curriculum as a method to alleviate symptoms of PTSD. Over the years, my teaching has taken principles of that work and implemented it into the structure of my classes as I worked with at-risk youth and others. I am finding myself currently drawn back into that world as I embark on some projects this summer. More on that to come.

This year, Daria Halprin’s book The Expressive Body in Life, Art, and Therapy: Working with Movement, Metaphor, and Meaning has never been far out of reach.  It has been influential and it brought me to this (page 64) about dance therapy pioneer Mary Starks Whitehouse, “She first called her approach movement in-depth and later authentic movement. She remarked that a significant turning point was the day when she realized that rather than teaching dance, she was teaching people. More than theory or philosophy, the inner life of the mover was of primary interest to Whitehouse. For her, movement was a way of becoming conscious more than a way to “act out”.” And here I am.

I have many friends navigating the waters of change right now: people leaving classrooms, leaving traditions, leaving fields, leaving relationships, leaving countries.

Change equals movement.

Once upon a time, I wanted to use my teaching to produce dancers. Then it was to also produce thinkers. Now it is also to help guide people to the knowledge they already hold. Do you see it? It is and, and. Not either/or.

Movement changes what we think and how we think it. What we think changes how we move.

I am observing the consciousness surfacing through my own movements. I am curious about the consciousness of inner life for these friends of mine as they move. I am finding the more I drop the labels and definitions, defense and offense, I am able to honor more of who I am rather and what I offer. My inner life is more thoroughly realized. I wonder if they are feeling the same.

I have spent years, decades actually, defining.            I want to stop.

I think the challenge of change hasn’t been about the change itself- the tasks, the environment, the affiliations. It has been about the shift in definition. If I am this now, does it mean that I am no longer that? No. At least not in my situations. It is altering the proportions, gaining more dimension by accumulating “ands”.

How are you moving these days? What is surfacing? What are you accumulating?

Where in this Moment

I am standing at the gate of opportunity; a wide open space.

I am here thinking about a post by Seth Godin about how it isn’t necessarily the how or the why that matters most in your journey; it is where. Where is the fear?

Where is the fear that is holding me back?

Fear  is where I think I am not able to define what it is that I want to do…

It is where I think I am not able to do it because somehow I am not enough…

It is where I think I am not finding the right “place”…

It takes me to the how…

I can feel what it is I want to do. How do I act upon it?

I know what it is I want to do. How do I explain it? Ship it?

I am where I am and we aren’t planning to move. How do I make this work here?

And the why…

I want to help people connect with themselves, with ideas, and with each other.

I want dance to serve as way of healing, self-discovery, and expression.

In looking back at that list, it seems fear is where I think I am. But where am I really?

For now I am imagining this open space as a sheep meadow. It is green, vast, and beautiful. There’s nothing scary about sheep.

Where is the fear that is holding you back?

What is it holding you back from doing?