Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reflections from Skinner Releasing Fall Workshop

Our series of Skinner Releasing classes here in Inwood has come to a close. It was a wonderful experience for me to be in the studio with so many uptown neighbors. Doing the Skinner work is always rejuvenating for me so a big THANK YOU! to those who were able to join in with us to experience our first uptown workshop.

Here are some of the wonderful, reflections made by participants:

Ho to the Heee...
 Aho. To the celebration that is me...
3, 4, 5, women dancing
Not too far from the trees
but safe, sequestered in our room
For gently bending knees
And traveling with permission
In and through and from and
to and around
This ship we call our body
To deep beneath the sea
To high up in the air
All guided by breath
in this Sunday morning celebration
of weeeee__________
         - Tara Mooney


Capricorn carpaccio
Cabbage camels corn
Moving like particulates
On the day they were born

Effortless imaginings
Could your toenails bite?
Or perhaps some tentacles
Could on your nose alight
                                                              Prefer to march along the sea?
                                                              Or into some little shop?
                                                              Once you prance at a panda's pace
                                                              You'll never want to stop.
                                                                                          - Laurie Newell

"My mind would come back to making sure my jaw was not clenched as it was in the first few classes – but today when I checked, my jaw was already relaxed.....
Then I noticed Tera did a dance as she bent toward the paper and pens, chose a pen, detached a sheet of paper. The paper dance....."
- Gretchen Mergenthaler

There was a wonderful article in The New York Times today about this type of effortlessness...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Free Classes again at Muscota New School

Yesterday was "Thank a Dance Teacher Day" but today I really want to thank a few behind-the-scenes people who have helped me to be a dance teacher here in Inwood.

This fall I am so happy to be back at Muscota New School for the FREE afterschool program on Monday afternoons. The Muscotas PA has made it all possible with exceptional help from Laura McCluskey, PA co-president. Thank you Laura for all your administrative help!

Another big thanks needs to go out to one of the best neighbors Inwood could ask for - Margaret Peeler. It was Margaret who first contacted me about doing an after school program at Muscota and got the ball rolling with me.

I'm thinking of Margaret because one 5th grade student said to me, "I've had you for dance my whole life." (She has been in the program every year). What a wonderful legacy - the gift of a free dance class for a student in a public school.

So hats off to all those who help make the dance classes happen!

all photos below by Vivarphoto.com from 2012 program

left: students creating shapes with space in them

Discussion of what students saw when watching one another.

A solo "goodbye dance".

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hanging Again After Hiatus

It is great to be exploring in class again.
Here both Janet and Ashley look happy to be in the air...

After a summer break we started back slowly, thinking through the technique....

You can clearly see Janet's spinal alignment here as well as her ease of movement.

Nothing extra - only the amount of force that is necessary is applied.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What is Listening?

We recently finished our spring workshop in trapeze dance. There was an amazing combination of folks who attended and many of the lessons found the sweet spot of deep listening. This experience got me thinking about my main goal as facilitator in these classes and it made me realize that the one, true goal I have for teaching is simply to experience a profound sense of listening. Let me try to define what I mean by the term "listening"....

In all somatic techniques there are exercises that guide us towards listening to our own bodies. When I explored the Feldenkrais method I remember discovering what it is to allow my nervous system a break and for brief periods (sometimes merely a few seconds) I had to train myself to do "nothing". I learned to recognize the layers of letting go that can happen in the muscles. This type of exercise deepened my ability to listen to my own body and to discover waiting on a neuromuscular level.  In my studies of The Skinner Releasing technique this "nothingness" is essential and it includes waiting for images to completely take over to such an extent that they cause me to move/dance through the image. Since an image on any given day may, or may not, move me, I had to learn to both listen and to wait (sometimes for long periods of time) for the image to take root in my whole self. This waiting is profound and philosophical - it is a form of meditation.

By applying the Skinner principles to work with aerial apparatus I found that the listening ability went beyond the body. When a dancer allows herself to be moved by an image while dancing with an apparatus she is able to move more freely and often finds herself doing moves that she would otherwise be afraid to do. The dancer with the strongest ability to connect to the releasing images is able to improve at a faster rate than the dancer who is weaker with the imagery work.

Still, the exercises I've mentioned are about listening to oneself. In the Skinner Releasing Technique Joan Skinner taught that this listening goes beyond the self; that listening and waiting allows one to merge with the forces of the universe. The first time I heard  this it seemed rather heady ( and like far too much for a dance technique to claim).

However, through repeated experiences as student and teacher I have found that the ability to listen within has proven to be the key to "hearing" the world around me. Thus, not only do students improvise better with an apparatus when they are listening to their own body in a deep way, they also tend to improvise better with other dancers.

All of these listening layers take incredible mental focus. The process also requires a leap of faith that one will be able to stay safe/keep track of multiple stimuli while dancing. Having taken that leap the dancer also needs to notice when the meditational imagery has fled and been replaced by the ego. Once the ego takes over and a dancer begins to "drive" the dance, the listening safety net is gone. That is when dancers begin to manipulate their partners and the apparatus as a separate entity (in Joan Skinner's world the dancer is no longer connected to the forces of the universe). This creates a disconnect between dancers.

Short story longer...
Listening to oneself can also be listening to the world around oneself.
And who doesn't enjoy the sense of being heard? The dancers who listen most often are coveted partners.

From now on when people ask me what I teach I will say "listening".

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What We Do After School....

We had a great time at Muscota New School this year doing our FREE After School Dance Program.

The Parents Association was an essential part of our success... thanks to Laura McCluskey for all her hard work in getting students signed up and communicating with the parents and school officials!

We also need to thank Cristobal Vivar for his assistance with our video (if you need a photographer or videographer for an occasion, Cris is fanstastic! www.vivarphoto.com)

We hope to be back next year for more.
See the video https://vimeo.com/90648010

with audio1-HD 720p
with audio1-HD 720p

Friday, March 14, 2014

Composing Dances of Everyday Life

I had a blast working with adults at the JCC last Saturday night on composing dances through improvisation using everyday movements.

It is wonderful to work with a group that is so well educated about visual art - everyone was very quick to apply the ideas of art composition to dance composition. This is part of the joy of living in NYC - so many people understand and appreciate the ideas of art and are willing to open their minds to seeing dance in new ways.

This class continues through March 31 and is FREE!
Come join us!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Update on Scholarship for Dancers of Color

We are ready to begin our next winter workshop - the dancers' approach to low flying trapeze. This is a multi-level class with a wide variety of folks. This diversity makes the class interesting because it is taught from an improvisational point of view and each individual class member brings something to the work.

This upcoming workshop will allow 3 of our scholarship students to continue to study with us in the coming months.

We are so happy to have:

Randall Anthony Smith
Adam Christian
Ashley Brown
for another 8 weeks!