Friday, January 12, 2018

The Difference Between Relaxing and Releasing

I took many workshops on Skinner Releasing Technique from Joan Skinner and in each and every workshop Joan would define the difference between relaxing and releasing.

"Releasing is an active process", Joan would say.

That is because releasing is like meditating and it takes focus and self-initiative. Relaxing is great (and here in the U.S. we need to do more of it!). But relaxation is different than focusing on the images and checklists and exercises involved in Skinner Releasing Technique.

That being said, I have recently enjoyed using a relaxation app  by Andrew Johnson which is aptly called "Relaxation". Because I teach so many hours in a week, it is lovely for me to let go of leading and follow Johnson's simple instructions instead.

Johnson's process involves many of the things that SRT uses including:

  • Breathing
  • Physical listening
  • Letting go of worries

For best results Johnson recommends using the app every day for a period of 3 weeks. I can attest to the fact that a daily dose of the app's relaxation does allow me to get closer to the physical experience that I have experienced while studying and teaching Skinner's technique. So, by relaxing I am in better shape to do my releasing.

So, while I'm not in the habit of endorsing products,
I do recommend trying this one.

Sadly though, I think it is only available on the App store for iOS devices.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Great Minds Think Alike

After many years of offering scholarships to dancers of color to study Aerial Dance with us at Fly-by-Night, I was approached by a recipient, Ashley Brown, who told me she was interested in working on a trapeze solo and wondered if I might advise her. Well, Ashley happens to be a powerful artist on her own and it just so happened that I had been pondering a work similar to the one she described for quite some time. So, I mentioned that we might try collaborating.

After a few meetings about how our collaboration might play out, we found ourselves in the studio improvising, then reflecting, then improvising some more.

In a photo session this week with Martha Granger Photography an image captured some of what we have been exploring.
Photo Martha Granger Photography
We will continue this work combining breath, text, voice, and aerial and floor dancing to explore the question of how exposure to violence effects society and individuals and as well as how the use of the breath has been employed to combat these effects throughout history by using the movement of air within and without the body as a visceral path to celebrations of the flesh.

Along the way we plan to employ historical uses of the breath from a variety of sources including somatics (meditative breathing), Pentacostal services (whooping, hollering, speaking in tongues), etc. as we dig into the idea,

“How does breath practice influence our social and political selves?”

So we are on our way to a new work!
Stay tuned for a works-in-progress studio showing the last weekend of April.
You can make a contribution to this work HERE

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An Innovative Somatics Educator

Loss of a Colleague

I learned yesterday of the death of an old friend and colleague, Michael Krugman. Years ago Michael moved to Hawaii and we were lost touch with one another. But prior to that Michael was on of the people who helped me find my own way towards self care through somatics.

I first met Michael around 1989 when he taught Feldenkrais lessons at a dance studio near the East Village here in NYC. One day it snowed and I was the only student who showed up so I got a private class and Michael and I went out for coffee and were instant friends. How wonderful to meet someone to talk somatics with! How great that we both needed a friend at the same time for these types of conversations.

Michael was much more than a somatics teacher though - he was a true innovator of the Feldenkrais method, a recognized macrobiotic chef, a connoissieur of the arts (he had a Masters in Art from the University of Chicago), and he had a gentle humor that kept him from taking himself too seriously. He also became a very good tango dancer who did serious research on the history of the dance.

Soon after I met him Michael was at work designing a system to help people with carpal tunnel syndrome. He called this system Typelighter because he recognized that most people who suffer from this malady often struck the keys too hard. The software gave feedback as to how hard the person was typing and also could be set to give reminders about when to stop typing and stretch (he also gave simple exercises one could do in their chair to take a quick minute break).

Then Michael began working on his most innovative system - something he called the Sounder Sleep System. It was based on ways to calm neural pathways that get overstimulated in our stressful lives. At the time of his death Michael had over 60 people trained worldwide who were teaching this system and helping people to get a good night's sleep. He wrote a book about the work which is sold online.

Here is a "tip" from Michael's website:


If you are having trouble falling asleep, or you awaken during the night, try the following technique. Imagine that each breath you take is like a gentle ocean wave. In the Sounder Sleep System™ Breath Surfing is the “art of catching those waves and riding them to the shores of sleep.”
1) Rest the tips of your fingers of both hands on either side of your chest. Rest your thumbs wherever feels comfortable.
2) Slowly inhale and as your chest rises let your thumbs rise a tiny bit away from your chest. As you exhale, relax your thumbs. Repeat several times, then rest for several complete breath cycles.
  • If you are interested in Michael's work, see his website HERE
  • A video of him explaining his theories on sleep can be found HERE
  • A paperback version of his book on sleep, The Insomnia Solution: The Natural, Drug-Free Way to a Good Night's Sleep, is on sale (only $1.99!) HERE
With Michael gone the world has definitely lost a light. 
Yet his incredible work shines on.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Compliment Day for Students

Student Compliments - We find you AMAZING

If you have taken a class with us, or been in the company, chances are we have a record of it.
So we put together a list of compliments for as many folks as possible. Find your compliment below...

The list is alphabetical by first name.
please forgive if we missed you - some electronic records have been corrupted/lost

Thank you for what you do.... Come back any time
Current Class Info HERE

You Are Amazing Because...
Adam Christian
Adam is a born aerialist and integrates his years of dance training to his aerial work with great artistry.
Alicia Stewart
Alicia is a wonderful mover who brings her curiosity about life to whatever she does.
Alissa Kaplan
Alissa is one of those dancers who has skills in a dozen other areas (jewelry making, costuming, rigging, photography – the list goes on and on!). All of this expertise adds to her understanding when she is creating designs in space with her body.
Andrew Chung
Andrew has the ability to surrender himself to a movement task which gives him a powerful performance presence.
Andrew Quinn
Andrew has in incredible imagination and this, along with his athleticism enables him to immerse himself completely in imagery work. No matter how long his absence from class is, he is always 100% there on return.
AnnaMarie Gero
Watching AnnaMarie in a trapeze is like coming upon an animal in her natural habitat. She is strong, limber and always breathing.
Ashley Brown
Ashley brings an honesty to everything she does and this is evident in her dancing.
Ashni Sundu
Ashni is one of the most enthusiastic people I know - a key to ability to grow as an artistic person.
Bailey Bretz
Bailey moves with lyrical grace and natural athleticism and blends this with her improvisation very well.
Bil Roedel
Bill took class for a long time and consistently brought his amazingly cheerful self into the room. Always open to improvisation, Bil is also very self aware and knows how to bring himself back to earth.
Damien Taylor
Damien is rooted in his body from head to toe – you could not find a more solid person to give your weight to.
Edwardo Brito
Edwardo is a natural in the air and has an inherent artistic understanding of the beauty of simple movements.
Eileen Little
Eileen was always able to blend her acting and dancing ability for full expressive aerial potential.
Elizabeth Munn
Elizabeth Munn has a natural grace that she brought to her aerial work and a keen understanding of how to integrate her singing persona to the air.
Emily Purchia
Emily is another natural when it comes to aerial work and she brought incredible strength to the work from the start because she understood how to move with efficiency so well.
Elizabeth Disharoon
Elizabeth is an incredibly clear performer and she brought this clarity to everything she did in the trapeze.
Eric Smith
Eric is a natural mover with great creative potential.
Ernesto Mancebo
Ernesto Macebo is a wonderful performer that weaves together dancing and acting with great artistry.
Gretchen Mergenthaler
Gretchen is fearless and endlessly curious so she is always open to learning something new. This allows her to pick up skills quickly and also makes her really fun to have in a class.
Jane Mielo
Jane has a great ability to continue to breath no matter what she is doing – it gives her grace and makes her easy to watch while she is dancing.
Janet Aisawa
Janet is able to bring SRT with her into everything she does and it is the secret to her longevity as a dancer. It also part of what makes her the wisest person in the room.
Jennifer Myers
Jennifer understands process in a very deep way. This allows her to continually grow as a mover and a person.
Jennifer Tantia
Jennifer has made embodiement her life's work and it shows in her every move.
Jessica Athens
Jessica has great kinesthetic awareness and this makes her both an intelligent mover and a good improviser.
Jessica Krueger
Jessica is a wonderful mover who integrated expression in her aerial work from the first day.
Jody Oberfelder
Jody took one of my classes many years ago and, of course, displayed her amazing strength and expressiveness immediately. How could such a talented person not rise to this occasion?
Jody Sperling
Jody immediately understood the expressive potential of aerial work and was able to create moving and humorous dances quickly.
John Andrejack
John has incredible strength and and natural athleticism but is also very much aware of how to be mindful as he moves. And he always takes his heart with him.
Julie Betts
Julie is an amazing gymnast with terrific strength and very quick at learning and remembering movement.
Kate Grehl
Kate incorporates her years of classical training to the trapeze and works with great intelligence – another aerial natural.
Kevin Urban
Kevin was another athlete who was great at improvising.
Kirstin Dahmer
Not only does she learn physical things quickly, she also understands how to transfer her efficient way of moving from one type of dancing to another with ease. One smart dancer!
Kristin Hatleberg
Kristin was good at aerial work from the moment her hands were on the bar. She is willing to try new things out any time and always brings her questioning intellect along for the ride.
Kyla Ranney
Kyla has incredible strength and a keen perception of what a subtle shift in alignment can bring to her artistry.
Margaret Peeler
Margaret has incredible kinesthetic smarts and an uncanny ability to work efficiently and steadily. She stays completely centered and always knows her limits.

Marissa Nielsen Pincus

Marissa fiercely took on the challenge of aerial work and became very strong. Her liquid movement vocabulary made her seem as if she was pouring herself through the air.
Maryam Washington
Maryam is a fantastic mover who brings her whole self to her aerial work so that her presence is deeply felt.
Michael Fulvio
Michael is one of the hardest working actors in showbiz. He is also always helpful and mindful those he works around.
Olga El
Olga is fun to watch because she is always following a creative thread.
Patrice Fyffe
Patrice is one of the most courageous people I know. She is not afraid to try things that are new and she never gives up.
Rachel Duvall
Rachel is a lyrical mover with a quiet presence that is both beautiful and calming to observe.
Randall Anthony Smith
Randall brings enthusiasm and curiosity to everything he does and this helps him learn quickly. He is also a generous, community-minded dancer.
Sharon Connelly
Sharon is one of the most focused people I have ever encountered. This allows her to return to class and be “in” the work despite her long hours spent working as a lawyer.
Shawn Fisher
Shawn is a performer that draws your eye wherever she is in the room – she emanates athleticism and talent.
Summer Baldwin
Summer is like a flower that blooms more fully with each year she dances.
Sylvia Rhyne
Sylvia is a natural performer and a lyrical mover that brings incredible lightness to her dancing.
Taylor Kindred
Taylor is a natural in the air – he brings an athletic grace to his dancing.
Tee'Ada David
Tee'-Ada is a natural, strong gymnast and she took to the trapeze like a fish would to water.
Tomoko Roberts
Tomoko was incredibly strong right away with aerial and learned quickly to apply her dancing technique to dancing through transitions.
Wendy Chu
Wendy bring her classical training to her aerial dancing and is incredible elegant in the trapeze. She continues to expand her improvisational abilities and to blend them with her technique.
Yuka Kawazu
Yuka always pushes herself to grow as an artist. She also never fails to bring a smile to class.
Yukari Osaka
Yukari is a natural improviser and partner and she brings creative ideas to all of her dancing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What is a mentor?

Just before Christmas I learned that my friend, colleague, and mentor, Robert Davidson, had died suddenly. The news literally took my breath away. Then I remembered that Bob would have told me to keep breathing.

This picture is from a 2013 film shoot we did for Passages, which premiered in 2013. 
Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

Bob was the type of mentor who could straddle being your friend and role model at the same time. He could be simultaneously lighthearted, catty, and generous. I, like most of his students, loved him.

At the time Bob agreed to be in Passages we hadn't seen one another for 20 years. However, we had been in touch often via email. I would write with questions about teaching Skinner Releasing with trapeze and he would answer with suggestions. So, when he arrived in the summer of 2013 to work on the film we made for Passages, we went into the studio and picked up exactly where we had left off - improvising our way while also remembering to float our skulls and breathe.

Photo below by Fred Hatt

I knew we were lucky to have Bob for Passages and he proved himself invaluable in our process. He made suggestions that were exactly what we needed, worked with other cast members on the side to solve problems, and kept his light touch while adding to the artistic integrity of the work. Of course he also performed wonderfully.

At left: Bob with Michael Fulvio in their duet from Passages
Bob took to the transition from trapeze to harness with ease,
and always brought out the beauty of aerial work through his effortlessness.
Bob will be missed mostly because he was so damn much fun. He could be slyly funny with his creative endeavors outside of the theater. He confided with me about how he had convinced the folks in his condominium development to allow him to garden and to paint a few buildings. "They are pink!" he told me delightedly.

At right: Bob playing tag while in the harness with cast member Rojo Vivar during the filming for Passages in 2013.

Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

Since learning of his passing, anger keeps rising inside me. 
I think, "Why, when we are about to inaugurate Trump are we losing Bob?" It makes me want to throw things across the room. Then I remember that I need to step up. I cannot fill his shoes but I can continue to follow his path.

At left:  Bob with Tamara Figueroa during our 2013 film shoot.
Photo by Cristobal Vivar /

I met Robert while doing my undergraduate work and was introduced to trapeze while featuring in his first aerial ballet, Meister Eckhart. I studied with him outside of the university including during my time becoming certified in Skinner Releasing. He continued to share his releasing knowledge with me while acknowledging and celebrating my own artistic growth. This is exactly what one wants in a mentor. It is also what one wants in a friend. I will miss him terribly.

You can see Bob in our film from Passages HERE.

Robert Davidson was a master teacher, musician, aerial dance performer and choreographer and was the Head of Movement at the National Theatre Conservatory in Denver from 1997-2012. Prior to that he was director of his own aerial dance company, touring nationally and internationally, and received numerous grants and creative fellowships. Throughout his career he collaborated with many diverse theatre directors and acting teachers on hundreds of classical and experimental projects. His expertise lay in teaching Skinner Releasing Technique, movement improvisation, and aerial dance on low-flying trapezes. A member of Who’s Who for life, he gardened passionately in Denver whenever the weather allowed. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What I Fear

While driving home from work last night I heard people on the radio discussing their fears – people of color are afraid of whites, Muslims are afraid of everyone, Jews are afraid of the swastikas showing up on playgrounds. I am scared for my neighbors but I am also afraid that fear will make people less likely to mix with people who don't look like them. This is playing right into the hands of white nationalists – it is exactly what separatists want us to do!
For years I have worked to bring together a diverse group of people once a week for an Aerial Dance class by offering a scholarship for dancers of color to study with Fly-by-Night. This program has never been funded and I do not make a living through the class. I simply realized that the opportunity was there for us to bring people together and I acted on that opportunity. The program has been successful – our weekly class does looks like the rest of the city in terms of a mixture of ethnicity. The class is small but over the years the number of people who have come together has added up to hundreds.

I believe that experiencing this intimate work together strengthens the bonds between diverse communities.

The first year I offered a scholarship to dancers of color I got a letter of hate mail saying that the program was wrong - it discriminated against white people. The letter was a little scary; it was unsigned and left no return address. Our program was so small and new that I couldn't believe it had caught the attention of anyone. I put the letter away and forgot about it.

Now I am hearing interviews with white nationalists on radio programs and these nationalists are saying exactly what the hateful letter did – espousing the idea that we should keep white people separate from others. It feels like a tapestry I have been cultivating for years is unraveling in my hands.

As an Aerial Dance group we can't rent spaces for workshops or performances without liability insurance

To continue our programs we need to purchase insurance and fund raising is how we do it.

If you believe in our mission, please take action now and donate HERE.

If you can't donate, come take a workshop or attend a showing or performance (sans the fee).
The simple act of coming together with a diverse group of people is what is needed now.

Upcoming Events:
Sunday, November 27 @ 6 pm
Pre-Tour Studio Showing
281 N. 7th Street, 2nd Floor

December 3 @ 8 pm
Carolina Coastal University
Conway, SC

January 15 @ 4:30 pm
Scholarship Audition Class for Dancers of Color
281 N. 7th Street, 2nd Floor

January 22, 29 & Feb. 5 @ 4:30
Introductory Trapeze Dance Workshop
281 N. 7th Street, 2nd Floor

Thursday, September 8, 2016

One solution to the NYC artist's dilemma of affordability

A $10 class in nyc? Yeah Baby!

I'm there on Sundays, at 2 pm for Skinner Releasing Technique.
But there is a slew of other classes to check out too