Several months ago, one of my Kripalu yoga teacher training classmates, Kristen, asked me if I’d like to write an article about yoga dance/expressive movement for the local magazine she edits.
Asking a writer/dancer if she’d like to write a piece about dance? Um, yesplease!!
Here’s the link: Yoga Living, Summer 2012. (My article is on page 22.)
In the article, I give a brief description of some of the more well-known styles of yoga dance/moving meditation/conscious dancing/insert-your-descriptor here, a general primer for someone curious about becoming a real-life Nataraja but not sure exactly what goes on when the yoga mats are rolled up and the music thump-thump-thumps.
The fourth one, Journey Dance, I’ve only done a handful of times. I feel very fortunate to have danced with Journey Dance’s founder, Toni Bergins, while at Kripalu, but other experiences closer to home have been…different. Like the time we started class on our hands and knees, instructed to crawl around like cats, purring and everything, even guided so far as to brush up sensually against our fellow felines.
Getting people to do yoga is hard. Getting people to try some form of yoga dance is even harder. Instructing students right off the bat to drop to all fours and coo and purr and crawl like cats and tigers and lions (oh my!) may not be the most appealing selling point, in my opinion.
So it’s been a while since I’ve Journey Danced.
But that has all changed, because last weekend a new class started in my neck of the woods!
We started the class with sounds, but fortunately not those of animals. I used to be afraid of making noise but have grown accustomed to it over the years, especially after studying Kripalu yoga (which is ALL about audible expressions like sighs and ahhs and ooohs and haaaaa), and even more so now after taking Bobbie Ellis’ workshop, in which we rolled around on the floor whispering sa-sa-sa-sa-sa.
Wendy, this class’ instructor, started with three distinct sounds: Oooo, Sthhhh, and one that kind of sounded like J-zhow-J-zhow. The first, which sounded a bit like Om, was all about grounding. Finding that base, the foundation. The second, very snake-like, we did while lying on the floor, and I felt like it was filling me with air and breath and the beginnings of light movement. The third was the start of movement exploration, and Wendy encouraged us to move our bodies along to this somewhat unusual sound. I’m so used to music being the movement instigator; this time, using the breath inside of me, the vibrations from my throat, and the facial expressions on my lips and cheeks and eyes gave my first “dance” a more authentic, from-the-inside-out feel.
Once I was on my feet…well, it’s hard to remember the rest. There was a great group of women dancing, from fellow 5Rhythms dancers to someone who stuck to very private, internal movement to a girl who was off the hook with happiness and exhilaration; the smile on her face was something everyone should see every day, because there would never be any wars if people saw that expression. Her movement was pure joy, and I was amazed to learn that this was her first time dancing in public like that.
Wendy admitted that a lot of her music revolved around a “praise” theme; not about praising a specific god or spirit, but just praising our time together right then and there, praising the freedom to dance and express and be. We moved across the floor with our expressions of praise, sometimes grand (jumping to the ceiling! spinning in circles!) or very introspective and reverent.
Midway during class, the props were pulled out—this time, scarves. I selected a silky one with a summertime color combination of reds, oranges, and yellows. Wendy instructed us to dance as though the scarves were our hearts, and I was surprised to find my movement incredibly subtle at times, caressing and stroking the fabric so delicately as though I were a lab student in the middle of a dissection. Precise, exact, utmost attention, so careful with this fine piece of imaginary muscle. It surprised me because, well, give me a scarf and I am usually all over the place with the thing, flying it from corner to corner like it’s a kite.
But I didn’t want to be whimsical and ethereal in that dance; no, I wanted to treat that scarf like a beating organ on the operating table—chest open—veins, arteries, and, blood vessels expanding and contracting; me, the surgeon who needs to find the dance of life, the pattern of movement that will keep this thing beating. I felt like both a curious anatomic investigator—exploring this mysterious muscle in front of me—and a very dedicated surgeon, instinctually knowing all the right moves but just needing to build up the bravery to take the scalpel to the tissue.
During the post-class sharing, I mentioned this observation, the fact that this time my “heart dance” was very introspective and internally intense, not the usual “Put it all out there! Spread the love!” that I normally feel.
After class, another 5Rhythms classmate echoed my observation, noting herself that she noticed a difference in my movement. “You’ve grown a lot,” she told me. I think the last time we danced together was in April, yet even since then, she said, “It shows. Your dance has grown.”
This meant a lot to me, because emotionally I know I am growing; for that growth to be projecting through my movement and interaction on the dance floor is reassurance that my mind, heart, and dancing body are all the same thing. Tug on one, and they all follow along.
Journey Dance will be a monthly event at this particular studio, but my dance is a daily journey that is constantly in flux, an ink spot baptized by a splash of water: branching out, oozing toward the edges, growing.