Thursday, November 30, 2017

January Playshop: Dance Wild -- Reflexive Conditioning

On the first Sunday of 2018, January 7, JAG is going to throw a "Wild" party at Balance Studio in Fremont. We'll meet at 9:00am and go through all of the moves of the routine.

photo by Sandra Caldwell
NiaSeattle teacher Jam, Fall 2017
First we'll Learn them and then Move them. This will all be done without music so that we can take our time and really appreciate the structure of each move and kata. We will also be having a conversation about reflexive conditioning as we go through the routine.

And then, at 10:30 we'll do the Wild routine all the way through with music and enjoy the opportunity to Energize all of the movements. The focus of the routine is on Reflexive Conditioning.

Reflexive Conditioning is one of the four types of conditioning that Nia offers and one that is often overlooked. Nia encourages us to exercise with fluid ease, softness and gentleness, but it's also just as valuable and important to engage the nervous system with suddenness, surprise, sharpness and intensity. Life isn't always gentle and easy, and if we're only conditioned for that, we'll be taken by surprise when life throws something unexpected at us. The sudden, explosive movements that show up all throughout the Wild routine, condition our ability to act quicker than we can think so that we can immediately recover when we slip on the ice or misjudge the height of a step or to react when something falls on us or we have to catch something. If we have been conditioning our reflexes, we can gracefully maneuver through those situations as a part of life, but if our reflexes are slow and soft, they could spell injurious disaster.

This playshop will teach us how to engage and sharpen our reflexes and will be a great primer for the Wild routine for any student of Nia or any teacher as well. No prior experience is needed, but if you are learning the routine, this experience will certainly help cement it in your body.

Debbie Rosas will be in town the day before, teaching the very same work in an afternoon workshop at Blue Heron Ranch in Sammamish. That event goes from 2pm - 5pm and costs $99. The one on Sunday with JAG is 9am - 11:30am for $20 and can stand alone or would be a wonderful supplement to spending the previous afternoon with Debbie. It'll be a WILD weekend! Contact Randee Fox or click here to register for the Saturday playshop with Debbie Rosas, co-creator of Nia and choreographer of the Wild routine.

Use the PayPal button below to register for the Wild Party the 'day after' with JAG on Sunday, January 7. You can also pay at the door. JAG's students can use their class card and just pay $5 for the playshop.

Nia with JAG

Thursday, November 16, 2017

December Playshop: Martial Arts of Nia

Nia draws from the influence of several Martial Arts, Healing Arts and Dance Arts.  For the December Playshop of the Month, JAG will focus on the three Martial Arts that Nia borrows from:

Tai Chi - "The Slow Dance"

Tae Kwon Do - "The Dance of Precision"

Aikido - "Harmonious, Spherical Action"

If you think that the Martial Arts is just about throwing blocks and kicks, then you will definitely benefit from this playshop that discusses and explores how we get the power of moving slowly, shifting our weight, traveling in directions, stabilizing, grounding, centering, conditioning and healing our bodies form the Martial Arts.

In addition to a brief overview of proper body mechanics, we will also have a visceral experience of many aspects that make Nia such a unique and powerful practice.

The first 90 minutes of class will focus on each of the three Martial Arts, and the final hour will be a class in which we can appreciate all of the Slowness, Precision and Harmony that we have learned from Martial Arts.

This is not advanced, athletic, level 3 or high-energy. This is an informative, instructional playshop. Anyone, of any fitness level, is welcome and will benefit from attending. Do not be alarmed by the prospect of 2 1/2 hours of Martial Arts. If that concerns you and you fear you may not be able to keep up, then it is a good indication that you need this information and will benefit from learning what Martial Arts energy actually is and how it related to our everyday Nia practice.

If you have a class card with JAG, you can use one chit and pay an extra $5 for the playshop, or you can pay the very low price of $20 which includes the 90 minutes of instruction and the one-hour class.  Feel free to pay at the door or use PayPal to pre-register.

Cash, check and credit cards are accepted at the door.

Nia with JAG

Friday, October 20, 2017

November Playshop: How to FreeDance

Have you ever felt lost when the teacher calls out "FreeDance!" in the middle of a Nia class?  Are you one of those that escape by getting a sip of water or hiding in the the back corner of the room until the choreography returns? Then you need this playshop. JAG has gone into the mind of a FreeDancer and will break down, step by step, what happens inside someone to allow them to FreeDance creatively for hours.
Learning these very simple tools will transform anyone into a passionate, creative, unstoppable FreeDancer. After this morning, you will no longer wonder what to do when the only direction is "FreeDance Everybody!" You will no longer run out of ideas and you will relish the opportunity to break into spontaneous FreeDance once you've learned these 'secrets'.
This is not the 8 Stages of FreeDance (which is for creating choreography) and it's not the Nia FreeDance class format which rellies on your ability to pull moves out of your back pocket. But this is literally the tools and techniques that are going on inside someone who loves to FreeDance.
Teachers: although this playshop is designed to address the needs of a student in a Nia class, it has proven to be invaluable information for any teacher hoping to inspire FreeDancing in their students. Using these tools, someone could easily guide themselves to FreeDance for hours, and similarly, the tools can also help teachers give a more supportive and inspirational experience of FreeDancing to their students in a classic Nia class or in a Nia FreeDance class. 
The first 90 minutes consists of JAG spelling out the ABCs, the "Nuts and Bolts" of the art of FreeDance. And after learning those, the last hour gives the students a wonderful opportunity to practice the art of "Anything Goes Movement Wise" in the context of a super-fun Nia class.
We'll be doing JAG's original "Woodstock Experience" routine which students all across the USA have been enjoying for years. It is a classic format Nia class, with the Focus on FreeDance, so there is plenty of opportunity to both enjoy JAGs choreography and break into FreeDance. 
If you already love FreeDance, you'll also really appreciate this work. It will undoubtedly give you more inspiration and increase your creative output.

The Playshop takes place at Balance Studio in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle.

Balance Studio
418 N 35th St.

Sunday, November 5
9:00 am - 10:30am = Learn the Tools
10:30am - 11:30am = Practice the Tools in the classic format Nia routine, Woodstock Experience, created by JAG

You can either pay at the door or use the PayPal button below to pre-purchase, or to purchase JAGs Nia class cards.

Nia with JAG

Thursday, October 12, 2017

What is the Real Problem?

Pardon me while I rant for a bit:
If I meet violence with violence, then I've solved nothing but have simply continued the problem. When someone insults me, and my first reaction is to top them with a better, sharper barb, I stop and remind myself that I want to return love to them as they are showing me how much pain and conflict they have inside. Any retaliation would only make everything worse. I just got called a despicable apologist (and worse) for suggesting that to kill a Nazi makes one no better than the Nazi. I wish they could hear themselves saying "Killing Nazis? Count me in!" (Just substitute the word 'jew' or 'fag' for Nazi and you can start to hear yourself how I hear you.) One person was so deaf to his own rants that when he said that Nazis "deserved to die" because "they killed my people" he could not appreciate the reality that I pointed out, "by your logic, once you kill a Nazi, their families are completely justified in killing you." Where does it end?
It ends when someone decides to take the higher road and stop killing. It will be reliant on the more intelligent, the stronger and the more evolved among us to bring this to an end by refusing to lower themselves to the levels of the basic, ignorant, fearful murderers. We need to educate and nurture those that are so frightened that they forget that we're all humans and we all deserve to live in peace our own way, as long as we don't encroach on the life and liberty of others. And I'm talking about BOTH sides.
The people I was debating with today are otherwise decent, liberal people who seem to have lost their way and are so blinded by their rage that they actually believe it is OK to end the life of someone else as long as that person belongs to a group that has committed the same heinous crime of murder. I did my best to explain to them that anger, hatred and killing was the problem, not the solution, but I sadly bowed out when they saw my arguments as being sympathetic to Nazis and the attacks on me got personal.
So I am imploring all sane-minded liberals to keep their wits about them. Please avoid debasing yourself to epithets and, even worse, threats of physical violence. Otherwise you have no platform to stand on when you are behaving exactly like the people you claim to be in disagreement with.

Image result for peace sign begins within

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Day Off in The Valley

First thing I did when I woke up was chase the cockroaches out of the kitchen.  It warmed my heart as this was a tradition during the several years I was a valley guy.  It's something I learned to live with.  They seem to have an agreement that once day breaks, they all go back to their hiding places. And any food that I've left out overnight is fair game.

I had spilled a tiny drop of chili on the counter and there was one particularly persistent critter that kept feasting, even after I turned the light on and got my face really close to him so I could watch the fascinating creature. It almost seemed like he was so involved in his meal that he didn't notice me.  Until he did. And then suddenly, he bolted away and hid between the wall and the cabinets.

After having my coffee and walking River, I went into the office to pay for two more nights here. I had reserved my stay here several months earlier so I locked in what turned out to be an old rate. Last night was a last minute reservation, so I paid the current rate. It took a little bit of convincing to get the clerk to honor my reserved rate, but I did prevail and am happily enjoying my room having paid the July rates in September!!

Something important to note is that my tooth does not hurt today. It is so strange, how yesterday I was in great pain. The pain was severe enough to be a distraction and I took two aspirin and went to bed at nine pm just so I wouldn't have to deal with it. I was NOT looking forward to suffering for the next few days. So imagine my delight to wake up pain free. I'm not sure if the aspirin is working or what could be going on, but I know that I need to have it looked at.

So far I haven't heard back from the dentist in Santa Barbara.

I took River with me as I went to the Sprouts market to restock my cooler with food. The first thing I did was refill some of my water jugs in the vending filter. As I did a woman approached me and asked if I knew that the city was now putting potassium in our water supply. I didn't know that and I engaged her to get more information. I get a kick out of having conversations with crazy street people sometimes. It is interesting to note that if you talk to them long enough you realize that they are on a loop. I tend to talk with them until they start to repeat themselves, then I know I've gotten it all and I wish them a great day and move on.

Driving through the valley is nostalgic. I spent many formative years here and it's amazing how much it still has that 'home' feeling. And I find myself being flooded with sense memories on certain corners. I feel like the valley is similar to Manhattan, if you took it and spread it all out into one story and replaced the subway with parking lots and car washes. It has that never-ending always-going, something-for-everyone quality. It feels like you could just go and go and go and never reach the end, and on every block there is enough activity to keep you busy for a month.

After writing up a press release and catching up on my messages for several hours, River rescued me from my own reclusivism and forced me to get some sunshine. Filled with thoughts and feelings, mostly fond memories, I walked my dog on the streets of the San Fernando Valley on a beautiful,  hazy day. We crossed over the LA River on Sherman Way in what I gather is the floor coverings district? Tiles marble, carpets, acrylics, doors too! Up ahead was a considerable ruckus, so I herded River off the main street.
This late Saturday afternoon the particular side street we found ourselves exploring was fairly deserted. We passed the pot store and then the chick smoking outside. There was a flurry of activity at the outdoor costume bazaar, "Facebook me tomorrow if you just can't do without that alligator." Only speaking Spanish, someone tried to tell me I had left my phone in the wall, but I could not understand; I finally discovered that the gesture was toward an iPhone with a light pink case on it. When I saw it, I immediately assumed it belonged to a young girl, but this passing bike rider thought it was mine and the kind soul didn't want me to forget it or have it stolen. We shared a laugh of wonder as we both surrendered to the fate of the phone. Shrug, "that's a beautiful dog", thanks.
Isn't it funny how we create these pictures of people with so little evidence?  Like how did you picture the person in that last story? I was careful not to describe the person; but do you create a person in your head? BOOM! 
We passed the hobo jungle and everyone kept to themselves. I led River to the outside of the encampments which meant for us, the streets were  more about staying a respectful distance from people's homes. Fortunately there was no traffic.
And finally to the acme of our journey. I so wish I had brought my phone, although I'm sure even a video couldn't capture the intensity of the corner of Mayner and Greenbush Sts. A combination of memorabilia and garbage in perfect balance. I don't know what I was looking at... the back of an abandoned train platform? Grain silo? Warehouse? No trees, all corrugated metal, rusted and faded into a patina of use and neglect. Any of the trucks parked nearby could be someone's home. There's no turning left or going straight; this is a L shaped intersection. And down Greenbush St was a long walk between two high fences on either side. An obvious turning around point, but not before profound appreciation for the splendor of this moment in deep Van Nuys.

I'd go back and take a picture of this spot for you, but I'm not going back there at night.

The tooth started to threaten to hurt again as I was eating some corn chips with my soup. But I chewed gingerly and washed thoroughly and so far, it hasn't started up again. The dentist never wrote back to me, so maybe she couldn't fit me in on Tuesday. I had told her if she couldn't see me Tuesday not to bother because I'd be gone. So I guess I'll just make an appointment for when I'm back in Seattle.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Needles to Van Nuys

We took our time getting out of Needles and pretty much drove straight through to Van Nuys. I stopped once to break up the monotony and another time to refuel, but other than that I tore up the Interstate.

When I stopped for gas, I was following CA-18, and I didn't realize it until after I gassed up and was getting back on the highway but I was at the junction with US-395, another one of my favorite highways. I didn't go off course, though. I only drove on US 395 for about 100 yards in between the gas station and CA-18. One day I still want to take 395 from one end to the other.

The main thing on my mind today was incredible tooth pain. It started mildly yesterday. So mild that I quickly forgot about it. But today it wasn't so easy to ignore and forget about. I thought I had something lodged in my teeth, so I fussed with it with my tongue and swished water around in my mouth, but nothing helped.

I've had my suspicions about this one spot in my upper right back molars. There's what seems to be a widening gap between them, and it catches food a lot. I've told dentists about it before and they haven't found any decay or anything wrong. But now this is the spot where the pain is coming from. I think. It's kind of hard to pinpoint. But it's strong. It feels like there's a spike in my cheekbone. I am considering making an emergency dentist appointment for Tuesday, when I'm in Santa Barbara. It's really the only time I can think of that I would be able to leave Rive somewhere while I went to the dentist.

If the pain goes away, maybe I can wait until I get home. It's only ten more days. Maybe, if I call now, ten days from now would be the earliest I could get, anyway. I just hope I don't have to deal with this pain constantly. It takes so much energy.

I left a message for a dentist that has an office literally around the corner from my aunt's house. It might work out that I could leave River in her house while I have the tooth worked on. I hope she gets back to me and says that she can fit me in on Monday or Tuesday.

In the meantime, I'll be applying Thieves Oil.

I'm so glad I was traveling west today. There were three separate traffic jams going the opposite direction. Two, on one lane highways, due to road construction, and one that looked more chronic, as I was entering L.A. around 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, LOADS and LOADS of cars were very slowly leaving.

I'm staying in my second Studio 6 of the year. It seems so luxurious having a separate bathroom and separate kitchen. It's a suite! Suite 6.

This is in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. There's nothing quite like it. It's urban sprawl for as far as the eye can see. Activity is around every corner. After checking into our room, I took River around the block. Suite 6 is on Sherman Way, a busy, major street. (I don't hear anything; my room faces the pool.) But right around the corner is a quiet residential neighborhood. River found enough to smell in half a block and was ready to saunter back to the room.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Santa Fe to Flagstaff

It was a beautiful day as I left Santa Fe, but by the time I hit Prewitt, NM the sky was filled with dark clouds. It was a beautiful sight.

It was raining as I crossed the state line into Arizona, but almost immediately cleared up and stayed pleasant; dry and windy in Arizona.

As I passed through Chambers, as I drove past the exit for Pinta Rd, my trip odometer read 8888.8.
And later on, as I was near Winslow, AZ my trip hit the 9000 mile mark.

The room at the Motel 6 in Flagstaff smelled so strongly of bleach that I could barely walk in. I turned on the two fans and left the door open before moving any of my stuff in from the car. I took River for a walk for an hour. I didn't walk for an hour; we hung out in the parking lot, exploring the grassy area and walked clockwise and then counter clockwise around the whole property.

It was tolerable by the time I got back into the room again. I sprayed all over with essential oils diluted in water and left the fans on. As I sat there, my throat started to burn and my eyes would sting occasionally. The severity lessened as the night went on.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Men of Nia at StudioNia in Santa Fe


The festivities kicked off with Adelle and Todd team teaching a Nia FreeDance class. That's always a good time as they really leave the student to do their own thing with minimal, unobtrusive guidance. I love to get lost and go on a journey in the music when there is no one pulling my attention away. Adelle is an adept veteran and master at guiding, and Todd is a tyro under her tutelage. Truth be told, he doesn't need to do much. His natural effervescent personality and the charming way he trots around the room dancing, connecting and sharing his joy with the class is enough to make us all want to dance. I felt so good afterward, like I had just meditated and gotten a massage and a workout all at the same time. 


They put us on the second floor, but with my new two crate system, and River's new calmness, it didn't really matter. I could park at the bottom of the stairs and the room was the first door at the top of the stairs. We flew gracefully up and down the stairs no differently than we do in our three story Seattle townhouse. Being at the far end of the large property gave us a lot of quiet and anonymity when we played in the rock and succulent landscapes. River was particularly drawn to the bushes where the ants were devouring the food left for the feral cats. 

After staying in the room for a day and half, I was leaving to go to the studio and I had a hunch to double check that the door had locked. When I first checked in it took me a bit of struggling to figure out how to operate the idiosyncratic doorknob, so I was still a bit leery of it. It opened right up. I tried and tried and couldn't get it to lock. I stayed on the phone trying to reach the front desk for at least two minutes while it rang and rang and the event at the studio drew nearer and rearer. Soon, I gave up and had to go or risk being late. So I took all of my valuable things and locked them in the car while I left my room unlocked and went to Nia.


Nine men were teaching today. It was a record number of men for this fourth annual event. I loved to experience all of the different men teaching. There's no doubt that men bring something to the practice that most women don't. It's an ephemeral something that I can only describe as a quality of solidness. Even though each man, as with each woman, teaches with a bit of different flair. The room was jam packed (hey, maybe that's why it's called a jam). 

After the jam there was a social hour and pot luck refreshments in the lobby and then there was going to be a panel discussion with the Men of Nia. I took the opportunity instead of partaking in the soirĂ©e to take River for a little run so he could expel some of the energy he may have picked up from the raucous dancing and celebrating.  By the time he seemed ready to go back in, I had just time to grab a couple of cookies before we gathered in the studio for the panel. 
During the panel discussion, I started to get quietly agitated. First of all, a panel discussion is one of my least favorite ways to spend an evening. I'd sooner wait in the parking lot for it to be over. But I went into it with a bit of excitement to hear what sort of 'burning questions' the audience was going to ask.

I had many thoughts and feelings rushing through me as the conversation flowed throughout the evening. Much of what I was feeling didn't make sense to me, but I was definitely uncomfortable. Kelle, as moderator started it off asking us each to say how we got involved with Nia and if it was love at first sight. I started off and told my story in about twenty seconds. It soon became clear that many of the men had a strong desire to be heard and to tell their stories and each story was a bit longer than the one before. The audience seemed rapt, so I know it was just me that was having issues.  I was partially listening to the stories and partially trying to figure out why I was having these feelings. 

One of the things I felt was like we were being objectified or celebrity worshiped, which is something that goes against my grain. I may have had some feelings of being reduced to a culturally based gender stereotype. I was definitely annoyed by the "How Do We Get More Men in Nia" conversation that inevitably ensued. I've had this conversation more times than I care to and it comes down to me fundamentally disagreeing with the idea that we should do that. I believe that Nia is a feminine practice and only a small percentage of men will ever enjoy it. I say just continue to let the vast majority of Nia practitioners be women and actually put more energy into reaching more of what is obviously our market; women. It frustrates me how much time and attention is put into discussing how to lure men into the practice, which is kind hearted, but bad business. Know your market. In order to attract a large majority of men, you'd have to change Nia so much that it wouldn't be Nia anymore. Stop that conversation. STOP IT! (As you can tell, that's a trigger for me.) And a little bit I think the control freak in me was having a hard time with the way the panel was getting away from the moderator. 

The evening was already going long and I was wishing I was somewhere else and having thoughts that I wasn't actually as much with 'my people' as I thought I was. I've always been a rogue and a bit of an outsider, but at least I always felt like I belonged and was on board with most of it. 

All of these feelings were churning around in me as seconds dragged into hours and each new sentence someone began to formulate was like fingernails on a chalkboard. 

After a while, the energy shifted and Kelle said that the panel had taken on a life of its own and she was going to let it continue that way. I took the opportunity of that transitory moment to slip out. I said under my breath, "I have to go." and discretely grabbed River out of his cage and ran away to my car. The fresh air felt revitalizing and I felt almost instantly better once I had gone.

Except for the lingering question of whether or not I was actually still aligned with Nia. 


It didn't look ransacked and I did a quick inventory and everything was accounted for in the room. I dialed "0" for the front desk. It rang and rang and rang for another two or three minutes before I got impatient and hung up and put River on the leash to march the long hike to the office at the other end of the three-building property. 

I expected to find the office filled with customers and the clerk(s) too busy to grab the phone, but instead it was lone young woman sitting in silence. She looked puzzled when I told her I had just called and also tried calling about two hours ago and no one answered. She inspected the phone and then looked up at me and explained, "oh. It's turned off." She casually plugged the phone line back in like it happens all the time and then asked me about the reason for my visit.

She couldn't do anything but offer me another room. I didn't want to move and told her I didn't car about it while I was in the room. But was more concerned about when I leave in the morning. She ended up writing a note for the maintenance guy to come to the room in the morning and I also told her I'd call her to remind her, so to leave the phone plugged in!

In the morning, it took a while to get everything going and by the time the maintenance guy showed up, I was in my leggings and in the car pulling out to drive to the studio. I saw him knock on my door so I got out of the car and called up to him. "That's my room. Try the door. It's unlocked. I can't lock it." I'm not sure how much he understood, and he sort of repeated what I said. So I asked him "can you fix it so the door locks?" He said yes, I said thanks and told him I'd be back in a couple of hours and drove off as he walked back in the direction of the office. 

I assumed he was going to get his tools, but then I wondered if he thought I meant that he should come back in a couple of hours. If I had the time, I would have stopped and explained myself better, but I didn't have any minutes to spare if I wanted to arrive, get set up and be calmly prepared to teach class. 


Still feeling a little bit disconnected from the practice, I was able to pull myself together enough to have a great time teaching my Fantastic routine. It was fun and felt very polished and professional. Afterwards I had an almost empty feeling inside like a ditch that wasn't getting filled up. None of these feelings are outwardly explainable. There was nothing about the class, the routine, the experience that would justify my feeling that way. I attributed it to a leftover malaise from being triggered last night. I know that I'm emotionally sensitive and I do everything larger than life so I'm used to emotional hangovers. 

Because of the awkward way I was feeling, I quickly took River out for a walk after class to get some sun and air and normalize myself before coming back for the next class half an hour later.


And the plot thickens. David drew a larger and much more boisterous crowd than I did. His routine was electric and powerful and the class was singing and celebrating and beside themselves with enthusiastic jubilance. And I felt envious. I thought I was failing to reach the students; I lost my touch.

And it reinforced my feelings of alienation as everyone gleefully sang along to "The Time Of My Life" and "Hungry Eyes" which are both songs that make my skin crawl. 

David's routine was punctuated by a rousing applause which I compared to the polite clapping after my routine and let my feelings get hurt when David was given a nickname "Captain Click" because of his amazing choreographing abilities. I gathered River and took him back to the room. 


The door swung right open. I had an hour to shower and eat and use the toilet and take River out to get some much deserved playtime as he has been an absolute perfect angel through a whole lot of cage time. I tried calling the office. They answered and I told them it was still unlocked so they said he was on the way. Instead of eating, showering, or relieving myself or River, I sat and waited for him to show up. 

Time ticked away as he finally arrived. He fussed with the door while I waited. Couldn't fix it. Suggested I switch rooms. I reluctantly agreed, seeing no alternative. He sensed my trepidation and said I should go take a look at it. I noticed it was also right near a staircase with a parking space right at the bottom of the stairs, and the room seemed fine. It had a dining table and chair which I don't see in these rooms often, and I like having. So I agreed to switch. He said he'd go get a cart for my luggage and I went and quickly and not carefully threw all of my things into bags for transport. All the while I'm aware that I still only have 40 minutes to eat and shower and poop and walk River and drive back to the studio. 

I'm nearly done packing everything up when he comes up and holds out a new lock and says excitedly "Look!" I asked if he was going to install that right now and he said he was. So I shut River in his cage and sat on the bed while he worked on the door for about fifteen minutes. 

Long story short, he finished the job leaving me about fifteen minutes before I had to leave. I prioritized pooping and eating and skipped my shower and River's outdoor time. I just changed into clean clothes and we got back to the studio in just enough time to get started with the afternoon workshop. 


I was a bit hesitant to come to this session because I hate the thought of telling my story, much less with the added pressure of coming up with an interpretive dance to tell it. But I do love Ken and admire his work and had committed myself to attending the whole weekend in support of Mark and the event. 

I won't go into all the details, but Ken guided us masterfully through what felt to me like a therapy session. He allowed our body to tell the story without being literally guided and it brought me a lot of clarity on what I was going through. I cried several times and got angry a few times and was happy and blissful at times, too. In the end he had us speaking our stories as we danced and that is when I felt the spirit move through me.

I was having both parts of a conversation that at times became almost like a heated argument. I hashed out my issues, threw blame, got defensive, explained, understood, and finally, just as the song was ending had an epiphany and felt refreshed, enlightened and free. 

I couldn't be more thankful to Ken and his ability to guide me through this incredible catharsis without any intimacy. While I know Ken and I'm sure he was watching and noticing all I was going through, I appreciate that I didn't ever feel him doing it, and if I didn't know Ken I might not even have thought he was seeing me. 

That workshop was two and half emotion-filled hours. Afterward, I had to share my experience with Ken and thank him and compliment his work. The conversation took up most of the break, so that I couldn't give River sufficient outside time. Instead I was only able to run him to a bush and then right back into the crate while I took another class. 


I admire Mark so much. Anyone who's an artist, I admire. But besides being a prolific painter, Mark also has a super cool sense of personal style. He dresses uniquely and is always doing something different with his hair. But mostly, he's so down to earth and cool as a cucumber that it sometimes makes me nervously self conscious. I am inspired and slightly intimidated by him; not because he's intimidating but because his easy, casual confident warmth points up my awkward social anxiety. 

So I was thrilled that he was presenting his first choreographed work. He'd worked on it for a year and was ready to present it. And I loved it. The music was perfect. I grow quickly weary of the type of dance music with drum machines and auto tune, but he chose some nice, organic, grounded music and put together some katas that were complex enough to be interesting and challenging, but repeated them enough so that we could learn, move and personalize ourselves. 

His voice is so soothing as he guided us through the movement journey. And he had brought in several of his paintings for us to enjoy during class. Three of them were based on songs from the routine. Six more paintings 'about' the other six songs in the routine are in the works, said Mark. 

It was the perfect cap to being fixed by Ken's FreeDance workshop to then experience this piece of work that reignited my alignment with this practice we call Nia. I loved the work he did so much, I asked him if he would be willing to collaborate with me on a routine together. He said yes and suggested we get it ready to co-present at next years Men of Nia. 


After class I immediately ushered River out to the car and then ushered him quickly back into the room. I got his food and took him outside to feed him. Nothing in the world matters to him when I'm about to feed him, but as soon as he realized I had given him the last of the food, he immediately shifted gears and needed to relieve himself. It was then that I realized he hadn't had the chance to do it all day. He'd just been in the crate. So I gave him a bit of a long walk. It might have been longer, but I was still in my wet shorts and t shirt from the two afternoon sessions. And in the high desert, when the sun goes down, so does the mercury. It dropped about twenty degrees and I was getting cold so River didn't get as long a walk as he would've liked. Soon after that it was raining.

I was looking forward to finally showering after four classes and walk in the cold rain. It was taking way too long for the hot water to come out of the shower. I started to wonder if I had the handle turned the wrong way, but it only got colder on the other side. I waited for what seemed like ten minutes before resigning myself to the reality that I was about to take a cold shower. It's only bad for the first few seconds, and then I acclimate to it and it's fine. It wasn't pure cold water, it had a bit of warm in it which took the edge off, but definitely not as warm as one would make it for a comfortable shower. 

Just as I was rinsing off and finishing, the water started to warm up to the point that I needed to turn the handle to reintroduce some cold into the mix. But by then I was done, so I just shut if off. Had I let the water run longer I could've avoided the shock and discomfort. 

I slept like a rock. In the morning there was a thick bright rainbow in the sky visible from my room window. 


My body felt a little stiff as it was cold this morning and I did a lot yesterday. Ken's routine started off active right away, but I was able to pull it back when I felt like my body wasn't quite warmed up enough. He focused on the hexad and alerted us to the Front, Back, Right, Left, Up and Down as the six directions in relation to our bodies. He used all songs from the classic Nia ouvre, and it was great to do some of those old katas again. Ken is such a generous teacher. Each of his classes are packed full of information and moments of discovery. I learn so much from him every time.


We had half an hour before the next class, so I took River out for a walk. He and I have developed our communication to the point where I don't physically manipulate him via the leash. For about a year now I've been working on never resorting to pulling him when I want him to come, but to get him to go where I want through attraction. Sometimes it requires a bit of patience as he has a natural delay before responding to most ideas. Through this process of communication, he's developed a practice of sometimes 'asking' me permission to break from the stride of our walk so he can more closely investigate a certain something we'd just passed. We'll be walking along and he suddenly stops. Since I can't pull on the leash, I have to stop, too, and turn to see what he's doing. And he's frozen and staring up at me, but slightly turning his body toward one side. He'll remain in that position until I respond. I'll either say "come on" and he'll continue walking with me, or if I say "ok" he'll bolt around and explore the exciting bush. 

And this is what he was doing today. Once we had walked a block from the studio, I kept trying to steer him back around, but he insisted we continue onward in any direction but to the studio. It was well over half an hour before I could entice him back into the cage. 


The class had already begun by the time we made it back to the studio, so once again I had to temper myself from the full blown movements they had worked up to in order to give myself a little warm  up. But soon I caught up and was moving along with the group. 

Tony used some familiar music, some Nia music and some music I didn't know. He's got a strong spirituality that comes through as the most important part of his teaching. It shows up in the things that he says, the pearls he uses and the way he sprinkles all of his songs with many FreeDance breaks. His classes have the unique sensation of casual reverence. He makes it so easy to have a great time. He is humble and so generous with the good vibes.

He uses a lot of dance music, the kinds I call "oonce oonce oonce" or "screaming diva" songs. Not my genre of choice, but certainly popular nonetheless. Once again the students were singing along. But because I wasn't in such a bad head space, I didn't get envious that the students sang to his songs and must like him better than me. Instead I remembered that they song along to some of my songs, too. But when I was under the gloom cloud yesterday, I somehow didn't remember that. 

After class I took River back to the motel and let him walk around in the parking lot, sniffing the feral cat bushes. When he was done, I showered and ate my lunch. Then I gathered my notes for the afternoon workshop I was teaching. 


I wanted to teach a playshop totally free falling. My idea was that the students would show up with questions or with problems that they wanted solutions for in the context of enjoying Nia classes, and then I would be able to offer them solutions on the spot. 

But I felt that I should also have a back up plan in case all I get from the students are eager expectant faces, ready for whatever. I started to play around with formatting some of the biggest things I see students doing to sabotage their own best interests. I called them the 13 Principles of Being a Nia Student and overlaid them on the 13 White Belt Principles of Nia. 

I was also playing around with applying the Seven Deadly Sins to being a Nia student, but hadn't been able to get all seven. I got stuck on the difference between Greed and Gluttony and didn't know what to say about Lust. 

As it turns out, most of the students said they just came because they wanted to hear what I had to say and had no agenda, and the few students with specific questions would be perfectly answered by my presenting the 13 Principles of Being a Nia Student, so I went ahead and taught those. 

I also had the last minute idea of sneaking in my Profound routine. I was only invited to teach one class and they asked for the Fantastic routine so I thought I could use the playshop as an opportunity to show at least some of my other 2017 creation. So I laid out a few principles and we discussed them and then I led them through a couple of songs from Profound, giving them the opportunity to both experience my new work and to practice using the principles I just gave them. We went back and forth from talking about and then dancing the 13 Principles. 

I felt like the workshop went well. We had some good discussions and I covered all of the issues the students brought up. Several people told me afterward that I had taught them something or at least given them something to consider or ponder. 


We closed out the weekend with another jam taught by the nine of us. As with most jams, it was off the hook. The fun, the playfulness, the masculinity. The masculinity is what really made this (and makes all of the Men of Nia jams) so much different than most Nia. 

I loved it, and it's obvious that the student community loves it too. It is indescribably fun to celebrate the male energy of Nia this way. I was grinning ear to ear and buzzing with energy through the whole class. 

Afterward, we had a bit of carrot cake and then.... parting is such sweet sorrow.... It was an hour or more of good-byes before the studio thinned out and it was just the stragglers. I was one of the last to leave. I couldn't get enough of the hugs. Happily, I felt more connected than ever to Nia and as motivated as ever to get back home and dive into teaching my new classes and getting fired up about building up a student base again. 


I was first disturbed by the hot water situation. This time, I let the water in the shower run for at least 25 minutes. I watched almost all of Family Feud, while I checked to see if the water was coming out hot yet. I remembered that the night before it finally did start to heat up but not until after I was done, so I knew that tonight I should give it longer than I did last night. But after almost half an hour I started feeling too guilty about wasting all the water so I took another cold shower. This time the water never got hot, even at the end. 

In the middle of the night, I was awakened by an argument. Two guys shouting as one stumbled his way out to his car and the other one tried to lure him to come back. The guy threw a bottle, shattering it in the middle of the parking lot and cursed as he stumbled to his car. His cohort called out to him saying don't drive stupid, but that only served to rile the guy up more. He pulled angrily out of his parking spot and spun around to be facing directly at Babe. 

I was helpless, kneeling naked on the bed looking down at him from the second floor as he clumsily shifted into drive and deftly drove off in an S pattern managing to avoid hitting Babe and any other obstacle. 

Before driving completely off, he stops so that the two can continue the heated exchange; one in the car and the other from the room on the second floor. At one point, I was surprised that the comeback from one of the guys was "I love you! Be careful." They didn't strike me as lovers. 

It took me a while to fall back to sleep after the excitement, but I was aroused again, this time by hearing someone loudly knocking on a door down the hall.  After knocking a few times, he called out "Management! Open Up. If I hear one more complaint I'm going to call the police and you're out!" The tenant shouts back, "I can't control my brother." They went back and forth for a while.

Again, I was stimulated by the exchange so I needed to unwind before I found sleep again. This time I was jolted out of sleep by the crash of a big trash truck entering the parking lot and emptying the dumpster. By this time the sun was up, but when I asked Siri what time is was he said "6:09. Time to still be in bed." He was right. 

The next day I was still in Santa Fe, but done with Nia. I needed the day off, as did River. I took him on a walk in the morning and made a big breakfast for myself. Then I went to the grocery store and loaded up on healthy(ish) food that travels well. 

Then I packed up all of my clothes and River's blankets and drove to the laundromat. His blankets really needed to be washed and they had nice big industrial sized machines. I took River for long walks around the perimeter of the shopping center parking lot while our clothes and blankets spun.

We went back to the room and I literally spent the rest of the day lounging. I watched TV, looked at Facebook and blogged. I also got online and rearranged my driving schedule and motel reservations due to our cancelling one of my gigs for lack of RSVPs. 

I was a bit overzealous in the planning of that particular class anyway. It turned out that it was going to be a 7 1/2 hour drive day and I'd have to skip seeing some of my favorite parts of Route 66. But with the new schedule, I can take two leisurely four hour days, leaving me plenty of time to stop along the way. 

I watched a movie version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as well as many other shows. On Facebook I was seeing a lot about the football players taking a knee in protest of the systemic inequality of justice and violence against black people perpetrated by the police force. It astounded and saddened me that people twist it around to make it seem like they're being disrespectful and unpatriotic to make such a protest during the National Anthem. 

I got into a little bit of a tiff with someone when I said that Trump had the right to say the things he said. I felt like it was hypocritical to say that the players had a right to protest but he wasn't allowed to call them names or to suggest they be fired. My argument was that he wrote tweets, he didn't make any presidential declaration or exercise any power. I don't agree with him in the slightest, but I do respect his right to be the biggest asshole he wants to be. That's what America is all about; being the biggest asshole you want to be. 

I'm so glad I have Nia and great friends and colleagues that love and support me. This weekend was a turbulent one, but I'm glad I did it and I look forward to doing it again (and again). 

As I write this, it is Monday and marks the first day of the penultimate week of this trip. I've driven about 8300 miles so far and have done six of the eight weeks. I'm still having a great time, but also really looking forward to being home. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Farmington to Santa Fe - Nia in Albuquerque

After publishing my blog entry last night, I took a walk to the water dispenser and River kept stopping to scratch himself on the way back. He doesn't scratch himself often, so it was really odd that he did it several times in the course of one block. 

So when we got back to the motel room, I decided we needed a spa day and gave us both a coconut oil rubdown and vinegar rinse. 

I got the lion's share of the coconut oil. I put it all over my skin and in my nose and I ate a spoonful of it and pulled another spoonful through my teeth. I fed River a big blob of it from my hand and then rubbed the residue all on his body, rubbing it down onto his skin as best I could. He doesn't care for being oiled. I love it!

I filled the ice bucket with warm water and dropped a quarter cup of vinegar into it and lifted it by the handful onto River's fur and rubbed it in all over. He doesn't mind that as much as the coconut oil, though I think he'd still prefer I didn't do any of it. I let him drink some of the vinegar water, which he enjoyed until he didn't. I rubbed the vinegar water into my scalp, too.

I dried River gingerly and then hopped in a hot shower to liquify the coconut oil. I was still oily when I got out of the shower, but wiped the rest off with a towel as I dried myself. 

In the morning, River woke me up asking for his breakfast, so I fed him and made my coffee and breakfast. And that's when I saw a flea on him! He's never had a flea in his life! I was shocked. I may have seen two, in fact. I saw one, and then I lost it in his fur. And then I saw another one, or that same one again. 
I verified it was indeed a flea by squashing it between my fingernail and thumbnail. I'm no expert, but it felt like a flea. The whole rest of the day, I was obsessively looking for another one and never saw one. And he stopped scratching himself, even though I noticed later that his skin was dry and flaky. 

It was a three hour drive to Albuquerque and then another hour on to Santa Fe. I got started a little before noon. 

The main event today was teaching Nia at Move!
I got to the space really early and took River for several excursions around the shopping mall we were in. I'm glad for the covered overhang as the New Mexico sun was relentless. It was only in the high 80s, though, so not uncomfortable at all as long as you didn't hang out in the direct sun.

River did a weird and unusual thing on our walk. He's usually very aware of a pole or a tree or something coming in between him and me, and he'll know to walk on the same side of the object as me. Or if he forgets, it takes only a wave of my hand in the right direction and he walks around the object and we're free to proceed.

But today, he stood and stared at me as I gestured. He acted like we had never established this routine. He stood dumbfounded and panting, not knowing what to do. I gestured over and over and finally I said, "go around" which prompted him to take a trip the wrong way around the poll. I stopped him with a "NO" and when he looked back at me, I gestured the other way and said to go around, but he stared stupidly at me. I was embarrassed for him, but I wanted to give him the chance to succeed, so I waited it out. We were there at least fifteen minutes. At one point, he was wrapped entirely around the pole with the leash catching his face in the knot. Finally, I had to reach over and give him a nudge in the right direction followed by some gestures and commands and then he was free.

He was fine in the crate during class.

I was having a heck of a time in class for some reason today. I had left my Spotify on shuffle from listening to it as a radio in the car, and it took me a while to figure out how to get it to play straight through.
I kept missing my cues. Not that it mattered that much, but I totally blew both of my trouble songs in this routine, "To Let Myself Go" and "Mi Mujer".  But we had fun and I'm sure no one knew I flubbed except me.

During the second to last song, I noticed that I had blown through the crotch in my black and gold rock and roll pants. I could see the bright yellow of my underwear when I squatted down or if I spread my legs in FloorPlay. So I was careful to keep myself facing away from the group or keeping my legs together for the last songs. I only wonder when that crotch blew out. Did I flash anyone?  Jeez.

I've only worn those pants maybe four times. I think I might send them back to the manufacturer and let them know they can't handle me.

I somehow went way over time and the students for the next class started piling in the room as we were finishing, so I sort of had to rush the ending of the routine which is designed to be a very meditative and luxurious moment.

The students overall seemed to have a good time and it was really fun to dance with them. I got lots of smiles and good compliments afterward and some of us posed for a picture outside the studio.

River was really impatient as I put him in the car and then went back for the picture. From under the shopping mall parking lot overhang, his barks echoed throughout the whole area. He was being dramatic. And when I did finally get back to the car, he wasn't done. He barked right in my face as I was trying to give him kisses. I got the message and picked up his chew toy which we went at ferociously and loudly.

I let him walk around in Albuquerque for just a little bit in case he had to pee, but then we got in the car and drove to Santa Fe.

After checking in and feeding him, I took River for a long walk down Cerrillos Rd.

He was in one of those moods where he doesn't want to be with me; he wanted to be twenty feet ahead of me. So I allowed it. We have a thirty foot leash.

At one point he stopped and was really interested in this bush. I looked in to see what he was attracted to and thought, 'that looks like jeans... OMG that's a person asleep in the bush!" We moved right along!

River took me quite a way in this manner. For a long time he seemed driven toward something. Usually it means he's got to find the right spot to poo, so I just let him go.

But then he did his third strange thing of the day. After trotting for a good fifteen minutes solid, he came to a sudden stop, froze, and raised his head, his nostrils pulsating. For a few seconds he sniffed, facing across a major, six lane road to something on the other side in the direction of the Goodwill shop.

Then just as suddenly he was back to his determined forward trotting. He was going to head into the Taco Bell parking lot but I put the kibosh on that, so he turned around and found himself again facing the Goodwill 200 yards away. And again he froze and worked his nose. I watched for a while and then tried to urge him to move, but he didn't hear me. He remained transfixed by the thrift store.

After a while he folded himself nearly in half sideways to he could glare at the Taco Bell directly behind him and held that side bend for maybe fifteen seconds before he completely shifted.

He then fell into 'heel' formation at my right side and walked at my side in the direction back toward our motel. I think he would have walked right by my side the whole time except that we saw a person walking several dogs at once. The sight was too much for him to process, so we broke into a run away.

This is something he's been doing lately, which I love. This is the third time that he has spotted a dog and not only just avoided a confrontation by ignoring it, but actively ran in the opposite direction to get away from it. He's learning to handle his fear in a different way. Flight over fight; a way I fully support! So we ran the rest of the way to our front door.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Shopping in Farmington and Navajo Lake State Park

Today is another day without obligation and no relocating. I started the day by stocking up again at Natural Grocers and then coming back to the room to eat breakfast.

Through experimentation, I learned that if you add Italian sausage to tomato bisque, you get something akin to pizza soup.  Yum!

Then, the plan for today was to visit Navajo Lake State Park. I'm not sure the place we ended up going was technically allowed.  The hill we climbed down to reach the beach was very steep and rocky and we both lost our footing a few times on the way down. It wasn't until we were finished thoroughly exploring the lakeshore that we noticed the staircase, which would have been a much easy way to get down, though not nearly as fun. 

Yesterday, I thought I heard Babe give me the sound she gives when I'm low on gas. But I wasn't low on gas, so I thought maybe I had imagined it.  But then I heard it again today and couldn't tell why.  Both times it occurred just as I was starting the car. So the third time I started the car and heard the tone again, I noticed that the "Time For Service" light was on. It's the reminder that it is time to take her into Mini for her regular scheduled maintenance.

There is a Mini dealer in Santa Fe and I have all of Thursday off when I"m there, so it works out perfectly (once again) that I have time and there is a nearby facility whenever I'm having car issues. So I made an appointment for Thursday morning.

I'm starting to feel that dried out feeling I get in the desert. My nose feels raw and like I need to blow it; and when I do, blood comes out. I think I'll give myself a full body coconut oil rub tonight, including the inside of my nose.

Nia in Durango - Dolores River Trail Park

It is a luxury on these trips when I can stay in a motel room for more than one night. I appreciate and relish not having to pack up the car and check in to a new room.  So this week, I'm living like a king while I stay in the Motel 6 in Farmington, NM for four nights!!

The main reason I'm staying here is that I'm teaching Nia in Durango on Monday morning. 

It was about an hour drive to Durango, so I got an early start. It was cold! This high desert weather... I forget how much the temperature drops when the sun goes down.  I was shivering as I parked in front of the studio and walked River on the dewey wet grass.

The class was delightful. The gang at Durango Nia are strong and playful and willing to try new things. Evonne has a strong group of devoted students and many of them remembered me from the three or four past times I had taught there. 

In the room, before class started, and also during the first few songs, the sun was streaming in the windows, creating swatches of warm light and dramatically lighting the dancing bodies from behind. It was almost surreal in the beauty.

After class, I was planning to go to one of my favorite and most memorable burger places from my burger-eating adventures of last year, but when it came time to do it, I couldn't bring myself to it. I had a polar reaction to my burger gluttony last year and since I had gone this far on the trip without having a burger, I decided to keep that abstinence going. 

I didn't have anything to eat (I had eaten an apple before class) and instead I took off for an afternoon at the park. 

I had originally intended to go visit Four Corners, but after talking to locals and reading more about it, I decided it was going to be boring, so instead, I set my sights on Canyons of the Ancients, a National Monument in southwestern Colorado that I somehow missed on my National Parks tour last year. 

Along the way, I passed Mesa Verde National Park, which I went to twice last year.  And I stopped at a rest area on the way so River could relieve himself. As he did that, I was checking my phone to hone in on exactly where the entrance is to this major attraction. The location of the National Parks are often not obvious and difficult to find on my Mini Nav, so I've learned it's easiest to determine what town the entrance is in and just navigate to that town, keeping an eye open for signs. 

So I set the navigation for Dolores, CO.

Just as we entered Dolores, and having still seen no indication of where to find the entrance to Canyons of the Ancients, I noticed a beautifully big grassy park with access to a river. It was perfect for us!  I was concerned that River was going to be prohibited from most of the Canyons of the Ancients, as is often the case with artifacts, and that there would be no shade and the grounds would be harsh with rocks, dirt, brush and cacti. So we stopped instead at the Dolores River Trail Park. There was access to a fishing spot at the far end of the grass. There was parking near the river access, but I thought it would be more fun to park at the other end of the huge lawn and take a long walk to the river.

We spent a good, long time there. Although we didn't spend much time in the river because it was obviously melted snow and was extremely cold. Also, River was a bit uncomfortable around all the guys fishing, so we just got our feet wet and then spent the rest of the day playing on the grass and climbing on the big rocks. 

After all of our playing, as we sat in the shady, I realized it was almost 3pm and I still hadn't eaten. I was getting a headache and had no food in the car. I drove home (nearly a 90 minute drive) with a growing painful headache that didn't go away once I finally ate.

I suffered for a while, stretching, taking a hot shower, drinking lots of water and massaging my scalp and neck, but I couldn't relieve the headache. Finally I relented and took a couple of aspirin, which helped. 

I was going to do a load of laundry, but I saw a sign on one dryer saying "The dryers are out of order." I double-checked at the front desk that the pluralization on the sign was accurate and both of the dryers weren't working. She said she didn't know. I asked her if there was someone she could call to find out for me. She called the manager who told her that the serviceman had just come and worked on the equipment so that the top dryer is working.

I was glad to hear that and set about getting my load in the wash. The first machine I opened smelled like a science experiment gone bad. Like water had been sitting dormant in there for years. It was awful, musty and mildewy. I opened the other one and stuck my head in to take a big sniff, but it smelled fine, so I used that one. 

When I went back to retrieve my clothes from the dryer after a full 45 minute cycle, I was bummed to feel that they were not completely dry. I took the load back to the room and folded the pieces that had gotten dry and hung up the ones that were still damp. 

While I was out, I left River in the room alone. Usually he just sits and waits, staring at the door until I return, but on this last trip, he got frisky and found his way into my cooler. I had left it unzipped. He pulled out a couple of packages of my instant oatmeal and tore them open, leaving a big pile of oatmeal on the floor in front of the door. So while I know I was partially to blame for leaving him access to my food, he lost his privilege to be outside the crate when I leave the room. 

After dinner, we took a walk down the street. One of my favorite features of this particular Motel 6 is that there is a filtered water vending machine half a block away. And it's only a quarter for a gallon of water! I think I end up drinking more water just because it's so convenient to refill.

I like to see the signs welcoming people to the town. Oftentimes there is also a slogan that speaks to how beautiful the town is, or how friendly the people are. The sentiment is usually that its a nice place to live. But here in Farmington, the welcome sign has a different perspective. The slogan is "Jolt Your Journey" which makes me think that this is a good town to score some crack on your way through, but not necessarily a place I'd want to settle down.