Friday, August 18, 2017

Billings to Riverton - Nia in Billings

We woke up and went for a morning walk in Billings. In the parking lot across the street, I saw a rabbit bouncing away from us, but River was so preoccupied with whatever I smelled in a bush that he didn't see it. When he was satisfied with the bush exploration, I led him in the direction of the rabbit. I found it crouched down, playing dead. I pointed River at it, but he never even saw it. Kudos, Mr. Rabbit; your camouflage technique really works.

I had to check out of the motel at noon, but class wasn't until 4:30, so I had time to do some food shopping and fill up my water jugs at the local food co-op and get dog food at a boutique pet food store.
Food @ Good Earth Market, Billings
Dog Food @ Lovable Pets Bakery; 1313 Grand Ave.; Billings

Inside the pet store there were at least three off leash dogs that came to greet us at the door. The smallest of the dogs yipped aggressively, which panicked River. I had to pull him away to a corner of the store and appease him, while the clerk picked up the offensive dog and  held it behind the counter. Other big dogs moseyed over but sensed River's tension and didn't stick around. 
As I paid for my purchase a man came in with a small dog on a leash. That dog wasn't in the least concerned with River, which allowed him to calmly sniff her. It warmed my heart to see River actually interacting with another dog in a normal, socially acceptable way. 
We paid and left and I gave him lots of praise for being a good dog. 

We still had lots of time before class, so I stopped at the nearest park and we hung out on the grass under a tree for about three hours. 

At one point, a dog from on the other side of a fence saw us and engaged River in a barking contest. River bolted toward the dog and I reflexively grabbed his leash, which ripped through my hand, giving me open, wet third degree burns on the fingers of my left hand. Luckily, I travel with a small supply of band-aids, so I was able to cover it up while the skin grows back. I"ll spare you the visual. 

Nia @ Sky Studio: Billings
Finally, it was time for class. We had a nice passionate group of dancers and had a great time doing the Amazing routine. It is one of only two times I'm teaching this routine on tour this year. It felt good to bring it out again.
After class we returned to the same park so I could have a meal. I ate some of the salami I got at the store that afternoon, with bread, avocado, and sauerkraut.
It was about 7pm before I got back on the road and a good five hours drive to Riverton. But we puled into the Motel 6 at midnight.
They were all out of downstairs rooms, and the one room they had was on the other side of the property from the spiral staircase. Fortunately, I discovered a back lot with a hidden staircase leading right up to near the door to my room. Score!
Once we were loaded into the room, I ate and showered and fell right to sleep.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Butte to Billings - Nia in Helena

Nia at Gentle Healing 

Butte to Helena is a relatively short drive. I allowed myself two hours and was plenty early. 
We parked nearby and sat in the sun until it was time to head to class.
Kathryn Kelley, who set me up in her space, had a client and couldn't be in my class, but she was there to greet me and introduce me to the class, and I had a designated assistant, so all went smoothly. 
We had a full room and a lot of moving centers. 
No pictures. 

One student was a sister of someone who had taken my class in Hayden the day before. She called her after my class and told her she HAD to come. She did, and she said afterward that she loved it. "It was exercise and it felt good!" I think she might have become a regular at Gentle Healing.

And there was also a guy in class. He was glad to see me, and I was glad that he was a part of the Nia community there, in Helena. And I think they like getting some male energy in there for balance.

The long part of the drive was ahead. From Helena to Billings is a long haul.

I broke it up with stops every two hours or so.

About an hour out, I stopped for lunch in Townsend and River and I ate in the pristine Veterans Memorial Park.

I stopped two more times at rest areas we both walked and stretched and shook and ran and peed (in different places) drank some water and relaxed in the grass under a shady tree.

The smoke-filled air made for a pink-and-orange sunset as we pulled in the familiar Motel 6 in Billings. I'm not sure if River realizes it when we go back to locations we've been at before. And if he does, how it affects him.

I feel it. When we pulled into this one it felt a lot more homey. Of the three Motel 6s we've visited so far on this trip, this is the first one that we've stayed in before.  So I can compare the feeling of driving up and explore a new location, and the feeling of driving up to a place that looks familiar before I even get to the property. I recognize the neighborhood and start to feel all welcome. I'm not saying the exploring feeling is better or worse than the comfortable feeling. But they're different. And I don't really notice any behavior in River that would indicate its a big deal for him either.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Seattle to Moses Lake -- Nia in Leavenworth

I allowed myself three hours to get to the space, when Google said I only needed about 2:20.  All was going smoothly until I was about half an hour away from Leavenworth and saw a sign saying to "Expect 40 Minute Delays".   Some quick math told me I couldn't afford 40 minutes, so it was a been worrisome. I didn't fret too much, as I tend to wait until the last minute before panicking. Before I knew it, I was passing the sign that said to "Follow the Pilot Car".  Without even noticing a break in the flow of traffic, I zoomed back a long line of cars waiting to drive the opposite direction. I guess they'd been there a while because some of them were getting out of their cars and stretching. 

And I made it to the studio in plenty of time.

It was a full weekend of events that Gayle Holeton put together at the Icicle Creek Center for the Arts. The center is a campsite, and all of the event halls are like cabins. I really appreciate the cool, crisp, blue sky in Leavenworth, especially after the horrible week Seattle has had. 

I taught a FloorPlay class and didn't really have a plan, but threw together some of my favorite FloorPlay songs and some selections from the event I taught last year in Santa Fe. We played, and made-believe, laughed and sweat. The focus was on comparing the horizontal energy (playful) with the vertical energy (mature). 

River was a little bit antsy in his cage. I don't blame him. It usually takes a day or two of awkwardness before we get into the flow of the road life. I felt it too. Everything just seems a little bit off and difficult. But once everything finds its place again, the flow feeling takes over and we surf on the joy of the vagabond life. 

I stayed after my FloorPlay class for a session on Feldenkrais - Awareness Through Movement. Ava, I think was her name, and she led a beautiful lesson. I always get so much out of doing Feldenkrais work with a skilled facilitator. 

I snuck out in between sessions to grab some food on a picnic table I found in between several of the cabin buildings. River hung out on the grass while I ate some eggs, greens, avocado and bread. I gave him a nice long rest in the grass, and we climbed on a big rock, before we went back into the studio.

The next session was about Ayurveda. since I was letting River decompress in nature, I missed the beginning, but I'm already pretty well versed in the basics and she seemed to still be on the basics when I arrived. We eventually got to play around with the different styles of music and movement according to Ayurveda. 

And after that session was my class. I thought about continuing the Ayurveda thing as a focus in my class, but I decided to let it rest and I focused instead on Moving Slowly During Quick Movements. I explained how if we increase our awareness, moments seem to take longer. And we applied that to what we noticed as we danced. 

Nia at Icicle Creek Center for the Arts

After the big day of events, we all went to Craig and Robin's house where they had a big spread and barbequed burgers in their beautiful garden. I took River for a walk before we went inside, and then we went right through the house to the backyard where I ran around with him on the grass for a while. 

We all ate, River sat at my feet, and had deep conversations until the sun was starting to set. Then I excused myself because I still had another two hours to drive to Moses Lake. 
On the way to Moses Lake, I passed by a big dam. It was dark so I didn't take a picture, but it was cool. I got in late and crashed as soon as we got to the room. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Embracing My Weirdness

J P Sears is a YouTube personality. I consider him a mentor of mine even though we've never met because I faithfully watch his videos and get inspired by his thoughtful insights.

He is a satirist, so he uses humor to make his very powerful points and cultural comments. His messages speak strongly to me. He uses a character that he calls 'His Enlightenedness -The Ultra Spiritual J P Sears'. If you don't think that's funny then maybe you won't appreciate his humor.

But as I said, through the humor Sears makes very deep and thought provoking observations. Today I saw his post of a TedTalk he gave called Embracing Your Inner Weirdness. It was eye-opening to me and gave me a different perspective. He offered a yardstick to measure my own spiritual fortitude, and I'm afraid I came up a little bit shorter than I had hoped and expected....

Let me explain

find and comment on my post on Facebook--click here and let me know how you think I'm weird.

Here is J P Sears' serious website.

And here is a link to his funny YouTube channel.  I hope you enjoy him as I do. Not everyone seems to get it. But that's just because they're not Ultra Spiritual. ;)

What is Online Personal Training?

In the modern age, it is possible for me to work with people from all over the world. Until the advent of the internet, I was limited to those people within my physical vicinity.  But for the past several years, I've been developing my skills as a remote health and fitness coach.

I specialize in helping people understand what choices they should be making in order to get the results that they want. Whether they want to lose weight, gain muscle, do better in golf, sleep better, have more energy or just be in a better mood, I can help.  I have three specific and unique ways to offer my help at varying degrees.

First of all, I have put together a program that I call "Transformation." It is designed to address what I consider all of the aspects of a healthful lifestyle. These are the things that I have seen, in the decades of working as a personal trainer, that get in the way of people getting the results they want. For example, people come to me frustrated that they can't lose weight, but they refuse to have a discussion about changing their diet because they've determined that they want to exercise the fat away. Or someone who wants to have more muscles but refuses to get the proper amount of sleep or drink sufficient amounts of water.  All of these seemingly small things are necessary to get in place before you can reap the benefits of a healthful lifestyle, which is vibrant, glowing health.

So I put together a three-month long, step by step guide to getting ALL of those important and often overlooked factors into place. It seems very simple, but it will actually multiply by manyfold the results that you get from the simple activities that you may already be doing in order to achieve your health and fitness goals.

Each day, you will get a lengthy, informative and inspirational email from me about one topic at a time. Simply by reading and understanding each email, and following the simple advise for making gradual changes to your habits, you will feel your life, health, wellness and attitude improving. And you will find more joy and ease in what you do and will certainly see better results in your training.

The program lasts for three months and costs less than $100 total. In addition to my verbose emails, you also have access to me, personally. You are invited to respond to any of the 90 emails in the program and ask me a question, challenge a concept or ask for help in understanding or applying anything I brought up.

You can sign up for the program and begin taking charge of your health immediately by visiting this link. More info about the Transformation Program.  At the bottom of the page is a PayPal button with some older prices on it. You can use that button, if you want to pay a couple of dollar extra. But if you want to use my updated rate of $97 instead of $99, then after you read all about my program on that page, return to this one where I have installed a PayPal button reflecting my current rate of $97.

Another thing that I'm doing is offering a more personalized one-on-one experience with me. While the Transformation program takes you on a prescribed journey, this one-on-one experience is going to be 100% tailored to you and your needs and individuality.

I will begin by finding out as much as I can about you, including what you want to achieve, what you're willing to do to get that, what you've tried in the past and many of your beliefs about why you haven't been able to achieve it on your own. Once we've determined the best way I can help you, I will make you videos, or write you long descriptive essays that will get you on the right track to getting exactly what you want.

Thanks to modern technology, like YouTube, DropBox, Facebook Live, Skype and the like, I can see what you're doing in order to give you notes, encouragement, challenges and advice. And I can demonstrate to you what I'm asking you to do. I can prescribe exercises and give you nutritional guidelines as well as address the little things that I spoke of in the Transformation program.

Due to the intensely high level of participation in this Online Personal Training program, I limit myself to ten clients active at any given time. And I have room for a few more at this time, so if you're at all interested in this, I encourage you to get started.

Procrastination is our worst enemy. Do NOT wait until you 'are ready'.  The truth is, life will always be a distraction and that fact is built into my style of working. I go into this work knowing that everyone's life feels like it's as full as it can possibly be and there is no room for adding lots more to it. But my speciality is finding ways and getting results.

I literally started studying health and fitness when I was ten years old. I was a young fan of Jack LaLanne and also a follower of Charles Atlas. I have studied from east to west; from Ayurveda and Yoga to the Paleo Diet and HIIT and everything in between. From this vast array of influences and mentors, I am able to customize a program for anyone, as long as they're clear on what they want. And even if they're not clear, I've been trained in methods that will help us get to the bottom of that question, as well.

So if you want to get started, taking charge of your health and fitness but don't know where to start, or simply if you want some guidance, encouragement, accountability and motivation, stop thinking about it and sign up for some Online Personal Training with JAG.  We can get started as soon as today!!

My rates are $197 to start. This covers the first two months of one-on-one training. After that, continuing to work with me only costs $79/month.  My intention is to educate you and get you started and then send you on your way. It is not my goal to find clients for life. I will work with you as long as you want or need, but I"m not one of those that attempts to build dependence on me into my programming.

If you have any questions, fire away.  I'm eager to get working with you.

To sign up now, for the Transformation or to get started with Online Personal Training, click here.


And the final way that some people have enjoyed working with me is by joining JAGs Video Club.
This is for people who don't need a lot of guidance, as there is none in this program. Some people just want some movement ideas and motivation, so they should have access to a program that costs a lot less than it does working one-on-one, or even on a program that I've painstakingly written and organized to produce health-bringing effects. But this program is more self-guided. It is basically me showing you what I do in my studio, for my own workouts. I'm not advising, coaching or recommending, but letting you see behind the curtain.
For $13 per month, I'll send three monthly videos. Each one is between thirty and sixty minutes and is an unedited depiction of exactly what I do to stay in shape. Some videos will be of me dancing, which I use a great deal to promote muscle tone, agility, coordination and cardiovascular health. Some will be of me stretching and / or recovering, which is a crucial aspect of my program. Other videos will show me doing strength exercises or high intensity metabolic types of workouts. I use very little equipment, so most of the time you should be able to emulate what I do on your own.
But let me emphasize once more that in JAGs Video Club you are on your own to use what I send you however you see fit.
Use this button to sign up for that and I'll see to it that you get your first three videos right away.

I hope to work with you. It gives my life purpose when I am helping others find what I've found. Let me show you. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Where the Heck Are JAG & River? Aug - Oct 2017

MON - AUG 14
drive: Seattle to Leavenworth (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Leavenworth @ 12pm / 5 pm -  Gayle^
drive: Leavenworth to Moses Lake (2 hrs)

drive: Moses Lake to Hayden (2.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Hayden @ 10:30 - Jamie^
drive: Hayden to Butte (4.5 hrs)

WED - AUG 16
drive: Butte to Helena (1 hr)
teach: Nia in Helena @ 2:00pm - Kathryn^
drive: Helena to Billings (3.75 hrs)

shop: food, dog food, water
teach: Nia in Billings @ 4:30pm - Sue^
drive: Billings to Riverton (4.5 hrs)

FRI - AUG 18
drive: Riverton to Evanston (3.75 hrs)
visit: Bear River State Park, WY

SAT - AUG 19
teach: Nia in Evanston @ 9:30am - Lisa^
drive: Evanston to Fort Collins (5.5 hrs)

SUN - AUG 20
teach: Nia in Lyons  10:15 - Jasmine^
visit: Rocky Mountain Nat Park
shop: food, water, dog food

MON - AUG 21
drive: Fort Collins to Omaha (7.5 hrs)
***SOLAR ECLIPSE***viewing in North Platte

teach: Nia in Lincoln @ 8:30 am - Holly^
visit: Platte River State Park, NE

WED - AUG 23
drive: Omaha to St. Paul (6 hrs)
teach: Nia in Minnepolis @ 7:30 pm - Beth^
shop: food, dog food, water

teach: Nia in Minneapolis @ 8:00 am - Amy^
drive: Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids (4.25 hrs)

FRI - AUG 25
visit: Lake MacBride State Park
teach: Nia in Coralville @ 6:00 pm - Beth^

SAT - AUG 26
drive: Cedar Rapids to Hazelwood (4.5 hrs)
visit: Wakonda State Park

SUN - AUG 27
teach: Nia in Edwardsville @ 10:00am - Sally^
teach: Nia in Edwardsville @ 12:30 pm - Sally^

MON - AUG 28
teach: Nia in Edwardsville @ 8:15am - Sally^
shop: dog food, food, water
drive: Hazelwood to Jeffersonville (4.5 hrs)
visit: Hoosier National Forest

teach: Nia in Louisville @ 6:00pm - Maria^

WED - AUG 30
drive: Jeffersonville to Grove City (3.5 hrs)

shop: food, dog food, water
teach: Nia in Columbus @ 7:00 pm - Trish^

drive: Grove City to Sandston (7 hrs)
visit: Shenandoah National Park

teach: Nia in Richmond @11:30am -  Felicia^

drive: Richmond to Charlotte (5 hrs)
shop: dog food, groceries and water
teach: Nia in Charlotte @ 6:45 pm - Sherrie^

drive: Charlotte to Myrtle Beach (5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Myrtle Beach @ 4:30 pm -  Mary^
drive: Myrtle Beach to Florence (1.5 hrs)

drive: Florence to Norcross (4.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Tucker @ 7:00 pm - Sandy^

drive: Norcross to Attalla (3 hrs)
visit: Talladega National Forest; Lake Howard

drive: Attalla to Cullman (1 hr)
teach: Nia in Cullman @ 10:00am - Ann
drive: Cullman to Ocean Springs (5 hrs)

shop: dog food, water and groceries
visit: Ocean Springs Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore

drive: Ocean Springs to Houston (7 hrs)

teach: Nia in Houston @ 9:15am - Angela
visit: city parks

drive: Houston to Corpus Christi (3.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Rockport @ 4:30 - Diane / Dorene

visit: South Padre Island Nat'l Seashore
drive: Corpus Christi to San Antonio (2.5 hrs)

teach: Nia in San Antonio @ 9:15 - Adelle^
shop: dog food, groceries and water
teach: Nia in San Antonio @ 5:30 - Adelle^

drive: San Antonio to Irving (4.5 hrs)

teach: Nia in Dallas @ 9:45 am - Jule
drive: Irving to Amarillo (5.5 hrs)

drive: Amarillo to Farmington (7 hrs)

shop: food, water, dog food
visit: Four Corners

teach: Nia in Durango @ 9:00 am - Evonne^
visit: Navajo Lake State Park

visit: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

drive: Farmington to Albuquerque (3 hrs)
teach: Nia in Albuquerque @ 4:30 - Erin^
drive: Albuquerque to Santa Fe (1 hr)

THUR - SEPT 21 through MON - SEPT 25
teach: Nia in Santa Fe

drive: Santa Fe to Flagstaff (6 hrs)
visit: Historic US Route 66

teach: Nia in Sedona - Alba *TBD

drive: Flagstaff to Carlsbad (7.5 hrs)
visit: Historic US Route 66

teach: Nia in Carlsbad @ 9:30 am - Lisa-Anne^
shop: groceries, water and dog food

~~~Yom Kippur~~~
drive: Carlsbad to Van Nuys (2.5 hrs)
visit: Pacific Beaches

teach: Nia in LA @ 2:00 pm - Paula^

visit: Pacific Beaches
drive: Van Nuys to Santa Barbara (2.5 hrs)

shop: groceries, water and dog food

drive: Santa Barbara to Vacaville (6 hrs)

teach: Nia in Walnut Creek @ 10:00am - Danielle^
teach: private Nia training - Miki

drive: Vacaville to Nevada City (1.5 hrs)
teach: Nia in Nevada City @ 8:30 am - Aimee^
drive: Nevada City to Eureka (5.5 hrs)

teach: Nia in Eureka - Rose
drive: Eureka to Springfield (5.5 hrs)
visit: Oregon Coast

teach: Nia in Eugene @ 11:00  Amy
teach: Nia in Pleasant Hills @ 5:00 pm - Kellie^
drive: Eugene to Portland (2 hrs)
visit: Oregon Coast

teach: Nia in Portland @ 5:45pm - Samantha^
drive: Portland to Seattle (4 hrs)

co-teach: Nia in Seattle with Jennifer Lucero-Earle 

and then JAG is starting a new and ongoing class!! 
Tuesdays at 6 - 7 pm 
Sundays at 10:30 - 11:30 am
at Balance Studio in Fremont
418 N 35th St.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An Invitation to Collaborate

I want to collaborate with another Nia teacher, or group of Nia teachers, on creating an original Nia routine.

Here is my story: I first got my Nia White Belt in 1996.

Prior to discovering Nia I was an aerobics instructor and was choreographing my classes regularly. I had also spent several years studying dance; ballet, jazz and modern. While I never attempted to choreograph outside of the realm of a fitness class, I was certainly exposed to learning a lot of choreography and was very familiar with the language of dance.

So when I returned home from the White Belt, I immediately put together a Nia routine. I was busy learning my first two routines, which were Genesis and Roots, but I also used the sample workout spelled out in a section of the original "Nia Technique" book. I used some of my favorite music and created a routine I called Orbit.

After that, I didn't create my own routine again for several years. I was busy learning all of the official Nia routines I could. In those early years, I learned:

Spiritual High
Trance Vision

I learned an average of four a year and at the advice of my trainers (Debbie and Carlos) I rarely taught anything but the full routines as they were given to me. I didn't make it a habit to switch out songs that I didn't like or that were challenging to me. I made a commitment to stick with it and learn from it. I feel like it was those songs that I most resisted that offered me the greatest learning potential.

It was a few years later, after I became a Brown Belt that I put together my second routine, which I called Adagio. It not only used the song of the same name, as created by Debbie, but also used my own choreography to a song from Heartland by Tim Wheater (from the Sounding routine which I had gotten at my Brown Belt but not learned yet). Adagio didn't prove to have staying power and has since fallen off my repertoire.

By this time, I was feeling confident enough to start to mix and match songs from official Nia routines to create new experiences. Even many years later, after earning my Black Belt, I still mainly taught official Nia routine songs, pieced together, and peppered with my own creations, occasionally. I remember at one point, someone told me that Caroline Kohles had advised her to look to me as an example of someone who teaches whole complete routines.

I feel like this path helped me forge a very strong connection to what a Nia routine should feel like and what elements it needs to contain. I got a visceral sense of a "Vertical Routine" and the manner in which Nia choreography synchronizes to music.

I continued this way for several years until I reached a point that I was growing uninspired by the new routines. I thought maybe I had burned out of Nia and was considering hanging up my belt and finding a new way to make a living. Despite this, and with some goading and bribery, Helen Terry, convinced me to attend a Men of Nia event at SomaRanch in Texas.

As part of the weekend, she presented her Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon routine. And this was just the spark of inspiration I needed!  I remember having the thought, "We can do that??!"  And this opened up a whole new avenue of exploration for me. I was fired up again and ready to create my own routines.

Since that fateful event, I have been creating my own, entirely original Nia routines at the rate of at least one per year. My emphasis was on pop and rock music and most of my routines focused on a particular decade:

Woodstock - (60s)
Rockin - (70s)
Frankie Say Nia - (80s)

After a few years of that, I started to get the feeling I wanted to collaborate. I began what I called the "Community Network Synergy" project, which eventually grew into the wonderful "Amazing" routine. This was my first official collaboration, with 13 different Nia communities, and it was much more rewarding than I ever imagined.

Around that same time, I also had an idea that I wanted to create a routine with all classical music, but I had a heck of a time getting anywhere on that project until I mentioned it to a colleague. She had had the same idea, but also wasn't able to get any traction on it. When we put our heads together, it was the inspiration that both of us needed, and we put together a gorgeous routine in just a matter of a couple of months. We worked entirely online, never meeting face to face during the whole process. The resulting "Orchestra" routine was sublime, and better, I think, than anything either of us could have put together on our own.

My next project was something I'd wanted to do for a long time, and that is to take an existing routine and find all new music for it, keeping the same movements. We call that 'adapting' a routine. I fell in love with the Deep Dive routine, so that's the first one I did. Funny enough, it was during the process of searching for appropriate music for that, that I serendipitously put together a whole playlist of songs that I wasn't going to use for one reason or another. Also, by accident, I discovered that this auxiliary playlist worked beautifully as an adaptation of another classic favorite routine, Fantasia. So I simultaneously adapted two routines and will present them both on my 2017 road trip as Profound and Fantastic.

And now I want to collaborate again. So I'm putting out an invitation to any Nia teacher who is motivated to create. Let's work together. I'm not sure how it will manifest, but I want to give it a shot. I have some music that I want to use, but I also want to hear what music excites you. What I love about collaborating is that it gets me outside of my world and expands my creative output.

So if you're ready to create with me, get in touch and let's get started.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Moses Lake to Butte - Nia in Hayden

I woke up early in Moses Lake, WA and drove to Hayden, ID without incident. 

I taught class and we had a blast. I used the focus of Moving Centers for Fantasic. I wanted to get a group shot after class, and I set up my movie camera to capture our movements. I framed us and then when I got in place in the photo, I crouched down so I wasn't blocking people behind me.  But everyone followed suit and we were all crouched down for no reason. haha.

They're a really fun group and always give a very warm welcome.

I hung around on the big lawn in front of the fitness center and let River chase me, and a stick, and a leaf, and whatever we could find. Then we took a nice, long drive to Butte, MT.
We stopped a three rest areas for eating and stretching and relieving ourselves.
We drove through the smoke that I thought I had left behind in Seattle. It was really bad at one point and then by the time I got to Butte it wasn't quite as bad. But it wasn't as pristine as Leavenworth, nor as Seattle by the time I left. I hope I'm not following the plumes eastward.

I have a microwave in the room so I heated up some of my soup and sausage for dinner before taking River for a stroll around Butte. It seems to be a big mining town. The town symbol is an oil well.
I'm staying in 'uptown' which I guess is the old-town.

I called this an oil well, but have since learned, it is not a driller, but it's a framework that holds a pulley system attached to a platform. The platform was used to lower men and mules down into the copper mines, and to pull the loads of ore back up.  I'm told they decorate the structures for Christmastime.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Comparing Grocery Delivery Services

I've tried a few of the grocery delivery services and am going to compare them here.

This post compares:
Full Circle
Blue Apron
Hello Fresh
Sun Basket

Full Circle 

While the other three services are more of a full menu service, this one is a simple produce delivery service that buys from local farmers and puts together a box of locally sourced produce once a week. I used to love getting these boxes.  I don't mind having to come up with my own recipes and buy my meat and grains separately.
PRO: organic, local produce
CON: not a lot of variety, as the emphasis was on locally grown produce
          I eventually had to stop taking delivery from them because I couldn't communicate to the driver how it was important to lock the gate behind them after leaving the box. After several warnings, I finally had to cancel for fear of my neighbors having stuff stolen from the garage.

Hello Fresh

With this service, you choose how many meals you want per week and they deliver everything you need (except salt, pepper and olive oil) to create those menus at home. It was fun to make. The recipes were easy to follow and the food tasted great. I learned about new ingredients and even learned some cool cooking techniques from following the step by step recipes.

On the downside, I was disturbed by the large amount of packaging. For example, if a recipe called for an egg, a single egg would arrive in its own package. Everything, from a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of rice or a single clove of garlic would all come individually packaged.

There were instructions on how to recycle the packaging, which included two very large freezer gel blocks. The instructions to get rid of the large freezer blocks were to cut off the corner and squeeze the gel into the toilet and flush it.

I eventually stopped taking delivery from them because I couldn't bear to flush the freezer gel into the water supply, and my freezer was filling up with reusable ice blocks. I contacted them and pleaded with them to take them back and reuse them, but that wasn't something they would do.

Blue Apron

This service is exactly like Hello Fresh: all the necessary produce, meat, dairy and grains to make meals from the included recipe cards are packed into a box and left on the doorstep once a week.

The meals were nearly as good as Hello Fresh, although if I had to choose, I'd say the Hello Fresh ones tasted slightly better. For example, if Hello Fresh wanted you to rub a dry spice blend on the meat before cooking it might include a bit of cumin and a bit of cinnamon or whatever. But with Blue Apron, you'd get a bag labeled "chicken spices" and not really know what was in it.  I preferred the simpler and more transparent approach of Hello Fresh.

But what I do like about Blue Apron is that they have a recycling program. All of the packaging that isn't tainted by raw meat can be rinsed and placed back into the box. After two or more weeks worth of packaging is accumulated, including the ice packs, you go online and print out a mailing label to send everything back to them through the Postal Service. I reuse one of the boxes they sent to me.

Sun Basket

Another of the menu services, I was attracted to this one because they claim to be all or mostly organic, which was something I missed when using Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Perhaps due to this, the price of Sun Basket was about $2 more per meal than the cost of meals through the other two services, which were about equal.

The ice pack was also different. These were made of 98% water and 2% organic cotton, so they say you can just drain it into the trash and the water would evaporate, leaving just a bit of cotton fluff in the garbage. The casing, they say, is then to be rinsed and recycled. Otherwise, the plethora of packaging was the same situation as I found in Blue Apron and Hello Fresh. 

Sun Basket claimed that all of the packaging was recyclable, but offered no means to recycle, so I needed to use my own bin. Many of the item, like single serving plastic cups for a tablespoon of barbecue sauce, claimed to be compostable, but only in commercial facilities.  I didn't compose them, but rinsed them and put in the recycling.

Another disturbing thing about the Sun Basket packaging was the foam liner. Two giant sheets of plastic foam that was recyclable, but I think entirely unnecessarily wasteful. They included two large stickers to use to seal them into a roll for throwing into the bin. A lot of trash and waste.

But what really blew it for Sun Basket in my mind was the recipe selection. They didn't offer much of what I'd consider well balanced meals. I could choose between 'paleo', 'vegan', 'low calorie', or 'breakfast'.  One of the meals I chose was a delicious turkey burger, but they supplied a wedge of iceberg lettuce instead of a proper bun. This upset me, as I'm not on any trendy faddish restrictive diet, and there were NO choices for people like me who prefer 'normal' meals. 

So for the time being, I'm back with Blue Apron, which seems to be the best of all worlds. I only use three meals per week through them and I get delivery on Saturday morning, so it's nice to know that I have all of my meals for the weekend without having to plan or shop. 

Here is what I made for lunch today. It took about half an hour to make, as most of the recipes do. And while I'm a skilled cook, I think these recipes are fairly user friendly and most people could make these meals easily.

 The first step of all the recipes is to get Mise en Place.
Salmon filet, lime cilantro rice and spicy peach salsa. Yummm! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Healthful Eating on the Road

Every new town I visit, I have to search for healthy places to eat and places that are ok with dogs.

I'm putting these links here so I have them as a reference along my travels and in case they might serve anyone else looking for healthy food choices in a strange neighborhood. I've also uncovered some unknown gems in my own neighborhood using some of these sites.

Eat Well Guide
search engine for finding health minded food establishments by city

Healthy Dining Finder
search by city for restaurants that offer healthy eating options

Green People
huge listing of health food stores and healthy restaurants searchable by zip code

Happy Cow
a resource for vegan and vegetarian store and restaurant options, by zip code

Primo Water
search for filtered water dispensers, including Primo and Glacier waters

Natural Grocers
chain store selling organic and healthful foods

When I travel with River, eating is easily the most difficult task I face. I shouldn't really leave him in the car, or in a motel room or tied up outside while I go into a restaurant or grocery store, but it's just him and me, so I have very few other options. I could go exclusively to drive-thru restaurants, but that's not very good food, usually. And, if I'm driving all day, the last thing I want to do is stay sitting in my car while I order and eat my food. Usually I try to find a shady spot in the parking lot and go either early in the morning or in the evening when it isn't so hot, run quickly into a store or restaurant, leaving River in the car, with the windows down, and shopping in a big hurry. I know I run the risk of someone approaching River and getting bitten, or of someone stealing River or the car or both. I've had plenty of occasions where a concerned citizen chastised me on my cruel mistreatment of the poor dog, which I have to take on the chin as I know it isn't very cool.

To make things even more challenging, I'm mostly into wholesome, fresh healthy food. Burgers are OK once in a while but on that last trip, when I lived on burgers, I gained 20 pounds and got sick twice. I was experimenting with it as a solution to this food problem, but it clearly is not the way to go.

Sometimes, when I stop at places to teach a class, one or several of the community will want to do something nice for me, and buy me some food. This is enormously helpful!

Sometimes, I'm taken to a cute cafe where they'll allow River to come in and lie on the floor while we eat. That is nice. Many times, though, I can't spare the time it would take and sadly have to decline the offer. Or other times, the place we go to might be a bit TOO dog-friendly and we have to contend with River reacting to all the other canines in the place throughout our meal.

I've been given gift cards to food establishments that serve good healthy food. This is greatly appreciated, but still doesn't really help with the most difficult aspect of eating on the road with a dog in tow, which is the actual procuring of the food.

I have this fantasy that I could trade some of my pay for groceries. If I could get paid partially in wholesome and healthy foods that stored well, even without good refrigeration, that would really streamline my life. That would be worth a lot to me.

When I spent a week at Embody Movement Studio, the owner, Christina Mae Wolf, said she wanted to stock the refrigerator for me and asked what I'd like. She did an amazing job and I made a mental note of what she purchased because it seemed like a nearly ideal shopping list for easy but healthful food options on the road.

All of the products were "O Organic" brand except for a few but all products were organic.

peanut butter
sprouted grain bread
tuna in cans
soup in boxes
vinaigrette dressing
baby spinach
mixed baby greens
raw baby carrots
raw snap peas
microwave popcorn
instant oatmeal

(and I had packed and brought)

raw cauliflower
cooked shredded chicken
homemade cookies
six jars of fermented vegetables
black organic ground coffee

And all of this kept me fed for nearly a whole week. If I could manage to get just a fraction of that every three days or so, I'd be free from having to forage from town to town.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Week at Embody in Centralia

I love teaching at Embody Movement Studio in Centralia, WA. The building is old brick and wood and feels like it's full of history. But inside is a gorgeous, brand new finished wood floor and one mirrored wall with a giant exposed brick wall behind. Multi-adjustable lighting that can go from meditation dim to pretty bright without ever feeling glaring or jarring. The surround sound stereo speakers installed in each upper corner of the room help fill the space nicely, even when the ceiling fans and all three floor fans are on. There's two different kinds of microphone to choose from. The students there are devoted and passionate. They're eager to learn and willing to try new things. It's a joy to present my work here.

So when the owner, Christina Wolf, asked if I could come and spend a week teaching the whole Nia schedule while the teachers went to Dance Camp in Idaho, I was thrilled to be able to say yes. She has a loft that serves as a living quarters upstairs in the back. It has a bed, a desk, a table, a refrigerator/freezer, a microwave, and a kitchen sink. There's a shower in one of the studio bathrooms downstairs, easily accessible from the loft.

Christina was also kind enough to stock the place for me. The refrigerator was literally as full as it could be with all things I liked: fresh organic vegetables and fruit, eggs, cheese, yogurt, oil and vinegar salad dressing, hummus, and a couple of cans of seltzer water. The cupboards were also stocked: with bread, tuna, oatmeal, popcorn, soup, peanut butter (and jelly in the refrigerator), coffee, tea, coconut oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar. I was blown away and so happy I wasn't going to have to forage for fast food in the small town of Centralia.

I arrived Friday evening and Christina showed me around before taking off for Dance Camp. River and I got settled in and explored the alley out back which was destined to be our easy-access pee spot. I realized, when it came to dinnertime, that I had forgotten to bring River's prescription anti-anxiety medication. He was getting a bit antsy. But it was too late to do anything about it. I decided that the best thing to do would be to go back to Seattle after my afternoon workshop. Fortunately, the following day, (Sunday) I only had an evening class to teach, so could stay Saturday night in Seattle and come back to Centralia on Sunday in plenty of time to teach. Though it is only 85 miles of highway, it is a notoriously heavily trafficked area. It once took me five hours to make that journey! Two to three hours isn't uncommon. So I wouldn't consider making the trip if I didn't have at least five hours to spare in each direction. Lucky for River, I did. But he'd have to 'white knuckle it' until Saturday night.

This weekend happened to be the Hot Rod Festival. So all weekend, every motorhead from miles around brought out their noisiest gear and sputtered down the main drag revving sans muffler for all to enjoy. Being a New Yorker at heart, it wasn't unsettling. I'm just glad I knew it was the Hot Rod Festival or I'd just think everyone in Centralia liked to drive huge obnoxiously noisy muscle cars and trucks.

Saturday, June 24


I had planned to teach this routine several times this week, spending half the week getting it really tight to take on my Aug/Sept road trip. And I was planning to spend the other half of the week working deeply on Fantastic, my other 2017 routine for the trip as well. But what I was hearing from the students was that they'd love to get a variety of routines from me. I told them I could easily do that, and was excited to dust off all my routines for the week. But I went ahead and taught Profound first, since I was ready to go with it. 

I began by explaining how it was adapted from Deep Dive. I set the focus to be on all of the different water-like movements we can make and all the choices we have of what form of water we connect to moving like. We moved like waves, and currents, splashes, and drips, we floated like steam and spun like a cyclone. 

The last time I taught the routine, a student mentioned his issues with the FreeDance section of the song "Spirit Bird". So I made an adjustment in how I presented the song this morning and it seemed to cover the bases. The same student, at my encouragement, also gave me some feedback that he was having a hard time connecting to the movements in the Propellerheads song. And I saw him struggling during that song so I knew what he meant. This time, I took his note subconsciously. I hadn't made any choice to fix, it, but due to a missed cue, I discovered a way to avoid that awkwardness he was experiencing and it did flow better today. 

I asked the students after class today for any feedback, and specifically mentioned that I'd like to hear about negative reactions or confusion about the routine so I can improve it. But I only got thumbs up and positive comments. And I felt good about the routine. I still have yet to make it through one song without an error. That is "Mi Mujer" by Nicholas Jaar. It's a great song and I have it choreographed tightly, I just can't execute it yet. I keep missing cues and doing the wrong move for the music section I wanted to do it in. Once it all comes together and I can cue it all in synchronicity, it's going to rock! 

Martial Arts in Nia (workshop)

I started this workshop cold. Without explaining myself, at the start time of the workshop, I put on a song and started clapping and drawing attention to myself. The song was Calling All Angels, the opening song to my Amazing routine. The curtains were covering the mirror, so we didn't have a front point of reference, but they quickly fell into step as I was simply shifting my weight back and forth with a big grin on my face. And I simply told the class to shift their weight and I directed them to do so to 12 and 6 o'clock. I explained the clock concept as I had them switch which numbers they were shifting to to 3 and 9 o'clock. And then I got fancy and had them wandering through the room and stop and shift on the numbers I called out. After the song ended i explained that I was showing them the power of using the clock as a cuing tool and went on to explain how we learned that from Tai Chi. 

Then I did an introduction and had all the students say a few words about what they wanted to experience. We all seemed to be on the same page, so that was good. Mostly they wanted to learn how to be grounded and to use the powerful movements efficiently. 

I spoke a little bit about the many influences of Aikido, Tai Chi and Tae Kwon Do in the formation of Nia. I gave a little history of what each art is all about and I described how we attribute things we do in Nia to them. 

I did some exercises that gave us a strong appreciation for the power and the purpose of the Slow Dance. We had a discussion and I did a demonstration of the power and purpose of the Dance of Harmonious Spherical Action and then we applied both of those things to songs that I had taught in the mornings class. But with the new activities and awareness, they got a visceral experience of the Martial Arts energy, why it's there and how to use it. 

I spent a good deal of time discussing the blocks, punches, strikes and kicks. I explained their function in Tae Kwon Do and what we learn from that art and apply to our work in Nia. I gave them an experience of the Dance of Precision by not only demonstrating the proper body mechanics, but explaining the purpose behind them. Then I went back to a song from Profound with the same choreography as Warriors by Winalee in the Deep Dive routine. With all the work we had just done on the blocks, kicks and punches, they could really feel the art at play in Nia. 

I spoke a little bit about the purpose of the vocalization "Kya!" that we often do when using explosive movements. I explained how it can be used and how it can be wasted or abused. 

The final lesson was an application of a combination of the Dance of Precision and the Dance of Harmonious Spherical Action, when I broke down the exact mechanics and the purpose behind the move we call the Turn/Return. I finished up that lesson by another song from Profound, and we could feel the turning in a deeper, more grounded way due to our connection to its origin in Aikido. 

I feel very good about what we covered and I'm confident that the students in attendance will feel many moments of connection to the martial arts in the future as they appreciate the power and purpose behind slowing down, harmoniously turning and being precise while practicing Nia. 

Sunday, June 25

I woke up in Seattle and had a leisurely drive back to Centralia. I allowed myself six hours before class and made the trip in just over two hours. Until I was on the drive south, I had no idea what routine I was going to teach that night. But as I drove I felt I had an urge to listen to music, and when I put my system on, the first thing I heard was some classical music. At that moment I decided that it felt really right to do my classical music routine on Sunday evening. So I listened through it on my drive, going over the choreography in my head. 


I explained how I co-created this routine over the internet with Marcelle Rudnick in Kansas City. I described my concept of the members of the orchestra being compared to our body parts, and the whole symphony compared to our body moving in dance. I invited them to focus on the 13 joints for the purpose of crafting their own unique contribution to the full Orchestra of the class. 

Embody has a great sound system, so I was able to find a sound level that worked in the really quiet spots and wasn't too deafening in the loud moments. So we were able to connect to the music during the snare in Bolero and not be afraid when the cannons blast in the 1812 Overture. There was a sea of smiles throughout this routine as well as some passionately glowing reviews afterward, so I think the routine went over well.  Personally, I had a great time revisiting the routine and experiencing it anew with this lovely group. Several women were delighted to share that they'd never connected to this music like they did this evening. 

Monday, June 25

Living Sage

The class on the schedule this morning was Nia Moving To Heal, which is a slightly differently focused Nia class format. It emphasizes the gentler, more nurturing and healing aspects of Nia and is considered ideal for beginners or those dealing with pain or injuries. 

Several years ago, when I had created my Rock & Roll Nia routine and was taking it on tour, I was asked to put together a very low key version especially for some ladies at a health spa called Living Sage. The teacher explained to me that just walking was exercise enough for most of them, and to expect many of them to be in chairs. So I tweaked and gave them a good, gentle movement class but using my Rock & Roll music. I loved the experience with them, and I had saved the playlist all this time, thinking I'd teach it again. But I never had occasion to pull it out again, until today. 

I joked with them in the beginning of class today that this will probably be the first time you hear rock and roll music being played in a healing class. But I promised them that even good old electric guitar music can be healing if it's used that way. I explained to them that they didn't have to impress anyone or prove anything to anyone and that they were here to take care of their bodies. I told them not to do anything they didn't want to, no matter what I said. And I encouraged them to do their own versions of anything I did. I prepared them that during the Blue Man Group song "Time To Start" I was going to have them jump up and down. And I demonstrated how one could 'jump' in spirit without their feet ever leaving the ground. 

I used the following playlist and kept all the choreography very grounded and left a lot of room for individualization. Some of the songs are from my Woodstock routine and some from my Rockin routine. Some were created just for this routine and one was a Carlos Rosas Classic Nia song. 

Last Train Home - Pat Metheny
Speak To Me/Breathe - Pink Floyd
White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
Low Rider - War
Hello, I Love You - The Doors
Feel Like Making Love - Bad Company
The Mighty Quinn - Manfred Mann
Everyday People - Sly & The Family Stone
Time to Start - Blue Man Group
We Will Rock You - Queen
The World Needs All the Good - Jana Stanfield
Great Gig in the Sky - Pink Floyd
Beth - Kiss


I wanted to keep the classic rock theme going for the day, so for the evening class, I chose to do one of my older routines. This was a lot of great classic Rock & Roll songs from the 60's and 70's. We had a full room and were drenched with sweat by the time we were done. People were saying afterwards that they had a great time, and no one had anything bad to say, so I think it went well.

Afterwards, as I recapitulated the experience, I noticed how apparent it was to me that I made this routine so many years ago. And since then, I've been through a lot, including a terrible knee injury and my First Degree Black Belt training. So when I look back at the Rockin routine now, I'm aware that there is something missing. I believe that the routine would benefit from a slight tweak, adding a gentle nurturing moment or two.

Maybe I should put in some Fleetwood Mac or Moody Blues.  

I focused on the High Middle and Low planes, which usually guarantees a full body workout experience, and tonight was no exception. 

Tuesday, June 27


I felt like I've been offering a lot of intensity to this group. I'm enjoying sharing with them my take on Nia, which is leaning towards popular music and with an athletic energy to it. But today I wanted to show some balance. I wanted them to know that I also have a nurturing, spiritual side and that we can get a good workout without loud exciting music. 

The music of Dead Can Dance has a beautiful blend of spirit, reverence, joy and dance. It lays the ideal groundwork for a focus on Tai Chi energy and weight shifting. This morning, I enjoyed presenting this classic routine created by Debbie Rosas. Most of the routine is all from one album, "Into the Labyrinth", with a couple of songs off of the "Spirit Chaser" album at the end. 

The word "Yulunga" is from an Aborigine language, and it means "playful or spirited dance." We lived up to that moniker this morning. One student confessed that the intensity of this routine snuck up on her. The focus we used, moving 'slowly' even when we're moving quickly, has a tendency to do that. 


I have a strange relationship to this routine. It was created by 13 different Nia communities under my orchestration. And whenever I listen to the playlist, I get really emotional and nearly always get teary or choked up. But it never happens when I'm teaching, no matter how much I open myself up for it. 

I decided to bring it to Embody for tonight's class, so while I went over the playlist beforehand, I was crying a little bit as I remembered the fun times I had and how impressed I am with the creativity I was able to harness for the routine.

But, when I teach it, I get a different feeling. The choreography is very busy and complex. I feel the missing simplicity detracts from the ultimate power of the routine. A lot of repetition is a good thing in this work, and the mostly inexperienced people putting together the choreography all make the very common beginners error of putting too much in and not letting anything percolate long enough.
So, the result is (and this was happening in tonight's class) that people are not picking up on the steps before it's time to move onto a new one. As I say, "the moves come fast and furious in this one". 

It's not that the music speed is fast, or that the movements themselves are inappropriately fast, but that there's too many changes and not enough staying with.  So, it's a really fun routine, but also a bit frustrating for that reason. 

The group seemed to have a good time and smile and laugh a lot throughout. We took a picture of our sweaty selves afterward.

Wednesday, June 28

Chakra Awakening

For today's Moving To Heal class, I wanted to give the students a completely different experience than my Rock & Rock healing class on Monday. So today I combined Debbie Rosas' "ChakraDancer" routine with my own "Awakening" routine and some other Nia songs to create a customized routine for today. I'll call it Chakra Awakening.

In the spirit of ChakraDancer, I didn't give verbal cues during the class. We call it a silent class, even though that may be a bit of misnomer. There is music playing, just no speaking. As a group, we connected on a deeper level since I gave only physical cues and even suggested that some of our communication might come from a deeper place than physical and asked them to turn on their emotional and spiritual "ears" and be awakened to that deeper connection between us. 

In addition to five songs from ChakraDancer, which I used to open and close the class, I also used:
Cool, Cool River - Paul Simon
A Different Drum - Peter Gabriel
Pursuit - African Head Charge
The Warriors Prayer (Second Movement) - Tim Wheater

Afterwards, we were all speechless. (Seems appropriate to me.) After teaching using this silent method, I have the urge to maintain the silence all day. Generally, I notice even groups that usually applaud vigorously after a class, tend to not clap or do so very lightly or silently when it was a silent class. More often, other gestures of celebratory gratitude emerge. People use prayer hands, or tap their hearts or wiggle their fingers to protect the sacred silence we've created. As the teacher, I remain quiet and blow kisses or make the Namaste gesture or pantomime a group hug. I wait for the students to break the silence. Some leave without saying a word and others speak in hushed tones. It's an amazing feeling afterward. "No words for it," described one student. Yes, as it should be. :)

Although I don't think said anything about chakras before class, I was giving them a lot of attention. I had actually meant to talk a little bit about what I was doing with the chakras, but when I was Setting the Focus for class, I forgot to mention them. One student remarked afterward "that was the best chakra workout I've ever had."  Another said simply "cathartic" and another was surprised at how much she sweat and got a good workout when all the movements appeared to be small. I was demonstrating a lot of intrinsic movements and also reacquainting them with the surprising power of moving slowly. that we experienced in the Martial Arts in Nia Playshop. 

One of the students expressed concern that she was going to forget all of the changes she's been going through during my time at Embody. She didn't want to go back to her old self. I re-assured her that all of the learning she is doing is in her body; not in her head. So if she's searching for it in her head, she'll come up empty. But I advised her to trust the wisdom of her body. I told her that her body will remember all of the ways toward ease and pleasure that she is experiencing. It is what the body craves. So as long as she doesn't put too much attention on thinking about it, all of these new changes will be available to her from her body long after I've gone. 


The people here probably think I'm a bit crazy. As people gathered for class tonight, I was in my disco leopard pants and playing deep house music and asking everyone to wear the prism glasses to get into the spirit of tonight's routine. Traditionally, I announce that we should 'wear something shiny' for doing the Goldfinger routine, but it was on a whim that I taught it tonight, and didn't have time to tell anyone.

I pointed out that each one of us was a genius at whatever we do, and offered that smiling was the best way to unlock that genius. I compared us to crystals and set the intention to "Shimmer Your Radiant Brilliance". The Focus was on the spine (pelvis, chest, and head).

There were a few katas that proved challenging to the group today. They're really good at doing the moves properly and they hardly ever need notes on execution of the moves. and they do have a willingness to try anything, which I think is all very healthy and a sign of having a good teacher. 
(Not myself, of course, but the teachers that I'm filling in for at Embody.)  This routine has a few odd syncopations in it, and some complex counting in it which challenges us to keep our mind and body both fit and working together. 

I noticed something during the FloorPlay section tonight, and it happened also in the FloorPlay last night. Several full voice conversations begin to break out amongst the students. I feel like it might be an escape mechanism if they don't like the FloorPlay. Or it may be that they aren't used to seeing FloorPlay used as an exercise. Some teachers really only view and use FloorPlay as a 'relax and stretch' moment, which is awesome. I love doing those too. But in some of my routines, I like to include sort-of-choreographed FloorPlay experiences, and I can't hear my cues when the students are talking. I also wonder how I would feel as a student in class if the people next to me started talking to each other and I couldn't hear the teacher or the music. It gets a little chaotic and I feel like I've lost their attention.  I'm not sure what I'm doing to lose the group this way. It's something I'm going to ponder. 

I asked them afterwards how they felt about FloorPlay and I didn't get the sense that they particularly didn't care for it, i n general, but they did mention they weren't used to my style of it. 

After class, I and several of the students stayed in the studio and discussed our Nia experiences passionately for about 45 minutes until the cleaning crew showed up and scooted us out. 

Thursday, June 29

Fantastic (silent)

It was a brave undertaking, but the Nia is strong in this group so I felt like we could pull it off. Not only did we pull it off, (and I don't know how it was for the students) but it was transformative for me. I felt my self sink into a deeper layer of understanding the art of teaching. And, in fact, a little piece about myself that has bothered me was touched upon today.

I was surprised at how well I knew the routine; that was a concern of mine going in, since it was so freshly created and yet not recently practiced. But the big 'a-ha!' came when I noticed how a majority of the class was easily transmitted to the students non-verbally. I felt a strong, visceral awareness of which verbalization were essential, and realized that I spend way too much energy speaking about obviously visible things. Whereas, if I were to practice teaching the moves in the manner I did this morning, I'd be free to illuminate other aspects of the movement' perhaps the energetics of it, or some helpful imagery. This would not only make my teaching more colorful and dynamic, but it will also address the over-talking issue I have with myself.

I am excited that after decades of teaching Nia, I'm still growing and learning and improving my art, skill and craft.

After class, since I had asked for feedback per usual, a woman approached and told me that she would have appreciated it if I gave some warning that there was going to be a lot of leg work or deep squatting in the routine. I didn't understand, at first, what she meant by that, so we had a lengthy discussion about it, for which I am grateful to her. Once we got on the same track, I knew what she was saying, and thanked her for the help. She was right. At first I thought she meant that when I spoke before the music starts, that I should say something like "There are going to be a lot of squat movements in the routine....." because she said she'd have liked more 'warning'. But after we discussed, I realized that she was indeed talking about an error I was making in the presentation of the choreography. At the moment, we attributed it to the fact that I was teaching silently and couldn't effectively talk about the movement in preparation for it.

But just an hour later as I was taking River on his walk, and mulling over the deep conversation, I realized exactly what she meant. Another bad habit of mine was exposed here, and I'm thankful to that student for alerting me to it. I tend to go right away into the completed move on its first appearance in a routine. Especially when I'm new to the routine. I guess I get too excited and forget to include everyone. After I get more experience teaching a routine, I find the places where I should pull back and demonstrate a progression of intensity. And that flashed! The word progression as it relates to showing Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3. I was hearing "preparing" as being warned, braced or armed, but she was using it to mean, "setting the stage for, easing into progressively". So I will take that note and definitely include it among all the other things I learned when I teach it again tonight.

On our long walk River and I discovered a rainbow of bicycle sculptures scattered throughout the area. We couldn't find the purple one, though.

Fantastic (with cues)

Based on what I learned from the silent class this morning, I set a Teacher Focus for tonight's class: "I'm only allowed to talk ABOUT the moves, not describe them. Except for those places that I discovered this morning would benefit from more advance notice, gradual building in intensity or further explanation, I'm going to invite a lot more of the silence into my teaching style."  

It was another great lesson for me tonight. I knew the routine so much better this morning. So it showed me that my own cuing was distracting me from the choreography. The class went fine, truth be told. It was fun to play with that secret focus and also stay focused on the Focus I had set for class which was the same as this morning, Moving Center. I described how each particular movement has its own center or centers, and set the Intention to Sense the Ease of Control from the Center(s). 

I put in the change on the first song, as the student this morning suggested. I made the first one very slight and described how it was done by relaxing and then catching yourself so there was no effort on the way down, just gravity. I gradually got deeper and deeper, and the students all seemed to find their own comfortable depths. 

I think I figured something out about FloorPlay today. It isn't just Floor)Play that got them to chat, but when the FloorPlay became FloorFreeDance, which I often do. That might bring out the inner child or something. But I did notice that in both classes today, everyone was completely silent during the FloorPlay. It was tightly choreographed. In the morning session I attributed it to the silent teaching, but when it happened again tonight, I realized it was the choreography. 

There was only one student who attended both the morning session and the evening. She said afterward that she preferred the one with the cues. I smiled because I had the opposite experience, but I let her go on to explain that when I don't give cues, she tends to go into her own head and stops paying attention to the class. And I didn't tell her this, but I was having the feeling that when I wasn't giving cues this morning, the group was riveted to me and got the movements very quickly. But tonight, I felt like my speaking was actually distracting them and allowing them to pay less careful attention. 

After class, River and I went to Centralia College to hang out on the big lawn near the clock tower. On the way, we saw this. I'm not sure if it counts as purple though.

I felt sad as I walked past a big hole in the side of the Fox Theater building. It's the one right next to Embody. I can hear someone doing heavy pounding throughout the day, so I guess this hole is what they're doing. I'm sad that they are disassembling the mural. 

Friday, June 30

Dream Song

Dream Song isn't actually a routine, but that's what I called today's class. It was a blend of mostly Dream, with songs from Soul, Cadence, Chakras and one of my own, from a routine I call AyĆ©, which means "life" in Swahili . The last song today was called "Song Is' by Vangelis, so that's where the name of the routine came from, by combining Dream with Song Is. 

The Focus was on The Power of Three. I spoke about recognizing that it is partially the student's responsibility to create their experience in class by bringing attention and awareness and being proactive about their movements. Our intention was to notice "What We Bring" to the relationship created by the teacher connecting with the student. I suggested that we practice recognizing the patterns of movement that we call 'katas' in Nia. The goal is to create a bit more autonomy and reduce the perceived need to cling to the teacher to alert the student to every change, but rather to fall into a repetition and trust that it will repeat until the teacher brings a new pattern. 

It was a wonderful class and it was a Focus I'd never attempted to share before. I feel like it is a valuable lesson and it seemed to go over well and to create a change in the level of involvement the students had in their own experience. 

The song "Smiling" by Jazzbox (featuring Louis Armstrong) is six and a half minutes long, but we did one single pattern the whole time. We used the power of repetition and freedom to tweak and express to create our individual dance within the pattern. 

At the end, during "Song Is" in FloorPlay, I explained the scientific reasoning behind holding stretches for longer than 75 seconds and up to five minutes if we want to increase our flexibility. So we spent about two minutes holding only three stretches and then stood up and test drove our brand new bodies. 

After class, I took River for a long walk. I was determined not to accept that the pink bicycle was to represent purple in the rainbow. The pink ones were situation across from the blue ones as if making a comment about gender? So we walked PAST THE RED, where I'd think the rainbow would end and we'd find the pot of gold. But no, then there was a yellow one and I was thoroughly confused. But I kept going in the same direction. I was going to go until we went a whole block without seeing any bikes. And at last, lo and behold, our quest was fulfilled. We had found the purple bicycle!

 We also found an old hot rod truck that I thought was pretty cool.

The Nuts and Bolts of FreeDance Playshop

This work always blows me away. The change that I see come over people in such a short amount of time is so delightful and incredibly rewarding. I love this work and I love it when people get it. This time was no exception. We spent the first half an hour talking about what our notions of FreeDance were and what about that scared us and I wrote it all down on the board. I then presented some of the tools of Free Dancing until we could erase all of the fears from the board because they were no longer an issue. We ended up with a board full of tools we could use to inspire our FreeDancing in Nia classes, no matter what's going on. By the end of the experience we were absolutely a roomful of FreeDance juggernauts. I could sense their eagerness to go into a Nia class and be asked to Free Dance! The shy ones were suddenly bold. The repetitive ones were now creative. The unsure had become confident. We learned that it was ok to be serious about it, and ok to be silly. But more fun to be silly. 
Two hours into the three hour workshop, I took a poll of the students. The poll in itself was a kick. We gathered in clumps in designated spots in the room as ways to cast our vote for how we wanted to spend the last hour. As we discussed the three choices and got more clarity around what each experience would entail, people would hop from cluster to cluster, changing their votes, until it was eventually pretty clear that we had a strong majority.
The choices were to 
A) continue as we had been, adding more and more tools and trying them out
B) do a regular Nia class but with a lot of moments of FreeDancing in it.
C) a Nia FreeDance class.

We went with C. We had an amazing time dancing for an hour as I played DJ. I sometimes got into the mix and danced with them, because they were so compelling and having such a good time, I couldn't not join them. But I stayed alert to the music and the feeling of the group, and guided them through the four parts of Nia Free Dance class. I didn't have a playlist in mind going in. I was jumping in the river and then learning to swim. But I cued up songs I selected from my iTunes and from Spotify playlists I'd be putting together as possible to use in Nia Free Dance. 

Here is a link to most of the playlist I used. Two songs are missing because I played them off my iTunes and couldn't find them in Spotify when I built this list from my history after class. 


I don't know what compelled me to pull this one out, but this goes WAY back. It is one of the first routines I ever learned and while I didn't particularly care much for the music, the moves are fun and people seem to go nuts for the music. 

Such was the case this morning. Even when I was setting the focus on The Joy Of Movement, as soon as I mentioned Commitments, several of the students cheered in delight. My host, Christina was scheduled to be back this morning, so I was prepared to pull out some of the songs for her to co-teach something as a welcome home.  But when I saw her this morning, she said she'd prefer to be a student in receiving mode, so I taught the whole routine.

It was a packed room and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I was surprising myself with how well I remembered the routine. I remembered it so well, in fact, that during one song, I could tell right away that I had used the wrong version. Originally I had the music on cassette tape! So I had to rebuild the playlist on Spotify, and I guess I chose the wrong version of "More Love, Less Attitude" by Curtis Salgado. As I said, I could tell right away something was off about the energy of the song, but it was the same song. I really knew I had a different version when the darn song wouldn't end! It must've been two whole minutes longer than the original version, so I had to 'riff' until the end of the song. 

The routine ends with three songs from the Twin Peaks TV show soundtrack (The original one, on ABC). It was interesting for me to do this today because back when I was first teaching the routine in the 90's, I wasn't so good at leading FloorPlay. So as I led it today and it was all going perfectly smoothly, it felt weird. The music and the moves triggered those old feelings like I was off or lost or something. Feelings that didn't match how in control and on the music I was. I almost had an out of body experience as I successfully pulled off what I had such strong memories of choking on. So, on a personal level it was a perfect end to a perfect week.

Teaching to this group was a joy from beginning to end. I really fell in love with Embody Movement Studio and I am eager for another opportunity to come back and visit.