movement

Capturing Grace, Dancing with Parkinson's

Who knew that a simple hour in a dance studio with strangers could move me so deeply and be so transformational, to the point where I slowly and discreetly slide tears from my cheeks, as my heart swells and my body dances.   

This beautiful hour happened yesterday when I decided to join and witness dance as a healing source for people with Parkinson’s disease.  I first heard about Dance for PD through a posting that the Michael J. Fox Foundation shared.  I was perusing the internet, looking at research and information as my father has been struggling with this debilitating and progressive disease for over 12 years.  I see him bravely face the changes in his body, the grueling tightness, the fatigue, the tremors, difficulty walking, and other nonmotor symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, depression.  

When I saw that the Mark Morris Dance Group had collaborated with the Brooklyn Parkinson Group to create Dance for PD, I was immediately inspired and wanted to experience it.  Luckily these classes are offered throughout the states and in 11 countries around the world, and a beautiful documentary called Capturing Grace literally captures the essence of this healing work and the lives who are benefited from it.      

I know and understand the power of dance to heal, through my work as a professional dancer and choreographer and from the program I created INsideOUT, using dance to relieve pain in the body, bring joy to the soul and peace to the mind.   

As the participants filed into the studio yesterday I saw the familiar symptoms, the swinging gait, the shuffling feet, the far away glance, the scared look of uncertainty.  As the class began, those limitations sort of fell away.  It’s not that all of a sudden they were sky bound and leaping, but the heart and soul, the childlike freedom and joy is what rang so loudly in that room.  The music swept all of us up, and each of us brought our concerns, and placed them on the dance floor.  No longer patients, but dancers.  We each spoke a word to describe one of our current struggles, flexibility, feeling alone, can’t communicate clearly, exhaustion, and then we put those feelings into movement.  In a circle, facing each other, we strung our gestures into a linked dance, a story of our human experience, our highs and lows.  And again, the tears streamed from the corners of my eyes.

To finish, hand in hand, passing love and acknowledgment from one person to the next, was so incredibly moving.  To slow down, to be present to another’s experience, to give love, was truly a divine moment for me and kind of life changing.

May my father and others enjoy the benefits of this fitting and healing program.  Thank you to Lineage Performing Arts Center for having me and for all the other studios bringing this beautiful work to their communities: Find a class 

Love and blessings, 

xo Tara

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5 Ways Dance Can Help Clear Your Mind & Bring Inner Peace

From Tara's article on Mind Body Green

Photo by Ron Hamad

Photo by Ron Hamad

For many years I believed dancing was a type of escape:  from fear, worry, judgment, tough teenage years.  Especially when I was young, my analyzing and worrying mind was so active and my emotional life was vulnerable, hidden and confusing.  Yet, when I stepped on the dance floor, those worries and uncertainties fell away.  Something about the rhythm and the vibration of the music and getting lost in the movement allowed me a gateway to expressing, giving voice and ultimately releasing those emotions of sadness, fear, loneliness.  And what poured in, as I went deeper into the dance, was a wellspring of freedom, happiness, calm, a feeling that I am going to be okay in this world.     

I realize now that dance wasn’t an escape, but a way of moving closer to myself, to my feelings, to my needs and my dreams.  Dance brought me closer to my inner peace and by giving over to the movement and the music, my soul took care of the rest.  Kind of like soul therapy.  I needed to quiet my mind and express my emotions.  Dance is wonderfully emotional.  I LOVE that quote, “If you don’t let emotions live, they will never die.”  Through dance, we can honor our emotions.  

And now as an adult, I still use dance, in addition to my meditation practice, to get in touch with that divine yumminess.  We all, at some point or another, have challenges that keep our mind reeling and questioning and spiraling and going.  The self-doubt, the uncertainty, the day to day struggles, the emotional roller coaster of life.  This chaotic mental dance can be channelled into the dance of the body to bring greater peace and happiness.  

You don’t have to be a professional dancer to dive in and feel connected to yourself and to that source that fuels us.  Whether you’re in a dance class, or you choose to dim the lights and play your favorite song in your living room, you receive the benefit of the energy that flows and the new information that comes in.  

Here are my 5 simple steps to dancing bliss.  I invite you to try it.  Who cares what you look like.  What matters is how you feel and sometimes all it takes is the willingness to do something different and be open to what appears.  There can be great healing in the dance.     

1.  Take off your shoes and put on something comfortable.  Feeling the wood floor or carpet beneath your bare feet gets you in touch with the support that is there for you always.  Allow your body weight, energy, any tension or worry to fall into the ground and melt away.           

2.  Dim the lights so that it is an internal experience.  You want to be cocooned and safe in your own private world.  This is not about perfect moves or performing outwardly, it’s not about judging yourself and deciding whether you are “good” or not.  Closing your eyes helps to tune into yourself and your journey.    

3.  This can be a beautiful journey of discovery, reflection, expression.  Set an intention for how you’d like to feel, what you’d like to get out of this dance meditation.  Maybe you’d like to let go of something, bring in something new, reframe a difficult situation.  Or maybe you just want to feel good.  Whatever it is, state it internally or out loud.  

4.  Put on a song or album that you love.  Pop music with lyrics can be fun but a soundscape feel that is more about the mood, and less about the words, can be helpful for soul traveling.  Play it on repeat or with a continuous stream, so that you are not interrupted with an abrupt ending.      

5.  Let yourself go.  Close your eyes, let the music move your body and don’t be afraid to release.  It’s a wonderful practice in surrendering to what is.  Let the energy flow as your body heats up and let instinct guide the way, allowing your body to move in different ways, shapes and expressions.  Let the anger out.  Let the happiness ring.  Let the giddiness ride.  It’s a beautiful thing.    

And when you’re done,  thank yourself for having the courage to explore and express.  Many times I go to my journal afterwards to write down any inspirations or insight that came forward.  Dance is a gift that we all have access to.  Love and light to you.

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The Beauty and Power of Kitty McNamee

Kitty McNamee is a highly regarded choreographer, earning distinction from Dance Magazine as an artist with “an outsize talent for that most elusive gift, originality."

Kitty’s work as a choreographer is completely satisfying to me, on the most primal level.  Her vision and voice come from a very inspired place that is uniquely original and yet taps into the sensuality, the confusion, the passion, the desire, the fear, the struggle, the joy that is life, and common for all of us.

Non-presentational, the dance happens unapologetically and without any need for approval.  This is SO refreshing as an audience member, as an observer.  Don’t ask anything of me, just do your thing and let me soak it all in.  Like a beautiful painting that comes to life, or the intimacy of a couple fighting for power, or the internal dialogue that keeps us trapped, Kitty’s work is multi-layered and very special.

Kitty brings her passion and unique voice to tv, film and live performances.  Recent work includes choreography for Lifetime's Petals on the Wind, Gwyneth Paltrow's The Restart Project, Secret Cinema’s ground-breaking live performances with Laura Marling in London, LA Philharmonic and Wet Design.  She is also the artistic director of Hysterica Dance Company, a consistently prolific and invigorating force in the LA dance community.

A dear friend who I am constantly inspired by, I am happy to highlight her and her incredible work.  Here is a taste of what she does and my interview with her to follow.

TNH:  When did you find dance and when did your desire to make dances develop?

KM:  I remember very clearly...the Joffrey 2 came to the small town I lived in in Ohio.  As soon as I saw the company on stage a light bulb went off.  I remember thinking "That's it! that's what I have been looking for!"  Until then I had only seen dance in movie musicals. I wasn't able to start taking class until I was 16, and have been in love with it ever since.

TNH:  What do you love about dance and being a choreographer?

KM:  I think my favorite thing is how the dance and music fit together.  I love music and it's exciting for me to unravel it's mysteries.  I also enjoy connecting with my dancers and learning from them.

TNH:  What are some of the challenges and rewards of running a dance company in Los Angeles?

KM:  The reward is definitely working with amazing dancers who are as passionate about dance as I am.  I think there is a very unfair stereotype that dancers in LA are not as well trained, talented or serious as dancers in NYC...which is completely inaccurate. The dancers here have a great range and because they also work commercially, they are very interested in digging into the more artistic side of things.  Greatest challenge was always budget, not a lot of funding for dance in LA.

TNH:  Do you read reviews or listen to feedback of your work?  If so, how do separate the courage to create from the fear of how your work is received?

KM:  I think it would be best to not read reviews, but who can resist!  If you read them you will have to take the good with the bad.  I can't really be worried about how the work will be received or I will freeze.  I do welcome feedback from people who are knowledgable and sensitive, dancers who have worked for me in the past are a wonderful resource.  Creating work is so personal, no one can do what I do...so i just get down to business and do it. 

TNH:  When you're casting dancers for a project, what do you look for?

KM:  Professionalism, passion, drama and clarity. 

TNH:  What fuels your creativity?

KM:  Challenge fuels my creativity.  I think that is why I enjoy working in different mediums (opera, concert, TV, videos).  They each have their own challenges which I find stimulating. Great dancers and great music fuel me as well.  Curiosity fuels me; why do people relate as they do? What mystery can I discover within my dancers and the music?

TNH:  Who have been the greatest creative influences in your life? 

KM:  That's a big question!  I think at the beginning I was very influenced by the masters of modern dance...all of whom were women.  I was fascinated by the way Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham were able to create something so original.  I was inspired by their maverick spirit.  At the height of Hysterica, my dancers and collaborators were a tremendous influence...tremendous inspiration.

TNH:  What would be your ultimate dream job?

KM:  I'm not sure that I have one ultimate dream job.  I love mixing it up, going from TV/film work to opera and ballet.  I find the tension between the "high and low" art very stimulating.  I would love to create original choreography for a Broadway show. . . that would be amazing.  I love telling a good story through dance!

TNH:  Do you have any other thoughts or reflections to share?

KM:  I feel very, very fortunate to make a living doing what I love!

Thank you, Kitty, for sharing with me.  And thank you to those who have visited this page.  For more monthly choreographer interviews and dance love, sign-up below, it's FREE!

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