Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Secret laughter set free during jumps in 1st, 2nd, and 5th position...

                                                                                                                    Photo by Nicole Rivelli

Recently, while teaching at Manhattan School of Music, my pre-college dance class dislodged some internal hilarity during small jumps.  Somewhere betwixt counts 16 and 24, close to the transition between jumps in 2nd and jumps in 5th, the laughter began leaking out, bounding into full contagion within 8 more counts. 

Thankfully, it didn’t grow into an outbreak of mass psychogenic illness like the Tanganyika laughter epidemic of 1962, which began initially with 95 girls. The girls were afflicted for periods of up to 16 days and the laughter spread to neighboring villages, ultimately shutting down 14 schools and affecting close to 1000 people over the course of 18 months. In the Tanganyika case, there were other symptoms that accompanied the laughter including fainting and flatulence…

The MSM kids' movement-initiated release of laughter reminded me of a time when I was being Rolfed (a.k.a. Structural Integration- deep tissue bodywork). The Rolfer was digging into one side of the lower front section of my ribcage below my costal cartilage and inadvertently liberated a trove of laughter. It wasn’t tickle laughter. It felt like the funniest thing I’d experienced in ages. The deep touch to that part of my torso made me laugh so hard and it took a while to fully express. I was laughing for several minutes. Later when discussing this with my chiropractor, she said, “Oh that is so sweet, you uncovered some hidden laughter.”

We know laughing and crying are huge releasers and relievers of the bodymind. They massage and shake up the insides, joggle the heart, jostle lungs, and generally jangle the organs. If you laugh or cry long and hard enough you will also likely enjoy the benefit of a decent core workout. The kind of shaking and contracting expressed during laughter and tears can be wonderful medicine: squeezing, then plumping up, releasing tension in the organs and tissues, thus bringing life to your systems. Movement is equally vital to your vitals.

Our insides benefit from movement in multiple ways: it strengthens and hydrates the slippery tensegrity of our fascia, lubricating our joints, and improving blood flow, it also mobilizes our lymphatic system, which has no pump of its own. Our lymphatic system is a detoxifier of the body and is stimulated by movement and deep diaphragmatic breathing (like intense laughter or tears), in fact, therapies for the lymph include vibration and rebounding. Regular vigorous motion is helpful in avoiding the build-up of the vascular plaque that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Spontaneous laughter used to erupt in my Pilates/Bartenieff Fusion classes when we did the shake-out with a yell. The exercise consisted of lying on our backs with arms and legs up in the air, taking in a deep breath, then yelling and shaking our limbs on the exhale.
It usually took about three rounds to achieve the full effect. This phenomenon took place in an upscale gym in the West Village full of adults. It was not as successful on the Upper East Side, however. In exercises like this, it is important to really let go.

Every experience we’ve ever had is stored in our bodies, our response, expression, or lack of expression is stored in our tissues.  It may translate to tensions held within our shoulders, hearts, stomachs, etc. In Laban Movement Analysis we call them holding patterns. As we experience the world we take in and take on our form through our interactions with our environment, this includes cultural influences, family dynamics and the physical world we inhabit. 

As a mover/artist/creative person I believe expression is vital to the health of the bodymind, so when laughter breaks out in my classes I like to allow it to run its course.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Crystalline Luck

                                                                                               Photo Mónica Lou

If you are incredibly fucking lucky there will come a time in your life when all the disparate events, studies, passions, and fascinations will miraculously line up like the moonlight on Stonehenge at solstice and make perfect sense of the great tangled web of experience that points to your purpose on Earth. All of the seemingly disconnected tangents, roadways, and rollercoasters somehow come together and suddenly it becomes clear who you are and why you were drawn to each strange person, place, idea, and situation that makes up the bedazzled fabric of your particular existence.

It is as if the veil of confuddled uncertainty and bumbled striving has been hydroblasted into total clarity. And then, all too soon, this clarity crumbles away and leaves you feeling dazed and bewildered, yet ever so slightly lighter within.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Simple Movement Meditation Practice

This is a simple movement meditation offering drawn from somatic practices such at Laban Movement Analysis/Bartenieff Fundamentals and Continuum Movement. It may or may not be for you at this point in your life. Try it if you are called to do so. For me, this work supports living with more resilience as a human being in this world.  I am writing this for people who are interested in exploring dogma-free embodiment.

                                                                                                       artwork by Anthony Sunseri


1. Cultivate a Safe Space for Exploration

In this context, I am talking about the internal space within yourself as much as the external space surrounding you. Inner and outer boundaries can create a sense of freedom. It sounds like a paradox, but often having some structure allows for greater freedom.
The obvious boundaries are:
·      A space with some privacy that will allow you the freedom to enter your own exploration fully.
·      Give yourself some uninterrupted time- commit to as little as 20 (or more) minutes of device-free time.

 2. Baseline in Stillness

Find a comfortable baseline position in stillness that can be returned to regularly as a check-in.

This may be seated on the floor, a block, or a chair, or lying down with knees bent or straight. 

Use this baseline as a starting and finishing point. It is also a place to rest and process at any time throughout your movement meditation. Return regularly to this still place to discover what new things have arisen.

Lying down or sitting still will help you become aware of small changes.

3. The Safety of Familiar Movement

Use comfortable familiar movement as a safety net for your bodymind.

Establish a relationship with a familiar form that you can come back to if you begin feeling too far out or disconnected. This might be yoga’s cat/cow arch/curl of the back, or a shakeout, maybe just returning your awareness to the rise and fall of your breath.

Exploring new territory may be scary if you are storing a lot of unresolved trauma in your tissue and in the holding pattern of your system. It is helpful to approach this in a way that is nurturing, freeing, and supportive. If you feel as if you are becoming untethered return to some familiar patterned movement.

Slowly scanning the horizon with your eyes (open or closed) will let your brain and nervous system know that you are safe. Take some time with that.

Get up and walk around. Any movement that is “normal” should work to bring you back to your comfort zone and using your eyes to orient yourself to your surroundings will also bring you home.

4. Permission and Access

Use the map as a guideline and starting point then trust your own body to express whatever feels interesting and nourishing.

Turn off the inner critic.
This is not about looking good or pleasing someone else, this is not about learning someone else’s truth. This is about turning on your own interoception, kinesthetic awareness, and proprioception, bringing awareness to sensation and tuning into the innate intelligence embedded in the living tissues and fluids of your bodymind.

Following internal movement trails and patterns of energy or tension can be enthralling. You are moving toward this internal attending. So let go of your critic, let go of the need to please, let go of the need to be beautiful or look good, or even be creative. If you can open up and allow yourself space to become interested in the sensations of being, something will happen. You are opening a portal into yourself- your inner world of sensation and inquiry

Give yourself permission to explore sensation through micro movement.  Small free-flowing movements in any direction.

The slower you go and the smaller your movement, the deeper you can cultivate your sense of connected awareness. Sometimes you will want to move bigger and faster that is ok too. Give yourself full-blown permission to move in any way that feels nurturing and supportive.

Allow your body to speak and say whatever it has to say for as long as necessary.

Drop into presence within yourself and open into a PNS (parasympathetic nervous system- rest and digest, soothe and settle, healing/processing) state.

No editing in movement- listen, allow, ask, nudge.

If you come across anything that is interesting follow it as far as it draws you.

The Meditation Map-
Playing with the Midline

A very simple map for your dive into movement meditation:

1. Begin and end with your baseline in stillness. Return to it whenever you want to rest or process on a level of silent stillness. 

2. When you feel you have arrived in your bodymind bring your awareness to your midline. This is the imaginary central line inside your body from the top of your head to the base of your pelvis if you are seated, or to the ground if you are standing, or to your feet if you are lying down. Your midline divides your right side from your left and front from back. Imagine it in the center of your body.

3. Take a moment to bring your awareness to this deep internal place. Give your midline some volume by breathing into it. Bring awareness to the three-dimensionality of your breathing. Feel the up/down-ness, the side/side-ness, and the forward/back-ness of your breath.
Take as long as you like with this. This may be the whole exploration for today.

4. When you feel ready invite your midline into motion. It can be very small, maybe it is still just sensing the breath or maybe slightly bigger. Imagine the motion of sea grass growing from the ocean floor, swaying with the movement of the surrounding water.
Allow your midline the freedom to sway, to rise and fall, to circle or follow any freeform pathway. This movement may be tiny micro-movement that is virtually invisible from the outside, or it may be bigger. Initially, it may be easier to sense movement when it is bigger. As you hone your ability to tune into movement and sensation in the bodymind you will be able to bring your awareness to miniscule movement and it will feel like a lot is happening.

If you are a structure junky use the three dimensions as a starting place. You can play simply with the movement of the breath rising and falling (vertical dimension- up down), widening and narrowing (horizontal dimension- side to side), bulging and hollowing (sagittal dimension - forward backward), and the general growing and shrinking of your whole organism as you inhale and exhale.

If you are interested in more free movement, allow the sensation around your midline to move any way that it wants, let go of symmetry and become fluid like a drop of water intermingling with a lake, or the ocean, or a river.  Water imagery is very useful in sensing and creating flow in your bodymind.

5. When you feel you are ready to end your movement adventure return to your baseline in stillness.

Here is a link to a video that is similar in practice


Friday, July 5, 2019

Fertile Ground: Laban and the Mountain of Truth, Monte Verita, Ascona 1913-1914

What was happening, in the beginning of the 20th Century that attracted Rudolf von Laban to Monte Verita, Ascona, Switzerland to set up his Schule für Kunst (School for Art)? 

What prepares the soil for great artistic movements and new thinking? Who were the participants and where did their ideas come from?

            There are many answers and pathways to conclusions about these questions. In this essay I will pursue the ones I find most interesting. In doing research for this essay each search led to a further line of inquiry. I found myself going further and further back and falling down rabbit holes in European history. My interest in this topic was primed by the fact that it is now 100 years later and my own work has evolved from the material that Rudolf Laban was just beginning to develop during that time.


            A new movement of the mind is a fertile place for new movements of the body. What better place to start than at the dawn of the 20th century? The industrial revolution had led to over-crowding and pollution in European cities. It gave rise to new stresses on the body, psyche and soul. New movements were arising in the realms of art, spirituality, psychology and thinking. Questions came up about the role of women in society, the need for recuperation from industry, the value of being in nature, of how to be human, how to make art and the connections between the individual and divinity.

            The turn of the century heralded an end to the repressive Victorian era (1838-1901). La Belle Époque (1871 -1914) would come to an end with the start of World War One. Romanticism and Mysticism were pushing away Rationalism. Art, theatre and culture were thriving in cities like Paris and Munich. Technology, industry and science were flourishing and opening spaces in people’s minds for new ideas and new thinking, sometimes in reaction to their effects and sometimes in harmony with them. In Paris the Fauves (Wild Beasts) such as Matisse and Derain were placing an emphasis on color and strong brushwork, breaking away from the more realistic styles of the Impressionists. The values of simplicity and abstraction moved the Fauves further away from more complicated realistic approaches.


            Munich was a Kunststadt (Art City) almost on a par with Paris in terms of arts education, art making and exposure. While it was likely the most experimental art arena in Europe, traditional artistic training and approaches could be found alongside the avant-garde. Ideas about geometry, color, form, line, the artist’s inner drive, divinity, rhythm and harmony were spiraling around among groups of artists, musicians, writers, philosophers and the intelligentsia. The connection between the human body and divine experience were linked through ideas of physical expression, sensation and sexuality. Liberation, art, nature, expression, celebration and idealization led people toward the search for a utopian society. Jugendstil or Art Nouveau (1890-1914) attempted to reconcile the effects of mass production and industry through creating Gesamptkunstwerk (total art work) that addressed beauty and harmony through the inclusion of the natural environment. As with the Fauves simplicity and abstraction were components of this work. Elements of primitive, medieval and oriental art merged and entwined drawing inspiration from the past and creating a new look. Nietzsche had influenced thought in many arenas. Wassily Kandinsky’s Phalanx school opened in 1901-1902 next door to Art Nouveau Sculptor, Herrman Obrist’s Teaching and Experimental Atelier for Applied and Free Art. Epistolary between Laban and Obrist demonstrate the strong influence the sculptor had on Laban. Certainly Laban had read Kandinsky’s book Concerning the Spiritual in Art, written in 1910, which held that the inner expression of the artist was the prime element in making work. 

            "When religion, science and morality are shaken, the two last by the strong hand of Nietzsche, and when the outer supports threaten to fall, man turns his gaze from externals in on to himself. Literature, music and art are the first and most sensitive spheres in which this spiritual revolution makes itself felt. They reflect the dark picture of the present time and show the importance of what at first was only a little point of light noticed by few and for the great majority non-existent."

            Laban’s drawings of forms in space reflect the influence of these artistic movements and the origins of his ideas about the geometric relationship of the body in space, which would later become his movement scales. Laban’s Effort is directly (ha pun) related to the inner drive of the mover as it expresses itself through movement. Inner-Outer is a Major Theme in Laban Movement Analysis.

            Laban and his wife singer Maja Lederer had a base in Schwabing, the bohemian neighborhood of Munich from 1910-1914. Schwabing was a center of counter culture and experimentation. Alternative lifestyles were the norm. Performance flourished in the forms of dance, cabaret, puppet theatre and the carnival events, which afforded Laban some income during these years. 

            At the turn of the century mysticism was thriving in Munich. Several groups were exploring the lines of spirituality, mysticism, politics and art and how they entwined and entangled. The Cosmic Circle, centered round the mystic, Alfred Schuler consisted of writers, philosophers and intellectuals who believed that many of the problems facing people and civilization were rooted in Christianity. They studied matriarchal clans and pushed toward a return to paganism. The “Bohemian Countess of Schwabing” Fanny zu Reventlow was a part of this group. She spent time in Monte Verita and will be discussed more in this essay. Poet Karl Wolfskehl was a member of the cosmic Circle who was also involved in Stephan George’s group, George-Kreis, another academic/artistic group of mostly writers.
Harmony and disharmony was on everyone’s mind and tongue. Arnold Schoenberg rejected it in his avant-garde musical compositions.


            In 1902 Rudolf Steiner became head of the Theosophical Society in Austria and Germany following the work of Madame Blavatsky. Blavatsky’s methods mixed Eastern and Western mysticism and taught that each individual had the power to interact directly with the divine and effect change through thought, word and action. Steiner broke away from the Theosophists in 1914 to form the Anthroposophical Society. According to Wikipedia the 1st principle of the Anthroposophical Society is:
The Anthroposophical Society is to be an association of people whose will it is to nurture the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world. 

It was an open society that could be joined by anyone. Equality was a major value. With his wife Marie von Sivers, Steiner went on to create Eurythmy, a movement art, which was also concerned with spatial movement lines, curves, the three dimensions, color and the balance between the relationships of speech and movement and music and movement. It is likely that this may have been part of the initial thinking that led to Laban’s Arc-like and Spoke-like Directional Shape and his Dimensional Scale. Ultimately the Steiners developed the Waldorf schools, which still exist today.

            Emile Jacques-Dalcroze opened his school for Eurhythmics in Hellerau, Dresden in 1910. His focus was in training young musicians to hone their bodies to hear and respond to music through movement. Dalcroze believed that Eurhythmics, solfège (musical education focused on pitch and sight singing), and improvisation were the keys to advanced musical abilities.   

            Suzanne Perrottet and Mary Wigman both came to Monte Veritas after meeting in Hellerau at Émile Jaques-Dalcroze school of Eurhythmics where Perrottet was teaching Wigman. Both acknowledged to each other that they were secretly practicing movement alone in their rooms and reaching new conclusions. The Dalcroze structure was too regimented to allow room for their curious explorations. Taking a cure near Hellerau, Laban was invited to a student demonstration at the school. Here he met Perrottet who he was immediately drawn to. They began an affair and correspondence that led Perrottet to meet up with Laban in Monte Verita. Perrottet would work with him on his ideas to form a new system of movement. 

            Suzy Perrottet and Mary Wigman must have brought a great deal of Eurhythmics to Laban’s table. One of the ways that Laban could distinguish himself from Dalcroze was through breaking away from the meter of music. Laban believed that rhythm could be found in the human body without the aid of music. Dancing to music was actually less expressive of the inner drive of the dancer because of the strong influence of the rhythm of the music.

            Laban and Wigman had much in common according to Isa Partsch-Bergsohn. In her book Modern Dance in Germany and the United States: Crosscurrents and ..., Volume 1, she states;
"For both of them dance arose from ritual, from their own undefined nonsectarian form of Dionysianism, inspired by Nietzsche… Wigman believed that the student had to reach this level of trance in order to connect to his unconscious roots, similar in thought to Carl Jung’s collective unconscious. It was in this realm that Wigman conceived dance ritual, a direct outgrowth of her collaboration with Laban on the dance ritual “Song of the Sun”, in 1917."

            It was Nietzsche who said in Ecce Homo, "Remain seated as little as possible, put no trust in any thought that is not born in the open to the accompaniment of free bodily movement.”  In fact Nietzsche wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra in the Swiss Alps not far from Ascona.


            In 1889, prior to the colony, theosophists Alfredo Pioda, Franz Hartmann, and Countess Constance Wachtmeister began planning a cloister on Monesia (Monte Verita) called Fraternitas. Although this cloister did not succeed, perhaps these ideas paved the way for the future of the area in terms of its vegetarianism, sexual equality, occultism and harmony with nature.

            Monte Verita (Mount of Truth), Monesia near Ascona, Switzerland was founded by pianist, teacher and writer Ida Hofmann and her partner Henri Oedenkoven in 1900, driven by the ideal of creating a utopian society focused on living simply, in harmony with nature. Henri Oedenkoven was the son of a rich industrialist whose money did much to support the colony as costs recouped from the clientele did little to cover expenses. The founding group of theosophists, anarchists, mystics and free thinkers had met in Munich in 1900 to set up the purchase of the land. They brought together other groups who had already formed in Ascona to escape from the “suffocation of the metropolis” (Preston-Dunlop.) Initially the place was conceived of as a sanatorium to recover from the effects of city life and industrialization through close contact with nature.  The beautiful peaceful environment provided a haven for a new kind of primitive socialism that arose as an alternative response to Capitalism and Communism. The brothers Karl and Arthur (Gusto) Gräser were involved in the first year of development but though they stayed in the area, their differing ideals split them apart from the colony. 

            Women’s rights, raw vegan food, direct exposure to sunlight, gardening, exercise and movement were some of the major values espoused. One of the goals was to recover from the effects of civilization through communion with nature, growing and eating vegetables. Basic living was extolled. The use of unheated huts and simple attire meant restricted corsets and clothing were exchanged for plain wool or linen clothes worn without restrictive undergarments. Arms could be exposed to the air. Women could stop wearing bras. People went barefoot. This was revolutionary in itself. Within the colony there were “air and light” baths where people could go naked. Originally these were separated by the sexes. Later as the colony evolved nudism became commonplace. People gardened, danced or exercised in the raw.  Artists, anarchists, psychotherapists, feminists, naturalists were all drawn to the spot. The thriving culture in cities such as Munich, Zurich and Paris served to bring them together.

            Laban came to Monte Verita from Munich in May of 1913 to scout the location with the idea of setting up a School for Art there. He must have had some previous connection with the founders for he was quickly brought on board. By June of 1913 the school was beginning to take in students. Mary Wigman was among the first. 

            Laban’s ideas for the school encompassed much more than just art. Laban took on the role of shepherding the spiritual life of the colony. He believed that dance could be a vehicle to engage in the festive celebration of the spiritual dimension. He drew inspiration from several places. Like George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, Laban was influenced by the Sufi’s and came to similar conclusions about the role of dance in ritual and the human-divine connection. Laban had been exposed to Rosicrucianism in Paris and became involved with of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.), a freemasonry/Rosicrucian group that practiced sex-magick[1], during his time at Monte Verita. It was an unusual group in that it allowed the membership of females. Ida Hoffmann and Henri Oedenkoven were also members, as were many others in the community. The O.T.O. Grand Lodge Mystica Verita pursued a stream of activities culminating in a 10 day congress in August of 1917 in which Labanites performed over a 12 hour span his Sang an die Sonne (Song to the Sun), “Dance of the Setting Sun,” “Demons of the Night.” and “The Rising Sun.” This ritual/performance cycle was an overt demonstration of the cosmic connection to be found in the expression of the artistic human form. In 1917 in Zurich, he founded his own lodge, the Libertas et Fraternitas/Johannes Lodge of the ancient Freemasons of the Scottish and Memphis and Misraim Rites. Perrottet, Wigman, Olga Feldt, Wulff, Lederer, Herbert von Bomsdorff-Berger and Oskar Bienz were members of this lodge. 

            For Laban freedom of the body, really meant freedom of the body, to express in terms of emotions, sexuality, primitive and spiritual impulses. His ties with the O.T.O. and the Schwabing mystics offered new ideas that directly linked the human body to the divine, through sexual liberation and movement practices. Laban had a large sexual appetite and was physically involved with many of the participants at Monte Verita. His magnetism drew ample willing partners. He was often sexually involved with the women who were collaborating with him as he developed his work. (I guess that is one way to begin an empire of movement…)

            While World War I was raging throughout Europe, Monte Verita, Switzerland, remained a peaceful neutral outpost. The war lasted from July 1914 to November 1918. Many of the Verita inhabitants moved to Zurich for the winter months.


            Soon-to-be Dadaists, Sophie Taeuber and Katja Wulff came to Monte Verita to study with Laban. With Perrottet, both Taeuber and Wulff would perform in the Zurich Dada movement born in the Cabaret Voltaire. Laban himself was involved in some of these performances, but his ideology differed from the Nihilist Dadaists. The expressionistic work they did at Monte Verita likely paved the way for further pushing of boundaries in public performance. The Dada women became well known for their grotesque portrayals that challenged stereotypes of femininity and harmony. They used masks and spoken word in performance. According to the Thesis of Katherine Leigh Weinstein,

"However, the women of Zurich Dada; namely the poet Emmy Hennings, artist and dancer Sophie Taeuber, dancer Katja Wulff and the dancer and musician Suzanne Perrottet, subverted traditional images of femininity through the presentation of their bodies on stage that were often radical and bizarre. Each woman found in the galleries and stages of Dada an arena for self-expression, a platform for their political views, and the impetus to revolt against entrenched artistic traditions."

            Olga Feldt (a.k.a. Dussia Bereska) followed Laban and Perrottet to Monte Verita in 1917. She would become a prime collaborator, lover, teacher and choreographer working with Laban until 1929.


            Franziska zu Reventlow “the Bohemian Countess” lived in Monte Verita from 1910-1916. She was famous for her unorthodox views on feminism. She rallied against the institution of marriage, believing that sexual freedom paved the way to equality for women.

            Psychoanalyst, anarchist and advocate of Free Love, Otto Gross was another key player in the early Ascona community. At the time Gross was thought to be Freud’s brightest follower.  In a biographical survey Gottfried Heuer pointed out “For Gross, psychoanalysis was a weapon in a countercultural revolution to overthrow the existing order - not a means to force people to adapt better to it.” Gross struggled with patriarchy. He was interested in Jakob Bachofen’s work on Das Mutterrecht or “mother-right.” He was an advocate against the discrimination of same sex relationships. Gross was another believer that the physical body could not be separated from the soul. He wrote "The psychology of the unconscious is the philosophy of the revolution . . . It is called upon to enable an inner freedom, called upon as preparation for the revolution" (Heuer, Gottfried, 1998)
Both Gross and Reventlow came from traditional repressive patriarchal families. Both saw the need for societal change and a questioning of values. Both believed in free and open expression of sexuality. 

            Writer Herman Hesse, dancer Isadora Duncan, philosopher and member of the Cosmic Circle Ludwig Klages and many other great minds of the early 20th century all made their way to Monte Verita.


            An underlying theme that connects many of the artistic, spiritual and philosophical movements at the time of the development of Monte Verita was the idea that each person had the power to connect to the divine through the expressive force their own inner drives. This Drive of the individual to connect to the cosmic seemed to be at the base of the ideas behind the work of Kandinsky, Blavatsky and the Theosophists, the Steiners, and Laban. People were interested in creating alternate societies based on utopian ideals, looking for a way forward into a new age that embraced matriarchal ideals while rejecting the materialism of the mainstream. 

            When I was studying Laban Movement Analysis I found that the spatial geometric  scales of movement came very easily to me. As the year of study progressed I had a dream that felt divinely cosmic to me. The dream was very abstract. I dreamt that I was a point in space and everything in the universe was simultaneously radiating into and out of me. It was a magical transcendent feeling of total emersion and connection with ALL. 

I believe this feeling was a part of the Zeitgeist of the early 20th century. Perhaps this deep connection I personally experienced through the course of my Laban work was the impetus to dig into this particular Monte Verita time and place in this essay.

Dörr, Evelyn, Rudolf Laban: The Dancer of the Crystal, Scarecrow Press, Langham, MD 2008

Laban, Rudolf ,A Life for Dance: Reminiscences, trans. Lisa Ullmann, Princeton: Princeton Books, 1975

Lachman, Gary, Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen, Quest Books, Wheaton, IL, 2008

Preston-Dunlop, Valerie Rudolf Laban: An Extraordinary Life London: Dance Books, 1998

Dörr, Evelyn and Lantz, Lori “Rudolf von Laban: The "Founding Father" of Expressionist Dance” Dance Chronicle Vol. 26, No. 1 2003

Heuer, Gottfried, Otto Gross 1877-1920 Biographical Survey, Festschrift, London, 1998

Prevots, Naima “Zurich Dada and Dance: Formative Ferment Dance” Research Journal 17/1 (Spring/Summer 1985)

Gordon, Donald, “New York: Kandinsky at the Guggenheim”
The Burlington Magazine Vol. 124, No. 949, April 1982

Turner, Christopher “The Art of Movement,” Cabinet Magazine, Issue 36, Winter 2009/10

Weinstein, Katherine Leigh “Subversive Women: Female Performing Artists in Zurich Dada”, Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2001


Koenig, Peter-R. “Ordo Templi Orientis
Veritas Mystica Maxima 
Consider other O.T.O.groups non existent” from the biography of Theodore Reuss

Juliet Linley, Sils Maria, Switzerland 2014

"Theosophical Siftings" - Volume -2- 1889-1890

Klahr, Douglas, “Munich as Kunststadt, 1900-1937 Art, Architecture and Civic Identity ”, Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 34, Issue 2


[1] Magick with a K distinguishes occult magick from stage magic.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The SHAKEOUT - a fun way to release tension


This is a fantastic exercise to release tension, to shift energy, and to generally enhance your chillax capacity.  I think I first learned it at the Laban Institute of Movement Studies in the nineties. The Shakeout provides an energetic release of whatever needs to get out, clearing the slate for new sensations and experiences. If you have to do something that makes you nervous the shakeout is a good way to release unnecessary tension beforehand. Great before a performance, public speaking, meeting the parents…

It doesn’t require much physical space, but you probably want to be somewhere that is fairly soundproof if you are going to participate full throttle or full throat-al.

How To:
Lay on the floor (or your bed) on your back. Extend your arms and legs into the air in front of you, reaching for the ceiling. This can be done with just upper or just lower body if you have any injuries or movement restrictions. Take a big deep breath and then shake your arms and legs as hard as you can while you let out a big yell. Repeat several times. Most likely it will eventually lead you into laughter. In my classes at the gym, we would usually arrive at laughter by the 3rd time. This is especially potent when done in groups but alone is fine too.

Variations- instead of yelling you can try stomping and shouting yes and/or no.
You can do it standing or bouncing on a physio ball.
You can do it without the yell while standing up too- just shake your body as hard as you can comfortably shake.
If you are in public and can’t find a room, try to go into a restroom stall. It really helps to relieve the jitters and loosen up your energy. Your nervous system will thank you!

Photo - Ella Condon

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Finding The Golden Eggs

The golden eggs in the somatic arena are found by breaking the habitual and finding space for something new. Evolving into more supportive movement patterning can be accessed through awareness. Shine the light of your consciousness on the inner space by developing your kinesthetic awareness, and your powers of proprioception and interoception.
This allows us to take stock of our tension, holding and movement patterns and release some of the detritus that is no longer serving our needs. Stop accepting good enough, and move into your own greatness.
Let’s be generous with our own selves.
Love up the bodymind.

Photo- Ella Condon

Thursday, May 23, 2019

When Facing Shadows on Somatic Adventures to the Innerworld

When Facing Shadows on Somatic Adventures to the Innerworld

            Opening up the bodymind to new experience can be scary and challenging. It may bring up fear. Fear serves to help maintain the status quo. It constricts and contracts the tissues in the body, squeezing us into limiting postures and behaviors. If we want to move beyond these limits we can ask for two magical keys to help us pass through the big heavy door of fear: curiosity and humor.

            Use curiosity as an inroad into anything that feels uncomfortable- you always have the choice of how to respond. If you feel yourself contracting or feeling awkward and uncomfortable lean into your inquiry in a non-judgmental way, as Buddhist monk Pema Chodron says, “lean into the sharp points”. Ask yourself what your body is experiencing. You might ask yourself, “What exactly are these sensations?” then break them down into descriptions like; “My chest feels tight and my belly feels hot deep inside and numb on the surface.” Or, “My breathing is expansive and I can feel it moving all the way out to my fingertips and toes.” Usually, in the process of naming physical sensations, they begin to evolve and change. 

            Learning to become comfortable with being in the unknown and with your own awkwardness will make life a lot easier. There is no right or wrong here. Ask yourself how deep you can allow yourself to go, if anything begins to feel unsafe or if you think you’ve gone too far and lost yourself come back to some familiar movement. Track the horizon with your eyes and name what you see, do a cat-cow or any movement that is familiar to you and part of your personal repertoire. Get up and walk around, shake yourself off, look at your surroundings. If all else fails- laugh at your self. Don't take yourself too seriously. This should be engaging and interesting. If you meet a dragon on your internal ventures stop and say hello. See what gifts this inner dragon has to offer you.

Photo A.Craig Snyder

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Feelings In Formation, The Bodymind in Shape.

Our bodies are constantly adapting to our experiences in the world. How we hold our body, our tension patterns, and movement choices lead to how we are held by our tissue.

Our fascia is creating the support system we need to keep our body in whatever postures we hold most and it also forms in connection to our movement (or lack of it) in space.

On another level every emotion, every affect first appears in the tissue, we then interpret (or we don’t) the meaning of the sensations we feel in our body. 

So whether we contract in fear or expand in love it is happening on every level and it will play an immeasurable role in how our body and our tissues form on both micro and macro levels. Tension masks sensation- when we avoid our feelings by holding them in and pushing them down we develop holding patterns that deny our own expression.

Try it right now- think about someone or something you unequivocally love- what are the sensations in your body? Now think of an event or situation that evokes fear, what does that feel like in your body? Now bring yourself back to the good feelings… The next question is what do you do with those sensations: add tension to avoid feeling them, or allow yourself to express?

See Simple Movement Meditation to create some new patterns.

Photo Mónica Lou

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Finding Freedom in the Bodymind- The Being Space

Finding Freedom in the Bodymind-
The Being Space

There is a place of un-knowing- a place in the body, where there is no need for specific form, no need to define, and definitely no need for function- or thinking of function, and there is no room for judgment.

It is an open field- maybe it is close to what is called open attention in Continuum Movement, or constructive rest, it could be a movement meditation- or stillness- just being in the internal space- giving room for the being-ness of existence without the need to name, learn, control, or analyze…

It is a space of allowing and sensing, receptive but not expectant… or something like that.

This place is a major recuperation zone. Supremely beneficial to the autonomic nervous system as it shifts into the parasympathetic flow of rest and digest, sooth and settle. It may be the unconscious processing space, sort of the unconscious movement processing space etc. It is a place of slowing down, letting go, healing. 

In this place deep cellular holding patterns can loosen and begin to resolve. 

Photo Credit- Ella Condon- The Dreaming