What is Yogadance?
Yogadance is a combination of yoga asana, vinyasa and music. To elaborate, I use yoga postures as building blocks, and students must be familiar with alignment and technique, particularly of the standing poses. From the frame work of the postures, I stylize and create transitional material between the poses, resulting in contemporary vinyasa, which when choreographed to music becomes dance. Music is another layer of "information" to be conscious of, and I'm not a fan of using music as simply a back drop. It's an additional element that requires the same level of attention, curiosity and presence as the yoga asana themselves.
What philosophical elements of yoga are shared with Yogadance?
I believe at the heart of both forms is the idea of learning how to be present. This is a process, one that we look at our whole life. Many of the Yamas and Niyamas are expressed in action during class, although I generally do not use the Sanskrit words while teaching because they can create confusion. That doesn't mean the philosophy isn't being embodied. For instance, take the concept Svadhyaya, or self-study. It is in effect when we deconstruct a pose and I ask you to notice how you move, or even to change a pattern. Some will miss or discount the significance of these mundane, mechanical moments, but they are an important aspect on the continuum of how to pay attention and in learning about who you are by the choices you make. This is an example of what philosophy in action looks like, and many of the other tenants of the Eight Limbs of Yoga are expressed in class by what we do.
How much previous dance experience do I need?
None! I am using yoga to teach people how to move and how to dance.
What elements of dance are incorporated?
I include the following dance elements, which asana/vinyasa class generally do not.
- Locomotion, or traveling across the floor
- Rhythm and consciously relating to music
- Spinal articulation and undulations of the spine
- Transitioning "into" and "out" of the floor
- Directional changes and moving on the diagonal
- Ensemble work, working in unison and independently
How long has Yogadance been around and who started it?
There is a discussion of "Oriental" and "Esoteric Dance" in Mark Singleton's academic work, "Yoga Body," which sheds some light on this question. In the early part of the 20th century, numerous physically minded luminaries, including the famous modern dancer Ruth St Dennis, experimented with combining asana, movement, gymnastics, mysticism and "spirituality." I think it could be said yogadance began at that time, but likely not in a form we would recognize today.
Between that time and when I began in 1987, to my knowledge there was no particular champion. It's important to note the internet hadn't been invented, and the ease of accessing information on who's doing what, or to view videos in the way we can today was non existent. So I was aware of a few others besides myself who heeded the call in the 80's to combine yoga and dance, although I never saw their work: Kali Rae, and Seattle based teachers Kathleen Hunt and Kat Allen.
There was no preconceived roadmap or authority in this realm, no one to ask "how?" This allowed me to develop and refine a unique methodology of instruction for the original choreography I generated over the next 25 years.
Is this a type of Ecstatic Dance?
No, this is not ecstatic dance, but exercise and choreographed patterns that are repeatable, setting the practitioner up for eventual "freestyle" if they wish. Through deconstruction, intellectual engagement and physical repetition, I teach the relationship between the stillness of stationary posture, the transitions of vinyasa, and the musical expression of yogadance.
How can I prepare for a weekend workshop or intensive?
Practice the standing poses! Lateral, sagittal and standing balance poses comprise a bulk of the posture used in choreography.
- Lateral standing poses: Parsvakonasana, Virabhadrasana II, Trikonasana, Ardha Chandrasana
- Sagittal standing poses: Parsvakonasana, Parivrtta Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana I & III
- Standing balance poses: Garudasana, Vrksasana, Hasta Padangusthasana II
How does performing figure in?
I'll answer that with a question. How can you be present while on adrenaline? I place a high value on being present through all aspects of life, including during the curve balls that get thrown our way. Learning how to be "in your body" while adrenaline is coursing through your veins is a great skill to have. Besides, performing is a terrific way to communicate and share with others.
Where can I stay when in Seattle?
Hotel Nexus. Visit the stylish and business friendly North Seattle hotels. Ask for the Taj Yoga discount rate and save!