I am an artist-healer and cultural activist. The vitality and joy I find in dance and meditation were my lifeline through a major health crisis and are the inspiration for my teaching and healing practice. My two-year training in Womenâ€™s Ritual Dances with Laura Shannon is the foundation for my approach to dance as a sacred community art. My study of meditation with Spring Forest Qigong since 2006 continually deepens my understanding of how energy moves. For over twenty years I have been working for transformation â€“ for justice that reflects our interdependence. My mediation training, experience teaching nonviolence in prisons, advocating for public policy and building interfaith and intercultural relationships influence how I understand movement and meditation as powerful tools for healing ourselves and the world. I have taught hundreds of classes and helped hundreds of people with healing. I love seeing my students and clients strengthen their connection with body, mind, and spirit and unlock their capacity to live vibrant, courageous lives.
Many people ask me how I ended up with such an unusual skill set. If you are curious to learn more about what makes me passionate about fringe things like qigong and ritual dance, I welcome you to read on.
My Anchors in Art and Culture
I have always loved to dance. If a movie has great costumes and dance routines, Iâ€™ll probably like it. I studied ballet from a young age yet a series of injuries as a teenager left me questioning if I was going to be able to dance again. I dabbled in dance composition and modern dance. Then I finally came home to dancing again in my late twenties when I was introduced to Sacred Circle Dancing.
I fell in love with these participatory, community-building, prayerful circle dances. The ritual dances from the Balkans were particularly alive for me–I could literally feel a life force well up in me through their repeating patterns. When I found myself in a health crisis, connected to an IV, I found dancing could override my all-consuming stress and bring me to the present. During that time I realized that even though my heritage is from Western Europe, the dance traditions of Eastern Europe and Asia Minor had adopted me.
Laura Shannon is an especially significant teacher for me. She unlocked my connection to the life energy in these dances. Iâ€™ve studied this dance form with many other teachers and also performed professionally for three years with Ethnic Dance Theatre, one of the top ethnic dance ensembles in the country. My experience with Ethnic Dance Theatre solidified within me the power of live music and costuming to strengthen the full embodiment of the dance.
I view any dance as a cultural expression of our relationship with each other and the earth. I realized that part of what was making me feel so alive was the way the dance styles reflect an entirely different relationship to the earth. Through dancing I understood with my body what sustainability feels like. I believe that many dance traditions from around the world are living wisdom traditions that can help guide us in restoring our relationship with each other and the earth.
Transformation, Activism, and Healing
I developed my spiritual foundation growing up in an extraordinarily creative and vibrant United Methodist Church in Berkeley, California. I received a strong foundation for asking spiritual questions. As a young adult, I no longer found what I needed in worship but put my faith in action by working for faith-based organizations for 14 years.
I grew up acutely feeling the shadow of the turmoil in the early 20th century. Every teary family toast contains the shadows of the losses my family felt in the Great Depression. My childhood best friendâ€™s alcoholic father was a holocaust survivor. My ailing pastor was a survivor of the bombing of Nagasaki. The wounding of the world was personal and acutely present.
One of the biggest spiritual questions I have carried through my life is how to heal the grief and despair that comes with such a broken world. The desire for transformation drove me to activism and to a Peace and Conflict Studies major in college.
Only when I had to face my own intense brokenness in a health crisis did I surprise myself by finding a deep well of resilience and healing. This shift was facilitated in large part by working with qigong healers and practicing qigong myself. It is such a relief to be so much more at peace with the universe! Becoming a healer has at last fulfilled my lifelong longing to bring healing, hope, and transformation to the world.
Sometimes people ask me why water is such a big theme in my work. Hang around me for a while and Iâ€™ll share some of the big spiritual reasons. But I thought Iâ€™d pay tribute here to some of the significant waters in my life. I grew up anchored by an amazing view of the San Francisco Bay and a poster in our house that said â€œWater is Life.â€ At my wedding in 2005, we symbolically merged together our families with water from Lake Hiawatha, the Mississippi River, Miranda Canyon, Strawberry Creek, the Oakland Estuary, Biscayne Bay, Lake Piseco, and the Hudson River. I would be delighted if I came to be known as the Lady of Lake Hiawatha.
My Ordinary South Minneapolis Life
My life has been profoundly shaped by the love of my spouse, writer Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew. Lunchtime is when we get to crank each otherâ€™s creativity up by sharing ideas. Sometimes we even teach together, which is lots of fun. We adopted our daughter Gwyn in 2008 and her fire and passion gets me to roar, play, and dress up.
In the midst of juggling work, creating, and family life, I often have a couple days of menu planning going on in my head. There is usually something soaking and simmering in our kitchen, and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, some of them from our garden.