On the last day of kindergarten in the prairie town in which I lived, I told my classmates that I was going to become a Spanish dancer and would return one day and teach them how to dance. I did not become a Spanish dancer or return to that town, but I have danced and acted around the world and taught dance to thousands of children.
My family moved to Minneapolis and I began formal dance training at what became the Minnesota Dance Theater under Loyce Houlton. Unusual for the time, we were trained in both modern dance and ballet techniques. I had the great fortune to work with many guest teachers and choreographers that Loyce brought in from around the world. I have always been interested in finding the commonalities and congruences, as well as the differences between people, cultures and ideas. The 10 years I spent at the MDT – dancing work that ranged from Sleeping Beauty Act III to Glen Tetley’s Mythical Hunters – provided early opportunities to explore this passion.
My parents took me to see great theatre and dance, including Sir Tyrone Guthrie’s productions of Shakespeare, Moliere and Greek tragedies, Martha Graham, Alwin Nikolais, the Royal Danish and English Ballets, Chinese Opera… all of which were deeply inspiring.
I furthered my studies in NYC and at the Banff Centre, from where I went on to dance with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. While on tour, I witnessed Andrei Șerban’s production of The Trojan Women and Electra, performed in the original Greek. The visceral sensation of passionate, embodied voices and movement awakened the desire to coordinate them in my own performance.
Several months later, I met actor/director/artist Robert Greenwood and we created Sun.Ergos, A Company of Theatre and Dance, the name drawn from the Greek for “working together”. We were inspired by the creative collaboration of choreographers, composers, artists and writers of the Ballet Russes, and traditional theatre forms like Chinese Opera and Kabuki where performers fully engage all the possibilities of both movement and vocal expression, as well as stunning costuming. As we worked together, Bob taught me acting technique, especially the vocal and emotional work that was lacking in my dance training.
Besides touring the productions we created, we began to do arts residencies both at home and abroad. I developed workshops exploring the elements and qualities of movement, guiding the participants to use them to create movement pieces from poetry, which they also spoke, the vocal quality emerging from the way the movement affected the voice. I have used this method with people ranging from pre-school students to professionals.
I have always been interested in the connections between the brain and the body. When I lived in NYC, I was introduced to the writing of Mabel Ellsworth Todd, the work of Lulu Sweigard and the Alexander Technique. I began exploring somatic approaches to understanding my body and movement, transforming my neuromuscular coordination, postural alignment and balance.
In 1989, I was introduced to Brain Gym® and Educational Kinesthetics. I was drawn to the elegant structure of this educational modality and the matrix it provides to integrate diverse transformational techniques. At the heart is learning through moving. The powerful combination of clear intention, listening to the body, and movement, supported by tools to integrate the brain-body system, literally transformed the way I dance, rehearse, teach and live my life. I actually taught my first Brain Gym® classes in Singapore, when we were there performing and teaching for the International Festival of the Arts at the United World College SEA.
In 1991, Bob Greenwood and I began a close relationship with the International Children’s Festival in Šibenik, Croatia. We performed at the Festival, taught workshops, and the Croatian War for Independence began while we were there. We returned each year, performing in bomb shelters, villages, refugee camps, and I began a project with a local teacher, Eta Zmijanović, translating the original Brain Gym book into Croatian, for which Dr. Dennison generously donated the rights. When it was finished, we brought copies to Croatia and I taught a Brain Gym® workshop to teachers in Šibenik. We also taught dance and art workshops for the children.
In 1999 I first studied Movement Exploration with Carol Ann Erickson, and I found in developmental, fundamental movement patterns we explored the link between my dance world and Educational Kinesthetics. When I also studied Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training as well, I was amazed at the improvement in my own balance, which I had thought to be proficient. These techniques have become part of my work, impacting my skill as a dancer and part of what I offer teaching children, dancers, teachers and coaching in private sessions.
In 2001, I began teaching classes at our local preschool combining dance with developmental movement, Brain Gym®, nursery rhymes and stories. For 18 years, this was a wonderful laboratory to explore and create. I am now teaching the work I developed, so teachers can provide their students with rich, creative movement experiences to develop movement literacy.
About 10 years ago I became concerned as several elderly friends had falls, and the quality of their lives began a downward spiral. I noticed a pattern: declining balance, using walkers, resulting posture compensations, dependence on walkers, diminished vestibular input and mobility… I thought, it doesn’t have to be this way, and I know tools that can change this narrative.
As a lifelong dancer, I observed that as many people age, there is a disconnect between the tempo of their thinking and their ability to coordinate and execute the movements to realize their thoughts. The synchronization of 40 years ago is no longer available to them.
I knew it would be helpful to improve awareness and brain–body connections, balance and coordination. I call this trio – awareness, balance and coordination – the ABCs of movement; and the classes I’ve developed – Brain Body Fitness.