stories and practices for
teaching thinking dancing
stories and practices for teaching thinking dancing
1 A PLACE OF CONVERGENCE
1974 Coming to Naropa
1973-1974 Before Coming to Naropa
1975 After Coming to Naropa
2 FIRST CLASS
1976-77 Boulder CO
1938-1950 Tumbleweed Lineage
The Walking Circle
First Posture of Mindfulness
First Map of Space
Dancing Thinking Dancing Score
Continuous Present article
Brown Bag Lineage Tree
3 ELEGANT PEDESTRIAN
1950 The Dancing Path
1956 Mount Holyoke College
1960-1963 Merce Cunningham, New York,
Marriage and Family
Postures of Mindfulness
Parallel Corridors Map of Space
Eye Practices (and Ears)
4 FINDING PATTERNS
1964-68 Merce Cunningham Dance Tours
1968 Downtown Art Ecosystem
Bread and Puppet Theater
The Grand Union
Natural History of the American Dancer
All the ‘little disciplines’
Maps of Space
Four Quadrants Map of Space
Well Wishers and On Lookers
Layers of Awareness
Follow the Leader
Herding and Flocking
Homage to John Cage
Watching a Grand Union video
5 TWO STREAMS
Crystal Dance Company
Dharma; Practice, Study, and Livelihood
Contemplative Dance Practice
Carrying a Teaspoon of Water
Satipattana Sutta adaptation
6 THIS VERY MOMENT
1984-1993 Spiritual Appointment:
The Red Square
Choreographic Methods: Robert Dunn
7 THE ARTRIBE
Returning to the Classroom
Writing about Dancing
This is the beginning of the book
Welcome to these stories of teaching
...and to classroom practices for improvising and composing. Joe Baker,
alumnus from Naropa University, said, “I want to know how it came to
be that you do what you do in the way that you do it: the stories of how
and why.” So the Memoir sections came to be.
The Practices are exercises I’ve created over the years. The simple pedestrian themes evolve through movement research to ensemble composing. The poet Gary Snyder calls the Postures of Mindfulness; Standing, Walking, Sitting, and Lying Down, our “species home.” Bringing
specific kinesthetic awareness like Slow Motion or Repetition to these
postures awakens endless possibilities. With this vocabulary the ensemble can move onto a Map of Space like the Grid. Composing, alone and
together, follows naturally.
Right at the beginning of Naropa University, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, meditation master and founder, encourages art making to arise
from a meditative state of mind. I long to explore creativity and teaching with this awareness. I become a student of Buddhadharma and look
for meditative mind; attentive to the activity of thinking, to the space
around thoughts, to posture, to breath.
Improvisation is always about deep play; a rigorous, honest, yet playful
commitment to structures mingled with the awesome demand of “this
very moment.” Then the unexpected can stop by for a cup of tea.
Three slogans from poet Gertrude Stein are in the classroom all the
time: continuous present; beginning again and again; and using everything. They invite me to move along from this to this, now this; to not
get stuck. They pull me up from the ‘sub-conscious gossip’ of my mind.
They place me in a stream of noticing and one of them becomes the title
of this book.
For teachers and creative researchers and art makers, take what you find
here and mingle it with everything you already know. Move back and
forth and around and about, adapting and adopting what strikes your
fancy. Shape journeys for yourself and the next generation that are full
of embodied knowing and great deep play.
Rinpoche teaches about synchronizing body and mind. Constantly I
wonder about this. How do we experience mind when we are moving?
How do we experience body when we are thinking? I’ve never considered this. Do thoughts change my posture? Does my posture change
what I think? The Zen Buddhist teacher, Suzuki Roshi, says “body and
mind are not two and not one.” What happens in that space between two
Naropa becomes a Place of Convergence. Here dancing and teaching
and mind training braid together. I arrive from the New York art ecosystem of 1960-1975 with dance techniques and experiences and bring
into the classroom. I begin to fold in metaphors and practices of mindfulness and awareness. Contemplative arts arise when inner and outer
living and art-ing mingle in an open hearted way; not only the deliberate art we create and offer but also the intimate art of our everyday lives.
1974 Coming To Naropa
1973 Before Coming To Naropa
1975 After Coming To Naropa
A Place of Convergence
Meeting Chogyam Trungpa R inpoche
1974 Coming to Naropa
Crowds arrive at Naropa this first summer. Five hundred were planned
for and over fifteen hundred show up. More classrooms must be found
and more folding chairs. Founded by Tibetan meditation master, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Naropa becomes a place where “East meets West
and sparks fly.” There are classes in anthropology, philosophy, spiritual
traditions, the arts. There are thanka painting classes, tai chi ch’uan
practice, and I am invited to teach a new dance workshop in improvisation and composition.
Memory: I am in a class with Kobun Chino Roshi, Zen meditation teacher. It is
held in a fraternity basement commons room. There are couches and over-sized
chairs. It’s really crowded. I perch on the corner of a sofa. He speaks softly with
lots of stillness and an accent. Everyone’s posture is stretched up and forward
What to do?
What to do?
As I look around I sense exhaustion. Or is it just me? This generation has
lived in and through marches for civil rights and against the Vietnam
War. Our leaders have been assassinated and the assassinators shot. Experiments in alternative lifestyles have created more questions.
I arrive for an interview with Naropa’s founder, Trungpa Rinpoche.
There is a suggestion that I dress up, it’s a formal situation. Dress up?
Does this mean wearing a skirt? I have two options: my gypsy-artist-hippie-tribe outfit with carefully torn and beautifully hand-patched jeans
or the costume from my latest solo dance performance, Wonder Dances
which has a skirt. There are three handmade tiers, gathered and attached one above the other. Each tier is a different shade-of-blue fabric
with different sized white polkadots. And there is a magnificent tiedyed t-shirt in fresh, skyblue with fine white clouds. I have put a rhinestone over the heart.
Over the years my memory of this interview shifts. Some
parts are vivid and some parts I don’t know how to tell.
Rinpoche sits behind a desk, and his spacious, quiet
intimacy catches me off guard. There is kindness, curiosity. It was suggested to arrive with a question, so at
some point I ask, “What is the sound I hear when I’m
sitting? The soft, high hum?” His large face, quizzical,
gentle, with fathomless eyes, peers at me, sitting across
from him in my costume. He says, “It is one of two experiences: the sound of your nervous system; or possibly the universe.” I relax. I’ve heard something like this
before. John Cage, musical director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company that I performed with for five
years, often told a story about the anechoic chamber at
Harvard University. John went there to find silence and
instead heard the sounds of his body mind. Because of
this familiarity, I settle down inside, in a deep, almost
Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche,
summer 1974, Naropa Institute
Hearing the Dharma
What is mind?
What are thoughts?
What am I thinking?
I have never considered this.
On the corner of Broadway and Arapahoe, in a converted bus terminal,
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Ram Dass, who wrote Be Here Now,
teach on alternate evenings. The large room is packed. They speak about
traveling a spiritual path, a path of awakening. Dharma is translated as
“the way it is, the truth, the norm.” As we sit and listen I feel something
in the air. The questions are witty and obscure; answers are mysterious,
revealing. Often I don’t understand. I’m stretching my mind muscles to
catch meanings. Sometimes the words are in Sanskrit. Sometimes the
images are abrupt and troubling. But here, in this large room with a
multicolored striped carpet, something happens. Something penetrates
my wild and nervous existence.
Rinpoche talks about sitting meditation all the time. We are encouraged
to sit for one hour. I’m afraid I won’t be able to do this. My roommate
leaves the apartment. I lock the door and put her alarm clock on the desk
in front of me. I use her cushion. I watch the clock. I’m sure I can’t sit
still this long. But I stay. I can do it. Later, much later, I will think why
didn’t someone teach me to meditate when I was twelve? Everything might have been different. Even
later still, I just endure. And much later, I continue to sit and stay.
For the last class in the workshop I’m teaching, we invite people to come
and see what we do. We have shaped a performance inside a square.
There is a loose score with lots of room for the spontaneous to arise. I
make a hand-drawn poster of a cube with casual childlike strokes. The
title, Found Contained seems prophetic. Soon I will come to Naropa and
stay longer than anywhere else in my life. I will let go of the gypsy life I
can no longer sustain. I will be contained.
But I’m ahead of myself.
The Black Crown
Shortly after this phone call I receive a postcard in the mail. On the
front is a black and white photo of His Holiness, the Galwang Karmapa,
head of the Tibetan Karma Kagyu lineage. He sits on a chair looking
out. He is to perform the ancient Black Crown Ceremony at a hotel
ballroom on 44th Street.
When I arrive he is sitting on an elevated brocade-covered box surrounded by monks in deep red
robes. From brass horns, so long that they rest on
the floor, come eerie sounds. Monks chant in guttural tones. The Karmapa lifts the black hat out of a
box and holds it over his head, and the room changes. I am part of a space I’ve never been in before.
Someone tells me this is a transmission of awakened
energy. Everyone lines up to receive a blessing and,
as I walk onto the stage where he will touch the top
of my head, I stumble.
At the end of summer, back in New York City, I receive a phone call
from Trungpa Rinpoche’s secretary. We chat easily. Then he pauses and
says, “Rinpoche would like to invite you to come to Naropa and create a
Coming out of the blue, this invitation stops my mind. The potential of
this change releases a flood of sensations inside my skin. There is almost
no hesitation. Even in my wobbly existence, or perhaps because of it, I
accept. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, this Tibetan teacher who smiles
at me and says things I don’t understand, opens a door and I turn and
walk toward it.
I will leave New York City. I’ve lived here for fifteen years. The deep and
tumultuous journey of art-ing and living has become tattered. There
is an existential ache. I don’t know what I’m going toward but it feels
essential. Trungpa Rinpoche is like no one I have ever met. What he
speaks about is full of something I long for. My mind is caught by his
words and by the atmosphere around them. Descriptions of reality from
a Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana perspective take my breath away. He lays
out a deep, long path. It is terrifying, full of truth-needles puncturing
balloons of unexamined beliefs. There is danger and discomfort. There
is vastness and thoroughness. I can’t get enough of what he says.
Naropa University, this place of convergence, weaves together threads
of my living: my dancing path; a teaching path; and now this path of
Dharma. I want to learn how to teach from this master teacher of humans, and to figure out what to pass on to young dancers. I will listen to
the Dharma and study and practice. I will practice staying. All this will
take a long time.
Memory: One night in SoHo, NYC, I am sitting in the Spring Street Bar with
Douglas Penick. Our conversation wanders here, there. He begins talking about
the Buddhist path. There are Four Noble Truths and the first one is the Noble Truth
of Suffering. We humans suffer continuously and everything is impermanent
and we are an illusion anyway. As he talks something in me snaps. I get up and
walk out the door. What he is saying crashes into my belief that suffering is not
noble but a mark of my sin. This is a part of the beginning. I am penetrated and
“all shook up.” People often enter the Buddhist path because of this kind of sudden
moment, both recognized and rejected. Douglas is at Naropa that first summer
of 1974. He is my first meditation instructor.
1973 - 1974 Before
Coming to Naropa
New York City
Constantly she is dancing, mostly improvising, in and out of structures.
She performs alone and with others. This is what she does. She always
agrees to join in then she goes to the edges. She unbinds her moral
persona. She seeks a wild and trickster muse. She seeks instructions.
This is one reason she dances. Afterwards, after a night of
performing, she finds herself in this valley of insecurity.
Sometimes she drinks whiskey and dances all night to the
blues. Sometimes this helps.
1973 L ate Summer
She drives to Louisiana with Tina Girouard and Dickie
Landry. She’s been living on the top floor of their Chinatown loft on Chatham Square. She and Tina are collaborating on a performance piece, The Bridge.
THE BRIDGE, Tina Girouard
and Barbara Dilley in Russell
Duprei’s back yard, 1973.
112 Green Street Gallery
She lives on the top floor. Natural History of the American
Dancer, an ensemble she formed to explore improvisational structures, is performing in and on an installation of pipes and poles and planks.
Her feet hook on the pole above and behind her. Her
left arm, stretched from its socket, grasps the pole above
her head. Her right arm is crooked around her face and
her eyes are closed. It is her face I can’t look at. My eyes
I turn away.
Memories arrive in a noisy flock: living on Dickie’s mother’s farm and harvesting pecans; dancing in jazz joints on
dark country roads when Dickie sits in with the band; performing The Bridge; walking down the road at Indian Bayou
with Philip Glass, feeling the timelessness between us;v
renting a house on Grand Isle with Randal Arabie, Cajun
artist, photographer, sculptor. We would spend hours in
his darkroom in Chinatown, then eat Cajun breakfasts of
leftover sweet potatoes submerged in glasses of milk. He
has come back to Louisiana to reconcile with his wife and
son. And, oh, yes, Tina and Dickie’s wedding!
Memory: Waking up in the morning somewhere in Soho, NY, I start walking.
Walk all day.
Walk up and down Manhattan, up the avenues, then
across the streets and back down to Soho. Sitting at the counter of Greek delicatessens I eat rice pudding and drink black coffee.
round stools with green plastic covers squeak when I slide into place at each
counter and eat rice pudding and drink black coffee until I am numb. Then walk again. I will learn about the Six Realms in Buddhist psychology and
the Realm of the Hungry Ghosts. Here, in this realm, we have tiny mouths and
gigantic stomachs and are never satisfied, always desperately hungry.
I recognize this. I dwelled there when I was walking and walking
and eating and eating.
Nancy Lewis and I take our kids to her family’s summer home in Rhode
Island. Our friendship weaves around our children and the Grand
Union. Benjy, almost twelve, is moving to Boston with his father and
new family and comes for a holiday with me. Nancy’s son, Miles, around
the same age, and her younger kids, Erin and Geoffrey, make a fine
passel of kids.
This is where she takes this self-portrait. It is just before
everything changes. She is thirty-six years old. She positions herself so the camera won’t be seen but it is there in
her left hand. Vines fall across the surface of the mirror.
Her posture feels staunch, right arm akimbo on her hip,
her expression stern.
This is when I get the phone call from Tom Hast, who works
for Naropa Institute. Tom and I are friends from early Contact Improvisation sessions. He sees my ensemble, Natural
History of the American Dancer: Lesser Known Species, at the Whitney
Museum performances. He traces me to Rhode Island and
invites me to teach at this first Naropa summer. He says I
will connect with “the scene.” I say, “I’ll call you back in
As I put down the phone and lie back on the bed, tears come. My tumbleweed-gypsy-artist life, so groundless, rootless, spills around me. But
I am traveling west to Buffalo, New York to perform with the Grand
Union. It is just a simple plane ride to Boulder, Colorado. I call back.
What if I’d said No?
Would I still be alive?
1975 After Coming to Naropa
Spring New York City
BOSTON/The Game of Dance with Arawana Hayashi and City Dance
BOSTON/NYC/CHICAGO/ MINNEAPOLIS/Wonder Dances
TORONTO/DanceGaming: Caught on the Line with Steve Paxton and
NYC/Sets, Danspace, St. Mark's Church
NYC/Spring Light Warrior, Danspace, St. Mark's Church
BOULDER/Dancing Songs, The Dancing Room
“Sets” is the first dance that uses a Grid Map. Is this true? The pick
up ensemble rehearses our improvisational score over and over.
This is how we do it, rehearsing improvisation. Andy Mann,
downtown videographer and boyfriend, makes a tape of the
performance, one of few I have. Danspace at St. Mark’s Church
in the Bowery, is a new dance performance venue. It emerges
from conversations between Larry Fagin, director of St. Mark’s
Poetry Project, Mary Overlie, and me.
I tour this new solo to Boston and the midwest, finishing at
MoMing art center in Chicago.
The Score is elaborate. There are lots of props, including a
bare light bulb I swing through the space on a long golden
cord. This makes giant shadows dance on the walls. In my
mind the inner world of this dance is connected with coming to Naropa. I use words from Agnes Martin, the painter,
in the program notes.
We will all get there some day however and do the work that we are
supposed to do. Of all the pitfalls in our paths and the tremendous
delays and wanderings off the track I want to say that they are not
what they seem to be. I want to say that all that seems like fantastic
mistakes are not mistakes; all that seems like error is not error; and
it all has to be done. That which seems like a false step is just the
next step. - Agnes Martin
When I see Tom I bow to him.
He searched me out,
extended this invitation,
changed my life.
Sets, at Danspace, St. Mark’s
Church, NYC, May 1975.
Clockwise from Lower L:
Cynthia Hedstrom, Terry
O’Reilly, myself, Eva Meier,
and Steve Clorfeine.
First Summer Session
During the first Session the new solo, Dancing Songs, is performed at the
Armory on University Avenue. I read from Agnes Martin again.
Naropa’s faculty designs a year round catalogue for
January 1976. I’m thinking about dancing and teaching. What do I
know? What is important for young dancers to know?
How do I adapt from my journey? Thinking about
dancing and teaching, I open up to influences from
the dharma. Sometimes the mingling feels right,
then I don’t know what I’m doing. I drop all references to meditation. Then I hear Rinpoche teach
and find the connections again. I pick up images of
mindfulness and awareness and weave them into the
In the second Session I create a
large group piece, The Dancing Room.
Friends from New York arrive and
join summer students. There is a
Red Square on the floor.
L-R: Zenya Gallon, Anne Hammel,
Paul Langland, Steve Clorfeine,
Nancy Minchenberg, and me in the
sky blue t-shirt I wore when I met
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
Bringing New York experimental dancing and
placing it side by side with meditation is a kind
of parallel play, almost like Parallel Corridors, a
Map of Space we use in the classroom. In Corridors we play side by side and pick up and put down
gestures from each other. We open to influence and we imitate and
Memory: I have an interview with Trungpa Rinpoche about curriculum for the new
programs. Toward the end I ask why all my energy evaporates after teaching. He suggests
this is a type of arrogance; too much effort spent holding up what I am teaching. This drains
all the energy. He suggests that I find ways for students to put energy into the process.
The way he says this shows a path, though the image of myself as arrogant is tough. This
instruction penetrates and rolls around in my thoughts for years.
Cast for The Dancing Room, Academy
Chapel, Boulder, CO, August 1975
Standing L-R: Catherine Sharkey, Zhenya
Gallon, Marcia Vaughn, Lanny Harrison,
Paul Langland, Cynthia Hedstrom,
Steve Clorfeine, Anne Hammel
Kneeling: Nancy Minchenberg
Sitting L-R: Douglas Dunn, Terry
O’Reilly, Barbara Dilley
The Long Way A round
Buddhist R etreat
In August I attend an ITS (Intensive Training Session) at the Rocky
Mountain Dharma Center near Red Feather Lakes about two hours
north of Boulder. Trungpa Rinpoche is teaching. I pitch a green tent
under a large pine tree by a creek.
L earning To Meditate
The instructions for meditation are simple-to-say but hard-to-do. Her
fierce dancing mind body is reduced to this posture on a cushion.
Then there is her breath moving in and out and then there are her
thoughts, dense and speeding along. She obsessively observes ‘my body,
my body’ while practicing meditation; bones aligned under gravity,
breath loosening her jaw. It provides some relief from hours of boredom.
She practices sitting and walking meditation for days. Her bewilderment
grows. She hears about mingling her self-consciousness with space. She
wonders where that gap is at the end of the out-breath. Is that it? She can’t
breathe. Once in a while, before the flock of thoughts is back like birds
to a tree, just for a split second, something emerges. The metaphors of
mind training seem ready-made for her neurosis. She thought she was
the only one who was crazy in this way.
Returning to New York City she packs everything into a large old-fashioned steamer trunk, five cardboard boxes, and an orange backpack.
She returns to Colorado, and attends the month long Buddhist dathun,
lead by Alice and Richard Hasprey. They study the Twelve Nidanas in the
Wheel of Life. She sees a picture of an Arrow in the Eye, this moment of desire
which gives birth to everything.
She meets Brent Bondurant, a sheepherder from Wyoming. She is a
dancer from New York and they stay in a cabin called Chime. There is a
loft bed. In the “post meditation hall” there is a wood stove where they
warm their hands before entering the shrine room for 7 am practice.
After dathun, she travels to Japan and performs with the Grand Union
ensemble in a theater at the top of a department store. Then she flies to
Mexico and celebrates Christmas with her parents.
Was Benjy there? She can’t remember.
At the end of December she returns to Boulder and rents an apartment
at the Wagon Wheel Motel up Canyon Road. Similar to railroad flats on
the Lower East Side of New York, each room leads into the next.
In the mornings she drives down the canyon, climbs up the back stairs
to the ballroom, now dance studio, on the third floor of the Wedding
Cake House on Mapleton Avenue and begins teaching.
Memory: I sign up for an interview with Rinpoche. I walk up a dirt road to a small red
and white trailer below a grove of trees. This is where Rinpoche stays. Just beyond the
front door is a cluster of rocks and behind them a campfire. All his meals are cooked there.
There is a folding metal chair beside the door. I sit and wait. When I’m invited in, I
sit on a meditation cushion in front of Rinpoche. I tell him I’m thinking about
doing the dathun, a month-long meditation program, in the Fall. What does
he think of this? He says it sounds good. It would help to remove the “two veils.” I
don’t know what this means.
Later I ask someone about the veils. They hand me “The Jewel Ornament of Lib-
eration” by Gampopa, a Tibetan meditation master. I find the section and read
about the veils; one is “conflicting emotions” and the other is “primitive beliefs about
reality.” Both obscure awakened mind, which is always already here. This metaphor,
these two veils, haunt my meditation practice to this day.
1976 — 1977 Boulder, CO
1938 — 1950 Tumbleweed Lineage
The Walking Circle
First Posture of Mindfulness
First Map of Space
Dancing Thinking Dancing
Continuous Present Article
Brown Bag Lineage Tree
am miserably self-conscious unless I drink a lot. How can I teach when
I am such a neurotic, self-absorbed mess? Rinpoche also says ego is the
only horse we have to ride.
On new and full moons the sangha gathers to chant the Saddhana of Mahamudra, a vivid text by Rinpoche. This line always stops me:
1976 — 1977 Boulder, Colorado
In the Wedding Cake house on Mapleton Hill the heat doesn’t reach
the third floor ballroom for our winter morning classes. It’s really cold.
I teach Cunningham technique and improvisation. Brent and I begin
At the end of January, on the top floor of the PIC building, at the corner
of Spruce and 13th I perform Dancing Thinking Dancing Songs in a Square. The
Score is the program. It’s located at the end of this chapter.
The building will soon be renovated into Karma Dzong, a meditation
center for the Vajradhatu sangha. Sangha is the community, the ones who
face the same direction, and Vajradhatu is the name of the international organization of meditation centers. This top floor, once a social
dance hall, will become the Shrine Room. A square wooden floor is
surrounded by green carpet and at one end there is a raised dais for the
Brent and I attend seminars with Rinpoche, study the Dharma, practice
day-long nynthuns (there are three three-hour meditation sessions in one
day), then go around the corner with friends to the Hotel Boulderado
and drink White Russians and talk about the Dharma. I read Buddhist
philosophy and psychology and try to watch my mind.
Memory: The weekend seminar by Rinpoche is in the Presbyterian Church on
the corner of 13th and Pine. During the afternoon talk suddenly the minister
from the church is racing up the center aisle, muttering about the sound system
and how it must be broken because Rinpoche couldn’t be saying what he just
heard, how Ego is like dried shit on the hairs of the asshole.
It is awful to discover this Ego, my great big me. Once the dynamic is
pointed out, I feel covered in something murky and thick. I can’t believe
it is an illusion. Observing how I see the world through this Ego lens, I
I contemplate birds. I look up and watch to see what is left.
I commit to the Buddhist path, take refuge vows and become a refugee
in this country of meditation practice and study. At some point I take
the mahayana vows of aspiring to become a bodhisattva warrior, taming
myself in order to help others.
The great festival of Naropa Summer Sessions
begins with talks by Rinpoche and classes and
friends from New York arriving and then departing. Late into the night at the Sacred Heart
gymnasium on the corner of High Street and
13th, we dance to rock and roll. I dance and
dance and dance.
I receive a National Endowment for the Arts
grant and create a large group piece, Following the
Windhorse. We perform in the elegant Academy
Chapel on the Hill with the large circle window
at one end.
In August I go to Missoula Montana for the final performance with
the Grand Union ensemble, the rascal brilliant tribe I will call my
Cassiopeia’s Chair, a solo, is performed in
Boulder and Portland, OR, She is hung
upside down in a chair in the sky.
THE WALKING CIRCLE
The first class is about to begin. There is awareness in the air; all the promise, longing, and this
soft fear. Teaching asks us to mingle everything we already know with what is arriving. The Buddhist Five Conditions for Teaching give a constellation for reflection: the students, who they are;
the teacher, what you aspire to offer; the place: it’s size and condition; the time, whether early
morning or after the sun has set; the subject, and the journey offered.
The Four Postures are Walking, Standing, Sitting, Lying Down. Each one is a theme and we
discover variations. Then we go to a Map of Space. There will be ‘little disciplines’ to focus our
attention as we do research. We want to awaken inner knowing and outer awareness.
The class includes dancing improvisation and composition arising from body mind research and
expression. In Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind Suzuki Roshi says:
Our body and mind are not two and not one. If you think your body and mind are two, that is wrong; if you think
that they are one, that is also wrong. Our body and mind are both two and one. We usually think that if something is
not one, it is more than one; if it is not singular, it is plural. But in actual experience, our life is not only plural, but
also singular. Each one of us is both dependent and independent.
Laurie Anderson writes a song Walking and Falling.
You’re walking / and you don’t always realize it, / but you’re always falling. / With each step you fall forward slightly /
and then catch yourself from falling. / Over and over, you’re falling / and then catching yourself from falling.
Find space in each class for this body mind research. Not too many words. Let students discover
their way within the teaching Scores.
I am influenced by Philip Glass’s music. Philip practices Buddhist meditation. He is the first person I knows who does this. One time when we are together I hear him speak Tibetan on the phone.
The atmosphere in the room becomes charged. For a moment everything inside me is still.
Improvisation cultivates Deep Play. This quote from Johan Hunzinga describes the landscape:
Deep Play proceeds within certain limits of time and space in a visible order according to rules freely accepted and
outside the sphere of necessity. The play-mood is one of rapture and enthusiasm and is sacred or festive in accordance
with the occasion. A feeling of exaltation and tension accompanies the action.
Memory: During a meditation retreat I am bored. I look forward to walking meditation. The instructions are
simple: Bring attention to each foot as it touches the floor ~ heel, then sole, now toes. Noticing thinking, come back
to the lift, swing of leg, placement of foot. Within this repetition and simplicity, I can drop into layers of movement
studies visualizations. (Is this entertainment?) In my mind’s eye I ‘see’ bones and lungs and the roof of my mouth.
As I make my way around the meditation hall I ‘see’ gravity falling down the back
We will use the Four Postures of Mindfulness for theme and variation practice. The Four Postures are also a constellation of mind body disciplines. Once there is movement vocabulary, we
will create and compose in time and space. Being creative is rigorous in unexpected ways. There
are moments of risk and uncertainty but we have everything we need: our experience of being
human; the goodness and sadness in our hearts; and our Seed creativity.
(breathe, swing, step)
head floating like a balloon on a string
(breathe, swing, step)
energy flowing up the front
(breathe, swing, step)
tail bone dropping toward the center of earth
(breathe, swing, step)
root of the tongue softening
(breathe, swing, step)
I want to bring this into the classroom. Can I play with tradition this way?
Sit in a circle, welcome everyone, and ask for introductions. I like to hear first and last names and
why they are here. Sometimes I wait until the end of the class to go over a syllabus if there is one.
Sometimes I create an Inner Syllabus, a more poetic description of art-ing and being a student.
Introduce the Bow, if you’re using it. It is a contemplative practice for beginnings and endings
that has spread far and wide. Share your experiences of bowing. Describe the three parts first
then guide a Bow.
Catch the moving mind/moving body and hold everything still for the briefest of moments.
Feel inner being and then expand awareness out toward others and the room.
Palms of hands resting against thighs, elbows slightly outward, bow forward from the top of the
head, bowing to one another and the space. Rising up from the Bow, eyes are open and soft and
there is an almost invisible smile. We have arrived.
Sit in a circle. Then turn around with your back to the center. When you are ready to join, turn
around and face the center. Now Bow together.
In 1970 at Jones Beach, New York City, The Emergence of the Figure, my first walking dance happens.
The pattern in the sand is adapted from the Bollinger Press symbol. Bollinger publishes Richard
Wilhelm’s translation of the I Ching, an ancient book of Eastern wisdom and divination. I have
yarrow stalks for divinations. John Cage tosses coins. Walking patterns are in the air. Pedestrian
vocabulary lets anyone dance in these new forms.
I teach a Walking Class during a Naropa summer session. We mingle visualizations from movement studies traditions with walking meditation instruction. We find alignment and then dimensionality. Ordinary Walking becomes Slower and Slowest, then faster until we are Running. Each
person chooses how fast or slow to run or walk. Imitation and Influence are introduced. We start forming Herds and Flocks. As we play within the improvisational structure there is delight.
MAP OF SPACE
Bring a skeleton chart to class or, better yet, bring a skeleton. Let students touch foot bones on
the skeleton then on their foot. Touch is a way of knowing. Now find a partner and touch their
foot bones. Model how to go about this.
Slowly stand and make a Circle. Take time to find a good Circle. In your ‘mind’s eye’ see/feel those
foot bones and gently rock side to side and around. Stand on toes and rock back on the heels.
Pause, then turn to the left and slowly start walking.
Walk in the most ordinary of ways, mind relaxed, breath easy. Do this long enough so everyone
can settle down and feel the room and find the Circle Map of Space. Coach Movement Studies and
alignment practices from traditions you know. Here are some I use.
Feel ankle joints, then knees and hips. Let them soften with noticing. Spend time with this. Now
encourage an easy swing of the arms. Notice opposition of right arm with left leg. Jaw hangs easy
from the skull, lips slightly apart, breath moving. Eyes are soft focused.
When heels touch the ground, head connects to sky.
follow your attractions
the two together
Play between tempo and stride. Speed up with tiny steps. Go slow and lengthen the stride to giant
steps. Make up variations.
Sometimes you find leaping!
Back to Ordinary Walking, the resting place.
In your ‘mind’s eye’ imagine running. Slowly increase tempo and get close to running but not yet.
Feel this holding. Find that edge between almost running
and no longer walking.
Stay with it.
And now LET GO and fall forward into running. RUN with full breath, eyes open and wide so you can find a path, hands in
soft fists at your chest. With ease, delight.
Fast ones are on the inside of the circle
Slower ones hold the outer edge.
Begin imitating gestures from others. Just that arm gesture or someone’s tempo. Go with delight.
Notice patterns and join in. Feel the sensation of joining. Learn to put down what you are imitating. Both picking up and putting down are important.
Become like an animal herd, like birds flocking.
Drop imitation and become a Soloist!
Once there is familiarity and relaxation, I put on a soundscape. Philip Glass remains a favorite for
finding an ending
Movement research blossoms with coaching. Watch how students receive images. Do less or more.
What does it take for them to find their experience?
Stride is the distance between steps. Explore tiny steps and giant ones. Make tiny, even tinier,
really small. Slowly increase to giant steps. It’s about synchronizing attention with body.
Return to Ordinary Walking to rest and receive your experience.
Begin adding in gestures of arms and spine. Reach out the fingertips. Let the back curve forward
and sideways. Arms swing with and against the walking stride.
Look over your shoulder and let the eyes lead you into a turn. You are walking backwards! And in
the same direction. Play with turning. When mind wanders, come back.
Return to Ordinary Walking.
Notice the speed of your walk. Then begin to slow down. Slower. Slowest. Return to Ordinary
Walking. This means drop the project. Play around with tempos. This is the beginning of finding variations and also of one of the little disciplines, slow motion. In this First Class, no need to present this.
Keep it simple.
Return to Walking when you are ready. Follow your impulses to walk or run. Follow your attraction. Speed up and dart between others then drop back to Walking. Suddenly someone runs past
you and they are smiling. You feel the attraction. You run with them.
From Ordinary Walking, coach walking out of the circle, letting it slowly disappear. Walk around
in the room and find a place to stand. Stand still for several moments. No need to analyze, just
Then say, “End.”
Come to a sitting circle and ask for comments. Here in this first class ask some questions to stir
the discussion. What moment do you remember? What was confusing? What was it like to imitate? Review names of the practices: tempo; stride; not running; turning; and imitating. All
these practices will be used again and again.
Explore Walking Practices for yourself before bringing them into the classroom. Take a walk
around the block or go into the studio. Use everything you already know. Be willing to change the
sequence as you work with the group and their experience. Let them find relaxation with repetition and duration. Don’t hurry. Let some sections last longer than you think necessary. Support
begin with bones
Begin with Sitting Meditation. Place the cushions against the wall and facing into the room. If
you have a small meditation bell you can use it for this.
Give simple meditation instructions: easy upright posture; feeling breathing; noticing thinking
and coming back to this very moment. Sit together for maybe five minutes.
Coach the Six Moves of the Spine: forward curve; upward arch; side stretches to both sides and
twisting gently in both directions. Sit for a minute. Now stand in front of your cushion and repeat the
Six Moves of Spine.
Coach simple instructions; when thinking, come back to sensing each foot as it touches the floor.
The tempo is slower than Ordinary.
Teach the traditional hand mudra.
Walk two times around the space and end at your cushion. Pause then start the Walking Circle
Perhaps explore kinhin, the Zen form of walking meditation, where each foot moves forward on the
in-breath and is placed down on the out-breath.
Pass out the Lineage Tree assignment and review it. Describe your relationship to art lineages
and to your art journey. Determine a time in class for sharing Lineage Trees in groups of three
His Holiness, the 16th Karmapa, head of the Kagyu lineage, returns to
the United States and visits Boulder, CO. Trungpa Rinpoche teaches us
Lineage and Devotion. We learn the names of Kagyu masters. Everything is
uplifted with satin and brocade. We clean, build, sew, paint rooms for
sacred life and domestic life. We learn decorum for Shrine Rooms and
living rooms. We feel something coming toward us. I buy a black skirt,
nylon stockings, and black leather pumps.
I wonder about my lineage as a mid-20th century American dancer.
Who taught my teachers? Whose shoulders am I dancing on? Who wandered in deserts and stumbled in alleys and danced and sang the blues?
Our Art Fathers and Mothers show us the way, the rigors and disappointments of the art-ing journey. They know things. They make art,
are imperfect, romantic, and strong. Learning about them helps me
feel less alone. I recognize Isadora Duncan as my Art Grandmother.
John Cage and Merce Cunningham are my Art Fathers and The Grand
Union, born from Yvonne Rainer’s brilliant compositional forms, is my
This is Isadora Duncan in Greece, 1923. She
raises her arms and face and heart, paying
homage, calling ancestors. Her autobiography,
My Life, penetrates me. I feel kin with her. I recognize her and I recognize myself. She migrates
from California, takes lovers, has children,
suffers deeply. She dances from the inside out.
She creates schools for children and teaches
them to dance easily to Chopin, Bach, Brahms.
In Russia her bare feet liberate the great danseur
noble of the ballet, Vaslav Nijinsky.
The wind? I am the wind.
The sea and the moon?
I am the sea and the moon.
Tears, pain, love, bird-flights?
I am all of them.
I dance what I am.
Sin, prayer, flight, the light that
never was on land or sea?
These days, whatever you have to say, leave
the roots on, let them dangle...
“Experience is the ground. / Awareness is the path. / Expression is the fruition.” - CTR
After leaving the Merce Cunningham company, I
create To Isadora, premiered at Christian Wolff’s farm
during The Burdock Music Festival. I am nude at
the edge of a forest. The audience is across the road
and behind a fence. Gordon Mumma, musician and
my lover, sets up speakers so the music of Satie floats
through the late afternoon twilight.
MAKING THE CHART
Adopt and adapt this assignment. Making your Lineage Tree will unfold the process for you.
Sometimes I show the class my original Lineage Tree from 1979.
Create a Lineage Tree (or chart or stream) of teachers, influences, and events that shaped your
journey as a ‘young-warrior-artist-in-training.’ It is an essential perspective of creative process.
From a contemplative view, we sit in the middle of a rich and sensuous life. Charles Olson’s poem,
These Days, quoted above, ends:
And the dirt / Just to make clear / where they come from.
Memory: In the attic of the Lloyd family’s Mountain Side Farm in New
Hampshire I find an old 33 LP record of Debussy’s orchestration of Eric
Satie’s Gymneopedies. The scratches and reverberations make it sound
like it comes from a long time ago. It is both familiar and strange. Satie’s
music accompanies Cunningham dances and Judson Dance Theater
pieces. In this variation it surrounds my homage to Isadora Duncan.
Begin with people who taught you art and life skills. Add events that gave you perspectives on
living and a way of being. Include family and friends who opened or closed doors. Add movies,
books, performances. Then add travel, drugs, relationships; those experiences that shaped what
you believe about this living and about artistic expression.
In this way we glimpse the ‘history and context’ of this creative life. It includes the glory and
heartbreaks, the illnesses and jokes and those long boring summers and the epiphanies at midnight. All this generates mind neurons and cellular dreams that listen, contemplate, meditate
and illuminate our longing.
To Isadora, Burdock Music
Festival, Vermont 1969.
The first time around is a ‘draft.’ One thing reveals another. Scratch out, add in, and then make
a final copy to share with your peers and to keep for yourself. In class we will form sharing circles
and each person will have about 15 minutes.
I introduce the Lineage Tree practice. On an opened brown-paper-grocery-bag, I draw a tree with roots, trunk, and branches. It shows people,
places, dances, my family, sign posts of my journey in art-ing. I show it
to the class and ask them to do this.
CELEBRATE OFFER AND BOW
Memory: I invite students to my home at 2910 17th Street, Boulder. We sit on the floor in
the living room. It’s dark outside. They have brought their lineage charts. It’s their turn.
There are many variations and styles of presenting; some bring photographs, others do
drawings. One young woman talks about her journey with amphetamines. She describes
days of nightmares, her physical deterioration. She is just telling a story, but as we listen
the atmosphere becomes heavy. Or is it just my inner atmosphere? I don’t know what is
happening. I have invited this but I don’t know what to do. I’m in over my head. I didn’t
expect such intimacy. We go all the way through the group, each one of us presenting our
lineages and all of us listening. I know I will need more training.
It’s the end of the First Class. We celebrate, offer and bow. Every class is an art event, a creative
offering for that day. Even though we are doing something for the first time we have a chance to
be right here, right now, to be fully ourselves in this very moment.
toss hands and
Celebrate the delights of the day (I learned this from Nina Martin at the March2Marfa
Offer all creative discovery to the universe to be of benefit, then,
To one another, to this time together, and to space.
A yellow coloring capsule is hidden inside. I must find it, break it open,
and blend the yellow dye into the white so it looks like butter. Because of
wartime food rationing real butter goes to the troops at the Front.
My Tumbleweed Lineage
At the southern tip of great Lake Michigan in the city Chicago, I am
born on Sunday, March 13, 1938 to Jean Phyllis Fairweather Dilley and
Robert Vernon Dilley. My father sees the first spring robin that day.
In Anais Nin’s diary there is an entry for March 1938. “Hitler marched
into Austria. Franco is encircling Barcelona, and France, afraid of war,
is not coming to its help.” The carnage of World War II is beginning.
Our family is nomadic; I am part of a Tumbleweed Lineage. We migrate from place to place following my father’s employment. There is
an American tradition of moving along ~ from Europe to America and
then ever westward. My mother’s family is Scots-Irish and German. My
father’s lineage is English more or less and perhaps from the islands
between France and England.
Tumbleweeds are large plants uprooted and blown across the prairies
to become round skeletons. This moving around shapes my family. My
mother longs to create a proper home. She stays up late into the night
hanging wallpaper from a ladder. I remember the smell of that white
paste. My father is focused on business.
We move to Roselyn Farms near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1941 my
brother John is born. World War II is in full swing. The black and white
movie newsreels show soldiers holding guns over their heads as they
splash from large boats and wade toward the shore. Against the sky behind them, are swirling columns of smoke as bombs strike the earth.
We move to Barrington, Illinois. One day in the kitchen Mother hands
me a sealed plastic bag, heavy and cold. It is filled with white margarine.
I ‘catch’ the dreaded poliovirus, and am quarantined in a hospital, isolated in a room. My parents can’t come in. They stand in the doorway
silhouetted against the light. For over a month I
receive the Sister Kenny treatment. It is rugged
medicine; serum injected into my buttocks every
four hours and then a hot pack placed over the site
to ease the pain. I spend a lot of time lying on my
belly. I learn not to cry and not to feel.
We move to Darien, Connecticut. Waiting to get
into our new home we spend August on the Long
Island Sound. I am mesmerized by tides, sand, shells, seaweed. We dig
clams, looking for tell-tale air bubble holes where they lie submerged
in the sand. At night we eat them, steamed open and dipped in melted
lemon butter. World War II ends. Everywhere people are running in the
streets. They shout and wave and run and smile. The first atomic bomb
is dropped in Japan.
The Dilleys in Barrington,
IL, at a backyard summer
party, c. 1943.
We move Basking Ridge, New Jersey. My brother and I are always the new
kids in school. I want to fit in, not attract attention, get it right, and find
a friend. With my introspective nature I acquire a familiarity with solitude and develop a self-reliant disposition. I spend a lot of time alone.
I get middle ear infections and sometimes land in the hospital. Afterwards I spend lots of time out of school. Every two weeks my father
brings cartons of books from the library. I read everything and listen
to the radio.
We move to Princeton, New Jersey. We live near the edge of the forest
at Cradle Rock Farm. My father raises rabbits and for a while we have a
horse named Injun Joe. We raise Seeing Eye puppies, training them to
house life. There is a cat with a crooked tail named Eleazar Wheelock
in honor of the founder of Dartmouth College my father’s alma mater.
Later when I am in high school we move to 80 Stockton Street near the
center of town. Now I can walk everywhere on my own.
The Tumbleweed chapter ends and the Dancing Path begins.
Dancing Thinking Dancing Score
Continuous P resent A rticle
Brown Bag L ineage Tree
Credo of the Young Warrior Artists in Training (YWAIT)
Both composition and improvisation happen in the ‘present moment’ and also the
past happens in this moment. Imagination shows up, too. You have everything you
need to be here.
The training is multileveled. There are outer disciplines and inner experiences.
How do mind, body, spirit entwine? We are learning movement research, how to
be curious and to wonder. Become one who learns on their own ~ an ‘autodidact’.
Perhaps you already do this. We are alone and, marvelously, here we are together.
The alone part creates depth and sustainability and the together part creates
synergy and sometimes alchemy. Learn to stay. This is key. When we stay we can
listen inward and also notice outward.
How to Be a Good Student
from “The Four Fold Way” by Angeles Arrian
Show up Be here, each class. Be engaged with the practices even if they are full of notknowing (the sacred ‘I don’t know’). When you leave in your thoughts be willing to come
back to this room and your bodymindheart.
Pay attention to what has heart and meaning. Look for this all the time. Sometimes
these moments arrive unexpectedly. Write stuff down.
Tell the truth without fault or blame Find the words. Meet with the teacher.
Be open to outcome but not attached to outcome. What outcomes are you seeking?
Sometimes not much happens. This is deep rhythm and pulse in living and creating.
Name outer/inner/secret longings.
Everyone begins with an A.
How do we evaluate learning in a creative arts classroom?
Can you self-evaluate?
Ask for feedback about your process?