Collection of past writings, letters, and posts about Soul Motion and teaching
Thanks for your interest in my reflections on the topic at hand. As I continue to deepen into my role as Soul Motion™ facilitator, I've accumulated a few writings on the subject. At the moment, I am not able to commit to maintaining a blog (gawd, what an ugly word), but I do plan to post other bits and pieces as they arise.
For now, I offer up this random selection of past writings, FB posts, and letters to students. Perhaps these may help those newly interested in the form to gain a deeper appreciation of what Soul Motion has to offer. Dancers already familiar with the practice may find further insights here as well. At the very least, these will shed light on my growth as a teacher of the form.
Enjoy and share freely,
Dear Students of Soul Motion,
I'd like to open a discussion about what is being offered at our BASOMO SoulMotion | Saturdays event. My hope is that my other collaborators will chime in... and that you, our students/participants will share your views as well.
I recently had a conversation with a dancer who had attended my class this past Saturday. It was a rich conversation, full of honest feedback and heartfelt concerns. Some of those concerns would, I believe, be useful to share with you all.
First a little background history...When the five of us (Dev, Michael, Barbara, Jens, and myself) undertook this venture to share the teaching journey, there was understandably some minor differences in what it was we hoped to create. Were we to provide a ritual space, a class, a free form boogie, all of the above? While this question is to a degree still alive for us, we have by and large agreed that we are teaching a Soul Motion Class. What does that mean?
Well, Soul Motion is a living, evolving form, beautifully articulated and nurtured by our master teacher Vinn Arjuna Marti. It is both clearly defined as a practice, as well as being (within limits) open to interpretation by those who are certified to teach it. There are clearly outlined foundational principles and viewpoints that give the practice it's depth and flexibility. In short... there is much to teach in SM, and much to be learned from it. As they say, a moment to learn, a lifetime to master.
Each of the five teachers of BASOMO bring their unique perspectives, not only about the form of SM, but particularly on how to best draw a classroom into the available riches of the practice. We are pleased to be able to offer you that diversity of approach. I am also aware of the possible drawbacks of such diversity. I know that when I attend a class, I like to have a general idea of what it is that I am stepping into. I do not think I would spend my time or money attending a class that was an absolute crap shoot (gamble).
Here is what you can count on experiencing, regardless of who is teaching, in any one of our SM classes:
• Some guided explorations or exercises designed to enhance your sense of embodiment and presence.
• Lovely, eclectic music
• Opportunities to dance alone, in partnership, and in group dynamic
• Opportunities to witness/observe others in their unfolding dance
• Opportunities to witness yourself in sometimes familiar, sometimes novel situations
• Lots of opportunity to move and improvise as only you can
• An atmosphere of mutual respect and awe for the human condition
Some of the variety you may experience from class to class:
• Some teachers may spend more or less time on the specifics listed above, according to their sense of what will best serve the room at that moment.
• Occasionally, we will invite you to dance to silence or other not so obviously musical soundscapes.
• We may invite you to be in stillness for a period of time
• Some teachers will talk more than others. The brevity or thoroughness of their spoken word will depend on what is sensed or needed
Our primary goal is to provide and cultivate a space in which you are safe to unfold in whatever direction your soul is craving. We provide both a physical and energetic container with the intention of enhancing your knowledge of self and your place in the world of others. I am aware that not everyone wants to be "taught" or guided through these terrains. We trust that you will decide for yourself if our offerings serve you or not.
In my conversation with the student mentioned above, what really stood out for me was his/her concern that there was something controlling about the facilitation of the class. In case there were others who experienced something similar, I would like us to consider the following...
A piano teacher may ask that a student practice his scales, when in fact, the student rather be freely improvising glorious music. The teacher recognizes the importance of both technical study, as well as of improvisation and play. A wise student understands that there is benefit to both activities... that study strengthens the foundation from which improvisational play takes flight.
As Soul Motion teachers offering a weekly class, we aim to strike the best possible balance of study and play. We look forward to our shared journey together through the landscapes of Soul Motion.
I look forward to your contribution to this conversation.
The role of music in SM? To act as one of many stimuli offered in service of the cultivation of Embodied Presence. Allow me to put the music in the larger context of a Soul Motion class.
A typical class will include some or all of the following elements:
• Somatic inquiries - Invitations to experience our bodies in new ways. Yesterday's class took back body as the focus. Other possible foci might include awareness of joints, spine, weightedness, breath, etc.
• Space/Time inquiries - Invitations to experience and expand upon our relationship to the space around us and the speed/pace at which we occupy that relationship. Yesterdays class took the space behind us as the focus. Other possible foci might include explorations of horizontal or vertical orientations, taking root to fly, cutting through space versus slipping through space, moving in spirals, etc.
• Relational inquiries - Invitations to notice our relationship to self, to one other partner, or to the larger group.
• Music and silence - The soundscape is crafted to motivate and sustain a relaxed yet alert awareness of all of the above elements.
The other modalities you mentioned (Ecstatic Dance and 5R) tend to use music as an inducer of trance, or as a vehicle to carry or elevate to other planes.
Soul Motion is interested in the here and now, in cultivating presence, not transcendence. Each song or piece of music is intended to assist us in landing squarely in our bodies, and in the room. The sequence of the songs/music is intended to create a textured journey allowing for a range of energy and expression, introspection and outward focus.
A student recently asked me to define SM.
I'll do my best to describe what Soul Motion is, though it is important to note that it is a dynamic form, shifting and accommodating according to what is happening in the room. At it's core, SM is a conscious dance practice, using dance and movement to arrive at a relaxed, alert connection to ourselves and to others. The emphasis is on Relationship: to self, to another, to the group, to the infinite. Some of the core ideas used to evoke this state are an expanded 360º spatial awareness, an enlivened inward gaze (self knowing/curiosity), use of the Pause as a means of re-setting habitual behaviors, readiness to Echo the movement of others in the room as a means of establishing relatedness and sourcing new material, and many other points of view.
These are the more pedantic details of the practice. But what really sets SM apart in my experience is the emphasis placed on the role of the facilitator to not only hold a sacred space, and to invite all participants to do the same, but that SM facilitators are trained (year long committed journey) to remain awake to what each moment is calling for. Resting back on a series of exercises or formats does not suffice. Reading the moment, and tending to what is and what wants to be. An enlivened, compassionate capacity to serve the room, both as a gathering of Individuals and as a coherent Group. This is the essence of a SM class.
My first exposure to Soul Motion was at Esalen with Zuza Engler. It was an amazing experience. Life changing. And yet, at the end of the week, I wasn't really sure how or why it had such a deep impact. I was OK resting into the mystery of that, simply glad to have had the experience. Months later, I got to study with Vinn Marti as well. Another powerful week of growth and expansion. But now the mystery seemed double. Zuza and Vinn had taught two very different workshops. I found myself asking: "So... what IS Soul Motion, and what is at the root of its potency as a practice."
At first glance, the teaching seemed to rest largely on the power of the individual personality offering it. Both Vinn and Zuza wield very particular, yet distinct charisma. Not comfortable with the idea that the power of SM somehow lay in the personality of the facilitator, I have been on a journey to understand the potential and range of possibilities that this practice holds.
As it turns out, the answer to the riddle lay within the riddle itself... by studying with a range of teachers, within a variety of venues and communities, the quintessence of the form becomes clear. The true depth of the practice is best gleaned through a wider exposure to different facilitation styles. Soul Motion is no longer the sole offering of the founding teachers. There is now a new generation of certified Soul Motion guides. It is through the inevitable diversity of gifts and insights offered by this new generation of teachers that Soul Motion will ultimately take on it fullest depth.
You are emphatically invited to rest back into the depths of your self knowing, into the wisdom that is the birthright of all embodied souls... to move from the boldness and timidity that dance within you, from which springs, unhindered, the essence of your gifts to this world. Come be generous with yourself, and marvel at the inevitable generosity that arises toward others.
Notes & Ideas for future workshops
Since my first experience with Soul Motion™ (SM), it has occurred to me that the forms and platforms of the practice could work well as a vocal or musical exploration rather than a purely movement based one.
To put it one way: If Vinn had been a musician, he would have created the practice a bit differently. But since he is a dancer, we are doing Soul M-o-t-i-o-n.
Many of the core concepts that drive a SM class not only would lend themselves well to a sound based journey, but most of them beg for it. Echo Inspiration, Pause Presence, Breath and Heartbeat, Orbit Orientation, Ritual... all have clear and inviting musical/acoustic implications.
And so I propose to put together a SM workshop that will adhere closely to the premises of SM, but with vocal and percussive sound as the mediums of expression. For now, let's call it "Soul Sound".
I am choosing to work initially with voice and percussion simply because those are the soundscapes that I am most comfortable with. I could also imagine working with a range of musical instruments, given a collaborator with a strong instrumental and improvisational background.
I'd love to hear people's thoughts or ideas for this workshop. Thanks for reading.
The role of music in a SM class:
Facilitating a SM class, I have two primary, mutually supporting goals: to encourage the dancers to relax, and to challenge them to step outside of their comfort zones.
Each song has the potential to draw a dancer into one of the four SM landscapes: to dance with oneself, with one other, with a group of others, or with all as one. I don't make assumptions about which landscape is inside or outside of any individual's comfort zone. I can only offer up a wide enough range so that everyone will have an opportunity to move in and out of the landscapes, and in and out of their personal comfort zones.
Everything about the class is geared toward those two goals. This includes my choice of words, the tone of my voice, my gestures and posture, even the lighting and temperature of the room, and of course, the music and soundscapes I provide. All these elements have the potential to both relax or excite the room.
Without a relaxed, safe container, efforting to rise to a challenge can be more traumatizing than edifying. We need to feel safe in order to grow in a way that sticks. Successfully stepping outside of familiar habits can ultimately allow for a greater degree of ease, confidence, and sense of well being. Each allows for and further supports the other.
The first thing I look for in a piece of music for inclusion in a playlist is Heart. Can I feel the heart of the composer/musicians? Is their passion immediately evident upon first listen? If I can't feel that when checking out a new song, I drop it and move on to the next.
Building a library of sounds
I've always loved collecting music, ever since the days of buying albums at the local music store, and then again with a vengeance on the arrival of the first iPod and iTunes. But it was always for my own listening, for evoking my own ease, ecstasy, joy, or rage. Whatever needed moving in me, I knew I could trust my music collection to serve me well.
When I started putting together playlists for my first SM classes, I naturally harvested what I felt was the best of my music. I quickly learned though, that just because I really love a song does not necessarily make it a good choice for a Soul Motion passage. Once that somewhat disappointing realization set in, I set about the business of collecting music specifically to use in class.
My musical taste has always been pretty eclectic (Bach to Beefheart), so it wasn't that I needed a wider range of music. Rather, I needed music that would help me accomplish a very particular task: the Embrace and Motivation of my students.
How a student will experience a class on any given day is made up of several factors, all arguably of equal importantance. The temperature and lighting of the room, the cleanliness of the floor, my class plan, my tone of voice and demeanor, as well as the music, all add up the the total experience. And ideally all crafted toward the same twin goals: Helping the people to feel safe, and allowing and encouraging them to move beyond their familiar habits and patterns. Embrace & Motivate.
I spoke in class a few weeks ago about the sort of somatic inquiries I offer.
Every invitation a call to experience the truth of the moment. A call to presence. I made the distinction between the use of poetic imagery vs. factual invocations. I'd like to elaborate a bit on that here.
Many teachers make use of poetic images as a way to draw us into a deeper experience of our bodies. For example: "Feel your spine as a flowing river." While this sort of imagery can indeed be a potent tool toward expanding our movement range (I've used it in my earlier teaching), I have found that invoking a more factual awareness is often far more potent.
Your spine is not a river. It is an extraordinary structure comprised of spectacularly sculpted bones, powerful muscles capable of remarkably subtle movement, disks both tough and flexible, tendons and ligaments at once delicate and fantastically strong, all moving in a symphony of articulated levers, hinges, and springs culminating in the expression of the full spectrum of your emotional range.
In a parallel aspect of this work, many conscious dance teachers aim to invoke compassion or love in a directed way. "Witness another with love in your heart," or "Allow your heart to swell with light that washes over your dance partner."
Beautiful images, but again, not necessarily factual. And really, it is none of my business who you feel love toward, or when. What I'd rather do is invite you to allow yourself to feel exactly what it is that you are feeling. As you stand or dance with another, what comes up for you? If love comes, wonderful. But it is not for me to assume, direct or project such feelings. It seems more valuable to allow you to discover for yourself what arises in the company of another. Your truth in the moment may be a far more nuanced interplay of love, fear, apprehension, yearning, wonderment, judgment, etc.
The world would no doubt be a better place if we all loved each other. But a full and enduring love for others starts with an authentic love of self. A genuine love of self is most solid on a foundation of honest self knowledge. Truth is where we learn. Fantasy and projection tend to delay growth.
This is what I hope to bring to my Soul Motion classes: a container in which we are each emboldened to dive fully into getting to know ourselves, without projection of assumption of who we ought to be.
If that sounds like a lot to consider (and I fear it may), don't worry. We just dance, and almost always have tons of fun as we go. Such is the power and the ease of this work.