through movement, conscious embodiment and playful inquiry. Her classes, Moving Soul Dance, Body Landscapes, and others cultivate awareness of subtle, elemental, and primal forces that influence and inform the body/psyche. As a teacher, her joy is fueling this “prima materia” into soulful expression for healing and liberation. She has performed, directed and produced numerous events, most notably for SomaFest LA, The World Festival’s of Sacred Music (initiated by the Dalai Lama), EarthWays, Arcosanti, The Wrightway Foundation, L.A. Theatre Center, and Stanford University. She also performs Middle Eastern dance and is a recent student of Balinese dance. She is the author of The Soul of Nature (Doubleday) and Earth Dreaming and is working on a new book based on a heroine’s journey through the underworld. She is also a fabric artist/photographer and uses her “inner eye” to create sacred spaces to dance and explore within. She is a member and Chair of the Los Angeles Dance Collective and former director of the Spirit and Nature Program of the EarthWays Foundation.
After studying composition at the Julliard School in New York with Vittorio Giannini and Vincent Persichetti, Mr. Bernstein attended the University of California at Los Angeles, where he received an Outstanding Graduate of the College Award, a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship and a Chancellor's Doctoral Teaching Fellowship while studying with renowned American composer Roy Harris.
During our month exploring the theme of forgiveness, we were lucky enough to connect with Los Angeles Dance Collective’s Chair, Georgianne Cowan, who organized an afternoon of interviews and free-form dance with six members from the Collective. Free-form dance and forgiveness, at their essence, are both acts of surrender and letting go, which led us to the realization of their inherent similarities. With this perspective in mind, we were excited to speak with the group about how dance has influenced their process of healing, particularly in regards to forgiveness.
Before the interviews, Georgianne, who has been teaching dance and movement for the last three decades, arranged for the dancers to move to the vibration of “non-forgiveness”; words such as anger and resentment were shouted out as the dancers embodied each form emotion. She later had them contrast those feelings by dancing to the vibration of “forgiveness”, while words such as “freedom” and “letting go” were called out and expressed through physical form.
L.A. Dance Collective is a non-profit collective of dedicated movers who share a love of music, dance, and soulful inquiry, based off the dancing philosophy of 5 Rhythms, Soul Motion, Open Floor, Contact Improvisation, Journey Dance, The Meta Method, among others. They meet every Saturday from 10am-12pm at the Culver City Masonic Lodge. The LADC was created as a welcoming space for everyone—dancers and non-dancers, all ages, shapes and backgrounds with a desire to explore their inner-dancer.
Read part one written by Georgianne, "Dancing Forgiveness: On Healing Through Free Form Dance” to learn more about dance as a healing modality.
Having grown up with a father who adhered to a narrow definition of “masculinity”, dance helped Don break out of those restrictive ways of thinking, transforming him into a man with a deeper sense of his own emotional being. He arrived at dance after going through a divorce, which further grounded it as an integral part of his expression both in his relationship to himself and with others. Better understanding his own emotional self also allowed him to more generously extend forgiveness to others.
“If you want to talk about forgiveness, I think that all the forgiveness, the only person that I ever have to forgive is myself because it's everything that's happening, and that's not to say that people haven't hurt me. It's not to say that people haven't hurt me on purpose and may even feel like they need my forgiveness. But I recognize that everything that's in anybody else, all of those tendencies to hurt and to be selfish and to be unthinking, I'm that. I'm all of those things.”
“And I view emotions as something that are always unique, they're fingerprints. So, words are always too small. Given that, I do feel and believe that I have, directly from my experience dancing, the ability to work through my emotions, to not run away from my emotions. To have a place to express and to move through them. To feel them, without feeling like they're going to destroy something or they're going to kill me or kill somebody else. Or, I can dance anger. I can dance frustration. I can dance desire. I can dance whatever is coming up for me.”
A former fly girl dancer on Japanese television, Masayo felt the pressure to be physically perfect within the framework of choreographed dance and performance. But after experiencing a stroke at 37 which left her unable to use parts of her left side, Masayo was forced to confront her body in a way she didn’t yet know how to. Six months after her stroke, she moved to the US from Japan, still physically impaired, and found 5Rhythms dance where she was encouraged to explore an imperfect perfection in her dancing. With a new sense of purpose and lightness, Masayo was able to find forgiveness for her body and to heal and regain sensation in the left side of her body that she’d lost from the stroke.
“I had to be perfect. I had to be cute. I had to be beautiful on TV. So that's why [I thought]... I'm not cool. I'm so unforgivable. So I couldn't stand it, but my spin was so unpretty but so beautiful. So I'm like, ‘Oh my God, now I can forgive myself.’”
“My teacher, her name is Lucia, and she said, ‘Trust yourself. Trust yourself. It's okay. It's okay. Falling down is okay. Trust yourself.’ And I spin [for] my first time in ten years. I did it! Even [though] I fell down, crying, so uncool… but that was kind of my forgiveness to myself [for the] first time.”
“I kinda still in my ego [was hearing]... be cool, be cool, but, [I thought] ‘You know, Masayo, don't be cool. You could do such a beautiful spin in an ugly way.’ So it was really good healing and I learned to trust. And trust and forgiveness are pretty much closer.”
After giving up alcohol, Sarah missed the liberated dancing associated with drinking culture until she discovered 5Rhythms and free form dance five years ago. Through this kind of dance, Sarah developed a deeper understanding of her own boundaries as she explored her relationship to herself and others in movement. The self-trust she developed as a result of dancing led her to the realization that she should always follow what “feels good and safe”, which sparked her discovery of forgiveness as something that “feels good to do.”
“[With] choreographed dance or dancing when you're going out clubbing, you're connecting with your friends or you're concentrating on the teacher or the group. Free form dance is more like meditation, like moving meditation. It's a different attention, like, a different focus. So, that has been really healing in terms of observing my insecurities and my judgements and being in a safe space, just allowing those to rise and pass away and releasing the trapped negative energy in the body, too.”
“The way that I feel now is almost as if I don't need to have boundaries with other people, because I feel safe in my self. So, I don't feel like anyone can come and get me. You know what I mean? Like, no one can do anything to me that I don't feel comfortable with, because I know that I would stop it.”
In and out of homes for most of his adult life, Gregory finds a sense of stability, community, and purpose in the weekly Collective meetings that he has been attending for the last three years. While life has been unpredictable and strenuous at times for Gregory, the consistency that dancing has brought him has given him greater space to explore his inner relationship to forgiveness and healing.
“Yes I am, right now [I’m] hanging tough, and I've been going through so much, so many tragedies in my life. The passing of my older sister who passed away four years ago, which is this month of May. And she was 36 years old when she passed away, diagnosed with gastric cancer that she had, five years back in 2013. So I'm feeling strong about her, so it's my family too. And my living situation is very, very miserable. So it's frustrating when you wake up in the morning and you're like, “I'm tired.” Something about being part of this dance, what I do on the dance floor I'll always be prepared for when I'm going through good times and rough times. And I do feel inspired every time I come here. It’s helpful, it’s helping. And it keeps me going. It means the world to me.”
RUTH GOULD GOODMAN
Dance has been a part of Ruth’s life since she was a little girl, but when she developed body dysmorphia and bulimia, her sense of self became distorted. When she danced, however, those haunting internal feelings of ugliness left her momentarily, allowing her brief respites of peace that gradually led to her realization that she must have compassion for herself. This compassion, she believes, both includes and transcends forgiveness for her own physical form.
“Every time these negative feelings would come up I would dance them. I would become the monsters that I felt were inside of me, and I allowed these monsters to dance me and it was an amazing process because my body… these things, I was scared of them. They were twisted and they were gnarled and they would hiss and they were like reptilian. But as I began to give them space through my body, they would start to evolve. They would start to change. And suddenly it was not what it was. It would be something else and if I kept going I would start becoming this diva, you know. All of a sudden in the energies would be expanded and I would be almost singing opera, you know? Because I was giving space to these very, very oppressed powers within me.”
“Where the practice was and is for me is that I realized that I had to return to the present moment, the present moment was in this sense experience of my body. If I was in the sense experience of my body, I could uncouple myself from the trauma loop of the story and all of a sudden I could be re-formatting myself and re-creating a new story for myself about being present and just being here.”
A survivor of child abuse and trauma, Nyah came to the Collective one year ago. In her interview, she explains how dance has given her a way to express the emotions associated with the trauma she experienced that she has often felt unable to articulate through words. Through dance, Nyah has found the space to explore the feelings of sadness and anger that often precede forgiveness, especially while processing a lack of remorse on the part of her abuser.
“When you dance, especially with the Collective and especially on this dance floor, you don't have to use words at all. Because as we know, when some of us go through a lot of trauma, you don't remember what it is, but your body does remember. And you can express that, like I said, without words. Your body does what it needs to do to… I don't know, retrieve parts of your soul that you feel like you lost in those experiences.”
“So sometimes I cry. Sometimes I'm rolling around on the floor. Sometimes I turn my back to everybody and I have my own process. And that's what's so wonderful about coming to the dance… people witness you and you can also be together but apart with people. Because when you don't have words to describe what's coming up for you, a lot of times, all you need is to be witnessed and that has been a very healing aspect of dance for me.”