All the things that I am – artist, designer, yoga teacher, somatic educator, horsewoman, life coach, healer- are woven together like the warp and weft threads of cloth where creativity and vitality cannot exist without each other. We are multidimensional beings yet to be honest it took me a long time to understand how to skillfully balance all the parts of me and realize that each aspect is a necessary part of my wholeness, a key to my happiness and ultimately to my physical-emotional and spiritual health.
With a bachelors degree in environmental biology and a masters in art, I have always been a dot connector seeking pathways to integrate art, life and the natural world. It is following this thread that three decades ago I came into contact with Butoh, a post-modern Japanese form of dance-theater and a field of study called somatic education. As I quickly became a regular in the dance studios, stepping barefoot onto their wooden floors not as a dancer but as a visual artist exploring my image making language through movement, my curiosity expanded into a life long source of inspiration and awe for the very fine weavings of the life process as expressed through our bodies. I was in my early twenties then, just budding on the Montréal art scene when the sudden passing of my father left me in a very challenged state physically and emotionally. As the unexpected death with all the unsaid surrounding it left me angry, confused with no place to process my grief I progressively sank deeper and deeper into depression. The sunlight hurt my eyes and for months, I was subject to uncontrollable bouts of shaking. Just returning from training with Japanese Butoh master Mintanaka, one of my friends encouraging me to get up and move invited me to a workshop. Upon his insistence that I could not spend the rest of my days sitting on a chair with a cat on my lap in hiding from the greater world, I let go of my recalcitrant belief that I was not a dancer and accepted the challenging invitation. Shortly after in his studio, I found myself amongst a group of his friends mostly professional dancers. Seriously “dépaysée” by their way of moving in a dance that looked like nothing I had ever seen before, my curiosity was stoked. It was odd yet beautifully mesmerizing and alluring, the movements were deliberately very slow, there was no music and all the mirrors in the studio where covered with cloth. And so I began, we moved with our eyes closed sensing each other following impulses as they arose from somewhere inside. It was liberating to not worry about being seen or to have to emulate prescribed steps and sequences. On the third day of the workshop in the most unexpected way my whole body was over taken by a torrent of tears. It was as sudden as it was unavoidable. I was instructed to keep moving with theses wild waters bursting out from some unseen corner of my being as dancers continued around me as if swaying and responding without words to my inner world turned inside out. The next day for the first time in months I did not need to cover my eyes with sunglasses. The compulsive shaking was gone, never to return. Thanks to my dance|performance friends I began to understand my traumatic experience through the lens of my body: how it received it, held it, released it and restored me. It was challenging to make rational sense that being moved by a spontaneously arising image could break through the darkness that gripped me. Yes, I had been freed of something that had no words, an emotional knot that had incapacitated me for months.
At this time of my life I also rode horses seriously practicing “dancing with horses”, dressage as art form and I knew the noose had unraveled because something changed in the way my horses responded to me when I rode; there was a clarity of connection from my body to theirs that brought flow and an amazing sense of ease that my they seemed to tap into and like master dancers we shared this blissful joy of moving together. What was happening? Was there a connection with my cathartic release? Could my relationship to my body change my perceptions and open the door to other worlds, the worlds of other living creatures? Since falling in love with horses at an early age and quickly becoming a student of classical dressage this experience was nothing less than an earth shattering revelation! Riding and interacting with horses can be approached as a dance, a school of relationship that begins in self awareness and evolves it to, connecting from the consciousness of the heart… this is the only way I can name this experience of seamlessness.
My passions opened the door to a life long journey. I left Montréal where I was born for a life different than that of my parents following my curiosity for this intersection between, creativity, somatic awareness and deep connection with horses. Along the way I learnt Reiki, discovered the healing power of Chinese herbs with a Taoist monk and came into contact with Indigenous Elders and Healers. Unknowingly I was undergoing a cultural transformation, a profound reorganizing of the limitations of my modes of being whose very structures kept me apart from the natural world. Slowly my childhood connection with horses was being enlivened, communication, transparency restored, again I was beginning to dream with what I loved and cherished the most. To this day I am grateful to all these teachers.
Pushing forward into my dream of sharing somatic awareness with other riders, I worked in dressage barns making my way from working student to assistant trainer until one day I came across a horse called Welkin and everything changed. Have you ever heard voices in and through your whole being that broke through everyday’s ordinaryness and surprised you? So clear that you could not ignore?
One day while I was playing with Welkin free lunging him, he suddenly turned to face me so so still, he looked me straight in the eye, unwavering it was like time had just expanded. A voice came through me saying: “I don’t want to be a horse anymore”. I stood for a moment like frozen but inside my heart was breaking. Unable to buy Welkin, I left my job, I did not want to be a horse trainer anymore. Walking away from what I loved the most, feeling powerless, speechless, I was lost for a long time until I finally understood that Welkin did not want to be boxed into the human definition of who he should or could be. Looking back into his eyes, like a mirror neither did I. This was a major life crisis, the world as I knew it was shattered and broken, I walked as if I had stones in my heart but I knew there was another way, this belief was indelible in the very core of my being: THERE IS ANOTHER WAY…
” We may encounter a period in which we are stripped
of our old costumes and have nothing new in the closet to wear.
However, in our creativity lies passion and hope.”
Daria Halprin, Co-Founder Director Tamalpa Institute
After 2 years of wandering in the sagebrush desert of northern Nevada and the American South West, I found a new beginning at the Tamalpa Institute founded by dance pioneers Anna and Daria Halprin.