Connections in movement and mindfulness – an interview with a passionate performance artist

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My best friend in high school wanted to be a dancer. I remember countless nights practicing with friends as she choreographed our performance for the Senior Show. When she majored in modern dance in college, I went to visit her and see all of her years of work come to fruition. This week it seems another part of life has come full circle.

Connections

I continue to be intrigued by people who want to change the world through kindness, generosity, passion and spirit. Many have that travel mindset, approach the world with an open mind, want to learn from others who are different to themselves and look to leave a place better than they found it. More than most have had some sort of life-affirming experience that has catapulted them to work towards change for the better and share their life with others.

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photo credit: Sarah Navarrete

Life in San Diego has again connected me to movement, expression and mindful wisdom and one of my yoga instructors has managed to connect all of those pieces together. I met Zaquia over a year ago and each time I take her class my mind and hips leave happy. A confluence of magic, movement, and mindfulness , she views the world through color and connections and always leaves a space better than it was before she arrived. Her culmination of over two years of work, a performance piece (the loneliest part of here is now) that’s near and dear to hear heart is taking place this week. Listen to her journey, take a yoga class with her or come see her on the big stage and screen this Thursday and Friday. On her blog, her philosophy is ‘move your guts’, move yours – you’ll be happy you did.

The beginning

1. How and when did you’re interest in dance and yoga begin? I’ve been dancing my whole life. At 16, I attended San Diego City College, fell in love with modern dance and choreography and went on to complete my BA in Dance with Honors from UC Santa Barbara and then completed my MFA in Dance-Creative Practice at Saint Mary’s College of California. I was introduced to yoga about 11 years ago and was blown away by how the practice not only balanced out my dance training, but transformed the way I experienced life in general – I’ve been practicing ever since!

2. How has this passion shaped the way you look at the world? I believe that experiencing the world through a connection to the moving body is absolutely paramount to how I see the world. I communicate, think, process and feel in movement. There is something special about connecting with others through embodied practices that has guided my life and perspective. I truly believe movement has the power to change the world.

thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

photo credit: Zaquia Salinas

The movement

3. For anyone who wants to continue their involvement with dance, yoga and free expression – where do you suggest they begin? One of the easiest ways to find the resources in your community is to go online and do some research! There are so many options out there, regardless of your experience, age, location, or specific interests. I recommend trying as many different movement opportunities as you can find and see what sparks your inner fire. Getting familiar with what your body and spirit desires is a worthwhile undertaking and can be really fun if you let go of inhibitions!

4. What benefits do you feel people gain from dance and yoga? There are some obvious benefits like fitness, better energy, improved spatial awareness, brain health, emotional wellbeing…the list goes on! However, there are other benefits to a mindful movement practice like yoga or dance that can be extremely profound. Understanding the connection between your body and the way you are experiencing your life can transform the way you respond to your world. Finding a sense of expression in your moving self is a pretty life changing opportunity.

5. How do you handle the naysayers who dismiss the physical and mental benefits of this profound art form? I think everyone deserves an intimate relationship with movement, but I also believe that not everyone will arrive there in the same way at the same time, and some people may never arrive there at all. The idea of accessing the intelligence of the body can be a challenging and even scary thing when one is not open to it. We live in a culture that doesn’t necessarily treat the body as a source of wisdom, so it can be a huge shift in worldview to simply acknowledge the intrinsic value of embodied practices. Dance is one of the oldest forms of expression. It has held communities together for thousands of years and continues to serve as an important reflection of our cultures and societies. It has the power to be both the individual expression of the mover and to move the viewer on a level that is unique to dance. Not everyone will get it. Not everyone needs to….but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable.

thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com

photo credit: Zaquia Salinas

The performance

6. How did this performance come about? the loneliest part of here is now began as my thesis work for my MFA in Creative Practice: Dance 2 years ago. I finished the thesis work last June, but the itch to continue developing it was strong. From start to finish, this piece is very personal, not only to me, but, to everyone who has collaborated on it. It is the magical collection of artists who have contributed to it that imbues it with deep meaning. There have been many layers to the research, development and presentation of this piece with commitment to honesty on behalf of each artist involved, and I think it is part of what makes it special. The event this week is a multimedia culmination of all of that work and I am excited to share it.

photo credit: Sarah Navarrete

The gifts of travel

7. How have your travels influenced your teachings and choreography? The opportunity to travel, meet new people, experience other cultures and movement practices has always inspired me. When I expose myself to other ways of being in the world, I always find myself reflecting on my own way of being, and that process inevitably makes it’s way into my work. I am a student at heart and am always eager to
learn, integrate, and then share. This past January-April I traveled in Peru and Mexico working on this project and the effects of that journey are everlasting.

8. What has been the most surprising gift you’ve received from practicing dance, choreography and practicing/teaching yoga around the globe? I get to learn more and more about myself as I explore the practices I love in new places. I feel like I get to live my art and be in a constant exchange with the creative energies that make this world a beautiful place. When I open up to it, I am surprised again and again by how deep the well of inspiration is.

9. How has travel added to your dance practice and perspective? First, travel makes me a better human being. The more I explore, the better person and artist I become. There are so many beautiful and diverse ways that dance exists in this world. Having the opportunity to learn about these different expressions first hand definitely provides perspective. Meeting people who are doing it differently under different circumstances and conditions gives me hope that dance can keep growing, changing and making magic for the world.

10. In your experience, what have been the two most significant gifts of travel? To be humbled and to be in awe.

 

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