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I approach my role as a teacher
much the way I approach my role as a choreographer. I see myself not as imparting content, but as inspiring and revealing the inner life of my students. Teaching, like choreography, is a transformative activity. In my view, awakening to the body, in both its internal and external aspects, leads to integrated learning. Dance is an ideal venue in which to use the inner life to fuel creative expression. My teaching is grounded in these ideas. 

My starting point as a choreographer and teacher is to understand what the body actually is. The body is not limited by its external form and capabilities. The body is a micro-universe, a map, connecting each of us to the entire phenomena of the world–emotion, intelligence, architecture, genetics, politics, psychology, mythology, culture, history, memory, biology, art. It is a channel through which we breathe the world in and out. In my teaching, I use emptiness, silence, space to reach out to these worlds by reaching in. Paraphrasing a Chinese saying, by emptying oneself, one opens to all the possibilities of heaven. 

At the micro level, my somatic technique classes draw on my over 20 years’ training and study in Asian performing arts and Tai Chi and Chi Gong (among other contemplative disciplines) to focus on awareness of the body. I seek to create a totally released physical vessel emptied of intentionality and open to the flow of energy, or “chi”, through the bones, joints and muscles. I work to have my students feel the gravity of their skeletal structure, to release their joints and soften their muscles so that they can feel internal energy as it is directed through them from forces without them. 

This process in turn creates an articulation of the joints and overall skeletal structure that eventuates in a kind of body/mind awareness, or sensitivity, in which students feel the body and its range of movement in a different, more holistic way. By monitoring the flow of energy through the body, even while giving in to it, the student dancer starts to see, think and feel beyond himself or herself when producing movement. Movement becomes an act of awareness of, and surrender to, energy. Energy leads the mover, not the other way around. 

Connecting with the flow of energy within the body, finally, gives purpose to movement, and connects the mover to energies–and stories–flowing outside and beyond it. This idea grounds my choreographic approach, and links my Asian movement training with contemporary, somatic-based movement disciplines. Asian contemplative practices have proved particularly useful to me in understanding how an awareness of the self, of one’s innermost stories, fosters choreography. In particular, I use the I Ching and Chinese calligraphy in my choreography classes to help students better “see” the stories told in movement. This in turn leads to a choreographic freedom which enhances contemporary movement. In the end, I ask my students the same questions I ask of myself as a choreographer and dancer: Who am I? Why am I moving?Where am I headed?