somatic movement

Body, Breath, Spirit, Learning, Reclaiming and Dancing our Blessings!

I woke this morning with a yearning for movement within community, for movement with meaning and intent.

 As you probably know, I DO love to move in almost any way, but sometimes my desire has a very specific quality.

A bit of history:

When I first moved to Columbia I was part of a community that freely and easily moved with Spirit, dance was part of our ritual practice.  It was within the nurturing support of this community that I learned that I was not alone in knowing that movement transforms and heals. It was also within this environment I learned that, for me, there often existed a conflict between the desires of my Spirit body and the abilities of my Flesh body which sometimes (more often that I liked) resulted in physical injury.  It was also within this environment that I learned the psychological impact that can happen when one follows the energy of Spirit without the appropriate tools or awareness to stay connected to the flesh Body and the physical Space of the Earth. It was, in part, a desire to learn how to negotiate these challenges in myself and how to support others to do the same that prompted me to pursue the education in Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analysis (LMA) that I have dedicated myself to these last eight years.  Studying this framework of movement was my path toward knowing how to invite and be fully immersed in the healing actions of movement, safely, wholistically, wholly, integratively. Moving BodyMindSpirit as an integrated whole: learning to live life more fully has been the goal all along!

But long before I knew about LMA, I discovered the drum.

At a time when my knees could no longer tolerate the demands of dance, it was the drum that allowed me to move with Spirit.  When my physical Body could not support me in moving how my body parts felt called to move, I funneled the desire through the drum.  Drumming required me to learn to stay grounded and aware of myself, the other drummers, the movers, and the Space around us while also being lifted and moved by energy. The music of the drum was a balm to my aching body. Drumming taught me so much.

And I was so very fortunate to discover the drum in that same community I mentioned above, and to get to know and study with Pam Fleenor-Benton, to play with the women’s drum ensemble Divine Rhythm and to be supported as a woman drummer within a community of talented women drummers.  But my relationship with the drum has been somewhat neglected these last few years, for various reasons, including my pursuit of career change and education as well as those before mentioned health issues. I sometimes thought I had lost that relationship…

And yet...

as I have studied and then embodied the framework and mysteries of movement offered by LMA and as I have added the experience of so many other supportive, somatic-based psychological and physical modalities, I have learned so many ways to find the places where/when/how physical body and spiritual body are integrated. I have learned to be psychologically and physically curious and safe while exploring the unknown and the energetic.  And within this process there has been and is and will always be rhythm. My ventures that changed my focus from the drum have also informed, deepened and inspired me. Drumming. Healing. Spirit. None of it has been too far away because it is all movement.

Without movement, there is no sound, and sound invites us to move.  Movement and Sound are the essence of Life. With movement and sound we enliven!  Movement and Sound are the opportunities to see,hear, feel the energy of Spirit as it moves in all embodied things.  Without the energetic impulse of Spirit, the physical is simply matter, the human body just tissue, and yet a divinely organized, exquisite system of tissue that is made to develop and organize, to move three-dimensionally within our personal kinesphere and on this place we call Earth. Our lump of tissues that is us is designed to respond to and to make sound!

Bringing it to the present moment…

Those of you who have followed this blog in the past may have noticed that it has been a while since I’ve last posted, four months to be exact.  In these last four months I have been on a Hero’s journey of sorts, a healing crisis of physical and spiritual import.  Invited by my Higher Power, my Guides, the Divine Mother and various wise friends to slow down and meet myself, I began the process of weaving together more closely the past and the present, the inspirations of my spiritual foundation with the structures of my educational pursuits.  In other words, these past months I’ve been invited to remember “me” and join her with “me” to allow the resultant elixir of “me”. All the same person and yet transformed.

Although I have made several efforts to write about this process before this post you are reading, I could not find the words to explain what was happening...and even though I am obviously making an effort to do so with this post, I believe I am still exploring how to put the awareness offered to me these past few months into action and into the written words…if you are intrigued, stay tuned. Join me. Check in. Ask. Invite. It is a glorious adventure!

Back to the beginning of this blog…

 I woke this morning with a yearning for movement within community, for movement with meaning and intent.  And what prompted this blog post was a feeling of such thankfulness that I will have the opportunity to do exactly this on Thursday when Pam Fleenor-Benton joins me in offering a Dancing Our Blessings Tranceformotion and a desire to share my gratitude for the journey as well as all the people and community who are a part of it, now and then.

For those who might not know, Tranceformotion is the movement form that I have created out of my personal experience and the works of other creative beings that gives space to intentionally moving physically with the energies of Spirit within a trance-state.  One of the forms of work that has long inspired me is called Trance Dance: it was developed by Wilbert Alix and taught to me by a woman named Leyla Castro. For many years I shared this form of trance movement in Columbia but I stopped when I no longer felt that my skills met my expectation for the kind of support that I believe is important when guiding folks into this sort of ritual and/or spiritual experience, especially folks with history of trauma and/or physical limitations.  Although Tranceformotion is greatly influenced by Alix’s work, it is also my own creation based on the expectations I have of myself listed above and informed by my extensive training. Tranceformotion is a ritual experience that invites the participants to be embodied and present in their physical selves while also opening themselves up to energy and Spirit through their conscious use of breath. The structure of this movement form invites and supports participants to be psychologically and physically curious and safe while exploring the unknown and the energetic. Tranceformotion is a ritual, inviting deep wisdom to make itself known to the mover through breath, darkness, intention, rhythm and movement.

It is moving with community, with meaning and with intent.

In this upcoming Tranceformotion, I am thrilled to be joined by the above mentioned Pam Fleenor-Benton.  Pam and I have worked together in many creative ways over the years, in ritual and in performance.  She brings a powerful energy and committed passion to drumming. She understands intention, rhythm and movement.  This is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in ritual, trance or healing movement.

As I began the process today of preparing myself for holding, inviting, creating the vessel of intention for this upcoming ritual, I was reminded of a video that Pam shared with me some time ago which you can view here.

This video helped me find the words to the intention for this upcoming event:

Every step we take is rhythm.



We take

Is rhythm.

Our actions, our movements, our breath

all opportunities to BE the music of our lives.

She asks, “What will change if you slow down, take the time to

 listen to your every movement, hear your rhythm, move to your own beat?

With this ritual, we move

to express our gratitude for the blessings and existence of our daily lives.  

We Dance Our Blessings.

if you have a yen to move within community, to move yourself with meaning and intent and think that this event will satisfy that desire, please contact me as soon as possible to schedule a time to meet for the required pre-interview. A thirty minute pre-interview is required to ensure the safety and support of all involved.


The Miracle Child - a 45 minute film worth watching

I urge you to take the time to watch this film. 

Why?  For one, because the story told is incredibly inspiring. 

Also, because it is an insightful look at the hard work that happens in the human body from the time when we are undifferentiated infant bodies to the time in our process when we become crawling babies and then, when possible, walking toddlers to walking adults.  Although this film is about one boy's experience, it also is a reminder that this movement stuff that most adults do every day didn't just happen by accident.  In Aiden's journey we can see the progression of skills and knowledge that are available (and important) to all of us as humans .   The exercises that these practitioners are using to help Aiden's brain and body learn are developmentally wired patterns of movement. 

As you watch the film I invite you to consider that the majority of us learned these extremely challenging skills long before we learned to talk.  Most of us learned them so early, in fact, that we don't consciously remember them and take their existence completely for granted until something - like injury or aging - forces us to pay attention.  The fundamental and foundational aspects  of our daily complex movement is usually invisible to most of us. And yet, as this film shows, they are still accessible to us to explore and learn from long after our first few years.

This film is such an awesome look into the relationship between physical movement and mental health, and the process of change.  Aiden starts from a place of significant movement deficit but with steady, titrated, personalized movement support and practice (and full support and belief by his mama), he transforms over the period of two years  He not only changes how he moves but also who he is!  I am in awe of the physical changes he makes, but even more I am inspired by how his engagement with life, with the world around him, is transformed.  As he is able to access more complex movements, he becomes more actively connected to the Outer world and as he becomes more engaged, he is able to physically move more freely!  A beautiful example of how Function and Expression in movement enliven and support one another!

It was affirming for me to stumble across this film and then to see in it parts of the work (Bartenieff Fundamentals BF) that I offer. In the film the practitioners are incorporating BF and the concepts of Laban Movement Analysis to support Aiden's re-patterning.  It reminds me to never lose sight of the bravery of those individuals with a wide range of challenging limitations who trust me to support them as they explore moving themselves more freely. 

Often, when people first talk to me about their impressions of my work as a somatic movement educator they, for the most part, focus on physical movement solely.   And my work does involve the physical action of movement; however, it is this enhancing people's engagement-with-life piece that is the core motivation for the workshops and private work that I do.   When I say that I offer somatic movement education to support you in moving with more integration and ease, I am not just talking about your physical movement. I am talking about the act of living life more fully through conscious, active embodiment!  As a somatic movement educator I am offering the opportunity for any curious, interested person at any age to safely explore new ways of moving and being, within themselves and in relationship with the world and other humans.   Because of this I am grateful and inspired by the work done being done by the somatic practitioners at the Spiral Movement Center.   I am honored and thrilled to be part of such an awesome profession!


The Practice of Finding Safety Within and of Reaching Out with Confidence

When we use phrases like "going within," "getting in touch with myself," and "reaching out for help" we are cognitively calling on physical actions that are supported by the Bartenieff Fundamentals, especially the use of Developmental Progression and Connectivity.  Developmental Progression is one of the twelve basic Bartenieff Principles of dynamic movement.  It is the series of basic movement patterns established within your body through stage-specific developmental sequencing from conception until about two years of age.  

These patterns of this early life development are then access by all human movers throughout the entirety of their life span:  the adult version of these early development skills are called
Patterns of Total Connectivity.   These Patterns of Connectivity are an active component of all that I share in my somatic movement work, whether I explicitly talk about them or not!

When we use phrases about getting in touch with ourselves or reaching out to another we are more specifically cognitively calling on our physical inner wisdom that is supported by the Pattern of Total Connectivity called Core Distal or Navel Radiation.  This pattern develops early in the womb and builds on the growing/shrinking foundational pattern of Breath, our very first developmental building block of movement!


Physically, Core-Distal is the pattern that supports us in moving toward the Core or Navel area of our bodies as well as in radiating outward to the farthest reaches of our Distal points of fingers, toes, tail and head.  Our ability to withdraw into ourselves and to extend to the farthest limits of our personal space is dependent on this early pattern.

Psychologically, Core-Distal is the developmental and connectivity pattern that supports us in safely going within and claiming our sense of self.  It is the skill of safely and comfortably going within that allows us to more confidently find connection with and move out into the Outer world.

Enhancing your skills of consciously moving with your Breath and Core-Distal Patterns of Connectivity supports you to more fully and resiliently move in all your more-complex activities of daily living!


Recently I have had several wonderful opportunities to introduce and explore the Breath and Core-Distal Patterns of Connectivity with folks at the Heart, Body and Soul Mindful Move Groove class,  in my monthly Movement Fundamentals workshop, as well as with some of my private clients In both the clinical and in the somatic education settings.  This blog post is my way of supporting the home exploration and practice experience of those who have moved with me recently as well as introducing this basic and yet powerful movement concept to those who didn't have a chance to be a part of one of these sessions.

To support your understanding of this pattern, I offer three videos.

In this first video she gives a brief explanation and then she moves the basic action of Core-Distal movement.

In this second video the dancer uses the Core-Distal pattern as his inspiration to create a series of complex movement phrases.

In this final video we have the opportunity to see several different young dancers exploring and sharing their perspective of moving with the Core-Distal Pattern of Connectivity (which they call Navel Radiation) as well as moving the other more complex patterns in the developmental sequence.

I hope that these videos are helpful to inform your understanding of this small basic part of the more dynamic and encompassing Principles of the Bartenieff Fundamentals.  I also hope that they inspire you to move yourself more consciously, whether with my support or otherwise!

As you move, I invite you to ask yourself:  do I move from my Core, or is my movement usually initiated by my appendages and/or, possibly, things outside of my Self? 

I wish for you, in all ways, to move so that you can Live Life More Fully!

If you have questions or comments, please share below or email me.  I look forward to moving with you in some way very soon!



Authentic Movement: A Natural Unfolding

Good morning, community - The following is a guest blog by counselor and facilitator Jeannine Salemi of Inner Truth Counseling of Chicago, IL.  In Columbia, MO the weekend of February 24th, Jeannine will be offering Grounded Freedom, a unique opportunity to invite integration through Authentic Movement.  Within the following blog post there are all sorts of wonderful links embedded to deepen your understanding about this profound, and yet simple, movement form.  Both Jeannine and I hope you will enjoy the post and will join us in this healing, inspirational event.  -Vic

The practice of Authentic Movement was birthed through Mary Starks Whitehouse, a dancer and dance teacher, as a way to bridge her work with active imagination in her own Jungian analysis with the students she worked with. She wanted to help the dancers she was teaching to move from a deeper and more authentic place. Originally called movement-in-depth, her approach to working with people eventually drew non-dancers to work with her to find their own authenticity in movement.

Janet Adler, a dance/movement therapist and one of Whitehouse's students, developed the form into how it is known today, as a practice where one moves in the presence of a witness. While Whitehouse discovered and developed what it means to let oneself be moved, Janet Adler delved into what it means to be present in witness to the process of another and how the inner witness develops.

Zoe Avstreih, my teacher, although never a student of Whitehouse, discovered the form organically as a psychoanalyst and practitioner of Zen meditation. While teaching a class for dance/movement therapists she invited students to close their eyes and explore the answer to the question, "what moves you"? Zoe later met Janet Adler at a national Dance/Movement Therapy conference and was invited into the lineage of Authentic Movement practitioners. Zoe later became director of Adler's training center for Authentic Movement.


I am drawn to Authentic Movement (AM) because of the way it allows for deep honesty and the opportunity to fully dive into the truth of ourselves. The trust I have developed over the years that the discipline of the form will somehow hold and create a container for all of the chaos, the unknown and the unconscious material that emerges (sometimes in repetitive movements) is comforting to me. I feel a kinship to this form as someone for whom movement is my first language, my first direct line of receiving and of communication. When I am trying to speak from an honest place, words often come after the feeling sensation or wave of energy. The practice of AM has given me a place to practice listening to my deeper movement impulses and allow them to move through me, as well as allowing my inner witness to hold my experience as it unfolds.

The practice of AM can invite us to let go of the conditioning we receive that our cognitive processes are somehow more important than the phenomena that arises in the body. If we want to find a balanced dialogue between body and mind, we often need to give ourselves permission and space to do so first. If we want to learn to listen more closely to our body’s wisdom, we often need to continually and gently remind ourselves that it is safe to let go of the need to understand every moment as it unfolds as a somatic experience.

Daniel J. Seigel, pioneer of Interpersonal Neurobiology, describes various states of integration that occur within the body/mind. We find deeper states of presence and mindful awareness by allowing ourselves to flow in the direction of balance, which sometimes means allowing ourselves to bump up against seemingly rigid patterns and chaotic emotions. However, our systems are wired to heal and integrate if we allow it. 

By closing our eyes and listening to our deeper impulses, we are often inviting the parts of ourselves which may be getting in the way of our full experience of integration and healing. By following sensations, images, feelings and movement impulses, we are inviting movement from the subcortical (middle) region of our brain. This internal listening and exploration through both movement and stillness is done in the presence of an unconditionally accepting witness so our process has the chance to unfold in a safe space. We have the opportunity to open to these more vulnerable parts of ourselves in a safe and accepting space, which invites us to accept more deeply these parts of ourselves as well. As we then verbally process the movement experience by speaking in the present moment, we are invited to keep the vitality of the movement experience alive so that we can bring it more into conscious awareness. This conscious awareness allows for deeper integration between the right and left sides of the brain, as well as the lower (subcortex) and upper (neocortex) parts of the brain. As the witness reflects the mover’s experience in a way of speaking and attuning that minimizes projection, the mover is invited to feel the space around her experience as similar to putting a protective fence around a newly planted seed.

As one begins to trust the natural unfolding of the dialogue between body and mind through the presence of a witness and the development of one’s inner witness, deeper integration within oneself is invited to occur. The more integrated we are, the more flexible and creative we are, which allows us to bring more of our true selves into the world and possibly inspire others to do the same. 

An Authentic Movement practice supports compassion for ourselves as we learn to witness the unfolding of our own somatic processes. There is then almost a natural desire, as humans are wired to be empathetic, to see another in the same way. As we hold space for another, we are given the gift of allowing ourselves to truly see another and release blocks for ease in acceptance and understanding. As we practice seeing ourselves and each other with more clarity and less projections, we create a safe space for all of us to step more fully into our true selves where love and acceptance can flow and fear has less power. 


Adler, Janet. Offering from the Conscious Body: The Discipline of Authentic Movement. (2002)

Siegel, Daniel J. Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology. (2012)

What is Embodiment? A coffee and conversation talk

This morning I share my thoughts on the topic "What is Embodiment" at a local free Saturday morning event called "Coffee and Conversation."  Here are the notes that I have prepared along with this previous blog entry. 

As embryos, fetuses, and infants we did not have thoughts or emotions as we have them as adults.    We began as an organism, a collection of cells, with sensory receptors and movement.

Our movement abilities formed from amoeba-like to the most complex of walking, jumping and running as a naturally organized process of development in response to the information we received from our environment through our sensory receptors.

Given this, embodiment is…the sensory experience of breathing and of our weight on the Earth, of pressure, texture, temperature, light, smell, sound, taste and rhythm.   These are all the things that prompted us to move in the earliest days of our existence in the body we are in.  We experienced a sensation and we responded or reacted, in pleasure or in pain, in response to comfort or discomfort.

Then we learned words.  Words give a symbolic form to our experiences, a way to communicate sensations, thoughts and emotions.  Words are valuable and words can be spoken from an embodied perspective, but words are not themselves embodied.  Similarly sensory and emotional words are just labels, not things themselves. Emotions are actually a collection of sensations we associate with a specific experience.

The map is not the territory.” A. Korzybski 

We learn, as individuals, and have learned, as a culture, to override the sensory information of our body for many reasons.  Pain.  Traumatic events we witness or experience.  Devaluation by other people’s words or actions.  Descartian split of mind from body. Some religious beliefs, especially dogmatic Christianity.  Consumerism that views sensations as something to market to.  Capitalism that views sensations as a nuisance, diminishing the value of the workforce.  Incompatibility between the design of our sensory systems & the sensory information in our environments.

My perspective is that the result is overwhelm, anxiety, depression, disease, disconnection from ourselves, each other and the Earth.  And that a  regular practice of noticing, deepening, inviting, enhancing embodiment is healing and powerful, in all ways.  This includes breath awareness, sensory awareness and conscious movement exploration to re-pattern what we have learned, as young children and into adulthood, about our body.