My 15 years of body work as a 500 RYT yoga teacher, a performer and choreographer have instilled in me a deep commitment to the intuitive powers held in the body. How we feel in the body is our place of truth, power & transformation.
Throughout my personal journey and work I return again and again to body wisdom. It is both energetic and somatic, spiritual and grounded. It is a dance.
Dance in this sense is a way of being, a ritual for change and a language of the heart.
I find stories easiest to tell in a quiet room over a hot cup of tea where stories can bend, fold and dance in their non-linear nature. Each thread, unique in color, twists together like different colors in a braided bracelet. I will share my story of how I came to do the work that I do in this woven way as if we were speaking in woven colors over hot cups of tea in a quiet room.
Although, I began with a strong connection to my body, various incidents and traumas would lead me to have several years of feeling disembodied. Disconnected from my body, I struggled with depression and anorexia. My journey out of this struggle led me to a vast array of spiritual practices: shamanism, yoga, meditation, plant medicine and hospice work. It also catapulted me into a new understanding of dance. I could no longer watch my body in dance mirrors forcing it to perform like a machine while my insides begged to be heard, to be felt.
Ultimately, I began a journey of healing that I still am on with my body. My body has been the catalyst and the bridge for bringing me to places within myself and throughout the world that I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams. My path (or really, I prefer to call it my dance, because what is dance other than how we move through and connect with this world?) is eccentric. It is messy and deeply focused, free and seriously committed, just like my movements. These are some the major crossroads on my body healing journey:
I discovered Butoh, a Japanese contemporary dance form focused on dance as a life path. Butoh trains the dancer to favor the inner experience over the outer form. I studied with Dawn Akemi Saito, my mentor and inspiration and later Yoshito Ohno in Japan. Ohno told me that as a woman I must help the dance of the mother return.
I lived with a Balinese family in Batuan, Bali and studied dance at 5am each morning with my 62-year-old teacher, Jimat. He explained to me that Balinese dance originates as a means to heal communities, lands and ancestral lines through movement, song and story. The way of dancing in Bali would forever change and re-shape my understanding of dance.
I managed and taught at a yoga studio in Union Square in Manhattan. Here I saw the pros and cons of working in the ‘healing’ business with gurus and power struggles. I learned the importance of humility and empowering students to find their own inner teacher.
I studied and practiced shamanism. First on the Big Island in Hawaii and later in Japan, I studied the Itako and Miko Shinto shamanic practices. Shamanic wisdom has provided me a bedrock of ancient tools and spiritual practices that I use daily.
I toured my solo performance, Inside the Whale, throughout Europe while living in Spain. The show would go on to Broadway, NYC and win several awards taking me back to Europe. Touring the solo which told my personal journey with anorexia revealed to me that so many people, especially woman, struggled with accepting their bodies regardless of culture or country. When we are disconnected from our bodies, we are disconnected from our intuition, our heart, our soul.
These resounding observations: that dance could be a life-affirming way of being and that so many people felt disconnected from their bodies propelled me forward into my work.
I knew dance could play a part, serve as a bridge for reconnecting people to their bodies and in turn their soul, their power. I became passionate about making community-inclusive dance projects. Here people of various backgrounds, abilities and ages would dance together. Soon I realized that these performances were more than dance projects. Like my teacher in Bali explained, we were healing ourselves through listening and moving together.
The Yellow Thread...
When we are disconnected from our bodies,
we are disconnected from our dance.
Our dance is our intuition, our heart, our soul.
I had my grandpa Lagattuta's attention for the first four years of my life. He tirelessly listened to me sing and dance long sagas. I came into this world speaking with my feet. I talked to my body, which I knew was alive and intelligent. I felt, sensed and saw energy while I sang and danced about being a flower. Lucky for me, my grandfather affirmed my experience, by simply giving me space to have it. It required some effort but not too much. He would read the paper, he would watch, but mostly he was just open and willing to let me be me. Afterwards, I sat on his lap and played with his golden necklaces that hung around his hairy Italian neck. He was comfortable with himself and so I felt comfortable too.
His willingness to see and be with me gave me a gift I can never repay. It is a gift of saying, I see you, I hear you and you exist. And because you exist, you can trust in what you feel.
It is powerful wisdom to trust in our being-ness.
It is the work I have come to do for myself and for others: Be with the body and witness its wisdom. The body holds our truths, our deepest longings and our insights. It houses our trauma. It holds our most painful and most pleasurable memories, our felt and repressed emotions, our habits and our transformations.
Teaching dance and yoga for 15 years has revealed to me that the body does not lie. And the body wants to be seen and heard. This is why I see healing and performance work as intertwined. They are both acts of witnessing and holding sacred space for others. Healing rituals throughout the ages involved song, music and dance to express, witness and heal. Performances in their true essence, like healings, provide space to be with and witness one another so we don’t feel so alone.
“Alienation is one of the many faces of modernity. By opening to each other, we diminish the pressure of being alone and exiled.” Malidoma Patrice Somé, Of Water and Spirit: Ritual Magic in the life of the African Shaman
The Blue Thread...
To truly be with someone or something
is a powerful form of love
The Red Thread:
I see my healing work as bridge building:
Allowing the body to be the bridge between
the seen and the unseen worlds.
About a decade ago, one yoga student said to me, “I want a private session.” I did not offer these and said no. But she was insistent. So, we worked together. And I found one-on-one we could go much deeper, unlocking old trauma. I liked that. That is how I how I like to work: going to the depth and the heart of the matter for deep transformation.
Meanwhile, I had been reading cards for friends. It started as a game, something fun. But I kept seeing how helpful they were in revealing truths. I began using oracle and tarot cards in my private sessions to help me “read” the situation and then see it in the body. The cards proved to be another bridge for the body’s wisdom.
Over the past decade, I have been curious and committed to this work. I am infinitely grateful and indebted to the clients and students who have and continue to trust me as we explore the possibilities of body healing. Just as I did as a little girl, this work has helped be to rediscover the language of the body and to speak it.
I firmly believe that being able to tap into our body’s wisdom is something we all can do with practice and guidance. Often, I see myself as as a translator helping people to reconnect with your body’s language, its wisdom, its dance.
My grandpa Jimmy came from a family of bridge builders. He was also Schizophrenic. He lived his life between two worlds, finding ways to bridge the gaps. He taught me that the only way to find wholeness is to live with a foot in both the seen and unseen worlds. Put another way, we need both an inner and outer experience.
For my work, the bridge between the inner and outer worlds is the body.
It took me awhile to admit to the world that I can read body energy and help others to do so. But I have come to understand that this seemingly invisible work of feeling and listening to the body truly transforms our outer realities. Our body’s feelings are the keys; they are portals to healing and transformation. Scientists and therapists are making this same discovery. Trauma specialist, Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk demonstrates this concept when he explains,
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going on inside ourselves.”
It took me about 20 years to admit that I am healer. I hesitate with this word. Because I know healing exists within all of us. And all true healers are actually healing themselves. In fact, the only person we can change in a lasting way is ourselves. That is why the only true healer offers you the keys and empowers you to unlock the doors. I offer my two decades of experience on this path and a lifetime of working with my own body as a key for you to unlock your body bridge.
The Green Thread...
“To dance is to hear our heart speak.”
As you can tell from our conversation, I use the term dance in a very broad sense. Dance is how we move through the world, which is a natural human thing. Humans are always moving, even in stillness just as a tree is always engaged in both visible and invisible movements.
Our bodies are constantly engaging and exchanging with the natural world. We are made up of the natural world. Humans pump the waters of rivers and streams throughout the body in the form of blood. We breath air in and out.
I believe our disconnection to our bodies is mirrored in our alienation to the natural world. And I believe our reconnection with our earth begins with befriending our feelings, our bodies.
My great grandmother, Eva, was a gardener. She knew the power and importance of placing her hands in the dirt and growing food. She was Scottish and she knew how to speak with the fairies and tell stories from the land. Nature reminds people of who they truly are. The longer I have worked with the body, the more it has pushed me to work with the earth. And I don’t think that is a coincidence.
In Japan I learned about Shinrin-Yuko or forest bathing. A practice of releasing worries to nature and letting mother earth restore you. I studied the Miko Shinto traditions in which dancers purified sacred places through movement. I believe that was the original role of movement and dance: to bring harmony to spaces and to cultivate healing through movement.
Inspired to understand the possibilities of movement further, I got an MFA in Dance at the University of California, San Diego. My thesis “Miko: Dance as a Symbiotic Knowing of Self, Other and the Environment” demonstrated how dance can transform the energies within and around us. My teaching and research revealed the power of a simple presence to transform our relationships with earth.
“Listening, standing witness, creates an openness to the world in which the boundaries between us can dissolve in a raindrop. The drop swells on the tip of a cedar and I catch it on my tongue like a blessing.”- Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teaching of Plants
Dance is an awareness, a way to be with our whole selves. I named my dance approach EVA or eco-visceral awareness after my great grandmother, Eva, who spoke with the earth and the sky. I believe the body can bridge our relationships between the seen and the unseen, the mind and the heart, our bodies and earth.
I dance for a world in which dance brings groups of people together to dance for the upliftment of a neglected space, to understand waterways or to heal a troubled heart. Dance with this kind of awareness becomes a heart-centered practice. It connects and moves energy heart to heart. As the Hopi say, “to dance is to hear our heart speak.” Dance is the language of the heart.
Put another way, our hearts speak through our body’s feelings.
I show up to do my work because I believe as more people connect with their hearts and their body’s wisdom, we can radically and positively transform ourselves and this planet.
I dance for a world in which dance brings groups of people together to dance for the upliftment of a neglected space, to understand the land and to heal a troubled heart. Dance with this kind of awareness becomes a heart-centered practice. It connects and moves energy heart to heart. As the Hopi say, “to dance is to hear our heart speak.” Dance is the language of the heart.
"After working with Aurora, I felt a numbness lift in my body.A freedom in my body but also a connection to the earth returned to me."-Diana
"Aurora so sweetly guided me to a place within my self I did not know existed. Since, I have felt more confident, more hopeful."- Barbara
"Transformational. And at 65, I don't say that often." -Manuel