We had a magical expandance and Omprov workshop in Costa Rica this year. Thank you to Johanna and Stefanie at Living Forest; Lake Arenal Retreat Center, and to Stefan Wenger for a joining me and teaching the improv section of the course. We've had some incredible feedback since the workshop (see below!), and we're both looking forward to teaching upcoming expandance and Omprov classes in Sonoma County, California. Stay tuned for details, and if you'd like to know about upcoming workshops and retreats, please e-mail me at email@example.com - Rachel
"Dear Ravishing Rachel and Snuggly Stef,
In the weeks
since the expandance-Omprov retreat, I’ve been reflecting on what you
created for our group in Costa Rica. I think I can best describe it as
“igniting the life force." You intuitively led us through a series of
experiences that tapped into parts of ourselves that many of us had
forgotten: parts that hold our vitality, our energy, our vulnerability.
held those tender, young parts of us with deep respect and care,
allowing them to grow and flourish, so that by the end of the retreat we
felt integrated; renewed.
The best part is
that you accomplished this through FUN! It was like getting healthy by
eating lots of chocolate. Healing through laughter and movement? Check.
Learning scary life skills through play? Yeah, baby! Being held,
seen, and appreciated for exactly who I am? The best part. Sign me up,
please, again and again.
With Love and Gratitude,
"My week in Costa Rica with Rachel and Stefan is definitely going in my
memory treasure trove. I have done Authentic Movement, and thought
perhaps that this would be similar, but expandance is so much more. I
found myself going deeply into my experience of my body and finding
unexpected places that urged me to move them, and at other times being
completely filled with joy and delight as I improvised dances with
others in the group. I tend to be the sort of person who feels as if I
have 2 left feet as soon as I go to a dance class, but for some reason I
keep putting myself there. At the age of 56, I finally found the dance
class I have been looking for all my life, and am so sad that Rachel
lives in California and I live in Iowa!"
"I knew nothing about
improv and was a little nervous about being "bad" at it or "doing it
wrong", but Stefan made it clear throughout the week that everything we
did was welcome. As the week went on I found myself taking more and more
risks, and having a total blast. The warm-up games are being shared
with my friends and I am wishing I could find a place to do improv here
without having to worry about being around a load of well-practiced
funny people from the Theatre department on campus who know what they
"By the way I have several people who want to come
next year, so you may need to do 3-4 weeks of workshops, if you are up
- Joanna Lawson EdS, LMFT, CYT (Psychotherapist and Ontological Coach)
was thinking about how the retreat has impacted me, and I realised that
since then I've stopped worrying so much. expandance got me really
connected with my body, I rest when I feel to, play much more, enjoy
doing exercise because I can feel how much my body expands, even if it's
a quick boogie in the kitchen! I don't push my body so hard to work, I
feel the flow more. I realise when I do that, it's ok, the world doesn't
end! I realised I'm not supposed to feel like I'm trying to push
an elephant up a hill. expandance was a gentle, fun and playful way to
get in touch with my body again, let my inner child have some fun, be in
the moment, and best of all not worry what anything looked or sounded
has given me confidence, I speak much more freely. I used to overthink
what I was going to say, but given the safe space to explore not doing
that, I realised I didn't need to worry, I could just let it come out!
And I got to laugh so much, and I love to laugh! I feel so Blessed
because I got to share this with some truly Amazing and hilarious
sweet people, and everyone just took the leap and trusted they'd be met,
and they were.
got to make some Beautiful new friends from different parts of the
world, and became closer to those I already knew. The closing circle was
the perfect ending to a Truly Wonderful week, Thank you Dear Hearts
Rachel and Stef, for your willingness, openness and your trust."
- Caroline Smith
"Rachel's expandance classes and technique was so adaptable to where we
were feeling as a group so at times you found yourself gleefully leaping
and dancing for joy and at other times deeply connected within your own
body in movement that was gentle and profoundly healing, especially for
me as I went into it having some physical injuries. My favorite aspect
of the dance classes was the working in small groups of three and how amazing it felt to connect with others and feel the movement between
people as one unit flowing together effortlessly while always being
perfectly supported by Rachel's loving guidance. I really appreciated Rachel's gentle approach and that she
somehow always seemed to know exactly how to guide us in every moment so
that I always felt in safe hands and was encouraged to connect to my
own center, to flow and do what I needed for myself no matter what
movement exercise we were engaging in."
When I first started researching expandance - this way of moving from my intuitive, connected center - I spent a lot of time watching starlings flocking all over Dublin and in Wicklow, Ireland. I took hours and hours of footage on my old video camera, usually at sunset which was when they were most likely to flock, and watched them again and again, amazed at how they never seemed to bump into each other. They were totally in tune, moving, and moving quickly at that - making sharp turns, diving, ascending, swooping, and curving in the sky.
I had come across the ''flocking'' technique in dance classes, where a group stands together and each dancer copies whoever is in front, creating a group that moves with similar movements at roughly the same time (though usually with a very slight delay, because everyone is watching the ''leader''). But it often felt pedantic, pedestrian, and just... slow. It felt somehow disconnected to me.
I wanted to get to a deeper place. A more interesting place. A place where we, as human beings, could be as connected to each other as those birds. Where we wouldn't need to talk about it, or see it, or think about it. Where we could just sense exactly where everyone else around us was, (not just physically either) and move together. Move together from a shared, connected place. Not by copying another person's movement, but by listening deeply to each other's energy. By becoming so in tune with ourselves and each other that we wouldn't even have to look to know where the other was.
It wasn't just about ''letting loose'' with crazy tribal music. (We don't even use music, most of the time). It was about connecting, deeply, with each other and our own divine in a way that was vulnerable and open and intimate. It felt grounded and alive, and full of potential.
So we started researching. Laurie, Alicia and I spent our first year in the studio just learning how to listen to each other. We meditated, we explored, we experimented, we devised experiments, we researched, we listened, we moved quickly, we moved slowly. Some days we sweated through our clothes and other days we moved so slowly we were almost still. We got frustrated and we cried and we laughed. And we danced through personal traumas and pain and pregnancies and came back with babies strapped to bodies and tear stained t-shirts and kept dancing. And eventually, we started moving in that way that I'd hoped was possible. And when we ''performed'' these improvisations in performance settings, audience feedback said that it looked like we were made of one energy, one organism moving three distinct bodies. Which was exactly how it felt, and exactly how we wanted to move. And moreover, what was wonderful was that we were each moving in our own ways. We weren't necessarily doing the same movements (though this happened sometimes, often without us realizing it) - we were doing our own thing, but all together. Sometimes, especially when Laurie and I dance together from this place, we can get pretty rough, and it can look violent even - because we trust each other that much that we can go there - and yet we never end up hurting each other. When you're listening, it just. doesn't. happen. We have even danced blindfolded in close proximity. No-one injured anyone else.
I continue to explore this practice and teach others this method because I think it teaches us something fundamental about being human and about being in this world. I think this way of moving helps us be fully in our own center, in our own power, and in our own, perfect, individual creation whilst also connecting deeply, lovingly and respectfully with other humans. And, on top of that, we get the bonus bits of this practice: it can help heal chronic pain and injury, help us move through self-judgement and body shame, boost our confidence and creativity, and - this is cool - we don't bump into people as much.
We don't always get it ''right''. We're still learning. It's a joyous and fascinating journey though and I hope you'll join me on it some day soon.
News! Stefan Wenger and I have a few spots left for our workshop / retreat next month in the beautiful Lake Arenal region of Costa Rica. Join us for what is going to be another incredibly magical week.
February 21st - 27th 2016
Mornings: expandance workshops with Rachel
Afternoons: improv workshops with Stefan
Other times: lounging in hammocks, taking a dip in the river, zip lining through jungle canopy, melting all tension away in local, natural hot springs, eating delicious, local food prepared lovingly by Living Forest staff, laughing with new friends, and feeling at peace.
Sound good? Hells yes it does. And there's STILL TIME to jump on this! Go Go Go!
Or you can just register by e-mailing, and pay in cash at the door.
Note: Advance payments are non-refundable and non-transferable to another future class. Classes are kept small so that we have space to move! I look forward to seeing you :-) Now check out this video of other lovely people who took an expandance class:
We had a lovely class this morning at Dance Underground in Petaluma, California.
Today was a sampler class - I taught 30 minutes of ''Album Dance'' (a new class I'm starting up soon) and 30 minutes of expandance technique, before heading in to consult with a local theater company on some choreography for an upcoming show of theirs.
First California expandance class!
And so, to Album Dance. You know, one way I've come to know lots of great music over the years is by hearing it in class, or stumbling across it while looking for something to dance / choreograph / teach to. Usually in a dance class you move to a playlist of carefully selected songs compiled by your teacher, and I often hear a song and think "That's a great track, I wonder what the rest of the album is like". So I thought it might be a fun idea to teach a series of dance classes to entire albums, so if there's an album you have been meaning to hear / get into / or just love, let me know, Sonoma! Coming to a town near you, Spring 2016! Watch this space :-)
Super excited to announce a 2.5 hour expandance workshop in NYC this August. This is the last one I'll be teaching before leaving New York.
Date: Sunday August 16th Time: 2.30 - 5pm Please aim to arrive early. Late comers will not be admitted. Investment: $25 in advance / $30 on the door - space is limited; I highly recommend reserving your spot in advance Location: Ripley Grier, 520 8th Avenue, New York Studio 17B 520 8th Avenue (between 36th & 37th Streets) Nearest trains: Penn Station
Pay in advance here. Questions? E-mail me! firstname.lastname@example.org No experience required! Just show up. The biggest thing you can ever do for yourself is show up.
Each expandance class consists of a combination of any of the following: group warm-ups (may include yoga-inspired combinations), dance exercises, meditation, drawing, visualization, games (may include circus / clown games), tools for choreography and performance skills, vocalizing, massage, stretching with a partner, dancing to music, dancing in silence, and group discussion and analysis of what we've observed or learned. Think of it like a group meditation experience (I sometimes call expandance ''Meditation for People who Can't Sit Still") - we move without judgement, without internal editing, to dance the dance that our body already wants to dance, choreographing from the inside out.