Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Birds flocking and the beginnings of expandance

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.

- Rachel

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Upcoming expandance & comedy improv retreat, Costa Rica


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!

Here's the retreat website with more.

Book now!

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New expandance classes in Sonoma County, California

Happy New Year lovely people! 

I'm delighted to announce a mini series of dance improv classes in Sebastopol, CA, coming up soon - 4 weeks of expandance Saturdays! No experience required.

The dates:

Saturday January 23rd
Saturday January 30th
Saturday February 6th 
Saturday February 13th 

All are 4-6pm. Please arrive 10 minutes early to be on time and honor the space we're creating.

What to wear / bring: 

We'll dance in bare feet and socks, so bring both :-) 

Feel free to bring water to drink, a small towel if you tend to sweat a lot.

Wear clothes you can move in easily that are not too baggy. (Think yoga pants and a t-shirt - baggy pants are a tripping hazard) 

Register / pay:

Please register for class to receive the address; the (beautiful) studio is located on a private property 10 minutes outside Sebastopol. 

To register, e-mail or simply pay in advance, with a note on PayPal telling me which date(s) you'll be coming, and I'll e-mail you the address.

$20 each class drop in, or $60 for all 4! (Yes, math peeps! That's one class FREE!)  

If you'd like to pay in advance you can do so here:

1 class $20

4 classes $60  

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:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

First California expandance class, and "Album Dance"

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 :-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In Portland, Oregon

Hi West Coast!

I'm currently in Portland, and giving private expandance sessions at Potentials Yoga and Wellness.

I have the following times available this week:

Friday Nov 6th after 12pm

Saturday 7th after 3pm - 6pm

Sunday 8th after 12pm

Private sessions are:

1 hour $65
1.5 hours $85

Payable in advance via PayPal to or in person on the day by cash or credit card.

Potentials is at 200 NE 20th Avenue

See you in the studio!

- Rachel

Friday, August 7, 2015

Last NYC expandance class. Now's the time folks!

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!

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.

See you there!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 23rd class canceled


Sat May 23rd expandance class in NYC is canceled. I realized it is Memorial Day weekend and, like many of you, I'll be fleeing the city for quieter rural pastures.

I'll post the June schedule when I'm back.

Have a great memorial day weekend!

- Rachel 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

NYC May class schedule & special offer!

May class schedule is here!

Friday May 1st      6pm - 7:30pm      studio 17H
Friday May 15th      6pm - 7:30pm      studio 16E
Saturday May 23rd      6pm - 7:30pm      studio 17C

All classes are at Ripley Grier, 520 8th Avenue (between 36th and 37th Streets), New York
Closest subways are the A, C, E, 1, 2, 3 to 34th Street.

Each class is $20 on the door (cash or credit) or $17 in advance here


Take all 3 classes this May for only $45 - saving you $5 per class, a total of $15 in savings! To avail of this offer, click here to pay. T&C: $45 must be received by midnight April 30th and is non-refundable  (as a whole or in part) in the event you miss class/es. 

After last week's class, dancer Olga wrote online: "What a great experience it was today to take my first class of expandance technique. If you're interested in researching within yourself for new 'places' to move your body, free of mental judgements and chaos I recommend to check it out. Thank you Rachel, definitely discovered new places in me today."

What to wear: Comfortable clothes you can move in - sweats, t-shirt, yoga pants etc. Nothing too baggy as baggy pants can be a tripping hazard! We move barefoot or in socks. There are water fountains and changing facilities at Ripley Grier studios. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Self-judge much? Come to class tomorrow!

Do you know - one of the reasons I created the expandance technique was because I was crippled by my own self-judgement every time I walked into a dance class. Even every time I danced on my own. I created it and developed it over years to be a technique that would help me (and YOU!) to find that peace, that lovely kid inside who dances with joy and abandon. And people LOVE this technique for this very reason. If you can not let your self-judgement win *long enough* to get you to class, you're on the right path smile emoticon See you tomorrow!

expandance is open to all, regardless of prior experience

Saturday April 18th 
5pm - 6.30pm
Ripley Grier studio 17C
520 8th Avenue (between 36th and 37th streets) New York City
Closest subways at Penn Station 
$20 on the door / $17 in advance here