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The Journey

Dancer jumps at Bodega Bay Head, Sonoma County, California. Photo by Olivia Vigil Photography

The studio floor was cool - amazingly, considering it was summer 2006 and I was in New York City. I had booked the space for an hour to try something new: I wanted to see if I could somehow connect, in my body, my 17 years of dance training with the transformational healing work I was doing; to somehow bring these two major parts of my life together. So, I lay on the studio floor and decided I wasn't going to move a muscle until I could get out of my own way and let my soul, or spirit, or whatever it was, move me. I wouldn't move because I thought I should. I would just wait for it to happen organically. So... I waited. I waited and... nothing happened. I listened to the taxis and people and horns honking on Broadway outside the window, and waited. And I started to get frustrated. I was paying for this time! And nothing was happening! I'd had a hunch, and followed it, and for what? (I am someone for whom lying motionless is not easy). 45 minutes passed. Then 50. At 55, I thought "well, the next renter will need to get in here soon so I may as well give up." ...and of course, that's when it happened. My arms started to move. Then my hips. Then my spine... and for the next 5 minutes my body amazed me as it moved without input from me.


I floated out of the studio into the warm New York City air. I was in complete bliss. And in that moment, dedicated myself to discovering whatever 'this' was.


A month later, back in Dublin, I was accepted into the Irish Choreographer's New Works Platform, mentored by the late Rosemary Butcher, and spent a week exploring what I was now calling the expandance technique with three other professional dancers: Laurie Schnieder, Alicia Christofi Walshe, and Karl Sullivan. We researched improvised, moved... for hours every day, and at the end of the week performed one of our improvs for an audience. It was a blissful week in many ways (at one point after an improv, one of the dancers exclaimed "I feel like I've taken ecstasy") and also incredibly enlightening. Imagine finding something very cool that you'd always kinda hoped was there, and then embarking on a journey to discover everything about this thing!


I applied to the Arts Council of Ireland for a grant to continue delving deeper, and to my delight we were awarded a substantial grant to develop the technique. It allowed Laurie, Alicia and I to spend the next year in the studio working on research and development daily. We then spent the following five years exploring, practicing, developing choreographic tools and performing, mostly in Dublin and New York City, where two of us would end up living for a time.


As a dance company we utilized tools from the expandance technique to create work, and also, always, made space in each performance for improvised movement.


In the years since, I've presented several new dance works in NYC, Boston and Dublin under the company name expandance, and taught workshops and private sessions in the technique in New York, Portland, California, Costa Rica, India, and Ireland. I am currently based in Northern California and teach the technique locally and online.


I am still dedicated to the continued discovery of whatever "this thing" is.


Rachel Wynne, 2021

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