SACRED SISTER INTERVIEW: TAI WOODVILLE.....
I am beyond pleased to introduce to you, TAI WOODVILLE! my Goddess what an inspiring and beautiful soul, her thoughts on life and movement are deeply thoughtful and healing to read. I have had the pleasure of dancing beside her and also just hanging out drinking tea and lounging, and I must say...Spending time with her is like visiting with a unicorn or a fairy; there is something truly otherworldly about her.
Q: Where do you live and practice?
A: I live on a tree farm on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. I practice in my living room mostly, and sometimes outside in nature...also, “spontaneously wherever,” in moments when I want to feel more present. It’s very liberating to just break into intentional movement in a context where it wouldn’t be expected.
Q: Star sign?
A: Virgo; Pisces rising. ;)
Q: You’re such a magical Goddess, you find your flow in dance, but also in singing and making music and writing… How do you relate the essential element of creativity between all of your impulses?
A: I think we can agree that humans are conductors of energy. That inner aliveness wants to express through us, to spin itself into form in some way and make itself known in the world. It wants to make something where before there appeared to be nothing—although it was less “nothing” and more an invisible something, the unmanifest waiting to be born into the world of form. Writing allows me to express my point of view with the specificity of language...singing, to communicate it through emotion and tone...dance and somatic movement, of course, is the body’s voice.
Q: Do you have any particular philosophy about life that you believe in to guide you?
A: Absolutely. Through my journey in life as a seeker, scholar and curious mind, I have accumulated a handful of peak experiences, where I felt as though the universe cracked open temporarily and spilled some of its secrets to me. These experiences became touchstones in my life philosophy. Every time, the view from that metaphorical mountain top was the same: we are consciousness, dreaming itself into the world of form, slowly waking to our agency within the dream, becoming lucid dreamers, one by one.
The more we “wake up” to our own soulfulness—the grand multi-dimensionality of our ultimate being, beyond story, beyond persona/ego/personality construct—the more self-evident the perennial truths become.
Love is the technology of the future. A frequency, which has the power to transform; true magic. Presence is the key to unlocking the moment, which is the only thing that’s real, the only place we really have power. And of course, we know this, intellectually. The challenge lies in accessing this truth somatically, within our bodies. Which is where dance comes in...
There is a fabulous saying in Papua New Guinea: “Knowledge is only a rumor until it lives in muscle.” And that has been my experience. We may know a lot intellectually, theoretically...but there is a fundamental disconnect until we integrate those truths into somatic knowledge, which is done of course through deepening the way we inhabit our bodies. I have found the best way to do that is through dance.
Q: Can you describe how you experience yourself, or how you feel in your body as you are within the throws in your movement practice (dancing/doing yoga etc…)
A: In Flamenco, which my grandmother used to dance, there is a word, duende, that roughly translates into “the spirit of the dance.” Apparently, in that dramatic moment where a Flamenco dancer stands, poised and motionless, they are waiting to feel the duende. They won’t dance until the duende dances them. I find that if I start with very slow and small movements, the duende will creep in and start to move me.
The closest English word to duende would be “flow.” I’m always trying to find that flow, which feels like riding a wave of pre-existing energy, being moved by something greater than myself, allowing it to move through me. I’m not always centered in that feeling, but that is the goal, and when I’m not riding the wave, I know it’s not that the flow stopped flowing, I’m just not tuned into it. Dance is a great way to get it back.
Q:. Can you please share a tip or suggestion to help guide someone into tapping into their flow… the way you tap into your flow. (something easy and fun would be much appreciated, but its all you here, so whatever feels resonant )
A: Yes. Start slowly.
Since dance flow is all about presence, I like to start out slow to tease out a meditative quality; to look at it less like dance and more like Tai Chi. I think of it as “sculpting air” or “crafting space.”
When I approach dance from this angle, it feels easier to tap into my authentic movement and be present in the moment, to feel embodied and inspired. It can be nice to start with a song that doesn’t even have a beat, an atmospheric ambient wash. This way I don’t push myself to dance before the duende has fully taken hold. I am just gently interacting with the space around me, feeling into my body and what it wants to say. After warming up like this, it becomes easier to lock into the flow state while dancing to more energetic, beat-driven songs. And those “space-crafting” moments are usually my favorite part of my dance practice. The slowness fosters a reverence that feels sacred.
For years, I didn’t dance, because I felt I only had a right to if I was properly trained in the technique of a certain dance genre, and anything short of that would be a fool’s errand. I felt I had missed my window, and even though I knew I could always start taking classes, I was so far behind and I felt I didn’t have time to learn a whole new artform. I’m sure that many people feel this way.
Yet, one day, a dancer friend told me something wonderful that changed my life: in postmodern dance—a movement that started with Isadora Duncan as “free dance” at the turn of the 19th century and re-emerged in the 60s—natural movement is not only seen as valid, it is celebrated. She told me that in developing my own vocabulary of authentic movement I could refine the moves which came most naturally to my body and develop my own style. The idea that dancing without training was not invalid and ridiculous, but simply “postmodern” changed my life. At my dancer friend’s encouragement, I started to work on developing a toolkit of personal movements that felt good to me. From there I came across the concept of somatic movement.
Somatic movement therapy is not about form or technique, or how the movements look from the outside, but rather how the movements feel on the inside.
Armed with these new permissions, I created the personal practice of just dancing to at least one song a day. I don’t always do it, but when I do, my mood always improves. It’s a great workout that just sneaks up on you. And I realized what a crazy dogma it is that compartmentalizes something so inherent, natural, necessary and universal as dance. The unwritten rule would have us believe that only the sanctioned dancers can dance. Leave it to professionals. If you haven’t trained, you’ll be laughed at. Don’t even try...is the message we receive. A tremendous shame program exists in all our psyches, which prevents us from claiming this natural inheritance...this important form of healing that is completely free. Dance is for everyone. But we often stop ourselves for fear of being ridiculous. Be ridiculous then, and see that you are still alive and standing, and feeling better for the dance! But the reality is that authentic movement is often quite moving to watch. Because the inner experience of the dancer’s presence translates. There is a uniqueness that’s engaging.
So I think it’s important for people to see that dance is a birthright. It’s not “just for the professionals.” And if you need more emotional permission, just remember: it’s postmodern, baby! ;) And somatic movement isn’t even about how it looks!
As children, we move freely. We dance at will. But we lose this spontaneity and confidence as the world teaches us to doubt ourselves and overthink. Let’s break the movement taboo and get back to that authentic freedom, and the joy that it provides.
Presenting a gorgeous video of Tai free dancing in her magical way....
Q: Please send a link to a song that inspires you.
I have to give curator credit to my fellow movement-taboo-breaking-friend Alisha Westerman (@gowesterman) for turning me onto this song. It seems like an apropos share for the theme of giving oneself emotional permission to inhabit the body without apology:
Q: If you’d like to share anything else for this last one, you’re free to plug upcoming classes/ workshops, share a poem or a quote…Totally up to you!
A: Right now I’m really excited about this conceptual electronic music project, Flight Call, that I’ve been brewing. I plan to utilize my movement practice alongside singing for the first time. In past projects, I’ve played guitar. But for Flight Call, my hands and body will be free to punctuate the songs with physical expression. The album is close to completion and I’ve already been curating an Instagram feed of images that reflect this project’s resonance...follow @flightcall to be kept updated about my forthcoming album and performances.
In parting, I would like to share a poem I wrote about owning our light and seeing beauty even in our so-called damage:
Unbreaking The Vase After death spat me out of its dark belly— I had to learn how to breathe again, had to walk through the forest, willing my pain to drop through the soles of my feet into the dirt, the earth transmuting my troubles with its tender indifference. The wind has picked the sorrows from my hair, one at a time, and blown them like dandelion seeds into the air, whispering, make a wish. I have lain in the meadow, letting the sun beat the regret out of me, like water pummeling a stone until it’s smooth. Fed by the milky moon, as I lay under her fullness until I saw how everything is draped in iridescence, especially us. We have been trained out of seeing it. Just as we have been trained out of seeing that the sky and the earth and the forests are all part of us. No molecular distinction between my hand and yours, our separation like the lines between countries. When faced with the grandeur of your true beauty, don’t turn away, thinking, That couldn’t be me. When we don’t claim our light we get lost in the dark. I have tried to treat my brokenness like the Japanese art of kintsugi, mending vases with veins of gold— damage as history, honored, not concealed. I call my fragments back to me, like a vase shattering in reverse.
Thank you for having me here at Pole Priestess, I’m so in awe of everything you are and do, Rebekah. May you walk in beauty.
Stay inspired by Tai by following these links!
Lit journal that publishes a poem of mine on the last Sunday of every month: