Having been raised in USA, English is my first language. I was only 3 years old when my mother used to bring me with her to concerts, theatre and movies. We lived in Detroit Michigan. My mother would have rather become an artist than a lonely mother at the young age of 18, so she always encouraged me to dance. That very soon became my only obsession. For me, to dance all the time, I mean literally all the time, was the only way to feel close with some mysterious quest which I knew since childhood to be the reason why I was on this earth. I just had no idea at the time what that quest was about; and the world, from the perspective of TV and grown-up people, seemed to me some rare place to live in.
Dance made me feel I could understand the message of this mystery within me.
We came to France; and quickly at the age 13, I became a professional dancer in the Ballet Russe Irina Grjebina. But the professional life of most artists is not that romantic: and I felt very soon that my inner voice was not reciprocated by living this kind of life.
I left home and school and dance for a lover. I lived on the streets for 3 years. That was not the path either, but it gave me a perspective of “nowness”.
During my life on the streets, a book came to me as if by a miracle : Cutting through spiritual materialismby Chogyam Trungpa. And it had a profound effect on me: that book was talking about this “thing” that made me dance?
At 19 years old I became suddenly world famous because of an advertisement: but instead of following the career of fame, I entered a solitary retreat of Ngöndro in a cabana in a forest in the South of France for one full year. Dharma clearly became the path to my understanding of dance; and was also my way of getting to understand the Dharma, or better to say, to get to understand myself truly.
Now I am 54 years old. At this point, dance returned to be the centre of the whole way of life, being the practise of Dharma as well as the teaching of my daily life. As I say to my students, “Dance is the Yoga of life”. Slowly, as it became obvious that the most interesting thing about dance, was not only to be seen and to impress people or even to make them feel happy, which is wonderful, but maybe a little difficult to maintain through time, old age and more than all, through one’s own artistic needs – to investigate everything within ourselves through dance. Because I had been such a successful-graceful-wonderful-young-lady–dancing, there is more to this experience than to be young and beautiful 🙂
Dharma is in the heart of all ART, in my view. And to Dance is a powerful way to bring awareness into movement and also to bring that awareness from movement to stillness. Since everything we do is movement, dancing with awareness is a key to liberate oneself from obstacles and also to grow courageous in our own ability to manifest our human potential for the good of all beings. For that I needed to develop a training that would not only be rigorous but also able to open different ways to manifest my ideas of ART.
Breath is the heart of Dance : and that breath is directly related to the voice and the mind. This is how to dance becomes the full grounds for investigation into life itself as being a constant Dharma teaching coming to us, and also that we are able to share our potential in the most authentic and simple situations dancing together through this life.
That is how, the Danza Duende School [See the video] became a network of people creating many different projects based on our training and on our solidarity to infuse the awareness of Bodhicitta into every sector of education through ART. Danza Duende should never become a religious project, but bring together people from different beliefs to share our human condition by the direct experience of breath, dance, creativity and the very personnel alchemy of creativity. The study of understanding interdependence is very easy when we dance, sing and create together. Now, bringing that experience into action in society without sharing the same form but the same grounding is our challenge. It is a great challenge because the school really leaves true freedom of styles and arts to all, yet there is a sense of mutual service amongst all of us.
Later Ringu Tulku Rinpoche gave me the authorisation to create Intuitive Dharma Study or IDS as a free branch of activities of BODHICHARYA in Belgium and also in Italy since last year. I understood that even though my intention was not to persuade people to become “Buddhist”, many of my dance students were interested in Dharma and they also needed spiritual tools and structures to “empower” their processes. I needed also to feel myself free to share in a more direct way how Dharma practice was my main source for my own art.
That is how we started the sessions in Brussels, studying the Dharma, practising together and also exploring by creativity, sessions of theatre, painting, singing and talks, using our own understanding of Devotion, Meditation, Prayer, Breath, Mantra, “Namthars” (stories of great saints), and the Theatre of our own Emotions on a daily basis.
Danza Duende is now an international network with hundreds of people linked together into various ways and by various means to help deeply the world through education and art. IDS is more a small group of friends investigating their own fragility and strength on the path of Dharma Practice.