when the tower falls or... asking for help & slowing down in a prematurely post-pandemic world that wants to serve & birth the embodied revolution
Dear ones who have witnessed this journey, thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for real!
SOL VIDA and myself as Axé have been through a lot (as I'm sure you have as well).
So many things have shifted and changed since our teacher, Corona, arrived and I think we are all amiss to not pause to integrate and calibrate our teachings from the past year and thereabouts. People seem to be moving really fast again, I'm seeing accidents on the side of the road, mass shootings, and just plain weird.
I've never been one to focus on the bad, scary things of the world and have in fact become even more empathic and energetically sensitive and in tune if you will as I have dedicated so much of the past three years to my personal healing journey, awakening more psychic and channeling abilities.
As we come back into this new world which feels premature, I wonder what we have to do to coddle the life force that is within us and keep choosing to be in step with our intuition, the guiding forces of nature, and to live our truth in a way that blends money, exchange, earth stewardship, non-linear time and community?
I've recently had a reading with one of my newest dear comrades, Ajani Brannum of Talent Agency.... and I knew after working with them on underground underneath the underground with estrellex supernova that our work had just begun.
As we shared a day date meetup at Dolores Park during the project, we spoke of our life, our experience, dreams and it was evident to me on that day as I ironically woke up thinking I need help, I need direction and clarity that this soul told me more of what they are up to in the world.
With a gift for dance, dramaturgy and more, their super not-so-secret gem is that they can see, they can dilute and clarify information that is needed in a moment, an amazing observer and rectifier of speaking clarity. They do it through their channeling being, with tarot, I-Ching, good 'ol grounded reasoning, and other wonderful spirited energies.
I heeded the call for help. I had two sessions with Ajani and they really, truly cracked my whole entire perspective open.
You see, I've been having an "identity crisis" about SOL VIDA, what is this energy that I've been carrying with me since I was 19, what is my responsibility and relationship to it? What does it need of me? What is it? Where does it live? How to better work with it?
For those of you who have been on the SOL VIDA train for awhile now, you know that we have been so many things: a youth dance company, an adult dance company, festivals, a dance studio and community space for the arts, a women's empowerment movement, a QTBIPoC affinity space and a style of dance, movement and embodiment that gets in your soul and makes you rumble Sooooooolllll Viiiiiiiddaaa to the heavens, your heart and the sky.
Then the real deals kick in and ask you to think about your sustenance, your foundation, how exactly do you make money off your "passion project" that is indeed legitimately your business, do you?
As I attempt to recalibrate and integrate all past, present and future iterations of SOL VIDA in the time of "The Great Awakening," I give love and thanks to the past experiences that we have manifested: Festival de Vida I, II, and III, YTC, The Denver Dance Project, The Edge, Unwind & Grind, The Sol Vida Slumber Party, One Sol, and #SVXOnline.
Now it is clear that all of these things want to come together for a purpose of empowerment, free expression and soul connection on the planet.
I am leaning into and taking my time (which has never happened lol 😅) launching The Embodied Revolution which will serve as a global movement collective. It's what I've been feeling like I want to do at my core, core, core.
This concept has been with me since the beginning, if not before 2019 when I saw the need for people to remember who they are, get in tune, and live more freely. This project is still coming through and showing me how it wants to be served. I'm pretty sure it's going to have a few different manifestations, which seems to have already begun this summer with the super amazing dance reunions I've been having with former students (you can see on Instagram and Patreon).
For a long time, I have wanted to start a virtual group that meets up; gets to have embodiment experiences together, a place to tool share, mastermind, heart share and also challenges/inspires each other to create work independently and together. I want to uplift emerging and established artists and their bodies of work, still. The big dream is that this collective meets up annually in a different location in the world for a summer intensive/camp/retreat/residency (one of those words, hahaha). And the even bigger part is I do want to connect so many artist friends from across the globe--hence the worldwide, we gotta keep that live!
I miss being responsible for a group of people who want to learn, create and produce things together (which is hilarious because the word responsibility is so personally triggering--we grow people, we grow)!
I also want to embrace the power of co-creation and partnership. Collaboration has been a sticky word for me and I know many others in the dance and expressive arts world. I realize, I am so much better when I am with others, when there is a container, a built-in community, a place for me to show up and share my tools with multi-generational artists, another division/department of SOL VIDA, if you will.
Last week I got to be on my bff's podcast, "The Change," and as I stepped into this space in what I will call the Old Denver, Five Points area--I was immediately bright eyed when I saw the movement/performance studio next to the podcast studio that almost took my breath away and immediately filled me with ideas for things that the community may love and need: Vogue Balls, ecstatic dances, livestream performance showcases, Burlesque, it was all coming through. Seeing this space reactivated a dream I have of really cool dance parties/grown up raves and holistic exchanges that are transformational and give us all a platform to shine and GET FREE together.
As I mature, something about delegating and giving space for others to shine sounds so appealing. Putting on events for others to shine sounds great, in fact this vision came to me right as I came back to Denver after u.u.u. I was ready to produce a series of Pop Ups every Friday for the summer which would highlight other BIPoC and QTBIPoC practitioners, healers and artists--and then the record scratched and said SLOW THE EFF DOWN.
I am sure I will always be a teacher, educator, guide and performer-- and there is deep messaging in all of my work and ancestral line to keep the African Diaspora alive. I still get really high off of choreography, teaching technique, and giving workshops and those are definitely still brewing and currently activating in the virtual worlds.
This little crack in my life and "business identity" is actually what opened up my profound desire for help and for someone else to help me be able to see what is actually important and worthwhile. It's going to be mind blowing to see what happens after I meet with estrellex to apply for grants/funding---eeeeeeeek! Now please be patient with me as I work to craft a renewed social media identity, lawt help us all.
It amused me so much that my son came up in my reading with The Talent Agency... my final card was The Chariot (yes, I do want to just be carried up into my work, arriving in regality, and working so much more easily). It was great to be asked the question of what does my son represent to me--and it is cool to remember how my son told me not so long ago, mom, you need to return to the original SOL VIDA energy.
I was asked where was I when the vision of SOL VIDA came to me and when it came back....
Honestly, I think SOL VIDA was born somewhere between 1998-99, during the days of Constant Elevation --our performance art hip hop trio, to my first international travel experience in Ghana studying dancing and drumming, and landing myself back at MSU Denver, embracing leadership in Stop the Hate, BSA, becoming a peer educator and getting my first gig as a choreographer and dancer in Blues for Mr. Charlie.
After a break to lead the dance department at East High School in Denver, Colorado--it came back after a five plus year hiatus, catalyzed by a sabbatical--somewhere between Orgiva, Spain (my ayahuasca/unschooling journey), to Bagnolet, France (performing Veins at La Obra) in the "Brooklyn of Paris," the Brendon Burchard conference and in Guatavita, Colombia where I received a message to start filming content and going live every week.
As I have delved into the mental health and wellness side of SOL VIDA for some moments, I recognize that all of those messages are inherent in everything that we do. It's a benefit and result of being able to express ourselves and our truth.
So yes, SOL VIDA (which actually likes to be capitalized now 😋), has always been about performing arts, free expression and giving space for our bodies to say something, do something and release something. That is the truth. It's also been about radical acceptance, loving and creating a space for everyBODY in all our human forms to thrive and feel safe, well, accepted, nourished, and encouraged.
I'm pretty sure we are the definition of "intersectional" and have been bridge building for many, many, moons inherently.
I am so happy to have asked for help and received clarity about what it truly is and the circumstances I need to help it thrive and keep its original energy of creating safe spaces for authentic and free expression at the forefront.
I also know that SOL VIDA has many divisions or projects if you will, that do include being able to coach/consult, making a crack in the world of embodied healing justice while yours truly gets to serve as a guest artist/facilitator all over the world.
My final question to Ajani--who is SOL VIDA? Is it me?
The Sun and The Mirror cards were pulled.
YOU ARE SOL VIDA.
I AM SOL VIDA and it is indeed a light force energy that I carry with me eternally.
Peace, Gratitude, Stillness and Trust. #SolVidaPorVida always.
☮ & 💜,
Aug 2-13: Empower The Dance for Older Adults with Stagebridge. Virtual Intensive.
Aug 7-8: Your Body is An Oracle with Water Has No Enemy. Virtual retreat.
Available for 1:1's:
Intuitive Visioning, Consulting, Masterminding, Dance Instruction, Choreography, Embodiment Guidance, and Personal Wellness. Book Here
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Please comment, like and share if any of this feels impactful to you. We are because of each other. Fare well dear soul.
I have been at battle with my ego and reconciliation with my shadow for this last bit of time. Something has felt like it’s been missing. I’ve been retracing my steps to see how I got here-to this dark place where I feel like not doing any of this, any of these things I know.
Quarantine fucked me up a couple of times.
Entering 2020 with the greatest faith and clarity--everything I thought I was going to do (like really committing to growing Ecstatic Dance QTBIPoC in the San Francisco Bay Area--that was gonna be my thing) and then we all know… we had to stay inside, no more social gatherings.
I got weird with covid. I couldn’t look at the images, I didn’t want to hear about the news and I got an obsessive compulsive disorder about antibacterial and bleach. It wasn’t until I came back to Colorado and got a taste of my family and lifelong friends that I realized how contained I had got and how many unnecessary limitations I put on myself.
There were things that kept me solid and purposeful this year. Amazing people in my life. The Art Gym. My training with SomaSource, having monthly teachings, caucus groups, seasonal dances and mentorship online saved my soul a few times over and helped remind me of what’s important.
Most recently, we danced on December 12… a shadow dance.
I’ve been doing this work for so long that I entered the space without expectation, I certainly didn’t expect to come to a full blown confrontation with my shadow. That dance sent me into a spell. For days, I filled up journal pages, asking myself so many questions--writing with black and red ink, filling in other parts with purple and orange (color therapy is real).
The messages I received from that dance were:
I went searching in my past--studying all my photos, selfies, posts from the past few years. I wondered what happened to the bright eyed, smiling, bold, brave and energetic being? Where did this joyous part of myself go?
I’ll tell you what I found… In the last couple of years, I gave myself over to people and causes that didn’t actually serve my highest self. Also… fucking COVID. Somewhere along the way I got it all wrong and misled. An ego trip.
As I took inventory of this year, I couldn’t help but feel like I failed. I got super disheartened producing virtual workshops, because attendance was low. It felt like rejection, it hit all my trauma points of abandonment, not being wanted, accepted or acknowledged.
I did have some incredible partnerships and projects this year, that were super fulfilling--testing the waters for the Movement Collective I seek to begin--The ER aka The Embodied Revolution, going live with my comrades on Instagram for #VoteNoMatterWhat, choreographing The Wiz for East Performing Arts Camp, co-creating Elevate the Energy was ah-fucking-mazing, and getting to direct 12 Angry Them, supported by a whole team was super supportive and taught me once again how much better life can be when you ask for and receive help.
It’s crazy though, I felt like I couldn’t share a lot of these projects because I couldn’t make sense of the difference between myself and SOL VIDA. I don’t know if I have or if I ever will, but I can see that I AM SOL VIDA and my heart and soul are bursting to share all of the parts of me.
At the end of November, I embarked upon a lifestyle cleanse with a couple of dear friends. We decided to go Full Moon to New Moon to see if we were able to change some habits. We gave ourselves a lot of grace for imperfection. My energy had been so low, feeling super lethargic, lazy and just ill because I wasn’t honoring my body.
This is when I stumbled upon and remembered there is an entire Ayurvedic path to eating for your life type-- I made a quick study of my dosha and realized where I was going all wrong. Since then, I have really reshaped my food habits--eating three times a day, cutting out snacks, meat, dairy, sugar and gluten for the most part. Warm foods and warm beverages for me. I thought it was gonna be hella fucking hard, but its been really soothing. And I have a new favorite recipe.
I guess that’s the ultimate gift of 2020- to live in a new way and to slow the fuck down.
I’ve been in a self-imposed ritual for these past weeks working to unearth my whole self, to get clearer about my identity, purpose, desire, boundaries, and to repair my self esteem. I’ve spent weeks not living my purpose ("taking a break")--not doing anything, ruminating, clearing, dancing, excavating and writing.
Then came last Friday, an Embodied Divination workshop with Amara T. Smith--someone I’ve wanted to experience much more of since I met them at a Rosangela Silvestre workshop at University of Berkeley in 2019.
I was super reluctant to go, didn’t even turn on my zoom camera which is pretty crazy for me (cuz I’m a Leo, lol), and because most of the time, I really am willing to be super present and seen. Anyway, I got over myself when we had to go into breakout rooms and put in small groups. I turned my camera on with my divination group--you see Amara did a reading for groups based on personal objects in correlation to the Orixas --that got me, that's what I needed to get my mind blown and to wake the fuck up again! Her reading for our group felt so right on--it was the permission I needed.
Messages from the workshop included:
OMG! The permission to write was huge for me. Hence this big ass blog.
And the teaching… wow… earlier in the fall I also received spiritual guidance to create more of a video platform. Burnt out on virtual workshop production--I’ve been enlivened to think about creating more videos that are actually useful and hopefully inspirational.
People seem really surprised when they hear that I am afraid, anxious and scared to be myself.
This reconciliation and reclamation of myself has a lot to deal with being all of me. I get really overwhelmed by how much I want to offer to the world. I get lost in the multiplicity of all of my identities, my projects, my names. It makes me stop stone cold and want to not do anything.
As I looked back on the rebirth of SOL VIDA from 2018, it was clear that it wasn’t just about dance. The original intentions had a lot to deal with alternative lifestyle, healing, wellness and manifestation.
This dark period has felt like no dark period ever before and I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to come out. Coming back to myself has felt really, really difficult this time. Feeling pulled in many directions, hearing too many ideas and not having clarity put me at a standstill.
I’ve had to return back to basics. My personal development journey began with affirmations. The Artist's Way, setting intentions. I’ve had a strong morning ritual practice for a long time, but adding an evening one has been helpful too. Limiting my social media consumption, limiting my Netflix consumption and taking a break from cannabis.
Lots of habits changing. Awakening more and more and more.
The night of the great conjunction, I was willing to sit out another ritual/ceremony until I started reading about it and realizing how potent this portal is. I got out my shekere, sat at my ancestral altar, began to hum and sing. The ancestors gave me very clear messages. Since then, I feel different, more accepting of myself, and more willing to be all that I am even if it’s not who I thought I was or who you think I am.
While I may not be able to tell you exactly what is to come, I know that my guiding force is to RETURN TO EARTH and STAY IN THE LIGHT. I’m going to trust myself more. My original ideas are pure. So are yours.
Don’t be afraid of your darkness--it’s actually where the light comes from.
Soundtrack for my shadow work.
P.S. Trust me--there were a million amazing things (no matter how cray it was) that happened this year and I am incredibly grateful for my whole life and experience on this wild and wondrous planet. Gratitude is my first go-to when I feel far out.
Much Love forever and a day 💜
Please ask questions, comment, like, share and take care.
April Axé Charmaine (she/they)
(ah-shay / I feel the spirit/ it is so)
Creating a safe(r) space is an art form.
It is an intentional practice.
Below is a short culmination of some of my go-to methods for creating a sense of belonging, acceptance and liberation in educational and transformative spaces--particularly keen to dance, expressive arts, embodiment and arts integration settings.
It's been studied, written about and I have learned from some of the greatest masters. The person who I accredit much of my current work to helping me know and how to do this, is my esteemed mentor and global leader, Dr. Melissa Michaels.
Her book Youth on Fire: Birthing a Generation of Embodied Global Leaders is a tribute to the system which I seek to implement in all of my programming. It is a must read for anyone working to also break systems of oppression and facilitate transformative embodied experiences and events for people of all backgrounds and cultures.
I've created many of my own systems which have been refined over time. From running a dance studio, to getting theatre kids to dance and be comfortable in their bodies, working with youth whose first language is not English, and getting a lot of hesitant, afraid, reluctant young and older people to find freedom of expression through their body is a huge part of my life's work.
Becoming a master facilitator has taken a good three decades with a lot of learning curves along the way. I've created spaces for all ages and levels of movers. From women's empowerment experiences, to ecstatic dances, flash mobs, retreats, conferences, and festivals in different communities and parts of the world- I take pride in being able to create an energy where people feel totally free, protected, accepted and able to shine in their truest forms.
It is also imperative to me that my spaces are devoted to inclusion and representation. As a bridge builder and light bringer, it is a gift to the Universe to be intentional in how we create the spaces we seek to inspire, inform and educate within.
After decades of trial and error, routines and rituals, light and shadow work--I've discovered many majestic ways from myriads of teachers to help people be more at ease within themselves and within a space.
I'd love to share my top 11 ways to create safer spaces to help people reconnect to their authentic selves and build community. May these methods be of use or serve as reminders for your sacred spaces of learning and transformation.
1. State the intention(s) of your space. This is for you and the community and/or classroom culture that you are building. Ask yourself what you want to see, feel from this? What kind of outcomes are you desiring? State intentions for the people who are participating. Explicitly accept people and let them know that they are welcome as they are. People go through so much. Give them a chance to be what they need to be in their own way.
2. Acknowledge people. See people. People who enter creative and expressive arts spaces tend to carry vulnerability as it is--it takes a lot of courage to say yes, to show up, or sometimes even being forced to do something. A simple hello, warm smile, or ask for a hug can go so far with someone feeling safety and acceptance.
3. Accessibility. Acquaint people with the space. Be explicit in asking what will help them feel more comfortable. Let them know there are gender neutral bathrooms, where water sources are, where they can put their belongings, etc. etc.
4. Create a vibe. Really imagine and feel what you want people to experience when they enter your space--whether its a classroom, conference room retreat space, or dance studio. Use all of your senses to create the energetic flow you want people to feel. Think about the five senses.
5. Circles, Circles, Circles. Create a container for your space. Always begin in a circle where everyone in the room can see and be seen. It also helps to end in circles with some kind of individual expression/reflection/offering.
6. Allow space for people to share parts of their identity. Whether it is the name they like to be called, pronouns, likes, dislikes, culture--depending on what you are leading, think about what is important to be shared, what knowledge about each other will make it more helpful for everyone to feel welcome, seen, heard and appreciated. It really helps people to know whose in the room and something about them--whether this is shared through words or improvised expression--Name + __________ does miracles for comfort levels.
7. Lead by example. Be goofy. Be willing to take risks. Push your own limits of expression and communication by doing things that allow people to see that its okay to make mistakes and be imperfect.
8. Bonding Activities. It's a huge part that never gets old--incorporate icebreakers and community building activities into the mix of anything you're going to do with a new group of people.
9. Smaller group pairings. If your class or workshop allows time, get people paired up or in smaller groups--give them a prompt that allows connection.
10. Group risk-taking. Bring everybody together to do something improvised through a shared prompt. E.g. sculptures, sound ball, mirroring, etc.
11. Be intentional about inclusion. Always ask yourself whose in the room, whose not and why or why not? What kind of space do you want to create and is it inclusive to people of all backgrounds, genders, and cultures? What language are you using or not using? How do people know that they are entering a safe space that includes them? At this point in the 21st century, holding space in the U.S. requires facilitators to go above and beyond to create explicit safe spaces--this includes language around gender and racial classifications. If you are not sure, please ask how to do this. Language is a fluid form, is ever changing and we are all living and learning--its okay to make mistakes.
If you've made it this far. I just want to say that you are awesome. I hope you get the chance to create spaces that offer people a safe space to express themselves. Whether or not you are in the arts, these concepts can be applied to your organization or business.
Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions in the comments below.
May these tools to aid you in your process.
Axé (ah-shay / I feel the spirit / It is so)
she l hers l they l them
Founder/Leader of Sol Vida Worldwide
Sol Vida Worldwide is shifting normalcy from systemic oppression to radical freedom leading transformative dance and wellness experiences online and across the globe. Tune in to tune in.