Spiral and Root: Teacher Bios

Chris Aiken

Performer/Teacher/Dance Improvisation

Chris Aiken is an internationally recognized performer and teacher of dance improvisation and contact improvisation.   His approach has been guided by the effort to link the poetic imagination with the capacity to engage ecologically through perception, intention, and action. This means the integration of our awareness and understanding of self, other beings, and our the world around us. It includes history, culture, and things that are made. His current interests include finding ways to create situations where people feel empowered and sensitized to one another, open to the unknown, and respectful of one another and the environment.  Chris has performed and collaborated with many renowned dance artists including Angie Hauser, Kirstie Simson, Nancy Stark Smith, Peter Bingham, Andrew Harwood, Joerg Hassman, Ray Chung, and Steve Paxton. His work has been shaped by years of practice with the Alexander Technique, Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis, ideokinesis, yoga, and myofascial bodywork and release technique. He received his MFA degree from the University of Illinois and is currently a Professor of Dance at Smith College.

Itay Yatuv

Contemporary Dancer / Aikido Practitioner/ Improvisational Performances

Former Artistic director of the Hakvutza Dance School,
Trained as a contemporary dancer in New York, Italy and Israel.
Aikido practitioner, a practice he integrates in his dance work
Contakids method which invites children and parents to play together through movement and touch.

Itay Yatuv- formerly, the artistic director of the Hakvutza Dance School (tel Aviv, israel), Itay has been practicing and teaching CI for over 20 years. Choreographing independently and leading international projects of improvisational performances.

In the last 12 years Itay has been developing ContaKids, a method which invites children and parents to dance and play together.

Keith Hennessy

Contemporary Dance, Queer Performance, Affordable Housing, Gay Sexuality, and Political Healing and Ritual

Keith Hennessy, MFA, PhD, is a frolicker, imperfectionist, and witch working in the fields of contemporary dance, queer performance, affordable housing, gay sexuality, and political healing and ritual. Raised in Canada, he has lived in Yelamu/San Francisco since 1982, and tours internationally. Keith started dancing CI in Montreal in 1979. Hennessy’s work is interdisciplinary and experimental, motivated by anti-racist, queer-feminist, and anarchist movements. With a focus on the poetics and politics of relationship, Keith’s work prioritizes collaboration, improvisation, and community process. Collaborators include Ishmael Houston-Jones, Annie Danger, Sarah Crowell, Snowflake Calvert, Meg Stuart, Peaches, Nathaniel Moore, Jassem Hindi, jose abad, Peiling Kao, and Gerald Casel. Hennessy directs Circo Zero and was a member of Contraband with Sara Shelton Mann. Hennessy is a co-founder of CounterPULSE (formerly 848 Community Space) a thriving performance space in San Francisco. Awards include Guggenheim, USArtist, NY Bessie, and SF Izzies. Venues include Impulstanz/Vienna, Kampnagel/Hamburg, SF MOMA, The New Museum/NY, TBA Festival/Portland, Velocity/Seattle, Ponderosa/Germany, YBCA, CounterPulse, CORE/Atlanta. Keith teaches widely at universities, festivals, and independent studios, most recently at La Manzana de Paxton in Oaxaca and Cornell University. www.circozero.org

Lani Nahele

Body-Mind Centering, Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis and Reiki

I have been intrigued by the human body and its movement potential my entire life. I have been a professional dancer, a choreographer, a dance company member, a collaborator, a movement educator and a bodyworker. I earned my BFA at SUNY @ Purchase. In NYC, I danced with Ohad Naharin, then with Trisha Brown in her company for seven years. I then spent several years in Europe: Spain, France, Austria and Germany teaching, making choreographic work and performing. I was awarded a commission in Germany and made a women’s quintet. Collaborators have included Frey Faust, Dieter Heitkamp, Helge Musial, Ka Rustler, Eva Geueke, Catherine Musinsky, Olivier Besson, Jen Polins, Saliq Savage, Chris Aiken…and others. I taught dance and pedagogy at Springfield College while guest teaching at Bard, Marlboro, Smith, Julliard and Keene Colleges. I studied directly with Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen and have been a Practitioner of Body-Mind Centering since 1994. I have been trained and certified in Circulatory Massage, Pilates, Gyrotonic, Gyrokinesis and Reiki. I direct Studio rEvolution and there I center my private bodywork practice, Embodied Healing.

Meta Bobbe

Investigator In Underscore Group With Nancy Stark Smith

Meta Bobbe (she/her) is an integrative body therapist, embodiment and movement researcher, and CI community organizer. Since her first encounter with CI in Israel 2012, this practice has been a focus of her life. In 2018 she joined the Underscore +/- group and has been exploring it weekly since. For 14 years, the group has been investigating the Underscore and experiencing the impact of what dedication and repetition does within it. She’s excited and honored to co-present some of these learnings. Meta is part of the leadership team at Earthdance serving on the CICo seasonal jam organization team since 2019 and is a former Earthdance Board Member.  Meta is a Certified Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapist, Ilan Lev Method Practitioner, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She received her BBA in Management and Human Resources from University of Wisconsin-Madison. She’s a traveler and former expat and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Image Credit: Ludger Storcks

Sarah Young

Investigator In Underscore Group With Nancy Stark Smith

Sarah Young (she/her) has been delving into the Underscore since 2011, when she had her first talk-through with Nancy Stark Smith at Eden’s Expressway in New York City. She has been a co-coordinator of the Global Underscore since 2020 and part of the Underscore +/- research group in Northampton, Massachusetts, US since 2013. She participated in the Underscore-based performance installation, Glimpse 2, at 92nd Street Y, NYC (2014) and attended Nancy Stark Smith’s January Workshop (2020) and Explore Underscore in Bremen Germany (2024). In addition to the Underscore, she’s interested in Nancy’s “States of Grace.” Sarah is a teacher and practitioner of contact improvisation, a Guild Certified Feldenkrais® Practitioner, former director of Earthdance in Plainfield, Massachusetts, and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Morocco. She received her BFA in Dance from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She will pursue her MFA at Smith College starting Fall 2024. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts and Stolzenhagen, Germany.

Mirva Mäkinen

Dancer/ Dance Teacher/ Choreographer

I graduated as a Doctor of Dance from University of Arts in Helsinki in 2018. My doctoral research is about Somaesthetics of Contact Improvisation. Artistic research is focusing on values in contact improvisation and how it is presented in a somaesthetic performance context. I graduated (MA) from the Dance Department from the University of Arts, Finland in 2000, before that I did masters of Physical Education from University of Jyväskylä.

In dance I am interested in the feeling of flow and research of kinetic energy. I love to investigate movement, its rhythm and different ways of inhabiting the body. A feeling of dancing is created by management of gravitational forces, falling responses and inertia.  
My Choreographies, Dance Pedagogy and Art Pedagogy refers to artistic activity infused by pedagogical viewpoints, generating a field of continuous learning. My choreographies provide a strong foundation for creative and critical thinking, as well as development of solid artistic-pedagogical skills. I believe that making art is based on listening to and encountering each other. It is an open process of interaction and learning, where we step into the unknown, take risks and try out new ways of doing.

From 2000 onwards I have worked as a dance teacher, choreographer and lecturer for dance at the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts. During the last 25 years I have been teaching in several international dance schools and professional dance companies including for example Cullberg Ballet in Sweden. I am regularly teaching bachelor and MA students in University of the Arts, Helsinki.

I have been working as an choreographer and as a dancer with many different dance companies and choreographers, here few of them: Helsinki Dance Company, Tampereen Työväen Teatteri, Center for new dance Zodiak, Dance theatre Minimi, Dance company Karttunen Kollektiv (choreographer Jyrki Karttunen), New Circus Company Circo Aereo, choreographer Joona Halonen, Echo Echo dance company (Northern Ireland), collaboration with Frey Faust and collaboration with Joerg Hassmann. During 2014-2024 I have been working as a dancer with finnish choreographer Valtteri Raekallio. I have  been performing and teaching contemporary dance internationally in more than 40 different countries.

Pilar Echavarria

Butoh, Contact Improvisation, Authentic Movement

Somatic mover, nomad dancer, a researcher of states of dance, Sub-Body Butoh Midwife, Water healer and therapist, holistic Artist and Architect of the invisible.

Since 2006, I dedicated and focus on dancing, studying and researching the body through different arts and techniques of Improvisation, Movement, Somatic Arts, Aquatic Healing and Psychosomatic disciplines like: Butoh, Contact Improvisation, BMC, Continuum Movement, Authentic Movement, WaterDance, Fluid Presence, Mindfulness, among others.

A research that takes place essentially in an experiential dimension based on listening, presence and trust in our body as an antenna, an instrument, a temple … This path has been a subtle, deep and bold diving into the Self; learning and guiding, creating, healing and performing, living and traveling through inner and outer landscapes, water and nature paradises. Since 2009, I have been co*creating frames like Labs, workshops, residencies, retreats and gatherings to guide and explore the relational body::: arts, healing, waters and nature; specially in Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Brasil, Spain, India, California…

Fourteen years offering individual and group sessions/therapies in the water: WaterResonance, Fluid Presence and Aguahara (Open*natural waters sessions). 2016-2017 Guiding and midwifing at the Himalaya Subbody Butoh School in India. From June 2020, my work expanded and focused towards a therapeutic and healing direction. Deepening in the somatic dimension through the very essence of dance, movement, conscious touch, breath and coaching/inquiring into the Self. I guided over 20 “Transformational Retreats” at Pura Vida Wellness Retreat, Yelapa, Mexico.

I am studying now for four years what I called “Somatic” Astrology with Paloma Todd and Sky Astrology with Adam Gainsburg. Focusing on the cycle of Venus, connecting it with ancient Myths, Venus Sacred Sites and the somatic body… A journey into the depths of the Heart and the Feminine. An ongoing big passion for creating experiences for the body, while playing with the edge of wonderlands and documentary through visual arts.

Ray Chung

Contact Improvisation Performer & Teacher

He is a performer, teacher, engineer, who has a passion for dancing which he likes to share with other people. His main focus is improvisation and he has worked with Contact Improvisation since 1979 as part of improvisational performance practice and integrates other movement forms into his work, including martial arts, bodywork and Authentic Movement. 

Ray has worked with the leading proponents of Contact Improvisation including Nancy Stark Smith, Steve Paxton, Nita Little, Lisa Nelson, Peter Bingham, Chris Aiken, Andrew Harwood, and regularly collaborates with dancers, musicians, and other artists. His work has been featured at numerous national and international festivals and venues, and has performed in works directed by Anna Halprin, Judith Kajiwara, and George Coates Performance Works.

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