Category Archives: improvisation life

inspired conversations

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I had the pleasure of speaking to Amy Schuber for her PODCAST, Inspired Conversations.

We talked about some of the following:

  • Embodiment as a conscious flowing awareness of inner and outer experiencing.
  • Orienting to pleasure and how horses can help us
  • Inter-species communication through the shared language of movement and touch
  • Consciously moving toward greater expansion and flow in our lives
  • Gaining access to more of our creative selves
  • How we can open to the unexpected, and have a more improvisational, playful relationship to life
  • How our relationships (human and equine) are about reciprocity: the balance between giving and receiving

I hope that you enjoy listening.  Don’t hesitate to contact me with the email link below if you have questions or would like to schedule a session in my studio, at the stable or via Skype.


the playful body

1M0B8555Dillon Paul, DeAnna Pellecchia and Ingrid Schatz in FLIGHT at Mistover Farm, Pawling, NY     Photo: Jeffrey Anderson


Yesterday I had the privilege of giving a webinar on working with horses and movement for the Somatic Experiencing© Trauma Healing Institute.

One of the things that I said during that talk was that for most people, movement is functional: about going somewhere or doing something. In that “going/doing preoccupation” much of the expressive world of our movement can be lost. We forget that we are all dancers. We forget to play, and that we are moving participants in a human/animal herd!

Screen Shot 2018-01-12 at 2.08.18 PMChandrika Carl-Jones, DeAnna Pellecchia, Summer Brennan and Amado in ALL THE PRETTY HORSES at Little Brook Farm, Old Chatham, NY                        Photo:  Pam White


In my experience, by “waking up” the body, becoming more improvisational and playful in our movement interactions, becoming more aware of how we are moving and how that movement feels – we can begin to feel and connect to each other more clearly, with greater curiosity and fluency. After all, 60-80% of our movement interactions are non-verbal.  Movement is our first and most important shared language!

The horses can help us with that. When I am working with a client or student, I focus on supporting her (or him) in listening inwardly to their own bodies, and in particular to any impulses for movement. If we are working with a horse, I may ask them to simply rest with their hands on the horse, noticing the horse’s and their own responses and the feeling in their own body. Breathing. Settling into a shared, breathing stillness. Feeling the play between stillness and whatever movement may be happening.  Connecting the inside of themselves with the inside of the horse.

From there, instead of just moving the hands to another place on the horse’s body, or petting or massaging the horse, wait for an impulse from your own body to move your hands.  If there is no impulse to move, just stay where you are.  Be curious about that.  When you do move, imagine moving from a sense of  attunement with the horse. After moving,  let yourself settle into the reciprocal (giving and receiving) feeling of that connection.

If you have questions about working with movement and horses, or would like to schedule a session or a clinic, you can contact me at

the common body

IMG_3224Sarah Hollis, DeAnna Pellecchia, Ingrid Schatz and Pony, in Pony Dances.  Photo:  Jeffrey Anderson

The second half of the title of my book, Our Horses, Ourselves,  is “Discovering the Common Body”. With that phrase, I want to emphasize that your body is not separate from my body or from the body of the horse, the praying mantis, the hummingbird, the manatee or the earth itself. We are not separate.

The false idea of our separateness is both harmful and in fact painful – teaching us to experience ourselves as essentially disconnected from other beings, other species, and the earth itself.

Every moment, we are sharing air, sharing breath. Our bodies are shedding and absorbing the water that makes up 60-70% of our bodies. At the same time that our “individual” biospheres are interacting and changing each other, we are sharing the biosphere of the earth.  In measurable ways, we are continually becoming more and more part of each other.

My colleague Andrea Olsen puts it this way:

“Understanding that body is part of Earth is an essential component of human awareness. Our bones, and our breath, and our blood are the minerals and the air and the water around us, so that when you arrive someplace new, after a few days of drinking the water or eating the food from that place, you become that place. So the idea of separateness starts to fade and this larger model of interconnectedness becomes more primary in our awareness.”

So all living beings are an interconnected, interspecies, biosimilar, cross-pollinating network in a constant flux of adjustment, response, and transformation. Often though, we are not feeling that ongoing connectedness. Or we are feeling the (conscious and unconscious) downside of that inextricable oneness.  The pollution and cross-contamination of the toxicity of discourse and environmental action and inaction that surrounds us.

In my experience, the horses can help us with that. There is something so precious and profound about entering the mystery and the silence of connection with them that has little or nothing to do with technique or conventional horsemanship, and everything to do with the deep alignment of relationship and, in the words and practice of the late Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening.

In my book, I tell the story of Nelson, a Mustang stallion that I had the privilege of working with. He had been captured by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management  – the agency that controls the fates of the wild Mustang herds in the West) Nelson was severely traumatized by that experience.

 “When I first met Nelson the Mustang, I felt how my body reflected the fractured landscape of fear and withdrawn indifference that he embodied; how
we mirrored each other’s uncertainties and nervousness. Over time that fearful terrain softened into new contours. After many months I noticed that the texture of my body changed when I was with him. I felt that I had been homogenized— as if my body was expressing a single harmonious tone, instead of a hundred nervous, little notes; as if my cells were aligned and humming together like the deep, resonance of a meditation bell. I could feel us echo-locating each other, skin-to-skin, cell-to-cell, bone-to-bone. Later on, when Nelson would seem nervous, instead of reacting, I would settle into my body and wait. Eventually he would join me there, in the shared landscape of breath and stillness.”

In these peculiarly fraught times, I believe that each of us has to find a way of comforting, reassuring, and supporting ourselves.  I just finished reading Philip Pullman’s new book, The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage. La Belle Sauvage is the sleek little boat that carries the heroes, Malcolm and Alice, through the wild flooding rivers and seas to at least temporary safety.

As I read, I thought about the current wild flooding rivers and seas (political, actual and metaphoric) that are carrying us all to god knows where.  I thought about the urgency of finding a way of navigating whatever is here and whatever is coming.  A practice, a shelter from the storm.  For me, besides my practice as a dance artist, it is the horses.  I can soften and rest in the grave and sweet grounding of their presence, the matter-of-factness of them, and the way in which I am held in their witness, the reciprocity of their touch.

For more about that: Embodied Horsemanship



the poem, the dance

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This is how I want to make dances.  This is how I want to teach.  This is how I want to be.

Thank you Mary Oliver!




I want to make poems that say right out, plainly,
what I mean, that don’t go looking for the
laces of elaboration, puffed sleeves.  I want to
keep close and use often words like
heavy, heart, joy, soon, and to cherish
the question mark and her bold sister

the dash.  I want to write with quiet hands.  I
want to write while crossing the fields that are
fresh with daises and everlasting and the
ordinary grass.  I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be

songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise.  I want to make poems
that look into the earth and the heavens
and see the unseeable.  I want them to honor
both the heart of faith, and the light of the world;
the gladness that says, without any words, everything.

~ Mary Oliver ~