Monday, January 27, 2014

Thought it would be fun to share some ideas about using tango as an Embodied Mindfulness Practice from my Delicious Dance Workshop on Kaua'i

From Buenos Aires to Kauaʻi


By Donia Lilly

Music is widely regarded as a universal language, and the same can be said about partner dance. Both enable members of diverse communities to connect and communicate effortlessly.
Tango, born in the second half of the 1800s in the immigrant tenement communities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, brought together former slaves and those who had come from all over Europe to Argentina looking for work.
They were people from multiple cultures, who spoke many different languages and perhaps had nothing in common besides poverty and a passion for dancing and music.
More than a century later, tango still brings people together – even on Kauaʻi, where tangueros, or tango dancers, travel from all over the world to dance with members of the Garden Isle’s unique tango community.
“It’s probably one of the friendliest, sweetest dance communities in the world,” said Bob Newman, president of Tango Kauaʻi, a dedicated group of tango lovers. “We’re small, but just like the dance, we have an emphasis on connection, learning and fun.”

Tango Maurizia Grisha

Maurizia Zanin and visiting tango dancer Gregory ‘Grisha’ Nisnevich warm um for a workshop at Small Town Coffee last December.

Maurizia Zanin’s passion for tango was ignited about 12 years ago, when she saw a couple visiting from San Francisco, Calif. dance tango at a ballroom workshop on Kauaʻi. The couple’s intense yet calm connection captivated Zanin.
For the next two years, there were sporadic attempts to keep tango going here. But it was only about 10 years ago that tango really put down roots on Kauaʻi, after Zanin and a friend formed Aloha Tango and began holding regular classes and events.
Out of necessity, Zanin took the role of organizer – and later teacher – to be able to fuel her new passion and continue dancing tango. It didn’t matter who showed up, the small group just wanted to learn and dance, she said.
After Zanin’s friend left Kauaʻi about eight years ago, Aloha Tango fizzled out and she put together Tango Kauaʻi, which involves several active members rather than just two people.

Tango dancing

About two-and-a-half years ago, Tango Kauaʻi became a nonprofit, and the group gets together regularly for dinners, hikes and, of course, tango dancing. They also invite tango teachers to Kauaʻi, and most times offer them a place to stay.
“We’ve hosted teachers from all around the world,” Zanin said. “(Kauaʻi) is one of their favorite places to come; not because they make money or there’s a big dance hall, but because of the aloha spirit.”
Russian-born and Denver resident Gregory “Grisha” Nisnevich has been to Kauaʻi five times in the last four years to teach tango workshops. A maestro classical guitarist and an artist, Nisnevitch said he never had any desire to dance until he watched the movie “The Tango Lesson.”

Tango fun

“I suddenly felt I could dance and I wanted to dance,” said the man who has a deep passion for arts and creativity.
Nisnevich has been a professional dancer and teacher for several years. In December, he was on Kauaʻi for a concert and a few tango classes, which attracted dancers from all age groups and skills, united by one passion – tango.
Risa Kaparo, a tanguera and former Kauaʻi resident who returns to the Garden Isle each year, uses tango in “embodied mindfulness” practice and emphasizes the learning and creative aspects in her annual Delicious Dance Workshops in Anahola.
She said research shows partner dancing is better than any activity – including playing chess or learning another language – to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia.
In fact, when tango’s popularity exploded in Europe in the beginning of last century, it became the first partner dance there to involve improvisation rather than pre-set dance steps and choreography – and improvisation is key in preserving the brain’s elasticity.

Tango Small Town

Moment to moment the dancers must be completely present, attuned to their partner, the music, their body positioning, as well as the space around them as they maneuver among other couples on the dance floor.
And as Zanin said, it doesn’t matter which language the dance partners speak, tango is how they communicate.
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Alan Davidson - Discipline as a way of Loving

Talking with Alan Davidson about the art of bringing yourself to excellence. Counter to our engrained sense of the word 'discipline', there is an alternative that celebrates the 'leaning into', the over-abundant love for the master or the art. So we can think of discipline and practice not as a negation of our selves but an embracing of excellence.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Allan Davidson - Presencing - Conscious Birthing & Dying

We have the "potential" to "experience" "connectedness" with the "infinite" in each breath we take. Each breath is "given" to you freely containing everything from the beginning of "time" to the "fullness" of this moment.

Friday, June 21, 2013

"Somatic Intelligence to Ease Chronic Pain" - SF Examiner

"Somatic Intelligence: To Be or Not to Be

That is the question. In excruciating pain, and told she would never be able to have children, Dr. Risa Kaparo decided at an early age to take matter into her own hands. Since the doctors did not have an answer for her very hurt body, she decided to literally look into the matter; into the body, herself."

Click here to read the rest of Madalyn Suozzo's article on

Madalyn herself is a medical intuitive with many years of experience treating cancer patients using regenesis.  Her own deep work in the healing arts lends her a unique perspective on the matter, and I was delighted to be interviewed by her.  Be sure to check out her site:

Thanks, Madalyn!

- Risa

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gratefulness, the heart of the Somatic Learning practice: Receive the gift of your embodiment.

The following is an excerpt from our November 17th 2012 Somatic Learning workshop:

Brother David Steindl-Rast tells a story of going to visit a family and bringing a gift to a child. The child takes the wrapped gift and very politely says “thank you.” Then carefully opens it and says “thank you” again, then puts it down and goes and plays video games all day. Another day, he visits another family and brings a gift to a child there. That child rips open the package without remembering to say thank you and plays with it all day, finding every possible way to use it. Which child is really grateful?

How do we receive? What is most delicious in any moment that we can lean into, like a swan gliding through water, the full depth of this fluid substance completely supporting it. Giving yourself to what you love and being able to find what you love.  When you have to wait for evidence from the Universe that it’s all going to turn out all right you are in a state of distrust. We are wired/oriented to catch every possible negative threat (from our days on the plains with lions, tigers and bears). Our brain is tuned to negative states because at that time, we had to be aware of all impending dangers or we might not be around another day to enjoy life. Now our stresses are less immediate and longer term, but we are stuck in a stress pattern. This doesn’t serve us any longer.  It is destructive to our immune system, deep thought, creativity, compassion. Instead, lean into riding the waves of joy and interest. These are the only two positive affective states—joy (on a scale to ecstasy) and interest (on a scale to excitement).  When we are in these states, we are functioning optimally.

All other affects—shame, fear, disgust, dismell, etc. take us into bracing and constraint in the system.

Gratefulness—recognize this moment and find how you can receive what’s there. All the efforting and tensing towards a goal, protecting, defending, upholding and bracing will never serve you. Just lift the oars up and the boat will turn around on its own.

Many thanks to Lisa Chipkin for this transcription.