Article was written for miamiartzine.com
By Monica (Vega) Torres
Movement is therapy, it is life. If we are not moving, we are not living. Our bodies in effect are intricately linked to our mental and emotional states with all our nerves and synapses connecting the machines together. Dance is so significant indeed to our human collective consciousness that there is even a day to celebrate the artform: National Dance Day, Saturday, July 28.
One person who understands the transformative power of dance well is Liza Pitsirilos, founder of “Dance Now, Think Later,” an interactive installation for public and private spaces, which uses “the transformative power of music and dance to create a culture of self worth and belonging while giving participants an opportunity to create social impact as a leader within their community.” “Dance Now, Think Later,” will be presenting two activations at the Frost Science Museum on National Dance Day, Saturday, July 28, at 10:30 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. during “Let’s Dance! National Dance Day Celebration,” which goes until 4 p.m..” Pitisirilos will discuss the science behind the benefits of movement.
I chatted with Pitsirilos about what inspired her movement, the benefits of dance, and why people should get active.
Monica Torres: What inspired you to create “Dance Now, Think Later” (DNTL)?
Liza Pitsirilos: As a young girl I lived free, uninhibited, expressing myself freely, even if I was mostly lost in an imaginary world. You could often find me in some part of the apartment dancing, singing or acting out some skit. I experienced a freedom in being young that allowed me to be self-expressed and communicative in a myriad of ways. I loved letting my creative imagination run wild and dancing and singing were by far my favorite.
Well, into my 20s, feeling stuck even though I had what I thought was my dream job, my heart felt like there was a barrier to experiencing deep love and connection. This is when I realized the healing powers of dance. I began attending Journey Dance workshops and trainings, returning to that youthful play and openness, and knew that if I could incorporate dance back into my life, my heart would continue to open.
Without a daily routine, I Iost the will to get up in the morning. I felt angst and anxiety at the start of the day. I even felt depressed and wanted to go back to bed.
So, I challenged myself to MOVE anyway and journaled to see how I felt before during and after the dance. Over time, I felt a shift. Like a single candlelight illuminating an entire room, the darker emotions began to have the light and recognition they deserved without the heavy judgment and shame.
I began to feel the fog lift and the lighter more playful side of my return. I had clarity that to awaken to the great mystery of a new day was actually a gift and my dance could be an offering of thanks to the sun for shining, the rain for cleansing, the earth for holding me upright and nourishing me inside and out. I wondered how many other people were struggling with the feelings of angst, anxiety, and depression in their mornings. So I started “Dance Now, Think Later” first as an online dance challenge through social media which shortly after became live dance parties where I facilitate Journey Dance and other experiences.
MT: Do you think most nightclubs are predatory, unhealthy environments? If so, why not have evening dance parties in other environments to give people an option to dance in a space that encourages love. Why the morning specifically?
LP: I wouldn’t use the words “predatory” to describe nightclubs per say. Unhealthy is one word I would. I think people ultimately want to hear great music they can move to while socializing and meeting people. The nightclub environment is not conducive to conscious experiences. They might happen, but you’re the outlier! You can listen to eclectic music in community, dance and move freely to get out of your head and into your heart all day and night, just remember to sleep. I started with mornings because I was struggling to get out of bed and needed to shift my am experience. Now we throw “Dance Now, Think Later” experiences at all hours.
MT: What do you think is the healing power of dance?
LP: In addition to the physical benefits of dance, dance has the ability to develop emotional intelligence, emotional empowerment, and skillful self-expression. We experience lots of emotions, many of which are not being expressed, and we don’t know what to do with all those feelings. Daily experiences push up on emotions and one push can trigger past patterns like a domino effect. Suddenly we find ourselves expressing ourselves in ways we wish we hadn’t. Through dance, we move and express our emotions. In transformative dance gatherings like Dance Now, Think Later (DNTL) we create an environment where people can be free of judgment, criticism, or repression. The environment asks us to learn to feel, ride the wave of emotions and return to our core.
At DNTL we get to experience being held in our difficult emotions whether it be sadness, anger, or despair. We allow ourselves to feel and release our pains. In dancing with each other, we see and are seen which enables us to experience deep empathy for ourselves and for all the people present.
When the dance experience is over, we have a heightened sense of awareness when feelings arise and how to express them safely and further grow our emotional intelligence. This enables us to have healthier and more fulfilling relationships. We learn that we can choose our thoughts and enhance the feelings we desire. We can continually aim for joy!
MT: Is there a spiritual element to the experience?
LP: Yes, a spiritual shamanic element. Shamanism is a practice of inducing a heightened state of consciousness to commune with Self and Spirit. As dancing shamans, we investigate ourselves, release old energy, seek guidance from within and create new pathways. Using shamanic practices, we strengthen our intuition and inner awareness which transforms negative belief structures into positive opportunities. We encourage our dancers to trust their own inner wisdom and know they can influence their energy body in the moment.
We take time to listen to our heart as we dance to express what is held back, and to ask for what we need. The dance is prayer; we are praying for ourselves and the world.
We give our attention to source energy; the prayer leads us to the manifestation of what we want, and what we put our love into. Here we can take time to feel our connection to source, recognize the divinity within. We can be grateful and receive.
MT: What do you hope attendees gain from participating in journey dance?
LP: I ultimately hope that participants will experience a click, a shift or a-ha moment where they say “I am worthy, I am valuable. My existence matters!”
In my 15 years of teaching, I see a common thread that runs through humanity. We walk around believing that we not enough or that we are not worthy of what we want in the world. It’s a travesty. I meet so many beautiful, talented, creative smart people and many of them don’t see that inside of themselves. They have ideas, stories and experiences worth sharing, but feel small. I can relate. Sometimes the human experience is hard and we forget that we have a voice, and that our voice is unique and powerful. The dreams, visions and hopes of what the world could be like are only possible if we decide to use our voice and speak our truth.
MT: What is the most touching moment you have felt leading one of your dance parties?
LP: We start the experience with writing a personal and metta prayer. A metta prayer is for something or someone other than self. This could be a person, or group, or our dear planet. It warms my heart to see participants sharing their prayers with a person that they just met at DNTL. It’s a pretty special moment when you see that no matter what differences we may have, we all have prayers, hopes and dreams for our lives and for the world.
It would be enough to witness the exchange of two “strangers” blessing each other’s prayers. But the story doesn’t end there. I choose to have those partners reunite much later on in the dance, when they are most open and connected to their heart, and I ask them to dance their prayer with their partner. I get see that moment when dancers feel that existential connection when we experience that profound shift in self, our worth, and realize “I matter.” You matter, girlfriend! If you and I were not here, this dance would be different. Thank you for seeing my divinity and letting me experience yours.”
“Dance Now, Think Later,” will be presenting two activations at the Frost Science Museum, 1101 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, for National Dance Day, Saturday July 28, at 10:30 a.m. and at 12:30 p.m. during “Let’s Dance! National Dance Day Celebration,” which goes until 4 p.m.” Pitisirilos will discuss the science behind the benefits of movement. www.frostscience.org.