Lisa Emmons is a somatic movement facilitator, choreographer and dance artist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In February 2014 Lisa founded Aeris Körper Contemporary Dance and has choreographed 18 works over a 12 year choreographic career. In creation Lisa utilizes intuitive choices to explore task-based movements, to find physical actions that speak to and are meaningful to the mover. They believe that listening to the intrinsic intelligence of the body has the capacity to create works that are physically and artistically empowered and dynamic.
Maartje Pasman is a Dutch, freelance performer and artist based in Vienna. She holds a BA in Contemporary Dance from the Amsterdam University of the Arts (2010). She is also the holder of the ImPulsTanzfestival 2018 danceWEB-scholarship, the Start-Stipendium 2018 from Bundeskanzleramt Österreich, and the Arbeitstipendium 2020 from the City of Vienna. Through Maartje’s teaching and performance work, she is always looking for new artistic ways to create high quality performances for young audiences.
What comes to your mind when you hear "wellness"?
Lisa: Wellness is the ability to express, to be in your life with a sensation of satisfaction. It’s a round, all-encompassing idea that can incorporate how you feel – emotionally, physically, mentally – and that there is a reflective awareness in all of that.
Maartje: Doing something good for your body, in a lot of different ways. It’s all the things you digest, all of the things you take in: physicality-wise, food-wise, which books you read, the news you listen to, etc. The word brings a smile to my face when I say it.
What comes to your mind when you hear "healing"?
Lisa: Healing is about self-empowerment; the state of your healing is in our own hands. It requires an immense amount of self-advocacy and research, as well as an ability to embrace co-dependency, to ask for help and to receive it. I don’t think we realize there are many options; answers are intersectional, sweeping, and shift from moment to moment.
Maartje: Immediately I think about curing something, bringing into balance, and healing any energies that may be blocked. I also think a lot about humanity. The need to heal feels like such a human thing, that we heal each other, or together, it’s all connected. Healing can incorporate tools, but it also has to do with people.
what kinds of healing practices do you engage with?
Lisa: I meditate twice a day, which for me is very powerful. I’ve also created for myself what I call a pink flag; it’s in the line of traffic lights, what happens before an amber light. It allows me to see what requires attention and careful reflection, and consider what care is needed which is oftentimes emotional.
Maartje: I started with yoga, but it was purely physical practice. Now I work more with the philosophy and energetics behind it. I find the most important component to be my way of thinking, a lot of times we underestimate the power of the mind. It’s something I bring attention to daily, cultivating a sense of gratitude. It doesn’t mean life is unicorns and rainbows, of course it’s about night and day, to know there are both sides
do you make any specific efforts to combine these with dance or specifically movement-oriented practices?
Lisa: I take a lot of time to sit with my body, to hear what it wants to happen and give it space for that. I’ll do a body scan and allow imagery to arise, or the desire to move in a certain quality or texture. It’s best with no agenda, not needing to walk away with anything other than listening. The images that inform me there can also come into rehearsal with me.
Maartje: I see the power of breath as the starting point of everything. Bringing consciousness to my breathing has influenced my dance practice so much. Instead of holding my breath through a lot of effort, I let it flow out. I do a morning Kriyas practice to regulate energy, it gets the motor going in the body and clears my mind. Dance and yoga influence each other reciprocally in my experience.
is the physical act of dancing healing for you?
Lisa: In my experience, dance training as a child caused a lot of harm. But today, I create my own work, I’m sitting at the table I created, and so dance is a different environment. There’s something about dance training that cultivates an idea of “dance mode.” In somatic movement I find a meditative awareness, whereas with dance I’m doing something I was told to, unaware of anything expect for trying to do a good job. Observing dancers who are in the awareness of their body is so different than those who are “doing the thing.” Not that one is better or worse, but it creates different energy.
Maartje: Dancing is very therapeutic for me. With a recent injury in my knee, I found myself asking questions about how to express myself – it’s also a lesson we’ve all had during this pandemic – how to find freedom within the body, even when feeling stuck or constrained. Dancing is the perfect tool for that. I also find it incredibly healing to dance for others! I like to imagine it as healing from both perspectives. When you move from the inside it touches them on the inside, too.
How would you say your healing practices influence your wellness?
Lisa: I take the approach of preventing a problem from happening, instead of addressing it once it arises. My body is my vehicle; if I can’t be functioning in my body then it’s impossible to work. So, maintaining health is one of my highest priorities in life. Healing is a constant ongoing practice; it makes such a difference in how I’m able to show up in the world.
Maartje: It’s all connected with self-love, the desire to nourish yourself, and to be in service of others. Recognizing parts of yourself that need healing is not a bad thing; we all have things we need to work through. When we do, we grow. It’s about going through something knowing it will serve me in the end. With my recent knee injury, I learned a lot about self-advocacy; I believe that the sickness was there for a reason, to look into instead of running away from.
is there something that has facilitated wellness or healing that you'd like to share?
Lisa: The way we are taught to brush our teeth is how we should be taught to meditate: twice a day. I think everyone should seek meditation in the way that works for them. It might not be sitting still and breathing; it can be anything that allows you to listen to yourself and what I would call Source.
Maartje: Difficult times have brought me to my practice. When it felt like things around me were falling apart, yoga gave me something concrete to focus on. My Yoga Teacher Training in Bali was also important; I have Indonesian roots from my grandparents, and just stepping on the same ground as my ancestors made it so healing to be there.