Kierra on Ecstatic Dance, Liberation and the 5Rhythms® – 074
Most dance in our era is performative, but dance can do so much more. Harlem High School Assistant Principle and dance teacher Kierra talks about dances for healing, transformation, connection, and acceptance.
Alicia Free: Kierra Foster-Ba is a Body Wisdom Coach and New York City dancer who has done some deep work, and her presence is a gift. I am so excited to share Kierra’s voice with you! Kierra dances with Kaeshi Chai and PURE (Public Urban Ritual Experiment) an international organization of artists devoted to using belly dance to promote peace and end suffering. I met Kierra when I was running around wildly putting on a show with Kaeshi. I was hosting 10 performers, managing our band Taksim Ithaca, dancing with the band Beatbox Guitar, coordinating volunteers, buying and hauling concessions up the elevator, and trying to take care of my 3 and 5 year old kiddos at the same time. It was a little intense the way I did it.
When Kierra smiled at me, calm washed over my body. I needed that!
After the show, we took a workshop together with other dancers, writing our intentions in the water in the creek near my home. Letting the water heal us. It was so magical. After that experience opened me up, Kierra mentioned a dance-based meditation practice that she teaches. I relaxed into the most incredible hug with Kierra, and I wanted to know more about how she has cultivated this energy that shines through her. I wanted to share it with you.
Kierra dances for human liberation. She helps us tap into the wisdom of our bodies with dance. To practice deep permission and acceptance. Giving us permission to be both graceful and graceless.
Let’s start with the 5Rhythms classes that you’ve been offering in New York City since 2008. Tell us about that Kierra
5Rhythms classes in New York City since 2008
Okay. So I just want to back up a little bit if that’s okay. Cause there are some people who might not be familiar with the 5Rhythms. So I want to give a little bit of a history of the 5Rhythms.
Gabrielle Roth is the founder of this body of work, and she really was one of the pioneers.
Some people say she was the originator. There’s some conflict about that. As it always is, there’s more than one person who’s pursuing something at the same time as someone else. But she definitely was one of the pioneers of what we now call conscious dance. Sometimes people call it ecstatic dance.
In fact, many people who’ve gone on to create their own bodies of work came through her lineage. And so what I know of her story is that she is someone who was a classically trained dancer, and so that informed how she looked at the world and how she observed people. She definitely observed movement, and I like to think of her as a really powerful detective of the heart because she was able to see what was being communicated in the movement.
And as I said, she was a classically trained dancer. Something happened so that she wasn’t going to pursue that as a profession. And so she began to be offered dance related work and all kinds of venues, you know, everything from asylums where people were working through breaks in their psyche to work at Esalen when Esalen was just being founded as this community center for exploration and healing.
5 Qualities of Movement: Flowing, Staccato, Chaotic, Lyrical, Stillness
And so what she discovered is that all movement can be broken down to five specific qualities. Movement is either flowing, meaning it’s continuous. One part of the movement is flowing into the next part.
Or it’s staccato, meaning that it’s segmented. It’s very clear. Often there’s a repeated pattern, so you can see, like boom, boom, boom. Boom, boom, boom. Boom, boom, boom.
That would be staccato, right?
It’s percussive, it’s clear, it’s directional.
Or movement can be chaotic, you know, just flailing.
It could be continuous and staccato at the same time, or there can be this light, effortless quality to the movement.
And that would be the fourth rhythm, the rhythm of lyrical.
And the fifth and final rhythm is the rhythm of stillness. And it’s the idea that the dance movement is equally as internal as it is external an expression. So something is happening. And that’s why it’s a meditative practice because when you do the practice.
By the time you get to stillness, you really do feel emptied out.
We call it a wave. You started out flowing. Grounding. It started to get percussive. Maybe a little bit more energetic. The high point would be chaos. When you’re just letting it all go, whatever is in you that’s ready to be released, you are letting it go.
And then after that cathartic movement you do just naturally, and there are physiological reasons for why you feel that -which I’ll talk about a little in a minute- you do feel this sense of ease and lightness, lyrical.
And then when you get to stillness, you feel emptied out. And so that still voice that maybe you don’t always listen to sort of bubbling up from the deepest, wisest part of yourself you now have access to in a different way.
I say that she’s brilliant for so many reasons, but one reason why I say that she’s a detective is because there are physiological reasons for why this works. For one thing each of the rhythms has what she called the gateway or the primary body part that is kind of instigating the movement.
So when you’re in flowing, it’s your feet and it’s the idea of getting as far away from your head as possible, which would be your feet really dropping down into your most instinctual animal self.
Then when you get into staccato, it’s the center of the body, primarily the hips.
When you get to chaos, it’s the head. And in your neck, you have powerful glands that pump you with endorphins. So when you start moving your neck and not keeping it straight the way that we normally do, you stimulate those glands. So on the one hand you are shaking it all out, so you’re resetting your nervous system, which all mammals have access to do.
If you’ve ever seen a mammal that was frightened, and then in order to help themselves get over it, what they do is they start to just shake and that resets the nervous system. So we have the opportunity to reset our nervous systems when we tremble and shake out, but we also are flooding ourselves with endorphins so that the release of whatever it is, frustration, rage, grief, actually after it’s done feels really good to us.
And so then when we’re in lyrical, there starts to be this ethereal quality where you almost feel that powerful connection that you have with all that is. And then of course, you go into stillness, which is the place where you can actually get answers to questions you didn’t know that you had, which is often how I experienced stillness.
You know, sadly it’s never the winning lotto number. Okay. But you know, it’s like all of a sudden something that in the background of my mind, I wasn’t even allowing myself to be conscious of, like a minor worry. All of a sudden the solution is just right there. I didn’t even ask the question.
And the solution is right there. Yeah, when we get still, that’s what happens. So that’s the 5Rhythms.
Taking the 5Rhythms in a Gym
What happened was, I was at a gym where my first 5Rhythms teacher, who was an amazingly brilliant soul it was a gym and God bless her, but she offered the 5Rhythms in a gym.
And it takes a lot of courage because you’re asking people to dance like no one’s looking, but everybody’s looking. Think about most gyms. This is a gym, you know, two of the walls are glass. People are looking in, they’re waiting for their class to begin. They’re like, “What the hell are those people doing?”
But somehow she created a space where we were able to just go for it. So I’m a pretty literal thinker, so I took it as playing. I was like, oh my God. The teacher said, ” Be a circle.” I’m a circle. I’m a circle. The teacher said, “Shake it.” Oh, I’m a washing machine. I’m shaking it oo. Okay. So I was just having fun, you know, like my inner five year old was like, Oh my God, this is great.
And one day I was just shaking like a washing machine.
And the next thing I know I was so filled with like rage and grief simultaneously.
And I’m shaking and my teacher just said, “Keep moving, Kierra, keep moving.” And then I got down on the floor and I was rolling around on the floor, like just shaking and moving and crying and raging, and then it was gone.
So, I don’t know to this day what caused it. But there was something in my muscle memory. There’s something about the position that I got myself in that clearly my animal self had a memory about and it was not a good one. But whatever it was left me. I didn’t even need to understand it.
It just bubbled up, it got released. And this euphoric sensation, this understanding of how I am part of a whole. I am not alone. I have never been alone. I am part of a whole. I am connected with all that is, and all that will be. This very profound sense washed over me. And after that I was hooked.
Alicia: I just got these waves of just like chills all over my body. I watched this video, Kierra Were you dancing rage or anger?
Yes, I was.
Alicia: I couldn’t stop watching it. You were just so honest with your movement. Like yeah. Wow. Thank you for explaining that. And I’ve heard of Ecstatic dance. I’ve been to Ecstatic dance parties, but I didn’t understand the origin until now. Like I didn’t know where any of that came from.
Yeah. And so I might be kind of jumping ahead. But in your introduction of me, you talked about that I believe that this is a path -one of many, I’m not saying this is the only path- but one path for human liberation.
Why could dance be a path of human liberation, especially for us as modern humans?
Okay. Well, because we have evolved, especially those of us in the West, with a lot of restrictions around how we think about dance. For us in the west- and of course I’m making generalizations- but it’s almost always a performance.
It doesn’t matter if you’re dancing at a wedding or dancing on stage. You don’t what people saying, “What the? What is she? Why? Did you see? What is she doing?” We don’t want that. We don’t want people to say, “You know, she couldn’t find a beat if you gave her a magnifying glass.” Like, we don’t want people saying that.
We want people to say that we look good. And so we put so many restrictions around how we’re moving.
And I see this a lot when I’ve worked with belly dancers through Kaeshi. I’ve offered classes and 5Rhythms classes. And what I have seen is that after the class, after the 5Rhythms, the movement that they were struggling to create comes much more easily.
Because a lot of times when we’re in our head and we’re trying to get everything right, there’s so much restriction. Just have fun with it. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just movement. Just have fun with it.
And so what happens when you give yourself a deep permission like that there’s this relaxation that can come.
And there can be greater self-acceptance.
I think it’s important because I really do believe that we are all things, everything that exists is actually inside of us, whether we ever express it or not. It’s still there.
So for example, I’ve long wanted to do a workshop around inner serial killer. Because I think part of the ways in which we suffer is because we don’t accept that we came to the place of polarities. This is a place of polarities. Earth is a place of polarities. It’s hard to really understand something unless you know it’s polar opposite. if you’ve never known dry, how can you really know what wet is?
So, you know, building on that, the way that I look at the world. That would mean that if we are creatures that live in a place of polarity and are trying to understand what this is, it would mean that all of these things, not that we’re going to go out and do the worst thing that we’ve ever heard of, but it’s all within us. It’s all within us. And we won’t let us see those aspects of ourselves even when we can have enough self-discipline that we never do the things.
And I don’t know who that would be, but I’m sure there are some people like that, that have enough self-discipline that they never express their shadow side.
I think there’s other things that they have to now do to manage that, to keep that shadow side suppressed and unexpressed.
And it’s not just Carl Jung’s work that I’m building on, or Gabrielle Roth, the founder of the 5Rhythms.
I’m also building on Carolyn Elliot who wrote Existential Kink because I think she’s a very brilliant woman and she really expressed everything in layman’s terms with lots of historical evidence, you know. So she’s a PhD.
She’s done a lot of research on a lot of different things, and so she brings that to her work. But one of the things she talks about is the fact that most of us are run by our egos. So when we think that our egos is us, which is something that Gabrielle Roth talks about also, in fact, she has a whole body of work called mirrors, which is using the movement in the 5Rhythms to explore all the different ego characters that all of us have.
But what Carolyn says is that because our spirit actually came here to know all, right, our spirit is not making a judgment between, let’s say, prosperity and scarcity. Knowing that is like exciting and rich.
But our ego is like, are you kidding me? I didn’t sign up for this. Who signed up for this?
No, I do not wanna know scarcity. No, I said prosperity. So what happens though is that there’s this little secret part of us in our subconscious that will keep creating experiences that we say we don’t want because part of us does want those experiences.
So she talks about how you can integrate all of that. And part of that is by acknowledging the secret tiny little glee you have when you experience those things that your ego doesn’t want.
So I think dance is a really fun and light way to express all of that. Like I can count the physical altercations that I’ve had. The last one I had, I must have been in fifth grade, and sadly I got very beat up and had to run home, you know. So I’m not someone who’s like going to be beating people up, but in my rage dance, I can f*ck a mother up. Okay? And it’s like, no one’s hurt, but this is a way for me to express that dark part of me that feels like slapping people.
Alicia: There’s so much there. So one thing I’ve been working on called the connection course, and he talks about anger and just expressing but never directing your anger at anybody, but befriending your anger, right Never shoving it down, but nobody has to be a victim of your anger. You know what I mean? It comes out and it has so much truth in it, right? I just keep thinking of the inner serial killer class and like, what we resist persists, right? So the more we resist, we say, no, that serial killer is not in me. No, I’m different. They’re nothing like me. The more we resist that, the more we create the serial killer, right? Yeah. By feeling that separateness, Oh my God, there was so much. You just. Oh, I love this. I can’t wait to hear this one too.
Your mission is to lead dance classes and workshops across the nation and globe to promote human liberation and wellness. What brought you to realize that this is your mission?
Wow. So, there’s so many ways I can answer this question. I want to try to be really succinct and not so new agey.
For anyone who’s really practical and like doesn’t really wanna hear woo woo stuff, I wanna be able to speak to that person as well.
So I would say that sometimes it just happens in life that things that seem like they could never happen to you, happen to you. Okay? So I just wanted to be a dancer. I mean, I wanted to be a dancer, but I my family circumstances. When I was little, it was not set up. My dad was a single father.
I’m the oldest of four girls. My dad’s a musician, you know, like his income at that time was not really steady. Like dance class is just not gonna happen. But I still was obsessed anyway, and I was one of those annoying kids that would go up to adults and be like, “Oh, does this look like a ballerina?”
And they’d be like, “I don’t know kid leave me alone.”
But I just would not stop. I used to get my sisters when my father was not home and we would all put on our bathing suits and get in the shower because to me, feet slapping on the water sounded like tap dancing. And I was also obsessed with tap dancing.
And then what time my father came home early, and that was the end of that. Okay. But I was choreographing dances, like I just was really trying to make it happen for myself.
For most forms of dance, you really need to start as a child because you really have to train your body to be this instrument to become a professional dancer.
So that just wasn’t in the cards for me. But then one day I walked into a 5Rhythms class, as I said at my gym. And that led to me being in two videos. One with Gabrielle, she created this CD series so people could do her work at home. So I was in the Power Wave video.
And because I was in the Power Wave video, the filmmaker wanted me to be in Dances of Ecstacy, which was her documentation of ecstatic dance in different parts of the world.
And then I was like, wait a minute. I’m doing it. I’m doing it. So clearly there’s something here. I need to really explore this. And so then I became a 5Rhythms teacher and oh, and even belly dance. It came about because Kaeshi Chai went to the premier at The Knitting Factory of Dances of Ecstasy and loved the piece that I was in, and then invited me and kept inviting me to different things. And then finally one day I went.
And so that’s that connection. She selected me. She created this show called Pure Reflections: Beauty Reimagined, and I had a leading role. I played the mother goddess.
And then I was like, Okay, wait a minute.
This is telling me that I really should pursue this dream.
I said, No, this is not ever gonna happen for me. And so then I began to do some inner reflection like, why dance? Why is this so important to me? And all the things that I discovered.
So I am someone that grew up with some really challenging circumstances and didn’t have a lot of faith or trust in people. When I first was going into 5Rhythms rooms, I wanted to dance by myself. I would often dance near the door. I didn’t even realize, but I had a very profound, like survival.
Like I was always dancing by a window or a door. I didn’t even realize that whenever I went someplace, I was always scoping if I have to move quick where like, okay. I didn’t even know that about myself. I was so unconscious in so many ways.
And the fact that I really love people, like I genuinely do. That doesn’t mean that I don’t dislike someone’s actions or something that they stand for. But the person who’s inside of all of that I can love. I can understand that they, like all of us, we are fear-based creatures and that they are acting from fear and ignorance. And I still could have a level of compassion.
And all of this I got from movement and doing my own work and really coming to accept myself completely.
Which was not really easy to do. I definitely grew up with a lot of ridicule. I was a girl that did not have a mom. I grew up at a time when people were supposed to match, and my father just said, “If it’s clean, put it on.”
Okay. So I was going to school looking like hell on wheels. Okay. So you’re a mom. You can imagine what was happening to me when I would get to school. My hair just going anyway because my dad didn’t know how to comb it.
And people were not enlightened. Even adults would right in front of us say, “Don’t play with those girls. Those are the girls that don’t have a mother,” right in front of us. It was really hard the way that we grew up. And it was hard on my dad.
My dad was a very young single father you know, and he didn’t really understand about having girls.
He also really adultified me as the oldest child because he didn’t really understand that at seven you can’t go to school and register your little sisters for school.
Okay. Somehow he just thought that that was something I could do, and so I had to figure it out. When adults ask a little kid to do things that they’re not really equipped to do, but somehow they do them, what happens is that you will often feel really incompetent because somehow you kind of like made it happen, but you really didn’t have the skills.
And so there’s this nagging sense of like your own incompetence. So that w as like a part of how I treated myself. I always felt like it’s just a matter of time. I don’t know when it’s gonna happen and when it does happen, it’s gonna be your own fault. I was so mean to myself. My interior dialogue was really like, I was both a victim in the serial killer, like, you know, I was tormenting myself.
And what really helped me was recognizing that there was a part of me… that I had this kink that liked to torture myself.
You know, like I wasn’t happy unless I was tortured.
So understanding and having grace, it’s just subsided. That need to constantly tear myself down. It dissipated it got satisfied once I actually saw it and said, No one’s doing anything to me.
I’m doing it. I’m doing it to myself. No one did anything. No one. It can actually hurt me. It only hurts me when it connects to something that I believe about myself. Something that a lot of times is not even true.
And even if it is true, if it’s not helpful, why think it? Why beat yourself up with these ruminations that are not helpful?
I’m sorry if that’s a bit longwinded, but I guess I wanted to really tease into the terror that I think a lot of us, I mean. I don’t think I’m unique. I think a lot of us are so cruel to ourselves in a way that we would never be to anyone else.
We can’t even breathe sometimes because the self-recrimination and criticism is crippling.
It’s crippling. And so, once I understood, that there was another way for me to interact with myself, it gave me so much more compassion for other people. So much more understanding that people have to do themselves.
You know, like even Trump. Trump, he has to do himself. Okay? He does. I may not like it.
I may be upset because him doing him impacts so many people in a negative way. But I can’t be mad at him for doing him. I just have to do me and help other people to do themselves better so he doesn’t have the same impact.
Alicia: All right, so now you all know what I was talking about when I said Kierra has done some deep work.
I love that I’ve heard a couple times is if somebody else talked to us the way we talked to ourselves, we would slap ’em across the face and say, Get the outta here. You know what I mean? And we never talked to them again. And yet, this is how we talk to ourselves throughout our lives or throughout our day when we wake up.
Right? I love what you said. I’m not gonna say it the way you said it. I love the way you said it, that we wouldn’t be bothered by something that somebody else says unless we think that about ourselves to some extent. And like, that just resonates so much too, because that’s that when you get triggered, right?
Yeah. Because the thing is that when people say things to you that you know are not true, it’s funny to you. You’re like, Oh my God, who let you out the house? You’re an idiot, you know.
Alicia: Right? You don’t get triggered by that when it’s not something been saying to yourself, but when it is something you’ve been saying to yourself, whether you realize it or not, that’s when you get activated, right?
Yes. Yeah. And the more compassion I have for myself, the more compassion I have for others. It’s really funny how that works.
Alicia: Have you heard of Tonglen, one of the meditation practices that Pema Chodron teaches?
Alicia: It’s about compassion and you take on the suffering of others, but you often just start with your own suffering.
Mm-hmm. you just kind of sit there. You know, it can go either way, but you breathe in the suffering of yourself or of others, and you give it space and you say, Well, what does this call for? I mean, it’s a process. It’s not that, you know, bam, bam, bam.
No, I don’t know it in that way, but I’ve definitely been in meditation circles where that was a direction we were given.
Alicia: Yeah. That’s the thing, right? Once you have that compassion for yourself, you’ve created the space to have compassion for others, right?
Alicia: It’s a matter of space. It’s a matter of freedom. It’s like this freedom of movement too. When you’re moving so freely. When I watched that video of you being so angry, it gave me permission to move more freely you know. Oh, thank you.
Well, thank you for that feedback, because that’s my intention. My intention is that, and why this is really important to me is, I just don’t know how much time we as a species have left. Because of choices that we have made, choices that the ones who came before us have made. I don’t know how much time we have left.
So for example, right now I’m just teaching online and at the end of every class, we go through the wave and then at the end of the class, I have people check in to see if they feel complete, because I only want them doing this from a place of fullness. And so then we will dance one or two more dances, but we are dancing for the larger society.
Gabrielle said that the 5Rhythms doesn’t mean a thing unless you take it to the streets. So yes, it’s a powerful tool for self-actualization, for self-healing and transformation.
But we do have a sacred duty.
The sacred duty is of course, to first uplift ourselves, but in the very next breath, uplift the other.
We are not alone. We are intimately connected in ways that it’s hard for us to wrap our mind around. But think about the pandemic. We could not be in the same room with each other because when I breathe out, you breathe in. So that’s how connected we are. Hm.
Alicia: Love it. And I do wanna say, I think most of my listeners are into quite a bit of woo woo. So, I like how you were like, this is what happened the journey and… yeah. So feel free to put in a lot of woo woo too, if you’d like. But I loved the way you explained how you got to your mission.
Yeah. It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take it to the streets. Yeah.
Alicia: I love these people that meditate in caves for 12 years and then they come out, you know, and they come out. That’s the magic, right?
Yeah. It’s also very hard to maintain that, right? Because now, they are on a higher vibration, but human beings are very social, so we wanna connect with other people.
So eventually, if you haven’t developed a meditation practice that is in community, you’re gonna be pulled down to the vibration of everybody that’s around you. Or you’re gonna have to extricate yourself, but you can only maintain that high vibration by bringing others with you. You know?
The other thing that I think is one of the reasons why I like to introduce myself as a body wisdom coach, because I think one of the things that we as modern humans forget is that we are primates.
We are primates. That is a group we belong to.
And all the other primates, except for us, spend a lot of time touching each other. I mean, they are hierarchical like us and so it follows hierarchical lines, but they’re constantly grooming and touching each other and rolling around.
They have a lot of skin to skin contact, and I think the fact that we don’t causes a lot of the suffering. Because we have our animal needs that don’t get met.
And we try to, as modern humans, talk ourselves out of that. That doesn’t make sense. That’s not appropriate. you know, all of this stuff can be resolved just by taking somebody’s hand in your hand and just sitting and holding hands.
Without having a big old conversation. Just that skin to skin is really important. And one of the things that I find the 5Rhythms, of course, but lots of forms of conscious dance allow for is when you dance and sweat and open up, there’s a way that you then become open to physical contact in the way that you might not have been before you danced.
And I just think of that as really important. I think if we could dance together, pile on each other, like all of that, we are just gonna have the society that we really want.
Alicia: You see kids too, how much they touch each other and touch us. Yeah. Right. Like, okay for them when you get to be older, it’s not okay anymore. Right? Yes. And primates too. They’re touching trees, they’re touching leaves, they’re touching rain water, they’re touching dirt. You know, all these things that we’ve isolated ourselves from, you know, in these structures.
And on the 5Rhythms website, I saw a Thich Nhat Hanh quote that she had was “Community is the Next Buddha.”
Alicia: And I was like, I, I actually wrote it on a post-it note and stuck it above my computer. Cause I’m like, this is why I make this podcast. You know, the community. Yeah. It’s the community. We are creating this universal consciousness.
With the dance, with the conversations, with the connection, we’re creating this.
Yes. You know,
Well, I would say that we’re recreating it because early humans did live in clans and… yeah. I just feel like we’re just gonna go to hell in a hand basket if we don’t really start doing the things that we actually need as a species. Like, that’s why I feel that we have so much addiction, it’s rampant.
Why? Because we get so few of our actual needs as a species.
We need to be in community with each other. We came to this planet of diversity. We came and incarnated as one of the most diverse, if not the most diverse. Humans are so diverse. We have it all, every single shade that is every, height and width and you know, the, the shape of the body.
Like the eyelash length, like we just have it all. So instead of like marveling at our endless creativity, the endless possibility and how we show up in the world, we choose to not like it think everyone should be the same. And that if they’re not, they don’t belong. Like what kind of crazy mess is that?
Like you came here. You incarnated as a human specifically to have this experience. Only to be in denial. I don’t know. We’re complicated and messy. So that’s why I feel like the only way out for us is to keep expanding. Expanding our circle, expanding our own, and developing our self-love so that we have more love for each other.
Alicia: Oh, I love this part too. Surprise. Kierra is assistant principal at a high school in Harlem, so she is an educator in multiple realms. I also saw that you went to Yale. And I would total nerd for the Ivy League Cornell, you know, of I league institutions because there’s so much progress that comes out of these schools and they’re so pretty.
I love the old architecture in a lot of them. And I watched an amazing video of you speaking about your work as assistant principal and you included dance in that conversation. And I was just amazed. I was like, Oh no, she’s not gonna talk about dancing here. And you did! So how has dance impacted your other work? For example, your work as assistant principal?
Dance and Work as an Assistant Principle in Harlem High School
So I’m still trying to figure it out because teenagers are hard. It’s a really challenging part of their lives. Especially because you know, in earlier times would’ve been considered adults. Even though we understand more about the human brain, and we know that they’re really not adults in terms of understanding consequences.
But their bodies are really adults because in, earlier times they would’ve already been having families and stuff like that.
So it’s an interesting group. I say all that because my dream was to be able to teach the 5Rhythms in school. I’ve brought in other modalities into my school.
We work with an organization called IBREA, which is an international organization that teaches mindfulness. It’s like a interesting combination of meditation and yoga and Tai chi. Because a lot of it is not only based on reframing things, but also on the meridians. In fact my school was on the CBS News because of the work that IBREA does in my school.
So I have been able to bring other things in, but the 5Rhythms is really hard.
It’s hard to get dancer teenagers who are so self-conscious to dance like no one is looking.
And so I actually went on a workshop this past August, just before school started with someone who teaches people how to bring not just the 5Rhythms, but you know, theater games and movement games to bring them into the school.
So I just finished that part one of that training. So the work that I do with students is not as physical as I would like. I did have a 5Rhythms club. But it was hard, you know, clubs, people come when they want. It was hard to sort of maintain them. They kind of like the idea. But this was also really early. This was probably like 2009.
Now I would do it very different. I have a lot more tools in my toolkit in terms of how to entice kids to move. But I would say that what I do although it’s not dance, I focus a lot on finding out, for example, what kind of learner am I. And I don’t know how familiar you are with the work of Howard Gardner.
Okay. So he pioneered this work back in the seventies and what he posits is that what we typically call intelligence actually has at least nine different components. So he talks about a verbal linguistic intelligence. He talks about a mathematical logical intelligence. He talks about a musical rhythmic intelligence, a visual spatial intelligence.
He also talks about both interpersonal intelligence as well as intrapersonal intelligence.
And so what he says is that all of us have all nine of these different aspects of intelligence, but depending on how our particular brains are wired, one or two or three will be stronger for us than all the others.
And so other people have taken his work further. And the idea is that most schools are set up by people who are strong in one or both mathematical logical and verbal linguistic. And so that’s how school is set up. That’s how the teaching goes. So somebody who’s bodily kinesthetic, who needs to move to think so that same lesson, but you incorporated some movement in that they would be able to do just as well.
And so ideally what should happen in classrooms is that once a week you go through all of these different learning modalities. I, for example, I am an auditory learner. It makes sense because my dad is a musician. So there’s probably some genetic in my family wiring around sound. So what happens is if I have to read something challenging, if I read it out loud to myself, I understand it and retain more. It’s more likely for me to store it in long term memory in a way that’s retrievable than if I just read the words on the page without hearing them.
So that’s just an example of learning style. So what I do is I, in the classes that I teach this semester, I am teaching two classes. Each year I do it one of two ways. Some years I start with just give me a paragraph about the smartest person you know and why.
And so then everybody writes about, Oh, my mom, oh my cousin, he graduated with whoever they wanna write about. And so when they say why we pull that out and I put that on the board so that we start to think about all these things that smartness is, that it is to be smart. Then we read this, Isaac Asimov piece called “What is Intelligence, Anyway?” It’s a personal essay, just one page.
He describes the fact that he has an IQ of 160 and he thinks that he’s smart, but he wonders doesn’t it mean that I’m just very good at taking tests created by people who are similar to me? And then he talks about his mechanic and he talks about these other experiences. And if somebody who had those particular strengths created a test, he would not be able to do it well.
And so that leads us to understanding that people need different things to learn. And so then they take self assessment to learn what kind of learner they are.
And then we start to think about, so what tools do we need to employ in order to help you learn best?
So we can create that as a community and then we go on to whatever it is.
You know, if it’s a 12th grade English class and we’re studying Shakespeare, you know, whatever it is. Or ninth grade where we’re looking at the individual. So we’re reading a lot of young adult fiction. We have started with knowing who you are because my goal is to always give people agency and to understand that you have intrinsic value that no one can take away from you.
Doesn’t matter what the circumstance is, it doesn’t matter if you’re always in these situations where it seems like you’re not doing as well as other people. There may be some reasons for that. Like your teacher is a verbal linguistic learner. That’s how she processes and that’s how she teaches. So yeah.
And the kids, I call them my grand babies. I tell them that they’re my grand babies.
Alicia: How long have you been teaching?
Over 32 years.
Alicia: Wow. Always in Harlem.
No. When I first became an assistant principal, I was also down in Chelsea at one point, but mainly it’s been on the Upper West Side or Harlem.
Alicia: So always in New York City.
Alicia: Cool. Wow. Oh, Kierra, you just have such an open, light heart. You know, think about a teacher, assistant principal in the city. You think about the stress that must involve at different times I mean, like, you’ve seem like you’ve figured out how to deal.
Well, it is really stressful, but I mean, I really do love what I do. And you know, I’m the oldest of four girls. I have three sisters. Two of us went into education. I think that, you know, school was definitely a place of humiliation, but it also was a kind of sanctuary. It was like a mixed bag.
And I really do believe that education is a moral imperative.
And I think a lot of what we do in education in this country is really immoral. Really immoral.
But it’s because we have such a incredibly hierarchical way of thinking, which is to be understood because we are primates, and primates are hierarchical, but we also have a higher self that we don’t seem to tap into and listen to very much because, you know, you look at a country like Finland. And Finland is at the top of the food chain, and Finland had a lot of the same problems that we did, and they figured out how to solve them. Like us, school is funded by property taxes. So they had you know, a lot of disparity. And so what they did was, it’s still funded by property taxes, but it goes into one kitty and every school gets the same amount.
It’s divided equally. That’s something that we could do here. Another thing is that they don’t kill and drill. They don’t give homework until like secondary school. That a lot of how children learn is through play and through exploration. Yeah. There’s no reason why someone goes so excited. I have my lunchbox. Is today the first day of school? And then by third grade they hate school. Like why? Because it’s a place of humiliation. Because it’s a place of not getting it right. It’s a place of memorizing things that don’t make sense, and you don’t even really know what they mean. But someone said, “Memorize it.”
It’s like, what the hell man? What the hell? Humans love to learn. They love to learn. This is what we do. And we could do it so much bigger and better.
But no, we are not doing that because we wanna make sure we have people that will work these shitty ass jobs.
So like, what? Why?
So you could have 10 million purses? You are only one human being. What are you gonna do? Change your purse every five minutes? Like, come on.
Alicia: I love that. Cause that’s a sign of success, Kierra, to have 10 million purses that you don’t use, right? Like, that brings me joy.
That’s called hoarding. And that’s also an addiction. You know what? Greed is an addiction.
It’s an addiction. That’s an addiction.
But we’re keeping it together. I don’t mean to be pessimistic because we are going to get it together. Human beings are magical beings. We are going to get it together. I don’t know that I’ll see it in my lifetime though, but we are gonna get it together.
Alicia: You see glimpses of it when you’re doing the things that your heart wants you to do, right?
Yes, I do see glimpses of it. I do. I really do. Yeah.
Alicia: I heard you say that we can accept our whole selves. That we love to show people our shiny bits, you know, on Instagram and everything. Posting what we’re most proud of, what we think makes us look the best. But we all have places where we are deceptive and selfish and cruel, and it’s that shadow self we’re always fighting against. and therefore we are un unified as individual beings. We’re ununified. And you said you can’t be a compassionate person if there have not been times that you were cruel.
What are some steps that we can take to accept our shadow selves as well as our shiny bits?
Oh, so there’s a lot of ways of doing it. One way that I did it was.. So one of my defaults used to be until very recently, even after doing a lot of work, was resentment. And it wasn’t only for myself, if it looked like something unfair was going on.
Like I would just go immediately to resentment.
I think sometimes people in big families, at least one person can have this characteristic. You know, you’re always looking like, oh, look like you got a little more juice. Well, how come you got all the juice? It was like, you know, families can be like that.
And so I just wanted to explore it through movement. I just did mini dances.
I’m really gonna dance resentment, that burning resentment, you know, no one even knows that you’re resentful except you think they don’t know because you’re like smiling. No, it’s okay. Like what’s that burning resentment?
That resentment where it’s just like, it comes to you in flashes. Like most of the time you’re okay, but then something happens that you’re just right back in it. Like, really how does that move, you know? Is it like quick little movements? Is it like slow and sinewy and panther?
How does that move in me? Where does it live in me?
What body part wants to take on expressing that? So many, many, many dances of resentment. And then I didn’t have that resentment anymore. It got fully and completely expressed. It didn’t happen with just one or two dances. It was like, this was a nightly practice.
I’m gonna dance for 20 minutes.
And sometimes you don’t stay there. You know, you dance resentment and then something else wants to come through. But I had a specific practice of, I wanna give my resentment a voice. I wanna give it a voice, you know. And then it just doesn’t happen anymore.
Like, that’s not my default setting anymore. So that’s one way of doing it. So if any of your listeners wants to pick up Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliot, she describes some exercises that you can do. And she works with the idea of turn on, like really allowing the sensations in the body and really noticing like, what sensation are you feeling, where are you turned on by this darker aspect of yourself, you know?
And that part of us is always useful.
Every part of us is always in service of ourselves.
Even when I was describing my inner serial killer that is torturing me, she’s saying, ” Listen. This world doesn’t like you. You need to be careful. I’m gonna beat you up so nobody else has to because I’m going to whip you into shape.
Even though you never listened to me, I’m gonna whip you into shape so that you’re never vulnerable and you’re never caught out there.”
I talk about the resentment dance. But once I did all of this, I, I saw that everything about me is helping me. I mean, sometimes they’ve outlived their usefulness, you know, it’s not really that helpful anymore.
You know, like, so thank you. I love you, but I got this from now on.
Alicia: Giving it a voice. Yeah. Giving the shadow parts a voice.
And a fun way, if you have the space, dance is always because there’s a reason why babies dance.
There’s a reason why babies dance.
Babies hear music and they could be in your arms, and they just started moving their bodies. Like I don’t know all the science behind it.
But it’s real. There’s a reason even if you feel like you have two left feet, please dance. If you don’t feel like you can dance in front of other people, you know that there’s always the bathroom. You know, put your airphones on and go in the bathroom and give yourself, you know, it’s your birthright.
You really are a dancer.
I know you don’t believe me. There’s levels to this. Of course, there are dancers who are artists. I’m not taking that away, but every human being. We are dancers. That is our birthright as humans.
We all come from many generations of dancers.
Some historian may know more than me, but from what I know, the ancient Greeks were the first to get weary of dancing, and they actually wrote it down.
So that’s how we know. What they didn’t like about dancing is when they would have those long, like 10 day feasts and people would be dancing and dancing and dancing. They found it difficult to reestablish the hierarchies once the feast was over. People’s hearts would be open from that deep dancing and that deep connection that would be fostered by dancing together.
So they said, Something’s gotta go , you know, something’s gotta go. So they began to cut down on how long feasts could last. But they had some serious concerns about dancing. And in many religions, because I think you know, just from what’s written, there’s often this fear of sensuality. Particularly sensuality in women around dancing.
Sensuality is part of life.
Sensuality is related to sexuality, but it’s not identical. You know, they’re not the same thing. Sensuality. The love through the senses. That’s part of life. That’s part of being in a body, you know? And enjoying smells and sensation and sounds and textures and taste. That’s part of being in the body.
But people started to have fears around that. And, dancing could definitely invoke the imagination. Which that’s why you have an imagination. Enjoy it. But you know…
Our Ancestors Danced
Alicia: This is perfect cuz my next question is on your website, shakingspiritwaves.com you wrote, “Our ancestors danced. They danced for healing transformation to create community, to unify the will in preparation for a hunt or to wage war. They danced for ritual, for celebration, for artistic expression. Our ancestors danced in every single part of the world. We are each from a long line of ancestors who danced. It is quite recent in human history that dancing is no longer an integral part of our lives.”
And you spoke a little bit about, with the Greeks, it interrupted their hierarchy. So any other ideas about what happened and why did so many of us stop dancing?
Why did so many of us stop dancing?
Well again, I think the other part of it is sensuality. Right? The sensuality too. Okay. So the woo woo part of my story is that and it wasn’t even about like career path.
So I had an Akashic reading.
It was actually about a relationship. And so the reading was to end the relationship because this was related to suffering from the lifetimes, more than one that I had as a temple dancer. So according to this reading, I have had lifetimes more than one as a temple dancer.
And what she said to me was, when you were a temple dancer, you know, the men would come for healing and then they would leave.
They would never belong to you. So you cannot stay in this relationship. It’s just no. You need to be in a more committed relationship. This is not gonna work.
So it was great to get the news about what to do regarding relationship, but was very interesting to me to find out that possibly I’ve had lifetimes where dance was important to me. Cuz that would explain why I was like such a fanatic and went around annoying people as a little girl.
Alicia: Sensuality, the humanness of it. I was at a Tony Robbins event and there was a man next to me who was probably 10 years older than me. He goes, I just started dancing. I was like, What? He’s like, No, no. I went to a Tony Robbins event like two months ago and I just started dancing. I never had danced in my entire life. And I was like, this is so real for so many people.
They don’t feel like they can dance.
And when you say like you come from a long line of ancestors who danced, like. What are you telling yourself about dance that’s keeping you from being in it? From having it, from experiencing it? You know, what are we telling ourselves?
We have to be doing it right.
We have to be doing it a certain way. Like what you were saying before is you don’t want people looking at you, you know? And then we catch ourselves too, being the one that’s looking at the dancer going, What is she doing? You know? We’re like, well,
I mean like, I don’t know if you ever used to watch Seinfeld back in the day, but on the show Seinfeld, there’s a character Elaine.
And like her dancing was legendary. How many people were like laughing at that awkward dance that she was doing? And you know, part of it was that, you know, of course they exaggerated it and looking like she was hurt. But what’s wrong with that? What is wrong? If that’s how the beat is hitting me. The beat is hitting my shoulders.
You know that’s how the beat is hitting me. What is wrong with that?
Right. And that’s why it was so funny too. It’s because people were making fun of something that doesn’t need to be made fun of. Right? I mean, it’s that fear of so many people, like, am I gonna look like her?
Yeah. And listen, I have no shame in my game. Like, I don’t care. I love dancing so much. I don’t care. Right. I’ll take it all from the best one to the worst one to in the middle. I don’t care. I don’t care.
Alicia: I was in a workshop once too, and they said, Dance like someone from another planet, like doing moves that your body’s never done. And I was like, Wow, I’ve never even given myself the opportunity to do that. You know? And I’ve just been so limited in my thinking of what a dance move should look like, how I dance, you know? And once you take a step back and not worry about what you look like it’s gets so much bigger.
Yes, I do wanna be clear that, you know, the dance as an art form is incredible and just watching it can be healing and transforming for people to see the grace and the skill on display.
So I’m not denigrating that or equating the two. I’m saying that they are separate, that there are some of us that will develop our dance so that it is in art form.
But I am also saying that you know, you could think about it like cooking, right? There are some people that are going to be these gourmet chefs that are gonna be so inventive with the flavors and textures that they put together. But all of us have to cook in order to eat. And all of us in our own way will bring love and artistry to our cooking.
And so that’s what I mean about your dance. I do believe that there is medicine for us and often for other people, but medicine for us in our dance.
There’s medicine in your dance.
Alicia: Some people tell themselves they can’t cook either.
Yeah, that’s true. You know, that’s true that, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. But also sometimes people, that’s how they like it, you know, sometimes people like a little charcoal on their food or I happen to like very dry things.
Most people like Turkey, that’s all juicy. And I’m like, eh, no. My grandmother technically was not a good cook, and she would make a very dry Turkey. And that’s what I grew up on and that’s what I like.
I also think it’s because I’m Kapha however it’s pronounced. So I have a lot of moisture in me, so I like dry stuff.
Alicia: Ooh. I Is that the Kama Sutra kind of stuff? The different body types? Is that what that
Yes. Pitta is very lean. And that’s a drier body type. And so they need more moisture. And then there’s Vata. And then the one with a K is the largest body type. Nobody is purely one or the other.
Alicia: Yeah, I never thought about it all that way. Yeah. Uh, I know that Kaeshi’s in Europe now I’m gonna do their peace event.
Yes, I’m going for that.
Alicia: Oh my God, are you really? So this is perfect.
So tell us what it has been like to be part of the Public Urban Ritual Experiment.
It is definitely in the top 10 things that I’m most grateful for in my life. One of the things about PURE that is so wonderful is that you have all level of dancers.
So it’s not a company where everyone is a professional or even a high level amateur. There are those of us who just love belly dance, who love the movement. And we approximate the movement in however way we can. And like there’s room for us. And how many companies like that? You know, so there’s a lot of ideas that we like because they’re egalitarian, but how many people actually put it into practice?
Right? So it’s one thing to have this idea on paper, but she puts it in practice. And I think she does that because she has multiple companies. So she can have the Belly Queen Company where you really need to be an elite dancer in terms of your understanding of both artistry and technique. But then she can have this company where there’s room for people who are advanced beginners.
Alicia: Nice. Yeah. Kaeshi’s a magic being. What she creates.
Where she gets her, I’m like, Oh my God.
I asked her what motivates her. She said, “I am in service to our mother.”
That I’m in service to our mother. I love that. I love that.
Alicia: Yeah. So cool. I’m so glad you’re gonna be in Rome. That’s gonna be beautiful.
And you also facilitate Femme!
That’s F E M M E with an exclamation point, which is a movement practice to live drumming. That’s my favorite way to move, is to live music. And it sounds amazing. What’s it like?
So Bernadette Pleasant is the founder of Femme!. She is someone who is a Nia teacher. She also is a professional pole dancer and a teacher of pole dance. And so when she created her body of work, she combined elements of both and then put her own special magic into it. So it is very much a transformational form of dance.
And so there’s a group of exercises that you go through and those exercises are designed to help you fully embody yourself.
So there are poses and movements that you create based on prompts that she gives you. For example let’s say confidence. How does confidence move?
What does confidence look like when it’s stationary? So she gives you prompts for you to create and find that in yourself.
And as I said, it is done to live African drums.
So it’s really just that profound heartbeat music. I love it. I was really grateful to be accepted into the training because I wanted to expand my understanding of somatic healing and somatic movement.
My body of work is called Hum which is an acronym for Healing Using Movement.
And so it has everything that I’ve been exposed to, but there are some things that I felt were missing. One was sound. And then the more that I learned about sound, for example, the “Ah” sound does the same thing for your internal body that shaking does for the exterior.
The “ah”. When you go, “ah”, it resonates throughout your body. And it sort of resets your nervous system.
So I wanted to include sound in what I offer people. And then the other thing is I really want to give space and room for sensuality. Like really not secret hidden.
Because I find that one reason why I think people say that they can’t dance is allowing the hips full expression is not really acceptable in many, many, many, many cultures.
You know, I’m speaking as somebody who’s 61. So now we have twerking, you know, all these things. When I was growing up, it was very hard because if you didn’t move your hips at all, people would say that you can’t dance. But if you got a little carried away, the next thing you know, people are saying stuff about you.
Oh, I’ll better watch her. She’s gonna be fast. It’s like, I was just, what? Like as I said, I’m the oldest of four girls. So I go to school and I learn this ring dance. You know the one “shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it. If you can shake it like a milkshake and do the best you can, rumble to the bottom from the top.”
So I come home from my little Head Start program and I had to put my sisters in a circle so I can teach them to dance. The next thing you know, I’m picking myself up off the floor. And I said, “Daddy, what?” And he said, “What are you doing?” And I said, “Oh, I’m just showing them a dance I learned at school.”
“I didn’t send you to school to shake your ass.”
So yeah, there’s gotta be room for sensuality.
And so that’s what I’m bringing forth in Hum. Healing, Using Movement. Sound, somatic movement, but a special emphasis on sensuality.
And I don’t mean like sensuality, like performative, which is another place that we go to, Oh, look at me, aren’t I sexy?
No. For yourself, for yourself. You know, starting from the inside. Just curling and arching and you can even close your eyes with that sensation.
Your own body as this amazing landscape, capable of endless movement.
Yeah, so I’m still developing. I hope to have my first offering in the spring. So many ideas are percolating and I wanna just see what really lands, cuz you know, I can’t have, like first we’re doing this that, then we’re doing this.
Like I want it to be a really uplifting experience for people and especially for women.
Because I think so much of our sensuality is performative is for someone else and it’s a way of creating hierarchy among each other. Who is the most desirable? And I really don’t want it to be that.
I want it to be something for you.
Something for each person. This is for you. For you to really enjoy yourself. Just because these images are really pervasive and we’re very familiar with them.
Babies just love themselves. They just see their toes. They’re like, I have to eat these damn toes. These toes are too cute. They can’t be out here like that. I gotta devour them.
They just love themselves. Oh my God. Did anyone see these dimples? Oh my thighs. They’re so cute. Yummy, yummy, yummy. I want us to feel like that. It is not performative. It’s for you. And then you can decide what you wanna do with it. But first it’s this juicy gift to yourself.
Alicia: Hmm. My friend Tessa Meyers, who lives right up here in this area. I feel like she’s really good at that. Just giving herself her own juicy gifts.
And then she puts it on Instagram and you’re like, Wow, could I do that? Like, could I feel that way? You know what I mean? So, yeah. But a lot of it is us creating a hierarchy of who’s the most desirable.
It’s what you’re saying, right? It’s cuz you wanna be more desirable than somebody else. For some reason that makes us important? I don’t know what it does for us. There’s some payoff there, right? Beautiful. Okay, last question.
When we were taking that workshop together in the creek and our friend Kazuma, a little awkwardly asked you to speak because you are our elder he speaks English really well, but I think it was a little hard for him to communicate what he wanted to communicate right there cuz it is his second language. Or third, I’m not sure your response, smooth it all out when you said something like, “Thank you. I do consider myself an elder.”
How do we honor and respect our elders, especially in our belly dance community?
Well, I think oh gosh, I could almost cry when I think about this because I do see some lovely things happening in the belly dance community where people who are moving differently because they are older, like they’re still rap attention.
People aren’t like, Okay, when is she getting off? Like, Yeah, still seeing the gift and the beauty in moving in all the stages that people go through. Really seeing that, like reframing it for ourselves so that we have an expanded sense of beauty, I think is really important.
Because most people, if they’re fortunate, are going to get old.
If you’re fortunate, that is what’s going to happen. You’re not gonna look like you were 20 and you are just not, you know how they say, 60 is a new 40 or whatever . It’s like, Yeah. Until I stand next to somebody who is 40.
Once I stand next to someone 40, I don’t look like I’m 40. Okay.
You know, cause they don’t have creaky knees. It’s like, Yeah, but all of us are going to experience this, we have not always thought this way. This is some what recent in history that we have all these prescriptions.
Maybe it’s because early humans when someone did live that long, it was like, Wow, what’s your secret? How can I be like you? You’re a unicorn, Right?
Yeah. but I just love the fact that we unlike all the other primates, we are not limited by our biology. We have tremendous choice.
We are hardwired for all these things. We’re hardwired to be fearful. That’s why we survived. We heard a twig, we started running. We didn’t look to see what was going on. But we don’t have to continue to be fear-based. We’ve conquered so much. We don’t even have any predators anymore. Except for each other of course.
Don’t have to be so fear based anymore. Like we actually can choose to retrain. Because our brains have plasticity. So we can actually rewire our own brain in real time. Like the children now, they can do things that people in my generation had a hard time doing because they’re constantly doing more than one thing at one time.
They are better at multitasking because they are on the computer and they’re doing this and they’re doing that. And the brain has rewired itself to be able to do those things. Now, of course, they have a harder time giving focused attention than, you know, people my age who we just had to pay attention cause you’ll get knocked out.
You know? Cause there was no such thing as child abuse. And let’s face it, children of all social classes, all demographics, you go to the supermarket, someone’s getting a smack. That’s just how it was back then.
Mm-hmm. So you were saying expand your concept of beauty. That was one of those things right.
That’s something we can all do.
Expand your concept of beauty.
Cultivate patience so that if you’re speaking to someone who is talking slower or maybe is not as focused as maybe they were 20 years ago when they were younger, like having that patience. Also, I think it’s important. I love what they’re doing in some parts of Europe, where I think it’s in Holland, where they are having college students live with seniors and the college student gets a discount on their rent.
And they were right, that friendships did develop as because of that. The other thing that they’re doing is they’re building daycare centers in senior citizens homes. So that’s something that we can start to think about.
So I think it’s important for all of us from childhood to just before we take our final breath, to have friends of all ages.
It is important for young mothers to be friends with people who have grown children, to be friends with teenagers, to be friends with the children that are friends with their children. Like real friends. Like to actually know about my child’s friend, not just, Oh, that’s Peter’s friend, but know something about Peter’s friend.
Peter’s friend’s favorite color is purple. He likes chocolate cake. Like real friendships. It’s important. I think so. I think it’s very important because I noticed that the people who don’t like old people never had any relationship with older people. I had a relationship with my grandmother, but friends that didn’t have relations, they were always saying mean things about older people.
But I didn’t have that because even though my grandma was one of those mean grandmothers, but I still love my grandmother.
Alicia: Have friends that are different ages. That’s great. I remember I had a friend and she was like, Where are all the 30 year olds here? And I’m like, What? Like, you know, when I have a party, I invite the people I wanted to be there. They could be two years old, they could be 70.
Right. You know what I mean? But she was always thinking about like, where are the people that are within three years of my age? And I was like, Wow, that is a way that a lot of people do think. You know? Mm-hmm. And that does limit your concept of like the value of an older person, you know? And younger people too. Yeah. Like you’re kind of around little people, you know, or teenagers, all of that, all of that spectrum of life.
Yeah. I think it’s really important.
And also seniors have a very high rate of suicide in part because of the isolation.
Yeah. And if we don’t do something about it then, you know, the young people, when they get old, they’re gonna face the same thing. Like, it’s important to stop that trend and to be in community.
Alicia: Yeah. Rachel Brice, I heard her say just being 20 is sexy. It just is. A nd when she said that, I was like, Oh. That’s why I feel so different. It’s part of it you know, like I’m 40, what am I 41 now? I’m like, okay, that, natural thing is not happening to me anymore.
And I don’t have a responsibility to do that. Like, I don’t have a responsibility to hold onto that or try to keep on being the sexiness of my twenties, you know what I mean? Because I had that in my head, like I was comparing myself.
Well you know, I think sexiness is a decision of how you want to experience the world and how you want to present yourself to the world.
I think it might take a different shape, but I don’t think that it’s something you ever lose.
So glamor for example, there’s some people that like to present themselves. They love glamor, and they’re 70 and they’re still really glamorous. They find ways to make it work for them. And I feel like sexiness operates in a very similar way. It’s just that I think particularly in America, I think less so in Europe, for example.
And I don’t know if I should really be saying this from public, but my last long-term relationship with someone who is quite a bit younger than I am. But he’s from the part of the world where it really wasn’t an issue for him. When we broke up, he said, No, that was never an issue for me.
And I believe him, so I think this is something that might be uniquely western that you know, when someone is over 30, they lose their sexiness in some way, but that’s not really true.
If you choose that sexiness is important to me, then you’re sexy your whole life.
Alicia: And one other thing too with Fifi Abdou. I mean, look at the woman. Look at the way she moves. she’s so sexy, right? I think she gets sexier, you know, so. Yes. Yeah. So you’re right. it’s a big story. In some ways we tell on ourselves like, is it a value to us? Is it something we want? Is it a quality we want? You’re like, so cultivate it.f
Yeah, exactly. And I. just think it’s hard to be a person and it’s really, really, really hard to be a woman, you know, Because we have, so many ancestors behind us that had it so much worse than we do, because they were female, you know?
And so we’re carrying all of that in our dna. there’s the fear of being, oh, you know, a sexy woman, because if something happens to you, very few people are gonna stand for you. Even people who are your friends are gonna be like, What? Well, you know, is she, I mean, like, we are not there yet.
I think we will be someday, especially the way people are being galvanized right now around abortion rights. But, yeah. there’s gotta be like really standing for woman.
Really standing for woman, not as a broken man, but for woman. All the things that a woman can be. All of it. Really standing for that.
And that includes a sensuality and sexiness in the feminine form and the way that it shows up in women and all the different ways that it can be, you know? And also not being so narrow about what is sexy. Like I’m a straight woman, but I remember years ago I was teaching a college class with this very butch woman and I was like, That woman is goddamn sexy.
If I moved in that direction, I would definitely try to get her number.
Alicia: You’re being honest with yourself.
Yeah. I was like, wow.
Because some people just exude a sexiness.
You know, And even if it’s not your type, that’s not what you signed up for. You’re still, you know what?
Alicia: Prince was one of those characters. I think
He was like so short and skinny, you know, not what the typical idea of masculine, but the man was.
You’re like, You know what? I think I in that direction.
Yeah. I think he allowed a lot of men that are straight to be like, Hmm, you know, Wow, I wanna keep watching this person. You know?
Yeah. yeah. Yeah. That’s what I think.
Some of what makes people sexy is their zest for life.
Alicia: Energy. Yeah.
Kierra, you have been such a wonderful, wonderful guest, and to have your voice in our heads is such a gift, you know? So thank you. Thank you so much for the exploration that you have gone on. With your dancing and the 5Rhythms and teaching and creating your own body of work for all of us to just let us all ruminate in, you know, such a wonderful thing to do.
When you said that I’m creating my own body of work, I was like, Wow, it’s a big responsibility and it’s just a big gift.
Yeah. But the thing is, again, a little woo woo. I feel like I’m downloading it because it was just like before anything. I was just coming from a 5Rhythms workshop and I knew it was gonna be named Hum. Then I was like, Hum, but what is hum? Then I was like healing using movement. I was like, Okay. Hum. And then I was like, it has to be with sound and sensuality. But it’s been like these flashes, you know how sometimes you just get an inspiration. It’s been like that. You know, I am somebody that I do my own little version of ancestor worship.
Like I do feel that there’s more to life than what can be seen or explained. And I do believe all of us have unseen help. And so I’m leaning into the unseen help around me.
Alicia: Beautiful. Oh, thank you so much, Kierra.
Thank you. Have a wonderful night.