About Shen & Bones

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“Welcome to my new website, Shen & Bones Moving Exchange!  I am excited to share my interests and activities with you, as well as the work of my company Shen & Bones Performance Group.  It is my hope that this site will peak your interest in the type of work that I (and the company) do, and I invite you to be a part of our community exchanges through classes, workshops, lectures, discussions (on the web and in person) and performances.”

Lani Weissbach, founder, artistic director

For more information about my background, go here.

Why “Shen & Bones”?

The choice of the words “Shen” and “Bones” comes directly from my interest in penetrating to the deepest aspects of our existence.  Shen is a Chinese word for “spirit”, referring to consciousness, thoughts, emotions and senses that make us uniquely human. It is believed that the harmonious flow of Shen is essential to good health. Transmitted into the fetus from both parents, it must be continuously nourished after birth. The heart stores the Shen.  In all of my work, I feel compelled to move toward the “heart” of things.  I am most interested in getting to the essence of our existence; I want to investigate the truth behind appearances, and to gain deeper insight into the pain and pleasure of this life we have been given.  I believe that one of the portals that can lead us to this deeper understanding is our “shen”.  Thus, to get to the heart of the matter, one moves through shen, or, in yogic terms, the “heart center”.

Bones have fascinated me for many reasons.  Bones are the innermost living tissue of vertebrate animals.  They are a storehouse of life-sustaining substances, as well as the deepest currents of energy in the body.  Bones are the aspect of our physical selves that remain in the tangible world longer than any other. Even after the rest of the physical body departs, the bones remain.  By somatically exploring the connections between the bones of our skeleton, we may be able to find more ease, freedom and spaciousness in our bodies.

Combined, the words “Shen” and “Bones” suggest the entirety of this human existence, from the intangible (ethereal) to the most tangible (corporeal).

The goal of Shen & Bones Moving Exchange is to integrate, through bodily means, all aspects of our human experience—and perhaps most importantly, to awaken our innate capacity for acceptance, compassion, courage, and unconditional love.

Why do I do this work?

 I spent many years in dance studios feeling a strong contradiction between loving what I was doing and  feeling  judged and criticized by my teachers, peers and myself.  This, of course, is simply the nature of the professional dance world, and sadly this is sometimes the case in the yoga world as well.  Although I believe in training the body to be as flexible, strong and supple as one is capable of, I don’t buy into the idea that if one cannot achieve a certain level of physical prowess that there is something lacking.  I feel strongly that if a person has interest, enthusiasm and an open and curious mind, he/she will unequivocally have something to contribute to the world, as a mover and as a human being.   Dance and movement can and should be tremendously personally empowering, not dis-empowering.   I feel indebted to a few exceptional teachers who helped me to discover this truth over the last 25 years. I am particularly grateful to Cheryl Flaharty, Sondra Fraleigh, Diego Pinon, Pema Chodron, the colleagues and friends I now have through this work, and perhaps most importantly, the many wonderful students I have had the good fortune to work with over the years.

As a movement artist and educator, I am fascinated with how the body moves, but more so with WHY the body moves. In my approach to movement education and performance, it is the stuff of life that is fodder for the process–the feeling of raindrops on one’s face, the vivid remembrance of a childhood dream, the searing pain of loss— that agitates the body toward moving in a distinct and personal way.  I believe it is the mystery, uncertainty, and edginess of moment-to-moment discovery through the moving body that teaches—and transforms–the mover and viewer alike.

Whether in a workshop, private bodywork session or performance, I believe it is essential to give ourselves permission to go deeply into this human self in order to move through the full spectrum of thoughts, sensations, feelings and responses. To this end, Shen & Bones methods combine a variety of modalities that encourage a holistic understanding of the self, including Japanese Butoh, Shin Somatics, Integral Yoga, Land to Water Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and contemporary western dance.  All of these methods are SOMATIC ways of moving and being in the body.  Somatic practices validate one’s subjective, first-person perspective of oneself.  Somatic awareness often brings feelings, images or a sensations to light, which can be source material for movement explorations.   I believe that when one moves from a feeling, a sensation, or an image, one is expanding his/her consciousness, and thus experiencing a greater integration of the emotions, spirit and intellect with the physical body.  I feel this process is less about moving from one’s will as it is about BEING MOVED.

Perhaps most importantly, accepting what IS in any given moment–to start where we are with no reservations or hesitation—may allow us to truly learn, to grow and to heal.

We are all multidimensional beings, capable of expressing, relating and evolving with authenticity in this world.  Yet in some way, most of us are trapped in limiting thoughts and behaviors and are not able to feel at ease in our bodies and lives.  It is my deepest hope that the endeavors of Shen & Bones Moving Exchange will help to awaken each of us to our fullest potential–and to provide a little guidance, both individually and as a community, toward acceptance, joy and freedom in this precious and ephemeral human life.