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Meet Georgianne Cowan of Moving Soul Dance and Los Angeles Dance Collective

Today we’d like to introduce you to Georgianne Cowan.

Georgianne, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
When I was a child living in the woods of upstate New York, I remember burying colorful, iridescent purple/blue glittering stones in the ground outside my house. I considered them magical. I thought some superpowers might come from this offering or at least, another gift would surely be revealed to me at another time in my life. I “started” in this way, curious about the unexpected stories, images and treasures that hum under the surface of our “normal,” everyday perceptions. For me, there always seemed to be a call to explore the world from behind the mirror rather than looking into it. I was easily on the other side looking out.

In addition to the innate qualities we are born with, I recognize there are external conditions that set the terrain for how we configure ourselves, both personality-wise and in our life’s trajectory.  My parents divorced early when I was six, a fracture happened, and consequently I was swept into my own imaginative world. Maybe as a result of this circumstance and others that followed, I ventured inside, towards the riches of my imagination, but clearly something was already in, as they say, “the blood.” I traversed worlds from, as the author and psychologist, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “the topside world,” (– cultural norms, family, identity, persona) to the world underneath, the one that is wild, dark, unpredictable… and is expansive beyond measure, transcends the ego and personality and holds the breadth and detail of every thread of existence together in some very essential and inexplicable way. 

This fascination with the “mysteries” led me in many directions – towards art, poetry, spirituality, dance, and improvised performance art as a way to communicate my sensing into this “alternate” way of perceiving. Certainly, we all possess a creative imagination but some more than others have easier access and the desire to translate these illusive ”intangibles” into artistic expression.. If our culture nurtured the artistic sensibility as a given, not as a commodity, in addition to our native spiritual connection to the earth and beyond, that for example, many indigenous people have already practiced for thousands of years, I believe there would be an easier fluency into our own soulful depths and an inalienable reverence for protecting our planet. So much of this seems to be diminishing by the moment in our current environmental and cultural dilemmas. 

Personally, the “wilderness,” (both felt in nature and engendered from my own “interesting” family dynamic) taught me vicariously and directly about referencing from the inside out, and believing in truths that are self evident…(to coin a term). In short, what my spirit needed to feel nourished. 

Leave it to California to be a mecca for this kind of exploration! Even today, California is a political outlier, creating her own identity, doubling down with crucial values that have become examples to the rest of the country. There is something about this side of the country. We are on the “edge,” literally living atop tectonic plates constantly shifting. There has to be some kind of magnetic “runoff” from all this “friction,”  “agitation” and “sliding.” We are poised for change and innovation, and sadly, these days on the lookout for another natural or man-made disaster. We are alert, on our toes. 

After studying fiber art and photography at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. I received a scholarship and made my way to Los Angeles in my mid-twenties to study at the Woman’s Building, a center for feminist art started by the artist, Judy Chicago who is known mostly for her epic work, “The Dinner Party,” celebrating through visual representation women throughout history who had been largely ignored (this exhibit is now housed at the Brooklyn Museum).

Los Angeles was/is a melting pot, with so many cultures, so many people and strains of how to live a life. It was teeming then, as it is now with all kinds of possibility and avenues of innovation. The “anything seems possible” dream is tattooed onto people’s optimism for creating an exciting new life. I was immersed in feminist art and philosophy in its heyday. It was a turbulent and identifying time for women. This second wave of feminism, I believe was a ladder to what I identify today as the “third wave” with the surfacing and calling out of abuses of power in the #MeToo movement and other expressions of women claiming their voices.

Feminist art, among other things, celebrated the personal. Sharing intimate stories through art of being a woman. “The personal is political” was one of the slogans at the time. We brought forward the notion that simple stories, formerly demeaned as only “woman’s’ work” or “women’s point of view,” were valid and more than that, to be applauded. Freida Kahlo’s personal and emotionally riveting art was being recognized and was exhibited for the first time here in California. Anais Nin’s, (one of my writing “mentors”) revealing and sensual journals were devoured by myself and other women. I felt the permission to explore from these trailblazers, to create, through photography, performance, and installations my fascination with the subtle and invisible world(s) and my experience of the sacred through a feminine aperture. I was drawn to explore further the avenues of embodying this attraction with energy, psyche, and spirit.

I taught a summer workshop at the Woman’s Building, entitled Women and Nature with a fellow student and later colleague, Aline LaPierre. Nature had always been my teacher and comfort so sharing our intrinsic belonging as women, to the earth, through our bodies, and creating art from this place was beyond satisfying. We had two major “exchanges” with nature that Summer… one while camping in Mt Pinos, north of L.A; it began to hail huge hailstones in the middle of Summer and the other while exploring tide pools in Palos Verdes; a rogue, gigantic wave crashed over us all. A minor emergency ensued, but we all survived with some bloody gashes from the rocks we were thrown onto. This was certainly a seminal teaching about the unpredictable and humbling power of nature.

I had always danced in one way or another since I was a child. At five I would dress up in my mother’s scarves and father’s ties and dance, Isadora Duncan like, outside. I remember doing a performance in high school of emerging from a pond of water with other girls. We all wore white slips. Serendipitously, years later I find myself in similar expressions in several different performance pieces, one in the mountains above Malibu, emerging from a pond of water (at the inauguration of the Wright’s land), conveying much the same message about our primal beginnings. This is where I felt optimally connected to “source,” in the wilds, participating with the “elements” and dancing. Performance art, both in the environment and in theatre contexts became one of my modes of expression, always loving to this day, collaborating with other dancers and artists.

My next great teacher was Emile Conrad who originated Continuum. She opened up the world of subtle and fluid movement to me while also infusing a primal recognition of how energy and movement circulate and heal when awareness and intention are added into the mix. Emilie was a brilliant innovator and a shaman in many ways. She provided a blueprint from which I eventually evolved my own teaching. After years working with Emilie and friend/colleague Susan Harper, I started teaching in my living room in Venice.

Evolving from there, I found a kindred spirit in dancer, Stephanie Franz. We started to collaboratively teach, incorporating mythic imagination, subtle and expressive movement and at the same time execute elaborate “altars” from wide swaths of fabric and sacred objects. It became an opulent palette for participants to muse and dance with. Our class was entitled “Body Landscapes, Dancing the Feminine.” This is how, through many years of working together, in different studios including Continuum studio for decades, I felt something unique had been created. A signature. We offered a place to dive into one’s own history, one’s own lament, desires, and creative inquiry through movement, ceremony and the wilderness of the imagination, all within a supportive and safe container. Every week a new theme was introduced, and an original, almost theatrical “set” with lighting, props, fabric, etc. enhanced the ability to go below the surface and dance the invisible; our unbridled child nature, our shadow selves, our mythic archetypes, our energetic impulses, to name a few… and to coax the soul out of hiding.

Becoming a mother and surrendering to the service and devotion that it takes to raise a child, not to mention the joy and happiness to watch a life unfurl before your very eyes was also one of the many things that gave me ballast when all is said and done. You give your heart and soul with no expectation of return. Being totally present in the momenthow deeply spiritual is that! One is humbled, rustled up and touched deeply by life’s tussle. Being married, also trained me to negotiate, to think of another, to get out of my own way in service of something bigger that ultimately, at best makes each individual more of who they are meant to be.

Both mothering and partnering, though not always easy, are certainly an improvisational work in progress that has massaged me from all angles of give and take, humility and empowerment. But it’s the love, getting to really know what love is from the up and down of it, of being cherished and cherishing, back and forth, that’s a real inspiration. 

I realize as I write that there is a book of attributes and influences that I could draw upon to describe why I do what I do. 

Speaking of books, I did publish a book entitled, “The Soul of Nature” (Doubleday), an anthology of environmental and spiritual writing when I was director of the Spirit and Nature Series of the EarthWays Foundation.

I am currently working on another detailing a heroine’s odyssey.

Suffice it to say, I’ve offered just a few examples as to my experience and passion towards empowering people to dance and celebrate their body’s imagination and innate wisdom.

I now teach a class called Moving Soul Dance for Women where I envision an exploration in every class that is unique to that particular class. Examples of themes are “connecting to our roots,” “calling in the ancestors,” “dancing with your twin,” “eros,” “sacrifice,” “the sensual feminine,” ” Kali,” “forgiveness,” “healing the past,” envisioning the future,” “seeds of belonging,” “the ties that bind us,” “the shadow,” to name just a few.

By enlisting the wisdom of the feminine, together we explore mythic elements that have shaped us and also invite new possibilities of how we can define ourselves. Through meditative movement, breath, sounding, guided and self-guided inquiry, I invite people to align with the scripture of their soul’s purpose and dance into the rhapsody of their bodies.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I would be suspicious if it was a smooth road because, that is what shapes us are the struggles, the same way water sculpts stone to make it smooth. It’s endurance and tenacity that affirms to us what we believe in. When we’re young, we try everything, we should do that, and lo and behold, at some point you realize something has stuck to you, you keep going for that thing, that place of satisfaction. 

My struggles have been, not believing in myself, comparing myself to others and getting paralyzed by that tangle. A need for approval, waiting to be told what to do rather than going from internal guidance, distraction from the path that is true to only me. Wasting time, spacing out (which actually has benefits down the road because that’s where the seeds of inspiration get born.  You get the picture… all the denials, deceits and circumnavigations our poor, human selves go through to just stand up straight and breathe a full and deep breath in and feel okay. Realize, these wicked little thorns, I’d say were scattered over a long period of time, and truthfully, I never felt completely plagued by them, but it is important to pay them some dues, some respect, a nod and move on. They are the fuel and the dissatisfaction that lead to propelling forward.

I wouldn’t trust anyone who said they haven’t had to struggle. We wrestle with these demons as part of the pact of being creative types, or just human “be-ings…” It seems the destructive forces must be harmonized with the creative ones. It is a delicate dance of holding both in balance.

Dancing is such a perfect metaphor. As we dance, the climate miraculously changes, emotions are moved and transformed. Dancing from the inside out is such a sure way to unburden, to be more present in the moment and to heighten and refine awareness of both the internal and external worlds.  Movement has been my salvation all throughout my life… among many other delights too long to list, like meandering in the gardens of nature.

At this point, because I have been through some things, I find I am calmer, easier, even-keeled. It does get easier over time!

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Moving Soul Dance and Los Angeles Dance Collective story. Tell us more about the business.
I teach Moving Soul Dance for women which happens on alternate Sunday’s (check dates with me and ask to be added to my e-mail list) in West Los Angeles at the Quaker Meeting House. It is a 2 1/2 hour class, enough time to really deepen into one’s experience and get the benefits of needed downtime.

I specialize in offering a safe space to go inside your own body and free oneself from habitual patterns of movement and thinking… I create an imaginative environment in which to get “lost” only to find yourself again, your authentic self, your “soul signature” self.

I offer a meditative movement emphasis, concentrating on subtle and fluid movement — also expressive movement to recorded music. I provide carefully instructed and crafted ways to deepen your experience of your body and articulate places that perhaps have been dormant or not vivified for a long time.

This is a place to reclaim intimacy with yourself and let your spirit be free. This class is also a sacred container to explore the mysteries of the feminine in all her guises.  I love and care for the people who join me and enjoy nurturing creativity, deepening into oneself and spreading that energy out into the community.

I put a lot of time and detail into the environment we dance in, with many “portals” of exploration. Altars and fabric installations are based on the particular theme for that class, and are an integral part of the dance experience. I see the class as a full on journey that is surprising, healing and many times revelatory. I aim to offer a sacred space that is clear, open and ready to receive and inspire the people who enter it.

Also, I am a member of and Chair of the LA Dance Collective. I facilitate a free form dance event at the LA Dance Collective’s Saturday Dance (for men and women) along with a number of inspired and excellent facilitators. This happens every Saturday, 10 am – 12 at the Culver City Masonic Lodge, 9635 Venice Blvd. It is an open dance space where people from all levels of movement experience are welcome.

In this Saturday dance you can explore your inner dancer in a safe way, on an open dance floor. The recorded music is honed to inspire all varieties of dance expression. The music is eclectic ranging from rock, R & B, electronic, world, instrumental, experimental and everything in between.  Often, when I facilitate I bring in live drummers, cello and other instruments including a singer to enhance the movement experience. We also hold seasonal celebrations with live music. It is a dynamic and expressively rewarding experience to dance in this heartful community of movers. ladancecollective.com

Lastly, my performance work continues both live and collected on video. Every performance I consider to be a ritual enactment, opening the veils between the worlds to recover and discover the spirits and mysteries living both inside and all around…

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I feel very lucky to have followed my interests even though they have been outside the beaten path. I have a philosophy of knowing that change is a constant, so if today something is not feeling right, tomorrow inevitably, it will shift.

The most important part is even when there is a drought, I know this work is something that I must do. It is a practice, I hold space regardless. The universe gets the message that I am serious (and so do I!)

I receive guidance from nature and the cycles of the seasons. There are fallow times where seeds are gestating underground, and then there are the more effusive times of exuberant flowering. One must have faith in the vicissitudes.

I am curious about good luck and bad luck if there is such a thing, or is it about balance and the internal process it takes to come into alignment with one’s life path, making changes when necessary and stepping aside onto a new path if needed. It takes courage to start over and pivot in a new direction, every day holds that possibility.

Pricing:

  • Moving Soul Dance Class for Women 3:00 – 5:30, alternate Sunday’s $25, Quaker Meeting House, West L.A.
  • LA Dance Collective’s free form dance for men and women, every Saturday, 10 am – 12 $15

Contact Info:

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