Sunday, August 30, 2009

Introducting the new website for JOYISM!

Yes it's here! Thank you world for faithfully tuning into the OSA DANCE blog for over two years now. Please shift your focus and enthusiasm to, the new online home for JOYISM! I am adding elements to the site everyday, so bear with me. I am excited about all of the STAY TUNED and spread the word:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dancing for Jesus, et al

When we think of prayer, do you we think of movement? When we think of healing, do we think of self-discovery? When we think of dance, do we think of ourselves? These questions are the most important part of my facilitation process when I work with people who are just beginning to realize their physical and artistic powers. So many of us come to a dance class or movement-based activity with preconceived notions of what dance is or is not; of how qualified/talented/entitled or not we are to even use our bodies to dance; or of where dance should or should not take place. All this mental mayhem makes a body dull! Beautiful people of the world, I implore you to try the Joyistic approach to body experimentation/dance/movement: JUST DANCE!

Again, you ask me, "Binah, what does that mean for me? I'm NOT a dancer like you!" And there, right there in your CHOICE to negate the very truth of your innately dancing being is the first, and most enormous obstacle that YOU have to shift in order to begin to experience your dancing self and, what I like to call, your "original dance technique." You've heard of Horton or Dunham or Balanchine. These were all real people, human beings like you and me who trusted their bodies enough to play and develop a form of movement that they felt inspired to share with the world. We possess the same potentials, you, me, everybody.

We each have unique ways in which our bodies move. How will we ever discover OUR technique or style if we don't dance and play with our movement? This is a big question that I want you to pause and ponder. You might be wondering: Why do I need to find my original dance technique? And that's fine. Keep dancing with yourself. Soon you will admit that there is a joy, an elation, an ecstasy like no other that you experience only when you dance! You will admit that there is a clarity and a healing that comes to you only when you dance. You will discover a new power source that is only stimulated when you dance. This, this is the critical factor of why making time to dance with your body is so essential to your life. There are things and experiences and insights that you need and can only access through YOUR DANCE.

Enhancing your life with daily dance rituals, big, small, private, or otherwise will open you up to a newfound confidence about yourself, your body, your ideas, your world. You will be happier and healthier. Life will be all-around more fun if you commit to dancing through it all. Trust me, I'm dancing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The 4th Anniversary of Freedom

Four years ago today, I did a wild thing...or so I thought. I went to work early, called my boss (who was coming in late) and reminded her it was my 90-day review. I then proceeded to spend the entire morning writing and editing a very nice and gracious resignation letter. I smiled as I handed it over to her and told her I would be leaving and heading to Brooklyn for my second summer with Urban Bush Women's Summer Dance Institute. I had no plans, no other job, and not a doubt in my mind that if I worked there one more day, I would surely die. She was pissed and I felt great. I never cried after work again.

The weeks leading up to my decision to leave were tumultuous. I was growing increasingly agitated at the job, and felt worried that I would never have adequate time to develop my dance career. I was overwhelmed, doing the job of 3 people, managing a staff of people who were really like peers, and who didn't take me seriously because the boss walked all over me, and very unhappy. I cried every day after work, feeling so awful for wasting yet another day sorting out papers I could care less about, for a woman who didn't seem to find anything right with me, and who shoved pork ribs in my face because my vegetarianness unnerved her.

The Sunday before I turned in my letter, I stumbled upon a Deepak Chopra talk in Crystal City at the IONS conference. I didn't know who he was; I didn't know he was about to help me see the light like never before. He talked for four hours, and I think tears streamed down my face for 80% of the time. He led us through a series of activities, but the one that was the catalyst of my liberation day was called "Finding your Soul Profile". (If you google him or "soul profile" you can do it too.) So basically, you answer seven questions, and the answers culminate into what is your "Soul Profile." Whenever at a crossroads in your life, you consult your soul profile. You ask the question: is this decision in alignment with my soul profile?" If the answer is "YES", then "success is inevitable." If the answer is "NO" then you'll continue to experience disturbances, unhappiness, and other unfortunate things.

My question at the time was, "Do I stay at this job or go to Brooklyn and get recharged at the creative arts' retreat?" I knew I wouldn't be able to "take-off" work with such short notice. And I knew if I missed the Urban Bush Women, I would regret it deeply. So, I completed my soul profile and asked if remaining at the job I hated was in alignment with my life at the time. The answer was of course, a resounding NO! And I cried from the liberation and relief of knowing that the only way to joy was to leave that place and journey on into new adventures.

Fear...yeah, I was scared. But the way the soul profile works, as long as what you're doing is in alignment with your soul profile, then you will prosper, you will succeed, you will find peace in your decisions. It doesn't matter if you don't know how it's all going to work out, all you have to do is put your faith in motion and the rest falls into place. Since leaving that job, I've been consulting the soul profile process at least once a year, checking in with myself. It works every time.

So, long story short (or you can read the blog history to fill in a lot of the blanks), I quit the office gig, stumbled into some wild, some nice, some not-so-nice dance teaching gigs in DC charter schools, became a figure (nude) model for art classes, went to India with all my savings, lived at home with my family in DC, raised money to go to Bali, volunteered in New Orleans, taught and modeled some more, launched "Open Space Activation" Dance, ran my own summer community dance program in DC, started dancing with women in recovery from drug abuse, began presenting more of my dance projects in the community, became a founding mother of The Saartjie Project, debuted JOYISM! and on and on til now where I am in the heat of an intense summer of youth dance work.

I did not always have a plan, more than two digits in the bank account, or optimism. I did not always believe in myself during this challenging, soul-searching, beautiful four year opening to my independence, but I did always bump into someone or get an email of encouragement or support right at the moment I was gonna back away from my dream and go back to the "safety" of another type of job. How amazing it is now to look back over this journey and taste the sweet relief of freedom everyday. To wake up knowing that I'm pouring my energy into what I believe in is a blessing and I am grateful. I am also happy to share my story with others on the verge of their artistic life liberation. We are all plants growing at our own frequencies. Everyone walks their path at their pace. We reflect things back to each other when we need to. If you are moved to love yourself more and shift into your joy...then do it! What are you waiting for?

(Photos by Elen Awalom 2009)

Friday, July 3, 2009

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

So much has happened since I last posted in preparation for JOYISM!'s May 1st debut. In a snapshot, I fell on my head two hours after the fabulous show, had a late night soiree with the hospital, resisted rest and recovery for a few weeks, went to Minneapolis for a great conference with The Saartjie Project, started a new, fascinating dance teaching job with a bunch of little children at a private school's camp, and now, for the next big stretch of leap into more Joyistic living, I'm facilitating a dance and leadership program for teenage girls.

Mind you, I'm still learning to rest well, eat well, and organize my life. The simple building blocks of health still evade me some days: food, sleep, and water are not always my top priority. So as I mastermind my way through a maze of possibilities for what programs to put together for my youth, my world is spinning and staring me straight in the face at the same time.

Last week on my way home after an exhausting day at camp, a group of teenage girls cursed me out on the green line train. They were offended by the smell of the food I was carrying and made an awful scene in front of a quiet train of iPoders and book reading commuters. Embarrassing...yeah. But more than that, I was in shock. I just didn't understand the intensity of their verbal attack. I thought, perhaps if I'd had some applications to my dance program, they might have been able to shift their aggressive articulation into some positive art-making. Who knows, maybe one of them might of been my star pupil.

So since then, I've been reflecting on the cosmic slap of that incident. Hmmm, I pondered, this is my constituency I'm reaching out to. These are the young women I'm attracting to me. What in the world have I gotten myself into! What is their world, what do they want? And then the other part of my brain is like, "teenage girls" are not a monolithic group of people. They're diverse in every way and now I have the awesome task of putting together a movement-based curriculum that will appeal to everyone who comes.

I am excited and overwhelmed at the same time. I am humbled and extremely confident in my abilities to do this, to turn these girls on to infinite possibilities of what their lives can be. When I explain the program to other women, they nod in agreement, wishing there'd been some safe, open, stimulated space for them when they were coming of age and learning the ways of rejecting and critiquing their bodies, talents, voices. Here in the program, I'll be facilitating a series of movement workshops, with occasional guest speakers, that encourage a radically different approach to life than the limiting options of mass media and contemporary culture.

How about looking at our bodies as the source of our power, and not objects subjected to other people's power? What happens when we believe enough in our own stories, in our own form of expression that we don't depend on other people's songs and dances to validate our lives? What happens when we create intimate, safe spaces for sharing and creating art with other young women exploring the same complexities of the coming-of-age journey?

All this and more coming to a summer program near you! out world, the dance is on!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It's Show Time for JOYISM!

It's here global love beings! This is the week of JOYISM!'s first launch show. Get your advance tickets here online!

Check out my interview with Sonya Collins of The Glass House about JOYISM! and this amazing artistic journey at
See the post titled: "Friday 5/1: Joyism @ Capitol Hill Arts Workshop (Peep my 1st Interview)"

peace and more dancing,
Binahkaye Joy
Visionary Space Activator

Thursday, April 23, 2009

JOYISM! Press Release


WASHINGTON, DC—Binahkaye Joy kicks off JOYISM! launch with interactive dance show Friday May 1st!

JOYISM! takes audiences on a dynamic, participatory movement journey by diving into themes and issues that affect us all. Binahkaye initiates a communal honoring of motherhood through danced biographies in The Mother Project. She challenges everyone to reconsider the travesty of Hurricane Katrina in a co-created movement dialogue where dance takes the place of words in New Orleans! The words of women who are incarcerated come alive in Lifelines on 57 through movement and audience participation. And of course, an experience with Binahkaye would be incomplete without a danced exploration of the mystical booty in Bootyism. Live music adds a brand new dimension to JOYISM! with Manatho "Shumba" Masani on Mbira, a traditional instrument from Zimbabwe, and Eric Maring on Tabla, a traditional percussion instrument from India. JOYISM! is an opportunity to embrace the dance that belongs to all of us!

Binahkaye Joy, Visionary Space Activator and Artistic Director, is launching JOYISM! this year. JOYISM! is a global movement laboratory where everything living is welcome to come and make dances together. JOYISM! honors the infinite creative powers of all people and facilitates dance experiences for personal and communal healing, artistic experimentation, and the celebration of life.

The JOYISM! show will be at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, 545 7th Street, SE Washington, DC 20003 in Eastern Market on Friday, May 1st. Doors open at 7:30pm and the show begins at 8:00pm. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended. Tickets are $15 and are available online at

For more information about the JOYISM! show and Binahkaye Joy please visit

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Celebrating the 2 Year Anniversary for OSA Dance!

Greetings family, Today, April 18, 2009 is the 2-year anniversary of Open Space Activation Dance. I started the morning dancing at the corner of 9th Street & North Carolina Ave in Eastern Market, SE Washington, DC. It was about 8:15 am and I was hungry for a plot of grass not overtaken with dogs and doglovers.
I found love on a cold, damp spot that was just firm and soft enough for my waking feet. As I danced, developing more movement for "Mary" (my great-grandmother) in The Mother Project I morphed into give thanks. At that very moment, I realized what day it was...It's OSA's 2nd birthday!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Feet for Sale

"HONK!!!" the car went. It might as well have been a brick crashing against my head. That's how it felt. And for the first time ever, I was afraid while doing Open Space Activation Dance. Yucky feeling, but still I kept dancing. The emotional damage was done though, and that night, I cried into a pillow, holding tight to the softest thing around, in place of God's bosom. I pondered last minute flight plans to Hawaii or Trinidad. I thought, escaping the madness of 14th Street might mean leaving the country all together. But then, what of the dance? How will I dance with as many people on the planet as possible if I remove myself from whole nations of lands? And as I shivered and yanked my heart out of my throat, I thought, for the first time, maybe this is not my battle.

You know me, I love people. I love dancing. I love watching other people activate their own dance. So, to even for a breath consider quitting humanity, well DC at least--scares the &%!# out of me! Of course, how could i really quit? I'm alive, I'm breathing, I'm dancing obviously. But still, I had that feeling, and it made me rethink all my grand plans for planting JOYISM! seeds in DC. It was a scary moment of truth that simultaneously resulted in some of the most beautiful photos of me and a storm of tears, raining myself to sleep.

It all started with my imagination, per usual. My latest adventure: a photo shoot where I'm dancing barefoot in the U street area for JOYISM! promotional materials. It had to be that neighborhood; I had to be barefoot. I was even insistent that my photographer capture close-ups of my feet on the pavement--exposed, wild, and daring.

And of course, when I come up with my ideas, it is not because I care how others will receive me. In fact, my core motivation is the excitement of experiencing movement in a new way. The farthest thing from my mind is the anticipation of others' interpretations, least of all hostile energy. And yet, that's just what I got on the corner of 14th & V Streets, NW where we accidently, or perhaps, quite perfectly, started the photo shoot. I was not obstructing trtaffic, I was not a danger to myself or anyone. But with the reactions of some people, you might have thought I was running naked with a machete yelling "castrate Jesus!" (it was Easter weekend). The people regarded me like a madwoman, which is not to say others have not thought I was crazy for dancing in public spaces. But this time, there was a collective agitation with my spontaneous creativity. It unnerved the masses. They wanted me out. And they shouted all manners of things: "Put your clothes on!" the men at the AA building on V Street taunted. "I don't want you to get sick, baby. You might catch pneumonia," a man said intensly concerned for my health. "Somebody call her the a nurse. She's crazy!"

Meanwhile, I'm still dancing. Not ignoring the shouting, but very much aware that this is the moment I asked for. This is the community dance I believe in: Take the dance as it comes, unscripted and unstaged. Just dance with the people, wherever, however they are. And at the same time, I am very much aware that I don't feel safe. What to do?

I look up and see my photographer has stopped taking pictures. I'm motioning to her across the street to see what's wrong and realize her gaze is behind me. I sense that someone has definitely invaded my personal space and turn to greet him. He is posed like a scarecrow behind me and waiting for his picture to be taken. I don't really know what to do. It's amazing, with your shoes off, you feel much weaker. I want him to at least back up, but he doesn't. So I do.
He crouches to the ground doing some contorted squat dance. And I say, "Good Job!" because really I want to say, get away from me, but I'm too nice or too concerned about his feelings. Here he is embracing his movement. Isn't this what I asked for--for the people to dance "with me". Who's fault is it that my dreams came true and terribly frightened me?

There must be balance. Embracing the artistic experiment cannot be at the expense of my own well-being. Hmmmm, I wonder, as omit all the other things that happened in this essay. I'd rather you sit with me and listen, let me vent. I'd rather you just come out there and dance with me. The intensity of the people is too much for any one free-spirit to carry alone...Who's with me?

Monday, April 6, 2009

JOYISM! Show Friday, May 1, 2009

This picture is from my last sharing at the Potter's House in Washington, DC. That's me playing "Mary", my great-grandmother who made her living "scrubbing white people's floors". The piece is called "The Mother Project," and Mary is one of many women in my family I am creating dances for.

Dance with me people! This is the beginning of great things. Pray for me, love me, celebrate the eternal dance with me! On May 1st I will produce my first full show ever. This is an exciting inaugural experience. Beautiful people from all over are offering their time, services, artistry, and money to make this JOYISM! seed a success.

You can be a part of the action and come to the show. Purchase tickets on the right!

peace and more dancing :)
binahkaye JOY
Visionary Space Activator & Artistic Director

Sunday, April 5, 2009

S.E. India

She was maybe two feet tall, and all manners of independent. She spoke with an intensity comparable to preachers, leaders, mothers. She looked me in the eye when she asked me to move my things out of her way, so that she could sit and color. She pointed to the man in the corner who was not dancing, because she insisted I had "forgotten" him. She made me laugh and pay her serious attention all at the same time. I think they say I was kind of like that as a child. She reminded me in a beautiful way why I love dancing with children and why I'm so excited to have my own one day.

India, maybe four, maybe three years old. I didn't get a chane to ask her. She was one of several amazing children who came to bless my class at the family festival day in Southeast, DC yesterday. The festival was sponsored by the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, an organization committed to providing resources to families in Ward 8. Ward 8 is the nation's capital's last frontier. The dumping ground for less desirable things. The only part of the city where there are more carry-outs, liquor stores and churches all on the same block. The is also the place where I spent about 60% of my childhood (when I wasn't at my magnet schools and church across town). Of course, with gentrification and Obama, condos and dog-walkers are on the rise even here, because it is still technically Washington, DC. But S.E. is Southeast.

I was very excited to be asked to do a dance workshop for the children at this rare, but extremely necessary, S.E. community event. I am usually working across town where there's more money, better transportation, and healthier food options. I grew up in S.E. and wish I could do more with youth here, so I jump at opportunities (read: paid gigs) to do so.

The room was sunny and full of space. After a few minutes, three children walked in, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, all talking to me at once. "Can I tell you something about myself?" Edward asked. He dominated the introductions as he informed he intended to become a scientist. Wonderful, I thought, this group is lively!

We created a cicle to warm-up. With energetic little ones, all ranging from 3 to 8 years old, we make noise early. The movement is a lot easier to introduce if you can yell, and giggle and scream through it. We played the animal game next. Edward, the beaver, wanted to teach us about beavers instead of dancing the beaver. Sharon, one of the teachers, invited us to be kangaroos. Chanelle, a 6 year-old very enthusiastic about going to the first grade next year, roared us into lions. George, a quiet boy who informed us he'd been to Jupiter, was a sly tiger that flexed its teeth. I let us swim around and become fish.

We played more games, visited the Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn's rings all while traveling via rocet ships executed with loud, explosive leaps from the floor. We shared our names as movements and did the scoot-race, where you have to move forward on your bottom without using your hands.

This was a fun, successful workshop, and the children danced for 45 minutes before the crayons called out to them. I was pleased; this age group's attention span is usually about 30 minutes! Anyway, I hope you're inspired to dance with some youth, think outside the box and have fun! There's so many children waiting on you to play with them, to remind them that they can dream big and enjoy life.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Youth!

Our biggest miracle. Our opportunity as humanity to become more than we have known our lives to be thus far. The future. This is what I feel when I see a young person. And by young I mean someone who is young enough to not have the freedoms to make completely independent choices. Someone who still depends on mommy or daddy or auntie or sister or grandma or teacher to direct them toward the best options. So when I see a young person, sometimes a child, sometimes an adolescent or older teenager, I see the potential of great things cascading before me. And lucky me, I get to share a dance with him or her, to widen that lens of possibility, that awareness of how and what one might imagine the world to be.

Today I bring a DVD of me dancing OSA for my middle school students. We are four today, confined to a little room with no windows, intrusive desks, and a rough carpet. Today, this is where I am supposed to create the “Dance Playground,” and as I work hard to move past my frustration that the principal of this newly renovated building refuses to allow us to use the brand new dance studio—for the DANCE class--I wonder at the sensation Jesus might have felt having to turn water into wine.

Michael informs me that I have sweat stains under my arm. Adrienne takes her boots off and on, and then off again and then hides under the table. Ana ducks out of the room and down the hall and into the girls’ bathroom for 15 minutes. I play some music so we can stretch, “we” meaning whoever’s attention I have for more than 30 seconds. Michael tells me that I now have two sweat stains and that he has deodorant. They all laugh at me; finally I think, “a united class.”

There are so many intersecting factors contributing to why I've been placed in this very un-ideal location to facilitate dance. I could let my thoughts meander through all the issues plaguing this well-funded, poorly managed after school initiative, but my time is limited with these beautiful students and I always want to them to experience my best "me." Besides, pointing any fingers would delay you, my dear reader, from answering the urgent question of personal responsibility that sparked this essay: What can I do to enhance access for young people to safe spaces in which they can explore their creativity? This is all our responsibility, and overemphasis on "accountability" and "outcomes"--without acknowledging the societal dismissal of holistic youth enrichment programs and the relegation of "the arts" as the neglected step-child of the education system-delays us all from articulating our own responsibility. I could go on, obviously!

My goal has never been numbers. Even though headquarters stressed at the orientation that if we couldn’t show regular attendance our programs might be cut or revamped—I really don’t care. Add to this supposed stipulation that the space I’m in is too small to safely accommodate more than three children, and again I’ll say--in the interest of providing the best experience for my students--I am not preoccupied with expectations from the central office at this point. I am admittedly much more interested in the quality of experience for each child and not how many children I can work with at once. It’s extremely rewarding for me spend an hour with one child, if that’s what the day brings. Especially since most of the young people I’m working with at this school seem to move to their own drum. Those kids not in any clique and not extremely popular and those who don’t get a lot of attention anywhere else. So if my two, maybe three, hours with them a week satiates that very important need for attention that we never outgrow—then I am more than happy to provide it.

Anyway, these three brave youth have come to experience the “Dance Playground” and are not at any fault. They are just children, bored from sitting all day and hungry for lots of sugar candy and a new experience. I am opposed to the candy, but if I want to keep them in the room, I have to make some concessions.

I celebrate every seemingly ordinary movement that my students invent. Adrienne makes the snow with silent, waving arms. Michael falls to his knees swooshing back and forth over the carpet to be the beach’s waves at sunset. Ana opens her arms wide and sings a high-pitched chant to be the sun. I hop with flying arms to be the wind. Together we all dance each other’s favorite element of nature. No, I have not explained the “point” of this exercise. In fact as I was instructing them to think of something for their nature element, I did not even know where I was “going” with this. I knew I needed us to sit in a circle for a minute. I needed everyone to listen to me and to each other in turn. And from this spontaneous stab at order came the dance of snow-beach-sun-wind.

(me doing the movements my students created)

After we build the dance, I record them with my digital camera. Then we watch all the clips together. They love seeing themselves dancing and they hover over my shoulders anticipating the images of their captured creativity. They do not laugh or tease each other, rather they respectfully wait to see each other’s solo clip and smile gleefully. It’s a rare moment of peace and community for children who have been cutting each other with mean words, pulling hair and swinging fists, occasionally.

Finally, I show them the OSA video and ask them what they thought about it. Ana says she liked me dancing in the subway station because all the people were looking at me. She said she’d be too shy to dance outside. Michael says he thinks the ending was bad and that I should have let the tambourine lady from New Orleans have the spotlight. No matter their opinions, it’s important to me that I show them examples of me being courageous with my art, suspending my ego in city streets and grocery stores--yes, even if people think I'm crazy--doing things outside of the box. I want them to know that when you love what you're doing with your life, you don't care about other people's opinions. And as their “teacher,” I want them to SEE me doing everything I’m asking them to do.

When I say goodbye to them, I ask them will they come back next Tuesday. Michael says “sure!” Ana shrugs and rushes to join Michael in the never-ending scavenger hunt for food. I pack up my CDs and put my shoes back on, contemplating all I would do differently if I had my own school and could rewrite the priorities of educational policies. I thought how I would write an amendment to somebody’s constitution called “Standards of Excellence in Dance and Movement Education” or something like that and have it ratified and signed and whatevered by other dance and movement educators.

The first article: “Let There Be SPACE!” And I would have detailed information for how to ensure adequate space for each child, and what is good space and what is not enough space. I would gather support from all parents, teachers, students, administrators and stress the critical movement we all must make. On one hand it really baffles me how ignorant the policy makers are on the importance of space, but then again, these are the same administrators who don't incorporate any movement into their own lives--why would they treat it as a priority for the youth? If you raise a child in a cage, then as she grows up she’ll never dream bigger than that confined space. That’s not something I’m willing to let sit on my consciousness, and so I’m going to make a big noise about the absolute importance of access to large, safe spaces for our youth to explore their creativity-WHO'S WITH ME?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

my new year's dance resolution

you know my goal in life is to dance with as many people on the planet as possible. i am recommitting myself to that this new year. i had fun dancing amidst the tourists passerby and attempting to take pictures of myself at the hirshhorn sculpture garden on the 5th day of kwanzaa, "nia" which means purpose. these clips are a bit of my experience. happy new year! let this be the year you let your dance live!