Welcome to Soul

SOUL is an eco-friendly centre situated in Titirangi in the lush rainforest on the west coast of Auckland.

It is created as an environmentally friendly space to pursue a holistic, artistic, integrated organic lifestyle. Enjoy weekly classes, weekend workshops, monthly programs, teacher training opportunities and lifestyle packages that support and integrate dance, art, creativity and spirituality into everyday life.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


An email interview with Wilhemeena Monroe and Felicity Molloy.


Felicity: Why somatics in the therapeutic/ bodywork/ movement sector? Please can you describe your influences - e.g Unitec, Butoh, Skinner Releasing, East West, Body Weather etc.

Wilhemeena: It is my understanding that somatics is “of the body” the body as experienced, the phenomenological body, subjective body or what Edward Maupin calls it the “body epiphany”, an initial discovery of the body/mind unity, a discovery which matures into a more sustained state of “embodiment”

In this way the question of why somatics in these industries seems absurd. Without the experience of the body in these industries we have no legs to stand on.

We are merely looking at the body as an aesthetic and not an experience. Like comparing a photograph of a dancer or a painting, with the living, breathing organism which is multi-dimensional and has a life force, an energy and an emotional body and a creative body as well as blood, bones and flesh that are constantly moving, constantly changing. This is somatics – the living breathing self.

So you can look at a body as a therapist and just see mechanics and work on that level, and the same with dance – you can see the mechanics of the body in that lift, the beauty perhaps of that pirouette from a mechanical perspective.

Then you can look at it from a somatics perspective – the breath, the energy, the magic of the dance, the healing moment that changes your perception. As well as the experience of the dancer, the experience of the audience, where they can feel the dance moving in them.  The experience of the client – what they can feel, and the experience of the practitioner – what they feel is important, from a somatics perspective.

For me my “experience” of being a dancer and a therapist has always had this approach. Perhaps I am not naturally a methodical person. I have always had a penchant for the magic of the dance, the magic of the moment – and I found this in somatics.

Over the years I have studied a vast array of somatic modalities, among them Skinner Releasing Technique, Shin Somatics, Chi Kung, Yoga, and Butoh, each with a unique perspective – Skinner Releasing, Shin Somatics and Chi Kung for me are pure somatics modalities because they are philosophically about the “felt” sense. Yoga and Butoh, like anything else “can” be practiced in a somatic way – but can also be practiced purely mechanically, or with an aesthetic in mind.

In Skinner Releasing for example – you move from your felt sense. That is the key to the work. This way you can find new pathways of moving that aesthetically are not what you would choose, but come from a creative source that is deeper than aesthetic.

It could be said that somatics maybe a longing for individual authenticity, because it has become more and more clear to me that our bodies are a key to a more authentic reality. Authenticity is a function of embodiment.

Felicity: Why somatics in NZ tertiary dance – what has the study brought to tertiary dance? can include other avenues where your somatic practices have surfaced - e.g drama/ bodywork?

Wilhemeena: In my mind somatics is essential in the training of dancers, as it cultivates creative impulse and a freedom and variety of movement. There is nothing sadder to watch than a beautiful dancer who can kick their leg high but lacks an essential spark – once they have done one or two high kicks, I am bored. However, a dancer with a somatics based training may be able to be engaged in the most inane task on stage and for some reason draws you into their world – how do they do this? Somatics! It is through their felt experience.

It is essential in dance training to cultivate this felt experience in our dancers. As a choreographer I want to work with dancers who know and can experience themselves as moving, as opposed to a dancer who is good at picking up movement taught to them. I want them to be able to think and move for themselves.

Felicity: What has this got to do with yoga and Pilates? – or Alexander and Feldenkrais? If you think of significant differences between the modalities that make them more or less "somatic" can you add..

Wilhemeena: Yoga and Pilates fall into the same camp for me. They can be approached through a somatics lens and practiced somatically. However there are plenty of people with a strong yoga practice who have never actually explored how an asana feels to them – they are simply putting their body in a position. It is aesthetically based.

Alexander and particularly Feldenkrais where onto something by slowing down the movement and asking the clients to become more aware of their movement pathways – this is a beautiful introduction into working in a somatic way – it is about awareness of self and I would say it is awareness of the moving self or the self moving.

Of Ida Rolfs work “Rolfing”, “If one tries to apply “the line” in Rolfing as an external standard, it is indeed an imposition, a coercion. But if one looks for the line internally, kinesthetically, then it is a powerful concept, leading to an inherently recognizable reality.”

Felicity: Who has been integral to the practices developing in NZ?

Wilhemeena: My first experience of somatics was a class with Raewyn Thorburn – Skinner Releasing Technique at the then Auckland Performing Arts School in Hargreaves street – this was an innovative dance school run by Ali East. This is where I discovered dance – in a whole new way, a way that fostered creativity and uniqueness and the whole person moving through space. It was a haven. I studied SRT with Raewyn, Contact Improvisation with Catherine Chappell and contemporary dance with whoever was the hottest teacher at the time.

As I became ready for full-time dance training, the Performing Arts School was bought out by UNITEC and the school was shifted there, the teachers remained the same and Ali East and her contemporaries created an innovative program which stood up to the then global phenomenon of “new” dance development – a much more somatic approach to training dancers. Among the tutors there was Felicity Molloy who was my first “somatics” teacher, she has and still does hold a leading presence in the somatics industry in NZ as a dancer, educator and therapist.

She paved the way for me to think about dance therapeutics and the marriage of dance and therapy as a valid career option – although there was nothing of that kind here at that time.

Charles Koroneho, although he may not think of himself as a somatic teacher, developed a strong sense of holistic creative process and introduced me to butoh, which become another main practice for me, which I developed through a somatics lens later in my creative process.

As I finished UNITEC, I segued into teaching SRT and choreography there until they slowly began filtering somatic practices out of the program.

Of those golden years of new dance, there are still some dancers who have held the flag for somatic practice here in NZ, among them Val Smith – who has kept Contact Improvisation alive, Brent Harris, Sarah Campas, Felicity Molloy and myself but there still wasn’t really anywhere to fully immerse yourself in it.

As a lifestyle I wanted to “Live” somatics and so with no where to go – I decided to create somewhere. A hub for somatics practice here on the outskirts of Auckland.

Since conception 8 years ago, SOUL – Centre of the Body and Mind has been creating and hosting workshops and classes with some of the worlds great somatics practitioners and dancers, including Al Wunder,(AUST)  Stephanie Skura(USA), Nate Dryden(USA), Ged Sumner (UK)  - to name a few and also fostered and hosted Sondra Fraleigh of Shin Somatics to come to NZ for the last 4 years to teach her butoh inspired somatics work here. This provided a host of NZ dancers and practitioners being trained in Shin Somatics methodology. And resulted last year in the first international somatics symposium in NZ in Dunedin, hosted by Ali East, and Otago University. Sublime.

SOUL now runs an annual somatics summer school where you can taste test a host of somatics dance and wellness practices, including Contact Improvisation, Skinner Releasing (Release Me), Butoh, Authentic Movement, Halprin Life/Art process, Embodied Massage, among others. It is glorious!!!!

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Notes on Becoming Whole

When we are concerned about being dancers, we are really concerned about being human. About being whole, how to dance with our whole selves.

We have all had the experience of witnessing an amazing technician whose skill is highly developed but whose performance just doesn’t pull our souls. Then there are dancers who are not really doing anything at all, but whose movements seem to come from our own souls – they draw us into their world as if it were our own.

What is at play? They are connected. They are dancing with their whole being, they are whole enough to be empty, empty enough to let the universal spirit of grace move them in a dance that moves us all.

What is it to be a whole human being? What is it to be a human being in alignment?

Joan Skinner talks about natural primal grace that everyone is born with ­– this is the tri brain process. Where our primal animal nature is working in alignment with the cortex – which controls our body movements and functions and our limbic brain, which connects us to grace.

It is a mystical process as well as a logical, anatomical alignment that happen s in the structures, fluids and spaces that form the being that is us.

“Us” as our individual selves and as a community.

Akira Kasai suggests that we can’t grow apart from our community body. And I believe this to be true. We are collectively moving towards wholeness or destruction in every moment, it depends where our focus is, in the same way that our individual selves are with the very choices we make on a daily basis.

As we transform ourselves, the collective is also transformed – we do the work for each other – as we move towards wholeness we bring our collective towards a more whole being. This includes our human community as well as the community of the earth.

So what stands in the way of us living in this “wholeness”, living our fullness?

Our unconscious belief systems – that iceberg that looms underwater, a large and ominous unkown that lurks under the surface of our selves threatening to sink the Titanic.

The Titanic is our ego self, what we show to the world. It also has its upper and lower decks. But what can sink this beautiful vessel is not the sometimes unruly lower deck inhabitants, or the upper deck decadence – but the unseen iceberg out there in the dark sea of our limbic systems. Our unconscious.

Imagery and movement, I have found, is one of the most profound ways to assess and transform this icy unknown. Skinner’s work, as well as some forms of butoh and movement theatre including Al Wunder’s Theatre of the Ordinary can, through surpassing our “control centre” re-configure subconscious patterning through allowing the body kinesthesia to experience a new way of “being” or “experiencing” the world, re-patterning our soma and re-integrating the nervous system and muscular system in the new configuration. Loosing tension in our musculature, our thoughts and our “being”. Tension that have sometimes been there for a lifetime of experiencing. We are in that moment transformed.

This transformation requires preparation.
Who makes the choice who heals and who doesn’t? this is the mystical question, but in the long-term we do need to be willing.

Willing to trust, willing to dive into that icy sea, wiling to be in the dark, cold stillness of the deep sea and to wait…

“Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought…….and the darkness shall be the light and the stillness the dancing” (T.S Elliot)

What is willingness? Willingness is giving permission, saying yes to something outside yourself, perhaps the rhythms and fluctuations of the universal dance, the deep sea tidal flow, and allow your being to soften enough to allow grace to slip in between our cells and occupy our deep spaces.

And what are we waiting for? Not for some cosmic explosion of cells – although this does happen. But most often it is something soft, something childlike, like the flutter of a butterflys eyelid, the foot fall of a wolves paw as it pads out from the shadows.

This is surrender. It is surrender to the nothing without the nothing having to “be” something.

It is cold here, and the moon is dark, the rocks whisper to each other in secret sign language. You are alone and the stillness begins to ….move….

Wilhemeena Isabella Monroe, Melbourne Workshop 2012

Monday, 23 July 2012

A day at Soul

As a participant at the workstudy-program at Soul I get an experience of working at the centre in exchange for attending any Yoga and ChiKung-classes throughout the week. Today I get to do some admin work, arrange new flowers, tidy up the office, while Willa sees clients in the clinic, and later prepares for the evening Yoga class. What a peaceful environment to work and move in, what a privilege to be part of a community, created with an intention to offer a space for people to relax, release, nourish, be and learn more about the body, mind, spirit connection, in the midst of the frantic world we live in. 

with love and gratitude

Monday, 11 June 2012

Every Day Lie Resting

Every day
lie resting

what is needed
to be more comfortable

let go of the past and future

open the room of yourself
to the day of this breath

open the skin to the air
to the light

let the undersurfaces of the body
open    into   shadows

let the whole body fill
and open to the breath

stretch     roll    yawn     dream

let     the     thoughts     dissolve      and     spread     themselves

each day find a new question

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Soul is alive

Hello Soul family,

This is our first blog. We invite you to send in your ideas, experiences, wishes, love, anything you feel like to add to the family blog site.

Tell us about your experiences of Soul, or of your day. Maybe something happened today you might like to share with us.

We are always open

Love Soul Centre