Ponderosa! A week dancing in Gut-Stolzenhagen

Where do I even begin! This past week has been an amazing, challenging, fun, wonderful, exhausting experience. The idea of actually writing about it all is kind of overwhelming- but I’m going to do my best.

My anxiety about actually getting to Ponderosa turned out to be kind of unfounded. I found my train easily and the calling taxi (Ruf-bus) was right there waiting for me when I arrived. He didn’t speak English, but we worked it out.


The days were structured like this:

-Wake up
-Breakfast (all of the meals were cooked for you so you just had to show up- basically my dream)
-Option to take one of the morning classes offered (Kundalini yoga, technique class, dance aerobics)
-Big break in the afternoon- most of this time I spent bicycling around the countryside to this pond with a diving board for swimming, or swimming in the canal
-Afternoon workshops from 4-8 PM
-Evening performances, activities, hanging out
-Sleep if you are lucky!

Zoey (from Bellingham!)

Krisztina (from Hungary)





Vic (from Toronto)

Maya (from Israel)



I ended up taking a couple of technique classes (from Jen Polins and Kathleen Hermesdorf) and a Kundalini yoga class.

The workshop I took (Thank Goodness for Our Bodies) was based in BMC, or Body Mind Centering techniques. I’ve been sitting here trying to explain what went on and am coming up at a bit of a loss. From the outside, I imagine the practice looking like a big pile of crazy people lying on top of each other and making animal noises. Or a bunch of hippies who must be on drugs lying on the floor in a haze of confusion. Or some sort of slow motion, non-sexual orgy. I’m not sure, but the outside viewpoint doesn’t really matter.

“You don’t move me, I move me.”

I went into the workshop looking for a way to integrate body injuries and trauma in a more functional way- coming from both a dance perspective and a massage/bodywork perspective. I guess I was looking to have a more singular experience with myself and my injuries. What I came away with was something much more emotional and social, and it was entirely created by the people who were there and the relationships that were formed.

I’m realizing that social connections and bonds- intimacy- has become harder for me in recent years. I’ve put up a lot of defense mechanisms to avoid pain and trauma, and to avoid the general exhaustion that being around people causes me most of the time. This creates an exhaustive push/pull dance of desperately wanting connection and then running away when the connection feels too overwhelming, or disappoints me in some way (as will inevitably happen).

There’s something interesting about the way engaging in a physical practice with others- dancing, bodywork, creating- meets some very basic primal needs for touch and connection. It’s like the moment there is physical contact, a big sigh of relief happens and there is a measurable physiological change. Why is this not just a regular part of life, daily ritual, therapy? If everyone just got smushed in the fetal position for 10 minutes by 5 of their closest friends every day, I think we would all be much happier.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve just bumped up against the edge of this technique, and I hope to study more later. For now, I was happy to spend 4 hours every day with some amazing people- talking about childhood development, organs, connective tissue- and how these things can be addressed through these different techniques.

I think the second day of the workshop, it was decided that it was important to have an elaborate break with sweet treats, coffee, and tea- I took some photos of our break on Wednesday.


Toma, Maya

Eliza, Aga, Benjamin

Maya, Joel





Maya, Benjamin, Aurore

Before our class on Thursday, some of us ended up making a short dance film on the bridge over the canal. Afterwards, we all jumped into the canal to go swimming. I can’t tell you how liberating the German/European morays around nudity are- in fact, it was sort of an all over relaxation about everything. You forget your towel after your shower- whatever. You leave your phone somewhere, and you will be able to retrieve it later. You are out on the countryside, so locking up valuables is sort of a moot point. You have your space, and people are constantly in it, but respect it. After nearly 2 months of traveling and spending so much of that time being on guard about things- locking things into lockers, having my life folded neatly into 2 bags I can carry, looking over my shoulder on the street by myself, trying to not be that naive tourist idiot- it was so nice to just sink into a place that was absolutely safe and comfortable.





Hunger strike causes.





Thursday night performances. This was a sort of fair environment where you got to go to different “stations” and have different experiences. In some you made wishes, in others- like the pleasure disco- two masked people hummed and sang songs while drumming on your back. There was even a “tick check” station where people made sure you didn’t have any ticks on your body.


Kristianne (from San Diego!)






Friday morning, I got up early to take some photos and go on a bike ride with Toma (from Germany).





The last evening.

Mona, Aurore





The last night we had a marathon performance from around 9 PM till around 3 AM. We were scheduled to perform dead last. I took a few photos in the beginning of the evening, and then forgot about the camera and sank into the experience. Around midnight I passed out in a corner of the studio, but woke up again in time to perform at the end. Afterwards, we celebrated with Tiramisu and a party in the kitchen area below the dorms. Luckily, I was so tired I was able to pass out anyway despite the noise.



And the last day. I decided to take a photo of my bed as I was leaving it.


Goodbye dorm living.


Goodbye friends!




My traveling companions back to Berlin!


There’s so much more I could say, especially about the lovely people I met. I could write essays about each one of them. I fear that if I did that though, I’d never finish this post. Luckily, there’s facebook to stalk (connect) with people, so hopefully I will not lose touch.

Now I’m back in Berlin for a few days, decompressing and preparing for the last month of my journey.