24 Jul Stories of Starting #1: Montreal Artist becomes Groove Provider
Welcome to my new podcast series Stories of Starting. I am fascinated with people’s passions and creative projects. In this series we discover how people like yourself have started new projects by thinking outside the box, going with the flow and tapping into their childhood imagination.
My first guest is Montreal artist Natasha Henderson.
Heather: So hey guys, it’s Heather Boyd here. I am here with Natasha Henderson. Natasha is my first Guinea pig for this series of Stories of Starting that I’m posting on my blog. These are stories about people that have started interesting projects or adventures, and how they got started. So, Natasha, please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Natasha: I’m Natasha. I know Heather from the world of visual art. We’re both visual artists, as well as everything else that we do. What I’m going to be talking to you today is about another creative expression: dance. I am not really a professional dancer per se, but I’ve found something that is a great, great way to move and creatively express oneself.
Heather: Absolutely. I wanted to mention that, yes, we’re both visual artists and I know Natasha because she used to run the Fleurbain gallery in downtown Montreal. Natasha, you’re still an active artist. So let’s start by telling us a little bit about your work.
Natasha: My work is painting, for the most part. I also do some textile work. I’ve made puppets. I work in the embroidery industry as well. But my main artistic milieu is painting. I usually do oil on canvas, abstract-ish, expressive paintings of cats, of birds, and abstracted landscapes for the most part.
Heather: Perfect. And actually I’m going to segue into a question that I had later in my notes, but because we’re talking about painting. I know a lot of your themes in your painting revolve around music… especially at the time that I knew you at the Fleurbain gallery, you were doing a lot of paintings inspired by music. So maybe as a kind of a segue into the dance, you could tell us a little bit about your background with your interest in music.
Natasha: My interest in music is not especially developed as some might be, but I like music. I love some music. I played music non-professionally. Actually not professional at all, but it’s fun. And so it’s an enjoyable thing to connect with what you hear, with changing your mood, with moving your body sometimes. Again with painting, it can be related in that you have fluidity, you have repetition and rhythm. You have colours that harmonize or are discordant. You have different moods, you have different things that you capture. So it’s another art form, and it’s equally wonderful. It’s (music is) not my forte. It’s not what I do, but I appreciate it.
Heather: It’s true and actually that’s something I hadn’t even thought about… is the relation between the actual act of painting and music and dance. That’s something that must have had a lot of influence on you in getting involved with Groove because it’s such a free flow type of style of dance.
Natasha: And like with painting or other art forms, in Groove and painting there’s this set of rules, but they’re flexible rules. They’re suggestions, they’re things that help. Like technical things that if you use oil paint in a certain way, you’ll have an effect that you want. If you learn through practice how to do something you can then become more creative with it.
Heather: It’s true when you have the basic tools and techniques, you can start with that, have a solid base and then go off from there.
Natasha: But again, like with dance, with group dance or with any creative genres, you can be a beginner “quote unquote” Everyone should do it. Everyone should be allowed and feel able to move, and should be allowed and able to create things.
Heather: It’s true. You don’t, there’s not so many fixed technical rules with it. You give people a few basic ideas, then they go from there.
Natasha: Just like some art therapy. It’s very therapeutic.
Heather: So tell us, because this is all about Start by Starting, why don’t you tell us about how you discovered Groove at what it is.
Natasha: My experience… this is my unique experience and some people might have similar experiences. I was introduced to this dance by a friend who took a class with another acquaintance of hers and loved it. So she invited me to come. She described it as a free form, easy dance class, which is kind of a way you could describe it, although there is a little bit more form to it than that. Actually there is a lot solid foundation of education in the simplicity of the dance. You’re given these simple moves, and you can express yourself with it. So I just fell in love with it. It was something I could do. I needed to move at that time of my life (I still do!) but I was not moving enough. I quickly developed some health benefits. So through doing that once a week, I sought out another class, and so I was going twice a week. And then for a while I was going three times a week… and then I got a gym membership, and started doing other things as well. And all through this I probably, I do, have some health issues, like everyone… mobility, arthritis, stuff like that. But this has helped it and I’m not afraid to dance. So it’s also been fun. It’s good to have fun.
Heather: It’s so fun because I do a lot of classes, different kinds of exercise classes like yoga. One class I really love is Essentrics, which is kind of similar in the way that it’s dance. It was evolved from ballet dance. But what I love about Groove is you don’t see the hour go by. It just flies. The class ends it’s like, “whoa, where did that go.”
Natasha: And you’re like “I’m red and sweating now! And I feel like a million bucks!”
Heather: But it doesn’t feel like exercise because you’re having so much fun.
Natasha: And especially when you have a facilitator of Groove that really facilitates it. It’s not a follow-the-leader class, which I think is important too. For me, my history of teaching has been teaching creative things like art. So it’s not dancing and being “perfect” and doing a certain thing, but encouraging people to find their creativity and do it themselves. So that’s a lot of what this is. So it really appealed to me personally in a lot of ways as a teacher of it. Not so much a “teacher”, but hopefully a facilitator and working towards that.
Heather: It’s interesting the parallels with the art, which is something I didn’t even think about going into the interview, which is really cool.
Natasha: It’s a very creative form of art, dance, dance & music.
Heather: Can you tell us just a little bit about how Groove dance started?
Natasha: The creator of it is a woman named Misty Tripoli. She is from the United States originally. And she has a long history of being a professional dancer and fitness instructor. Her story is that she developed eating disorders and became essentially… she described herself as depressed. Through this “You’re never perfect enough” sort of attitude. This sort of perfection, perfection, perfection, go, go, go. So she had kind of an epiphany one day and she realized this (dance) shouldn’t be like this. It should be fun. So then she came up with something that she called the Groove Truths. (I’m sort of internalizing and expressing this in my own way…) You shouldn’t look like other people. You are in charge of yourself. You can do this. And through practice, you’re going to get better. Oh yes, and It doesn’t matter what you look like and if anyone does care, that’s their problem. So those are her principles she came up with through a lightning bolt boom sort of thing. And she developed this form of dance and just had fun with it, and it’s grown into this massive empire of dance. The idea is that you’re united in your movement on the dance floor, but unique.
Natasha:It’s kind of a nice concept as well.
Heather: It’s certainly an interesting class. The idea of being united but unique because a lot of it is free form and you’re dancing around the room. You think you’re going to bump into people all the time, but somehow you manage not to, which is amazing.
Natasha: And you respect each other. You respect each other’s space. And we’re all different sizes and we move differently and we go different speeds and everything. And even if you do bump it’s still fun.
Heather: It’s very intuitive. Sometimes you think, what am I going to do next? But then you just stop thinking about that at one point because it just comes naturally.
Natasha: And that’s also where the Provider (in my case, but hopefully Facilitator some day,) helps to gently guide the class by dancing through it, and suggesting movements and cuing “one, two, one, two, three”. Little things like that that get people back on track. And it’s also like you don’t want to fall off the track because then you might lose something there.
Heather: Often the projects we take on and the things that we really thrive at are possibly inspired by things from our youth. Can you think of anything from your childhood that would have inspired your interest in Groove?
Natasha: Dance in general. I was enrolled in dance classes when I was young. At the age of four or five I was in tap dance. That went into jazz dance when I was eight years old. I stopped tap dance when my feet reached a certain size because I was 10… no, 11 years old, and I would’ve been forced to take on high heel shoes to continue, or to wear men’s shoes. And I didn’t want to be so embarrassed, and there was no way I was going to walk or dance in high heel shoes at that age. So, I quit. I liked dance. It was fun. I did have to try to conform to what was being taught and it did teach me things. But I was the chunky kid and I was self-conscious. At that delicate age, it was not as fun as it should have been. So then I fell away from that… and then I found that negatively dance became like a sexual thing, in the clubs or whatever, and I felt self-conscious in there. So it was never fun until I got a bit older, and I started doing African dance at the Y.
Heather: Oh, very fun.
Natasha: And a lot of Groovers will dance barefoot. So for me that’s very comfortable. Today I danced with my shoes, but half the time I’ll dance without. I really liked dancing barefoot. So that also got me to “get down” and realize that if you can’t (dance), if you have arthritis or you have reasons you can’t get up and jump and do high energy things, you can get down and your heart-rate will rise. So there’s different kinds of movement. So that’s part of my history. A little bit of history there that’s not happy, but a little bit of very happy history. I guess also just being an artist and an artsy person, I’m open to stuff that’s creative.
Heather: I just, I just love it. I think it’s really a great discovery.
Heather: Natasha, tell us where people can find you and what classes you have going on for the next little while.
Natasha: You can find me at: on Facebook I am “Groove Dance With Natasha” or you can look me up: Natasha Henderson. I’m also at the Marcel Giroux Community Centre in Verdun, two blocks from the Verdun metro, tons of street parking Monday nights 7PM til 8PM until the end of August. In September I’m not booked, but I will either continue in that centre or close-by. I’ll research something and find possibly another time during the week, but definitely will continue the class into the fall.
Heather: That’s awesome. And where can we find your Art?
Natasha: Again on Facebook you can find me at “Natasha Henderson Art”. My website is NatashaHenderson.com. I’m also on Instagram.
Heather: Thank you so much this has been awesome. I’m really so happy to be coming to all your classes and I hope to make almost every single one this summer.
Natasha: You’re a Groove Star!