Archive for the ‘Movement from Within’ Category

on finding strength. 

Strength can be elusive. There are days we have it in spades…

…and other days where it just won’t come out from hiding

Where does strength come from?

Is it like a well, coming from somewhere deep within? Do we have to dig deep, to gather it?

And then are there times, when that well becomes elusive to get to, with its energy getting stuck in our bodies?

This is often what I’ll see a lot, in dancers. In movers, and in most of our bodies, actually. Strength/energy will often get stuck somewhere. This was the case of Edrian, whom I photographed the last time I was in San Diego.

When I was watching Edrian dance, I would notice how much he protected his neck & chest area. It felt like the energy was stuck. I’m not always sure how I describe what I see when I watch people dance, especially in front of the camera for this project, but the best way to say it is that I watch for flow of energy. I watch deeply and intensely. I see where energy moves in people, and notice where they derive their strength from, and where, in their body, they aren’t giving attention to.

And for Edrian, it was in his neck.

As the person observing, it’s an interesting thing to see & be aware of.

So we do something with that information, and we work through it.

I got the intense feeling that he needed to let whatever stuck energy out, so I told him to do it. Move the energy with his hands, his movement, and most importantly, his voice.

I will say though, that letting that stuck energy clear out is fucking scary. Especially at first. There is a moment of vulnerability, because you lost the wall you built up inside yourself. But what comes next is the best if you keep going, you keep clearing, and you keep accepting what is already there and is coming through.

That thing that comes next?

It’s strength.

It’s your core, it’s your well, it’s your being.

It’s so, so easy to rely on that wall of stuck energy, to keep hiding behind it, to keep adding to it. In a way, it’s a false sense of security, because if you build it high enough, you can reach the top right?

The problem with building off that, is that you’re building and hiding the one element that would truly give it power.

And that’s your true, honest self.

By the way, did you see what I did all the way up there? I said “fucking.” Let’s talk about that word for a minute. I will say, that was probably the first time I ever dropped that word on this blog. Not because I don’t cuss, in fact, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely let my hair down more. Growing up in a very conservative family & church, cussing was just something that I never did. I think because of that, I came off very prim to people or something, because people would constantly apologize for cussing around me! Even though I didn’t do it back then, it didn’t mean I judged others for doing it, so I always found that interesting.

I bring all that up now though, because I realize now that in order for me to be truly authentic in that moment up there, I needed to drop that word. It just fit. Of course, I had the paralyzing moment of “oh no, what if I alienate some people?” But the truth is, I can’t censor who I actually am, in order to please everyone. Sure there are times when courtesy in language comes into play, but writing a somewhat personal blog post is not one of them. Especially in this topic, which is all about being yourself, being honest, and being authentic. Not hiding behind a wall that you built for yourself.

And so after Edrian worked through it (or yelled through it, rather), a new side emerged through. He let go, and just felt his movement, without fear, without all the buildup he had before.

In essence, he rediscovered that well of strength, which had buildup over it previously.

And let the person underneath shine!

Edrian, I admire your courage to trust and dig deep during this session. You’re an inspiration, and beam of joy. Keep that well uncovered, and source from it daily. xo


Movement from Within Sessions are shoots where we explore movers (not necessarily just dancers), and how movement impacts their life. It’s a nonjudgmental way to explore energy, dance, and movement in music. In this, movers always come away with something new, something fresh, and something authentic to them they can hang on to.

Interested? Drop me a line!

Past sessions: alyssa juniouselizabeth amati | kristine domingo | shannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper


on changes in life.

Many of my Movement from Within sessions center around the same thing — following our dreams, owning our stories, and changes in life. These themes are all really important, but the one constant, of course, is change.

Change can be a pretty scary thing. Change can also be a really sad thing. But change is also an incredibly beautiful thing.

When I photographed Alyssa two years ago, we were both very different people than we are now. I originally met Alyssa when she was subbing for a dance class I was taking at the time. I immediately noticed in her a passion and love for movement and dance, and I knew she would be perfect for the project. I immediately asked her if she’d like to do a photo shoot with me, and she said yes.

At the time, I was doing these sessions in full force. I had a few lined up, and I had been doing them for about two years then. It was wonderful for me, to explore, discover, and find ways to tell these dancer’s stories, as well as work with them to become the dancer they want to be. If anything not just help them become the dancer they want to be, but maybe even the person they want to be, through one of the things they love the most — which is movement.

Of course, that’s why I called these sessions Movement from Within. Honest movement, I think, comes from the soul, and when you have to look into your soul, often times a lot more will reveal itself.

After photographing Alyssa, I photographed a few more dancers, and then I decided to take a hiatus. It wasn’t a planned hiatus, but I think I had a feeling that I needed to take a step back, and revisit the project again later.

Two years pass and one day, I remember thinking to myself: I think I’m ready to work on this project again.

One thing that I do with the project, is send a letter to the dancer with my thoughts and observations to them. I never did get a chance to share Alyssa’s images with her until now, so I wasn’t sure exactly how to write what I wanted to write. It had been so long, and we were no longer the same people. My observations of her then, may no longer be relevant to her now. But I decided to send a letter with my thoughts from the shoot, and I hoped that she would still be able to glean something from what I had said.

After sending her the letter, she wrote back the next day, detailing to me all the things that had happened in her life since that session, as well as what the session meant to her. If anything, it seemed like the session put forth a catalyst for her and changed her life.

After reading that email, I found myself happy for her, honored that it meant as much as it did to her, and in awe of how much we do change as people. Even myself. I think of who I was then, and who I am now, and I am in awe of the fact of how much I myself have grown as a person.

In fact that is something I tell myself often. I am no longer the same person that I was before. Even yesterday. Even 5 minutes ago! We are always changing, growing, evolving. And that change can come from external forces, but at the same time, it’s how we deal with the change internally that matters. Are we going to resist and complain about our hand in life? Or are we going to make the best of it, and move forward to the life we want?

I think we all want the latter.

Change, I think, is an incredible thing. I know there are a lot of people out there who fear change because with change, we don’t know what to expect. At least when things stay the same, we know how to handle it! Even if it’s not a life that we want. But I think when we embrace the idea of change, and the idea of being uncomfortable with what could happen in the future, growth appears, and beautiful things can blossom.


I am so glad to be sharing these sessions again. I think the wonderful thing about hiatuses and taking a break from a project or something you are working on is the renewed perspective you may have on it, because you were able to step away and come back with fresh eyes. Especially since during that hiatus, I have been able to take more dance classes, train, as well as perform in a dance company for a short while, giving me a new perspective on movement, as well as the project itself. When I looked at these images again after a long break from them, I realized how much I loved photographing dancers this way, and I needed to come back to that and put it out in the world again.

If you’re interested in doing a session, please feel free to email me.

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past dancers: elizabeth amatikristine domingo | shannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper


on making movement (& your life) your own.

We all live in shadows.

Of other people,

of expectations from others

– as well as ourselves.

As we get older these shadows become less prominent, because we begin to understand ourselves, and allow ourselves to shine just a little bit brighter.

I think understanding ourselves is one of those hard journeys that will pretty much take our entire lifetime. Really, I don’t think there is a person out there who can say “Yep, I have myself all figured out, there’s no need for soul searching here.” Some may be far closer than others, but I really don’t think anyone has it (or themselves) all figured out every single moment. And if someone claims that they do, I have a natural tendancy to believe that they simply don’t want to dig deep. Cause there’s probably more under that surface.

And I understand that tendency – I mean, it’s scary in there.

Who knows what one may find?? Deep hidden fears? Expectations? Doubts?


We usually start this journey as a teenager. Trying to learn independence while still technically under our parent’s wing, we start to express ourselves in various ways. We rebel. We challenge. We start fighting for things because we need to learn how to stand on our own two feet. This is vital to the growth of a person because this is when we start to hear our own voice.

Of course, this time in a parent’s life is hell. But they probably put their own parents through the same thing once upon a time. ;)

This voice that we begin to hear is usually extremely faint when we’re a teenager.  After growing up and being told what to do, it’s disconcerting to hear another voice deep down within. Especially if that voice is saying something very different than what others are saying.

When we did this session, Elizabeth was towards the end of her senior year in high school. She was on the cusp of a new chapter of her life.

Like anyone at that time in their lives, we look to the future as well as where we are now. Who we were is soon to be gone, as this is the point we gain independence and the power to start following our own paths. The key in following the right path, is following your own path.

Even as adults who have been out of high school for a long time, following our own paths is still a hard thing to do. Going down a well worn path by others is a far easier thing. We know what to expect, we have already seen the results. But the problem with following a path someone else has already done or dictated for you is that you own none of it.

Elizabeth is certainly someone who has grown up with dance all her life. The thing about dance — especially at a young age — is that it’s not always about self-expression. It’s about technique. It’s about looking good. It’s about doing what’s right and proper. Each move you make? It’s not necessarily your own. It’s being critiqued by your instructors, compared by your peers, and constantly being scrutinized – especially by you. The way to get out of this cycle? Is to take charge of your movement. And to take charge is to fuse yourself into every single move. Own it. Own what you love. Own what comes naturally to you. Because then only do you have power.

For Elizabeth, that seemed to be when we combined dance along with singing. Elizabeth expressed to me that she loves to sing, and has a voice identical to Taylor Swift’s (she really does). But she seemed a bit shy about it, like she wasn’t quite ready to announce that to people. After all, most people knew her as a dancer (or at least, that is how I knew of her), so to go in another direction may have felt a bit rebellious and wrong.

But at the same time, like I was saying, to own our movement, to own our lives, we must own up to the things we truly love, and not the things that other people have predetermined for us. Or — even what we have predetermined for ourselves because we think that’s what we should be doing.

I know not everyone feels this way, but I am a person who fully believes in living a life that aligns with our own heart — even if it completely goes against convention, even if others may disagree with it. As long as we are not harming others, as long as we fully understand the choices we are making, we should not be afraid to live the life that we truly want for ourselves. To me, any other life would be a life half-lived.

When we walked away from the session, Elizabeth made the comment that dance felt more like hers again. Dance should always be hers. Her life should always be hers. No one else should dictate it, ever. When you’re a teenager, or even in college, it may be harder to call your own shots because you are still under your parents rule. But that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t carve out as much of themselves in each part of their lives as possible. It could start with something as simple as owning up to what you love in life — be it dance, be it singing or be it anything else.

We weren’t put on their earth to be robots, to follow others paths, or even follow paths that others have laid out for us. Especially if those paths aren’t aligned with things that we love. Because if we don’t love these things, then why are we doing them?

This is your life —- make your own path — & own it.

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past dancers: kristine domingoshannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

on what life gives you, & what you make of it.

Life isn’t always fair, and this is something I think we all know and have heard time and time again over our lives. We  have dreams, aspirations, and plans, and then life throws you a curve ball.

But it’s what you do with that curve ball that matters.

Kristine is someone I’ve known for a few years now, meeting her before I started this project. Earlier this year, she sent me one of the most touching emails I have ever gotten regarding herself, and being a dancer.

She expressed to me that she wanted to be a part of this dance project and proceeded to tell me her story & why.

Her whole life, she grew up dancing. It was in her soul, it was ingrained in her. It was her world. She danced in companies, performed, & taught others. She had aspirations of being a dance instructor and choreographer. She had dreams.

But in her early twenties, she began experiencing physical problems. After collapsing in a rehearsal, ER visits and doctor’s offices, she found that she had exercise induced anaphylaxis, which is basically an allergy to physical activity. For someone who’s life revolved around physical activity, that is devastating news.

So she changed her major and proceeded to move on in her life. She found the love of her life, got married, and started a beautiful family. So many wonderful things, but there is still that part of herself. That dancer’s soul. That she couldn’t access fully anymore. On top of that, one thing she told me was that she could see that her daughter was starting to dance, and she wanted to be able to share this part of herself if her daughter decided to pursue a life of dance. And what better way than to capture it in photographs.

Something I don’t necessarily touch on very much in these blog posts is the process I go through with these dancers before, during and after these sessions. I know when I talk about this project to people, specifically dancers, they think “Oh yes! I would love to get photos of me! And headshots!” or they think “Oh, I’ve done lots of photoshoots! I totally know what to expect!” There’s nothing wrong with thinking that —- but to say it boldly, these sessions are nothing like that. Nothing like a normal dance photo session at all. Even though they may even see the photos, and realize that they are different, they don’t realize why they’re different.

The reason why is because I dig. A lot. These sessions aren’t for people who just want pretty pictures of themselves dancing. These photos aren’t photos that are to show off technique or all the training they’ve done. If anything, these photos are merely a byproduct of something else, and that something else is the entire experience of the session.

These sessions are for people who want to change their life.

That’s a bold statement, I know. How can a dance photo session change their life? There are so very many layers to it, that it’s hard to fully explain in one blog post. Plus, I much rather enjoy telling people in person anyway. But the gist of it is this. I aim to create a space. A space for dancers. To be themselves, to move. I am not here to judge. I am only here to document. And draw out. Because one thing every dancer (and person) can benefit from is being fully themselves, and not being ashamed of it. Not apologizing for it. And owning it.

During Kristine’s session, there were many layers that I believe peeled away. She grieved the fact that she could no longer dance the way she used to. It was a powerful thing, because she never really gave herself the chance to before. But once that grieving process came through and peeled away, something new came up.

& that newness — that layer, was Kristine — here & now.

She blossomed like a flower before me. It was kind of amazing to watch, actually. From my end, I saw that sadness she first had transform into something else, something more powerful. And that something was letting go of the past, the ideas we hold on to, and instead, embracing where we are now.

Once I saw that happened, the quality of her movement completely changed. She danced with purpose, embracing every extension that she felt. This was her, here and now.

On top of that, she told me afterwards that she had borderline agoraphobia, and I was FLOORED. She didn’t like going outside very much, much less running around in fields and dancing in ponds. I was like, WHAT?! She certainly had me fooled! She didn’t show it one bit. When I mentioned that to her, she told me that she told herself ahead of time that she would completely trust me and do what I asked, even if that included going into water, and grass where unknown creatures lurk!

I was amazed, first at her bravery, and secondly at how much she really trusted me. That I think is such a key point of these sessions, full trust. It’s a give and take. In photo sessions in general, there needs to be full trust on both sides, but in these sessions, it is of the upmost importance for the progression of the experience. Without it, I don’t think anything of value would be accomplished. So I am always deeply honored when I do these sessions, because I know full trust is there, and I appreciate that so much.

I was so incredibly proud of Kristine after this shoot, for so many reasons. She broke through barriers, climbed over inner walls, and embraced herself. She took the curveball life gave her and made it into a home run. I watched the whole thing unfold in front of me, through her movement, more than her words. And I’m grateful she chose to share her story with me, and transform her life.

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Sometimes when I talk to people about this project, they have commented to me: “I wish I was a dancer so I could be a part of your project!” I must say this — while I photograph mostly people who have danced most of their lives, this is not solely what this is all about and who this is for. There is a reason why I title this project the way I do. Movement from Within: a Dancer’s Soul. I fully believe there are people out there — and I also honestly believe it’s the majority of people — who feel compelled to move. To dance. For various reasons, they may not be immersed in it like others are. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want to. I say this because this is exactly what I feel. I completely understand that feeling, because I have the same one myself. That feeling, that desire to move, comes from deep within. It’s a guttural, instinctual thing. As we get older, we may squash it, and think that we are too old, and there’s no use to even try. But let me tell you, that feeling, eats at you. Because you’re not being fully yourself. You’re not letting that part of you out, that dancer’s soul that is waiting anxiously to leap out of you! And that can be destructive, and can eat at other parts of your life.

So I am here to say this. Even if you don’t feel like you are a “dancer,” know that these sessions are for you if you simply feel like you HAVE TO MOVE. When a great song comes on, you can’t help but move your feet. When you watch others dance, you are entranced. You entertain thoughts of taking classes, or maybe even have thought once in your life that you wish you knew how to “dance like that.” You have a dancer’s soul, and you have to let it out.

So let it out. Cause what can happen can only change your life for the better. :)

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past dancers: alyssa kinnearshannon leith | kyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

If you are interested in a session, please send me an email. :)

on moving to that music in your soul & showing that to the world.

Ever have those moments where you just want to break out into dance? Especially in a public place?

I often get those moments, especially in airport terminals, when I’m listening to music while I am waiting for my flight, and I just get the urge to move. Or in grocery stores, when a great song comes on, and no one is in the aisle, you might actually find me prancing down one. ;)

But the thing is, most of us (me included), usually don’t act on these impulses. We don’t want to look stupid in front of others, or get funny stares. We don’t want to draw attention to the fact that we really want to let ourselves go in that moment, and shine.

During my shoot with Alyssa, I watched her as she shared herself through movement on the Oceanside Pier. People came and went and passed by, some people stared, some people stopped to watch. Some people simply walked by without batting an eye.

Dancing in such a public place is certainly much easier when you have the excuse of doing a photoshoot. You have something to fall back on — it feels less silly to do than if you had just suddenly decided to dance on the pier for no reason in particular.

While we were dancing and taking photos, two young men came up to us, and just began asking questions. What we were doing? What was the purpose? The best answer I could give them?

Because we wanted to.

Sometimes when it comes to doing things from your soul, that’s the only answer you need. Because we want to. Because we feel compelled to. What better reason is there? Obviously doing such things is within reason — we don’t want to hurt anyone, for one thing. But does it hurt anyone to just break out into dance, especially if your soul wants it? Certainly not. If anything, it touches people.

When those moments happen, I believe they help us feel alive. Movement from within, at it’s purest form. During Alyssa’s session, I noticed that she loved to move to funkier music, but she would probably side with more ballet & contemporary/lyrical/modern styles if you asked her. I encouraged her to express and get in touch with this funkier style, which clearly wanted to come out.

Maybe she didn’t feel like she was a funky enough girl to get down with that style, but who the hell cares? If it wants to come out, it should come out. And we should let it out. Because what comes out of that is pure energy, pure soul, and a feeling of pure aliveness. And that’s what I saw in her.

So we should all let it out. That funky, or fluid, or downright crazy movement that is dying to be shown to the world. Let it out, because the worst that could happen is that people see you.

So go, be seen.

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Obviously, it’s been some time since I’ve posted any dance photos — but be prepared, because you are going to experience an explosion very soon. I have been shooting a lot of these that I haven’t shared yet, and I feel that right now I am at the cusp of something very exciting with this project. I have no idea what is on that other side, but I know it’ll be amazing.


past dancers: shannon leithkyle filley | mathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper

////////////// on shining & letting yourself be seen.

One thing I really believe about dance is that it’s for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t dance, your body was meant to move. In particular, move to music. Move as an expression. Get connected with your body. Why do you think clubbing is so popular? One could argue that dancing at clubs is a a courting ritual because it seems in many ways so sexual. But I don’t think that’s always the case. I think dancing to music is a really easy way to let go of any pent up emotions, and simply feel free.

& I think that everyone wants to feel free as much as they can.

Meet Shannon, a beautiful soul who discovered her love for dance only about two years ago. For nearly her entire life, she turned away from dancing, actually telling people that she didn’t dance. It wasn’t until about two years ago that she did The Artist’s Way, and realized that deep down, she actually had a dancer’s soul. & she could no longer ignore that. So she began to dance.

In many ways, Shannon is a fledgling, a baby bird. Getting to know her wings, getting to know her body in this new way. Experimenting, trying, and stretching her muscles. Often, with something this new, we will be cautious, and not let others in to our new venture. This new part of us. We don’t feel quite confident enough to let others in often because we fear their reaction. What if they ridicule us? What if I look silly or stupid? What if they don’t like it?

So we don’t let others in. We keep it to ourselves. The thing with that is that when we don’t let others in, we don’t let ourselves out. When a wall goes up to protect oneself, neither side can connect to one another.

For the first half of Shannon’s shoot, this is what we experienced. She would dance, but she would keep me out, so I couldn’t see her. It was if she was dancing in her own world, keeping it all to herself. While I understand the desire to do so, I also wanted to be included in the magic she was creating within herself. I wanted to connect, I wanted to listen to what she was saying — & I wanted to see her.

Specifically, I wanted to see her SHINE.

When I brought this up, I remember she looked at me — wide eyed. The thought of connecting to another person while dancing had never occurred to her. The thought that someone actually wanted to be included & listen to what she was saying surprised her. All art forms are born from communication & expression. Dance especially. It’s visual expression through your body.

For people with dancer’s souls, this is something that comes from deep within. And we have to let these emotions & feelings & movements out or we’ll feel stifled. It’s like not being able to talk, even though you have the vocal chords & ability to.

Dancing isn’t just about the lines that we can create, although they can be beautiful. It’s about the energy, the soul, the person deep within. You’re essentially sharing yourself with another person through the language of movement.

So I encouraged her, and reached out my hand to her. I wanted to see her, I wanted to feel her emotions, and I wanted to be there with her. More than anything, she deserved be seen, she deserved to SHINE.

Shannon is a beautiful soul and should to share herself & her spirit with the world. Not only as a photographer or a person, but as a dancer. Everyone should see her spirit through her movement, and go on that journey along with her. It deserves to be seen and it will allow her to connect with others in ways that may not be possible with simple speech or actions. This, is the power of dance.

Thank you for sharing, my lovely friend, I hope the world gets to see more of your dancer’s soul.

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The story of Shannon & I meeting & connecting is actually a special one. A couple of months ago, a stranger had told Shannon that she had a “dancer’s soul.” She wondered what that meant, so she went home to google it, and upon doing that, she found my blog & my dancer’s soul series & immediately connected with it. She sent me a lovely email, and I remember being so pleasantly surprised — I had actually been following her blog for some time. Funny how life works, doesn’t it? :) It’s as if the dance fates brought us together <3

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past dancers: kyle filleymathew paul chounlamontry | melissa sanchez | tiffany kadani | emily pepper