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Saturday, April 30, 2022

Meet Rie

Points of Light Music (PLM) is inviting each Freeing Refrains storyteller into an public pre-conversation to help us get to know them before the event. 

Meet Rie, the storyteller for our May 19th event.


PLM: Rie, we are delighted to have you as our next guest. How did you hear about Freeing Refrains? What draws you to participate?

(RG):  I met you, Conie, in 2019 at a conference - and we found that we had also seen each other at Resmaa Menakem's Body Blows, Convos and Art series. In the conversation, we discovered that we were each committed to helping people develop their embodied awareness - Conie through music and me through movement. We kept in touch after that and so I was invited to the first mixed group for Freeing Refrains. 

PLM: Freeing Refrains invites folks to tell stories in visual, movement, and sound ... in mediums beyond just words. Tell us about your relationship to storytelling. How and when did it begin? Do you have a preferred storytelling medium? Or one you would like to explore?

RG:  My parents were both avid storytellers. They had favorites that they would tell often, and also would talk about their day as a story. I think that gave me a view of things that happen as stories. And that helps me process events. I still remember in college, a professor berating me about ducks - seriously, ducks. I can't even remember what comment I had made that betrayed my lack of full commitment to waterfowl, but he was really hot about it, all red in the face and shouting. I remember sitting in his cramped office and pulling back in my mind and thinking, this will be a hilarious story some day.

In high school I was a theater kid, and then later discovered dance. I've always been drawn to movement that borders on theater and theater that flows into movement. In the same way, I love words with rhythm and rhyme. For a while I taught integrated arts to pre-Kindergartners and it was great because they would just come with me regardless of medium. All that said, I'm definitely a mover. Even if I'm reciting a poem, finding the authentic movement that comes with the words helps me find the authentic way to speak it.

PLMYour work is called Embody Equity. Tell us more about that. What excites you most? 

RG:  Well, to use Resmaa's work as a common jumping off point - in Cultural Somatics/Somatic Abolitionism, a basic technique is to be aware of your own body's response as you tell a story or enact a dialogue. Then of course you can lean into the feelings, and there are other techniques to metabolize the emotional content. But - as I was first learning about this, I talked with a Black colleague who was also doing this kind of work in her coaching. She said that a client would be telling a story and she would stop them and ask, "where do you feel that in your body?" She said most Black clients and clients of color might need a moment to consider it, but they could all eventually let her know about their tight shoulders or queasy stomach, etc. But, for her White clients, she said that unless they were elite athletes or serious yogis, etc., "They look at me like I'm from Mars." They had no context for even having a body sensation around a story or situation. That got me to thinking that many White people need a remedial level of work, of simply stopping to focus on the body outside of emotionally charged stories and situations. At that same time I was in a training cohort for Social Presencing Theater, a set of practices that develop just such mindful body awareness. The lovely thing about SPT is that it is an emerging discipline, and we are encouraged to creatively apply the practices to different kinds of contexts. So, I've been working to apply them in racial equity development.

Probably the thing that excites me most is getting white-bodied people past the involuntary pearl-clutching that we all find ourselves doing when we least want to. Or, as writer and somatic worker Kelsey Blackwell has said, "While the mind may be aware of and challenge the impacts of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy, the body indicates, often at the most inconvenient times, ways we've been shaped by these systems . . . " This leads us either to analysis paralysis, or to reflexively jumping into action without first sensing the appropriateness to everyone in the situation. Developing the untapped potential of our body awareness, both personally and interpersonally, is a game-changer for white-bodied people and I am passionate to get us there.

PLM: Can you give us a little teaser/summary of what you might share with us on May 19?

RG: Sure! I will say that I've been moved by your realness and vulnerability as you've told stories of your own life and childhood in earlier Freeing Refrains sessions. You also have a project in the works called Biracial and Rural that has piqued my imagination. Since I also grew up rural, that got me thinking about how I could interrogate my own racial experience growing up in California's central coast area. I'll be working with two stories that bookend my experience - one as a child, observing my mom's interactions with Mexican immigrant workers, and one as an adult visiting a friend who still lives in my hometown, and my response to a parallel interaction with a Mexican immigrant woman. I'll offer some simple SPT practices for everyone to process these stories along with their own. Since one of the Freeing Refrains questions is "What binds you?" I'll bring a practice appropriately called "Stuck," which will then give us some clues about what can liberate us.

PLM: Any closing words?

RG:  I am both excited and grateful to work with you and tell these stories! One aspect of SPT is performance to amplify the felt sense of stories, and it's not one I've had the chance to explore very much.

PLM:  Rie, we are looking forward to having you at Freeing Refrains soon too!  

Join us for the event!
Thursday, May 19, 2022
6:30-8:30 p.m. CT

RSVP on Eventbrite.

Read more about Freeing Refrains and Rie's bio here

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