Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Interfusion Festival

Image found here.
Earlier this month I attended the Interfusion Festival in Alexandria, Va. I had never attended any sort of conference or event like that before, so here's to my new year's resolution of doing things I never thought I would! Click here to see a highlights video from this year's festival.

For those of you who don't know, the Interfusion Festival is a 3-day event that hosts a variety of workshops, from dance to meditation to acroyoga. The purpose of the festival is to create a safe space that encourages the connection and exploration of the spirit, both for the individual and with others. I don't want to call it a hippie convention, because that sounds negative, which is the exact opposite of the very positivity this event promotes. But there were vendors selling hemp bars, crystals, and incense, exhibitors performing reiki and hypnosis, a face painter, and attendees with untamed hair and foot tattoos. However, that was just my immediate observation I made when I first arrived; by the time I left, those types of judgmental thoughts were certainly muted.

So much happened over that weekend, so it's hard to cram everything into this post! I'll include most of my notes here, but I'll have a few other posts for experiences where I want to go into more detail.

This is Keskya Barroso leading a bachata nueva class. He was a little demanding! Image found here.
Dance classes: The main reason I went to the festival is because I am a dancer (mostly blues dancing), and I am trying to learn other forms of dance. Over the weekend I attended workshops covering salsa, bachata, kizomba, zouk (I especially liked Ashley Kent's class on connection), fusion styling (with Linda Saenz), and cha cha. All of the workshops had a similar format, in which we would learn the basic steps first, and then learn a short choreographed routine. I'm not sure the routine bit was very helpful, since dancing is organic and should just flow between many different moves in a variety of sequences (unless you're performing). Since I am a beginner for all of those dances, I'm not sure how much information I actually retained (I still very much feel like a beginner), but I am learning the rhythms better, and I enjoyed the dance parties that the festival hosted each night (there was a salsa room, a bachata room, etc., all to practice your new moves!).

Here are some videos from some of the instructors (not the same routines from the workshops, but the same teachers):

Juan Aristy - Playful Bachata

David Norton: I thought he was a good salsa teacher, and he said at his studio in Vienna, VA, he teaches different levels of beginner classes, which I think makes a lot of sense!

Michelle Reyes: I had taken a kizomba class with her before. She's the only kizomba instructor I know who claims that kizomba is a family-friendly, not a sexy, dance. Every other kizomba class I've taken teaches that your thighs should be glued to your partner's, so it is VERY sexy. But she teaches in Bethesda, Md. if you want to take one of her classes!

David Campos: He has a very thick French accent, so sometimes it was hard to understand what he was saying! Plus, he and his wife, Guida Rei, were complaining how tired they were because they have a baby to take care of (save it: you're professionals, no excuses); I don't need to know about your personal life: I just want to learn how to dance! I thought the class was okay; perhaps if I had taken this workshop on an earlier day instead of on Sunday after I had already danced for several hours, I would have enjoyed it more.

5Rhythms: This was also a dance workshop, but there was no lesson. Instead, this was a guided form of free dance in a dimly lit room. We started off walking around the room, and then as people became more comfortable, they would sway their arms, move to the music, and then finally we were all dancing. Every once in a while the "instructor" Ann Kite would tell us to do something, like reach out and touch the fingertips of another person; the directions would mimic the five rhythms (see image below), like moving faster or stopping entirely. We did this for more than an hour, and I really liked it! I loved dancing without any harsh structure or judgement (we were asked to dance with our eyes gazing at the ground so we weren't directly looking at anyone), and the sporadic touch with other people helped connect me to the experience. I randomly went to this activity because it was the only one available when I arrived right after work, but I'm so glad I went!

Image found here.

Barbara Carrellas. Image found here.
Tantra Breath and Energy: This workshop, led by Barbara Carrellas (she's really good!), immediately followed the ecstasy class I took (stay tuned for my next post!), so I was learning about energy for four hours straight! We started the class sitting across from a partner, just looking into each others eyes and then taking turns stroking each other's faces. I was paired with an older woman, so while this wasn't sexual for me, I still found the connection comforting and soothing. We also did some deep breathing, imagining our pinky finger was a lung, filling up with air as we breathed in, and letting go as we breathed out; we continued adding more imagery, adding a color to our pinky finger, and then picturing an entire galaxy was inside of the finger. That exercise was then applied to the last half of the workshop, which was mostly what I expected from tantra: we were lying on the ground (more than 100 of us, like little sardines!), and she would talk us through imagining certain things/feelings in order to hopefully bring ourselves pleasure. I was very glad that she prefaced the exercise saying that it was okay if we didn't feel anything...because I didn't. I couldn't get into the zone, mainly because the room was SO cold! Even with all of those people in there, the A/C was blasting (in February, mind you), so when I was quivering, it was because I was shivering from the cold, not because I was feeling intense pleasure through deep breathing. So that was unfortunate. But I can at least try the same exercises at home (and honestly already do some of the things she talked about!).

Of course you can attend only so many workshops each day, so I did miss several of them. I didn't try acroyoga at all; I wasn't ready to trust another person (or myself!) to do those balancing moves together, and I'm still not comfortable with the idea of feet touching me in so many places (feet are so dirty!). Maybe one day I'll try it, but I couldn't commit myself to pushing myself to that place of trust this first time around. I also didn't attend any Thai massage workshops, mostly for the same reasons. And I didn't participate in any of the hula hooping classes, but I watched! And while I tried to go to a meditation workshop on Sunday morning, the instructor Dr. Deborah Norris never showed up! Hmpf!

One thing I really liked about the festival was just that everyone was so nice! Sure, there were a few people who weren't taking the eye gazing exercises seriously, or were a little judgemental during a dance class if he was a better dancer. But all in all, people were very open and kind. And we all just left our bags around the hotel, and nothing was stolen! Everyone was honest and understanding; we really did make a little community together, even just for the weekend. The producer of the event, Umka Pele, ended the last show saying things like "There has been so much love, so much support, so much positive energy," and "no fear, no failure, no divides, no judgement." I thought that was a great note for the festival to end on!

Click here for photos: Interfusion Festival Instagram

PS: The day after the festival, I came across this interview with a body-positivity yoga instructor. Her words about not sweating the small stuff and the need to let things go totally hit me. I need to do that! She should come to the next festival!

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