These performers offer classes to help Bay Area residents heal from pandemic trauma


Things are looking rather “yellow” – as in the “yellow level” – in the Bay Area lately, as the number of vaccinations increases and counties lift trade restrictions. After a year without traditional performing arts, public gatherings or even hugs, people crave creative catharsis. It’s time to see a movie, bond with friends, hit the stage!

But getting our bodies back into the world without putting distancing orders in place is not easy. For white-collar workers, a year of working remotely in cramped kitchens, bedrooms, or (maybe) home offices – a year of living without its usual harshness – can be taxing.

As we see the crowds swell and companies allow more people to go after a year of relative isolation, it can also be mentally daunting to reconnect with unknown people. Navigating a conversation can feel like an act of juggling, and a simple outing with friends now carries the complexity of a tango.

There are mountains of articles with tips on socializing, reinventing yourself and getting “back on the outside”, as so many of us feel estranged from our bodies and our closeness to others, how they move and engage with each other. Now is the perfect time to face what the body, the soma, does for us every day, beyond serving as a productivity machine.

The Bay Area has no shortage of artists and performers who have made their careers of mastering their own bodies, communicating through the mediums of dance, circus arts, multidisciplinary performance and more. They’ve been in quarantine with everyone, and some want to share how they’ve coped over the past year.

This week, the Presidio Theater launched three wellness classes for those who want to reexamine their connection to breathing and movement as we move through the levels that will bring us back to “normal.”

Instructors Sonja Riket, Johnny Huy Nguyen and Lance McGee will guide participants through their own cultured and unique wellness pedagogy, informed by decades of experience in a range of performance arts, from tango to breakdance to the circus.

Classes will take place in person in the outdoor plaza of the theater, immersing participants in arboreal serenity and songbird trill. Classes range from $ 90 to $ 175, although scholarships and walk-in options are available on the Presidio Theater website at

Somatic movement meditation with Sonja Riket

Monday at 2 p.m. until June 28 (skipping May 31, Memorial Day)

Somatic Movement Meditation

Sonja Riket knew she wanted to be a dancer before she was 5 years old. Her passion will take her across three continents during a 30-year career as a dancer, educator and now certified somatic therapist in Feldenkrais and somatic healing methods focused on body and mind. Her class focuses on self-examination of flexibility, alignment, coordination and self-awareness through low-impact guided movements while lying on a mat, with some sitting, standing and while walking.

The first class has a walk-in option, but Riket hopes to cultivate participants for the duration of the class to provide a more cumulative meditative experience. After a year severely separated from our usual routines, Riket wants to help people recalibrate and appreciate the “dead point” where “the rhythm in the body stops. A space forms where anything is possible. I hope that participations will come into contact with their own resilience and their own choices to find new models of being. “

Dance for fun activism with Johnny Huy Nguyen

1 p.m. Tuesdays, until June 22

Dance for Pleasure Activism

Johnny Huy Nguyen began his practice of dancing in the streets, so to speak, breakdancing. The hip-hop-inspired dance form was larger than its gravity-defying moves you might think, and Nguyen was fascinated with how it allowed black and brown communities to organize and celebrate their cultures and bodies. Nguyen has also studied contemporary dance and martial arts, which all inform his class and his approach to wellness, which begins with addressing the invisible and the unspoken.

“A lot of my work is about healing,” he says. “Society has an antagonistic relationship with our body, and you cannot heal from something that is not addressed; we bring stories through our bodies. It is the path to joy.”

And joy is the goal of the class, besides languishing in the fun of social movement and reinventing gravity as a force that informs us of our body’s needs, rather than raising hell on our joints.

Mindfulness and play with Lance McGee aka Unique Derique

1 p.m. Wednesdays until June 23

Mindful Movement and Fitness Fun

In Lance McGee’s “Mindfulness and Play”, it’s okay to clown – Lance certainly does. Raised by a mother who practices transcendental meditation and tai chi, he was dedicated to a career traveling the world and playing the role of his alter ego clown Unique Derique, sometimes on a unicycle.

After settling in the Bay Area, McGee returned to school to study counseling psychology to become a therapist and drama counselor, later working with teachers from the Oakland Unified School District to treat the trauma they might face in the workplace. Her class focuses on (accessible) cardio and stretching, as well as connecting with other participants.

“I always say your health is your wealth, no matter what,” McGee says. “We are doing something that is good for the psyche, the soul, and therefore, it is a benefit. We have this wealth of understanding of how to sit with someone who is really going through tensions and challenges, but to empathize with them. and keep that space, and offer a conversation that might guide them to get new ideas on how to handle whatever they are going through. “

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Copyright © 2021 by Bay City News, Inc. Republication, rebroadcasting, or any other reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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