Interview with Michelle Locke
Michelle is the Director of Wu Tao Pty Ltd, she does everything from creating new dance material, making DVD’s, writing books, marketing, administration and training new teachers.
About WuTao Dance – the ‘tai chi dance’
Q. What does Wu Tao Dance stand for?
A. Wu means Dance and Tao means ‘the way’ or ‘path’, so Wu Tao is the ‘dancing way’.
Q. The word ‘dance’ can make new participants apprehensive. Is a sense of rhythm and good co-ordination important or is this form of dance truly open to all?
A. Wu Tao is easy for everyone to learn. The movements are simple and people of all ages can do them including children and the elderly.
Q. What should a new participant expect from a first Wu Tao session in terms structure of the activity and level of learning upon completion?
A. A class consists of some warm up and stretching exercises, learning a dance or two and then a lovely relaxation meditation to finish.
Q. Does Wu Tao Dance follow a set of routines or is it a type of free dance?
A. Wu Tao is a set of choreographed dances done to music. There are times in some of the dances where you do your own thing and can free dance, but mostly the movement are set. The movements have been designed to stimulate the energy flow through the channels called meridians, so each movement has a specific purpose.
Q. Can we use Wu Tao at home as a daily routine similar to Yoga stretches for example?
A. Absolutely you can do Wu Tao at home! We have a home practice DVD available from our website (www.wutaodance.com) that makes it easy for you to do in your own lounge room. You will feel energised and fabulous if you do Wu Tao everyday.
Q. What age groups or social groups can benefit most from WuTao dance?
A. People of all ages can do Wu Tao. The dances are easily adaptable to suit the individual and we have modified versions for differing needs such as children and people with physical difficulties.
We now have Wu Tao classes in some schools (Wu Tao Express), and we also hold sessions in retirement villages for older people (Wu Tao Wisdom). Most recently we have been working with the Alzheimers Association of WA and a study has recently been done that shows Wu Tao can help ease symptoms of agitation in people with dementia.
We also have ‘Wu Tao for Two’ which is a series of dances especially for couples.
Philosophy and Application of Wu Tao Dance
Q. What encouraged you to combine dance and the ancient knowledge of the Chinese Elements to create Wu Tao Dance?
A. I came from a background in professional dance and I also studied and practised Shiatsu and Chinese Medicine for many years, so it was natural for me to bring the two things I loved together. Dance is such a fantastic way to express one’s self. Music is also very important to me. Chinese Medicine is a complete healing system that brings all aspects of Life together. In the body, it shows us how connected we are to nature and the elements. Each Wu Tao dance has correspondences to an element, and its related emotion, body organ, season, and colour.
Q. Why do we need to understand the Chinese Elements in order to improve a state of being such as stress or low self-esteem?
A. In Wu Tao you don’t need to understand the Chinese elements, you just need to do the dances! The dances work without you having to think about anything. The movements are designed to get the energy (chi) flowing, and combined with the visualisations and music, you will naturally be attuned to the element of the dance. For example, If you do the Air dance, you will be stimulating the Lung and Large Intestine organs, building your immune system, letting go, and dealing with any issues of grief or sadness. It happens without you thinking about it.
States such as stress or low self esteem reflect an imbalance in energy somewhere in your system. When you bring the energy into balance through the dance, these conditions will also be healed. The time it will take will depend on how deep the imbalance is.
Q. How can Wu Tao Dance improve the Qi/Chi flow through movement?
A. The dance movements in Wu Tao are specifically choreographed to stimulate the Chi flow through the channels known as meridians. This combined with creative visualisation and the music which is representative of the energy of the element, work synergistically to bring the energy flow into balance. Wu Tao really helps to balance our emotional and mental states. Feelings of anger, grief, sadness, worry etc can be transformed when you dance. This is very important as feelings block energy flow as do negative thought forms. Once this energy is flowing again and the feelings have been released, you are returned to balance and your feeling state is one of inner peace, joy and love. It is a wonderful thing to go to class feeling stressed about something and to leave feeling completely free of it and blissful! This is a common occurance in Wu Tao.
Q. How is Yin and Yang interpreted in the dance movements?
A. Some of the dances are more Yin, (soft, slow) some more Yang (dynamic, fast) depending on the nature of the element and the purpose of the energy in that element. The Water dance for example is the most Yin dance and is slow and nuruturing and done to gentle piano music, whereas the Wood dance is faster and stronger and the music is percussive, rhythmical and vibrant.
Q. You mention our Hara and breathing in your manual ‘Wu Tao – The Dancing Way’. What is the Hara and how do we learn about breathing in a Wu Tao class?
A. The Hara is your physical centre. It is your belly area and in Chinese Medicine it is where you store your Chi or energy. In Wu Tao we spend time helping you to build up your energy through breathing techniques. Breathing properly is very important in the circulation of Chi through the body.
Q. What type of music is Wu Tao danced to?
A. The music has been especially created for each of the dances by Steve Richter, a West Australian composer and percussionist. Each piece of music embodies the quality and purpose of the element. They are all beautiful and unique. Steve has used Piano, Cello, drums, percussion, voice, choir and flute (to name a few!) to create the right feel for each dance. The music is beautiful and can be listened to anytime, not just in a Wu Tao Class.
Q. How does food interact with the Wu Tao philosophy?
A. Food is one of the ways we take in energy, so a good diet is very important. When you are attuned to the seasons and have an idea of what your body needs to stay in balance, life is so much easier and more pleasurable! Food can be medicine too, so knowing what to eat to keep yourself in balance and bring yourself back to balance is great knowledge to have. Foods have different natures and purpose. For example, pumpkin is sweet. It is good for the spleen and for your general digestion.
Q. How do you apply Wu Tao in your daily life?
A. The Dance is the most important part of Wu Tao for me. When I dance Wu Tao I immediately feel energised and centred. It is much easier to go with the flow and keep myself in a positive state of mind when I am in this space. Wu Tao is about being in the flow, and to do that the body and mind need to be operating at optimal levels so I dance as much as I can, pray alot and eat well!
Wu Tao programs are offered throughout Australia and internationally in New Zealand, Japan, United States, Brazil, Germany and the United Kingdom.