“We are all learning that you are supposed to visualize what you want and put it out there in a great way. But often there is so much negative stuff in the background; we can’t get to what we want,” says Toni Bergins. She has found that one way to clear the mind of unwanted thoughts and feelings is through ritualized dance.
Bergins developed JourneyDance over the past 15 years with the goal of helping people empower themselves, to be present in their bodies, to feel joy, and to manifest their life-force energy. It is most often experienced as a one-hour group session, with Bergins leading in a way that encourages free expression by each dancer. More women are drawn to the workshops than men, and they come from all kinds of backgrounds, at all ages, and with all body types—from the heavy set to the skinny.
JourneyDance melds expressive movement, creative visualization, theater, and singing with dance. Music ranges from hip hop to pop, African, and East Indian.
A typical class begins with Bergins in the center of the room, with the group clustered around her. As she dances, she directs the group using earth imagery: “Move like you are water. Receive energy from the heavens. Sing into your chakras. Begin to fly.” While seated, Bergins moves her arms as if she were swimming through the air. She rolls to one side and then back. She stands, throws her arms backward, and stomps her feet. The students, dressed in loose cotton yoga wear, follow her motions. Participants roll on the floor, crawl and meow, stand and sway in a tree like fashion, and rush around the room with their arms spread wide. “Invite your warrior to come out to dance,” Bergins commands. She strides through the room, bursting with intention. The group disperses and becomes a living pattern, fluid in all directions.
“Dance is the next yoga wave,” Bergins says. She compares JourneyDance to NIA and the Five Rhythms—two other contemporary dance forms meant to offer spiritual release. “What makes JourneyDance different is that you feel you really can move this thing through you,” she says. “I don’t allow any tissues in my classes. It’s just tears and wet slimy arms. I want you to cry it out, not stuff it all back in.”
Bergins never knows what will happen with a group, although there are four primary stages she always invokes. “Embody Your Temple” is a warm-up, a stretch, and a way to encounter the other dancers. “Explore Your Realm” includes the “I’m So Funky Dance,” which inspires even shy people to groove in a wild way. In “Express Yourself,” dancers reach the crucial stage of “Mind Busting”: the stage of embodiment, awakening, emersion, and expansion. “Elevate Your Vibration” includes the “Manifestation Prayer,” which Bergins describes as a sensual dance—participants let go of their thoughts, letting their bodies lead.
Bergins compares the final stages of JourneyDance to the Shivasina stage of yoga: “It is an incredible feeling of a divine connection to God, energy, spirit, or whatever you want to call it. The music lifts you and you have an incredible feeling of being free and alive. You couldn’t have gotten there without the process.” She describes people who have never had a sense of themselves as energy looking at their hands and actually seeing the energy pulse through them.
Bergins is based in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. She plans to build JourneyDance centers across the Northeast, and so far she has trained 70 instructors—from Canada to Europe—and she envisions training thousands more and creating an international sensation.
Look for JourneyDance classes at yoga and wellness centers along the East Coast in the spring of 2008. From June 22 to 27, Bergins will lead a five-day teacher training intensive at the Kripalu Center in the Berkshires. From July 6 to 12, she will lead classes at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck. From July 13 to 18, she will be a part of the Sacred Pulse Music Festival at Kripalu.