Hi all! 

As most of you know I began a big adventure this week. I’m attending an inclusive dance teacher training in Eugene, Oregon for the next month. That’s right, I get to spend the majority of each day for the next month dancing. I’m a pretty happy lady! Here’s my first email installation of what I’ve been up to… 

It started out with an epic road trip…19 hours in fact, many of which I slept through. Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to call the kindest man in the world my partner and he got us to Eugene in one piece. A true man on a mission, Ryan picked me up following 2 dance shows Friday evening with Life/Art Dance Ensemble and drove through the night into Grand Junction. We fumbled our way in the dark to set up the tent and on Saturday morning woke up to a stunning view of McInnis Canyons National Conservation area. We were pretty sore from the drive and a night of camping, so we did some true sun salutations before hitting the road.   


The pace changed a bit once I was behind the wheel. If you ask Ryan it quickly changed to tortoise pace. I also used my navigating prowess to make an impromptu pit stop. I mean, who wouldn’t want to stop at a place called “Trail Through Time”? The trail turned out to be filled with paleontology treasures including Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus and Allosaurus fossils (we had a blast attempting to pronounce them all). Plus there were tons of interpretive signs for Ryan to read while I skipped down the path! 

Once we hit Salt Lake we stopped into a restaurant recommended by a friend who used to live in the city. We instinctively asked for mimosas only later realizing we were in the heart of Mormon country and alcohol before 5 pm, or at all, wasn’t really a common practice. The food was delicious with meals big enough for breakfast and lunch, which I took advantage of, much to the chagrin of poor Ryan who worried about my eating half an omelet that had been sitting in my warm car for a few hours…BUT the teens at the table next to us left the restaurant with enough food on their table to feed a large family, so there was no way I was wasting my food…plus it was chock full of feta cheese. 

We hit the road again and found that tons of friends were soon hitting us. Tons of bugs that is. At first we thought that the splatters were rain drops, but the sky  was clear and filled with stars. We soon had to stop to clean off the windshield and took a moment to look up at the light show. Absolutely incredible and flanked by sounds of a nearby pack of coyotes, howling to their brothers and sisters.  


We made it to Eugene in the early hours of Sunday morning, ready for a good night’s sleep. We crept through the backyard of my host’s home to the roundhouse that would be my home for the next month. It didn’t take long to fall asleep in this cozy oasis with the sound of crickets to lull us into our dreams. 


The next morning I woke up to hooves crunching through leaves. Two bucks were munching the shrubbery beneath the weeping willow just outside the roundhouse. This is a regular occurrence here and this week I’ve seen bucks, does, and fawns all within 10 feet of the roundhouse. I kind of feel like Snow White! There’s also Maceo, Don’s white and yellow cat who is quite possibly the friendliest cat I know. She loves to chat and to sprawl out in anticipation of belly scratches. Ryan and my mom warn me to not get too attached, fearing I’ll become a crazy cat lady.  


The house/grounds are magical to say the least. Don, my kind and reserved host built and designed his house and grounds based on the Golden Mean - a mathematical measure found in natural spirals of the earth. The architecture is truly stunning and though I haven’t yet asked for a tour, I’m hoping I get to see the inside before I leave. 

For now, I have all I need to take in with my little roundhouse. Don says the roundhouse structure often gets mislabeled as a yurt, but a yurt is usually made with fabric and is portable. The roundhouse has wooden walls and is a permanent structure. There is a quote printed on the tea table inside that reads “Nothing you don’t need and everything you do.” I’d have to argue that the flat screen tv and Alexa are definitely not necessities, but certainly luxuries that I’m enjoying. Each morning I ask Alexa to play “morning  music” and she happily obliges. My mom tells me not to get used to it and warns that Alexa is listening to everything. I’m not too worried though, if Alexa is listening, all she’ll hear are my happy musings. 

Don’s intention with the roundhouse was to break the societal norm of building with corners and to mimic natural round structures like nests, lairs, and hives. In his welcome guide he writes, “We all know how we don’t like cubicles, and yet we continue to build large ones and call them home.” I have to say there is a certain level of magic and calm that I feel when I’m sleeping in the round.   

Our first full day in Eugene started out with finding wheels. Don has an old road bike for guests to use, but it was in need of some love. The local bike shop, Bicycle Way of Life, was able to grease it up and get it moving. Ryan rented a bike for a couple days and we were on our way.  

We biked around town and decided to stop for a bite to eat at a little French bistro called Marche. Hands down the best ratatouille I’ve ever tasted! Even though we were stuffed, we figured it would be a good idea to just look at the desserts…one chocolate caramel tart, two scoops of ice cream, and 3 macaroons later we were ready to get back on our bikes. 

The Willamette runs north to south on the west side of Oregon and runs straight through Eugene. As we biked a path along its side we saw kayakers and tubers enjoying a float. After a long ride and a quick shimmy into my swimsuit we decided to join in the fun. We found a section of rapids where brave swimmers were jumping in at one end and riding the waves over to a shallow beach. If you watch the video, I promise it was more intense than it looks! But also a blast!    



After our little dip and a bit more bike riding, we figured we’d worked off our dessert and it was time for a beverage. Man, this town really knows how to do ciders. So far my favorites are a sage flavored apple cider and a clementine cider - which was way too sweet on it’s own, but when the bartender added the juice of a bitter orange, tasted  incredible. 

Sunday night we checked out the live music scene at Sam Bond’s Garage. It turned out to be one of those instances where the opener blows the headlining band out of the water. Drew Martin, who originates from Maui, played upbeat rhythm guitar that had us on our feet dancing a few songs in. If you’re looking for music to put you in a good mood, you should definitely check out his tunes: https://soundcloud.com/drewma.

I was excited for my first day of training, but it was pretty hard to leave the comfort of the roundhouse Monday morning. We drove into town to the only address I had been provided for the class. Ryan wished me luck and dropped me off, and then went to search for a coffee shop where he could work remotely. I climbed the stairs and found the right suite, but the door was locked and the lights were off. No sign of anyone around. I asked a man who passed by if he knew about DanceAbility. “I just go to the psychiatrist in the suite over. I don’t know,” he replied. Oh great, I thought. I probably got ripped off and this whole thing is a hoax. I started to quickly search through every email I’d received since signing up and realized buried in the welcome letter there was a sentence about the space. The Gerlinger building on the Oregon University campus. Oh poop.  

I caught a Lyft to the campus and watched as the minutes ticked by. By the time I arrived I was about 15 minutes late. I walked in and everyone was seated in a circle. I apologized for being late and joined in. Alito Alessi is one of the founders of the DanceAbility Method/Artistic Director and our instructor for the month. At the time I interrupted he was explaining the importance of time management in the opening circle (the first activity of a DanceAbility class). He then prompted us to begin by going around the circle and sharing our name and anything everyone needs to know in order to dance with us. I was lucky number one. “My name is Megan and I want to thank you for your kindness with me being late-” Aleeto cut me off, “only what we need to know, Megan.”

“Right. My name is Megan. I have a brain injury and attention to detail is not my strong suit.”

Not my best first impression. 

That being said, my directional snafu was definitely the low end of the day. It was so interesting to meet the wide variety of dancers who are attending the training. Many folks are from Eugene, or the Oregon area, but some have traveled from Israel, New Zealand, and Mexico just to attend! Alito informed us that there are currently about 750 DanceAbility teachers from 50 different countries and about 200 of them have disabilities. After our introductions, we began the movement work and danced for the remaining 5 hours.

After my first day I was feeling a little overwhelmed, but very inspired. Ryan treated me to a fancy dinner at Eugene Electric Station. We ate scallop risotto, a fresh spring salad, and a side of grits that could be accurately describe as “fluffy clouds of heaven.” It was a beautiful way to end the day, sitting across from my supportive and loving partner, knowing I’m in exactly the right place at the right time.  


The rest of the week was a balancing act between focusing and soaking up the DanceAbility art form and exploring Eugene in the evenings. On Wednesday my body was feeling pretty rough after training so I biked down the river a ways where a local yoga teacher was holding a class on the river. It was advertised as “for all levels” and I was hoping it would focus on yin yoga and stretch out my sore muscles. I relayed this to the teacher when I introduced myself, but I don’t think the message translated. We went through multiple chaturanga flows, balancing postures, and squats. By the end I realized I was having a hard time taking what I’ve learned from my DanceAbility training and putting it into practice because instead of making choices that felt good for my body, I pushed too far and left the class more sore than I’d come. That being said, my mental state was a little more balanced after listening to the rushing river while focusing my mind on not collapsing into a heap in the grass.  

Our experience listening to Drew Martin also inspired me to seek out more live music throughout the week. On Thursday, despite feeling exhausted, I rode the bus downtown to catch Nikki Lane and Government Mule play at the McDonald Theater, a beautiful venue built in 1925. I was amazed at how much space there was for dancing, as the roomy hall was less than half full. This is something I’m still  getting used to, being accustomed to the crowds of Denver and Boulder. The show was great with the highlight for me coming before set break when Nikki Lane joined Government Mule on the stage to perform a cover of “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” by Bob Dylan. I’ve been listening to Nikki Lane a lot more since the concert and have fallen in love with her quirky country folk voice, reminiscent of Dolly Parton. 


I’ve had so much fun exploring on my little rusty blue road bike. Eugene is definitely a  very bike friendly community. Many places I can get to by taking a bike trail the majority of the way. I’m beginning to get used to riding a “hunchy bike” as I often call road bikes, although I haven’t been brave enough yet to utilize the stirrups that are on the pedals because I like to have my feet free to be able to catch myself quickly when distractions like darting grey squirrels cross my path. I ride my bike everyday onto campus for training and truly enjoy the fact that this past week I’ve driven my car only once.

Alright, a little more about the main reason I’m here: the DanceAbility teacher certification…

Alito breaks down the method into its most basic form: “DanceAbility is a dance class for everybody.” The method’s basis is inclusion and everyone dancing together. No dancer is left in isolation. After a week of learning and dancing together for 6 hours a day, I can tell you we’ve had some incredible discussions about semantics related to disability, hidden disabilities, and inclusion; but by far the majority of influential learning has come through the dancing. When moving with a group of individuals in a space you learn about your own body awareness, you learn from others movements in how to read the space and to move where the space needs you, and as a group you learn to trust intuition and what Alito calls “sensing”. 

My greatest experience of “sensing” so far occurred later in the week. In the morning a dancer brought up a concern that she felt the level of respect for each other and for Alito was not being maintained due to certain individuals entering the space late and being disruptive. Another dancer who experiences chronic pain voiced that she felt attacked by this statement, and explained that she needs to utilize equipment in the space in order to feel comfortable and usually arrives late due to attempting to get a little extra sleep in order to be able to stay throughout the rest of the day. Needless to say the trust that was previously beginning to build among the group felt shaken. 

Without any resolution, we apprehensively began to get into movement for the day. I was partnered with one of the dancers involved in the confrontation. The exercise consisted of one partner gently moving the other through contact improvisation. We shortly discussed our comfort levels with touch and anything we needed our partner to know about our body. I began as “the mover”. I was hyper aware of my partner’s comfort and continually glanced at her face, checking for signs of pain. Initially I felt inhibited creatively, feeling restricted and disconnected, but then began to make interesting choices in order to only use very light touch. Alito instructed us to come to an end and switch roles. When she moved me it was like magic. I felt her send grace into my body and the gentleness brought me to tears. I could write a book about what I’ve learned this week in training, but I think this particular experience was the most moving I’ve had thus far. We really don’t know what anyone else is going through at any given moment, but we can sense so much if we tune into another person through dance and touch.

The initial week of training was “intense, to say the least” as Alito relayed at the end of the week. But he assured us the trainings usually work out that way as it can be overwhelming in the beginning to understand the methodology, language, and design of DanceAbility. Needless to say, we were all ready for weekend exploration, adventure, and rest.  

Friday night I made plans to meet up with a dancer from New Zealand at an urban winery in town. We were joined by two other dancers from the training, one from Chicago and another from Mexico. Conversation flowed easily between the group as we shared stories of our backgrounds, cultures, and what brought us to the training. I am in awe of the level of skill, advocacy, experience, and just bad-assness my fellow teacher trainees bring to this program. Just in that small group we had a University student advocate, a leukemia survivor who practices child psychology, and a  mindfulness practitioner who teaches strategies/classes to local schools in her community. And of course, on top of all of this, each of these individuals is a dancer, weaving the power of movement into her own passions and pursuits. Wow, to say the least, I am humbled…and inspired. It was a wonderful evening and refreshing to chat with  such an eloquent group of ladies.


Saturday the fun continued. I met a group of dancers at the Saturday Market - a weekly open air market including local crafters, produce, and food trucks that is rumored to be the largest open air market west of the Mississippi. By the time I left I had a backpack filled with fresh produce, and another bag filled with treasures and presents. Needless to say, I’ll be back next Saturday, hopefully with a little more restraint! 

In the afternoon I took advantage of Don’s outdoor kitchen and my bag of produce, throwing together a coconut curry as Maceo circled my feet, meowing in approval. It turned out pretty tastily if I say so myself, and I felt an extra puff of pride when Don wondered out onto the deck and asked if he could have my recipe. 

Saturday night’s event was a trip to the Cuthburt Ampitheatre, an outdoor venue in a park just north of the Willamette River. I met up with a fellow dancer to watch The Floydian Slips perform. This band by far wins the prize for best Pink Floyd cover band name.   


Ended the weekend with some much needed R & R. I started my Sunday with a massage at Pearl Day Spa. My masseuse advised me to come back again soon and book an hour and a half massage instead of just an hour based on the high level of knotage in my back. Stopped in for a tea and GF scone at Vera Espresso, a coffee house set in a quaint Victorian house with a wrap around porch. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, doing laundry, and snuggling Maceo. 

Around 4 pm I did get a bit restless though and took a drive over to Spencer Butte Trailhead and took a quick but steep hike to the top. Before telling me to “party on”, a tie-dye clad hiker advised me to take a detour to a mossy side of the mountain where I sat for a while and soaked up some Mother Earth goodness. I even found Nessie in a fallen tree (check out the pic)! It was a great way to end an incredible first week here in Eugene.   


Until next week, party on friends!