Meet the Team

 
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Elia Mrak

Once upon a time at the beginning of a workshop, a student claims that I said:

“This class will be about the poetry of movement, because that is what I am about.” Cool.

The 5 most influential books on my life are:

  • “Dancing in the Streets” by Barbara Ehrenreich

  • “Walkabout” by Bruce Chatwin

  • “Letters to a Young Poet” by Maria Rainer Rilke

  • “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz

  • “Being Peace” by Thich Naht Hahn

“Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. (And we’ll dance).” - Rumi (and Elia)

Nothing worth doing can be done alone, and amovementmovement is no exception. There is a team that supports this vision, and it is an honor to learn from them and lead them. Check their stories out below.

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Hannah Wendel

Back in my hometown of Seattle after graduating from Boston Conservatory, a friend told me I needed to take Elia’s class because it would change my life and sure enough it did.  Something shifted. I had spent so many years of dancing in institutions—starting at a young age at Dance Fremont (Seattle) through summer intensives at Joffrey Ballet, San Francisco Conservatory, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the Gaga Intensive in Tel Aviv, Impusltanz in Vienna and a Conservatory education. I am unbelievably grateful for my experiences there but amidst all the training and form I felt like I had forgotten who I was and why I liked to dance. Since then it’s been a process of peeling back the layers. Elia handed me one of his favorite books as a gift after being the youngest dancer selected for the Samurai Project, a project he worked on in 2014 with Martin Piliponsky and Viko Kaizen. It has been a book I return to over and over again. “The only journey is the one within.” -Ranier Maria Rilke

It has been my journey to rediscover myself through the stories I dance. It has become my mantra and I am here to share myself. My pain. My joy. All of me.  I currently live in Brooklyn and  have spent the last few years creating, performing, and producing. I am a certified yoga instructor (275 hr RYT Laughing Lotus Yoga Studio) Reiki Practioner and host Spacejam, a donation-based improv workshop and jam. 

Shit is way too serious- Let us dance and be free, and celebrate being alive. 

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Steven Ripley

I studied theater at UC Berkeley and got my MFA in Playwriting at UCLA. I worked as an actor, stage manager and playwright for 20 years. My weird, socially-charged plays were performed in San Diego, Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

I worked with the City of Seattle for 18 years as a web manager, project lead, business writer, emergency first responder, software trainer, and content developer for the Seattle.gov web site. Our team created a citizen service portal, community web calendar, content management system, and web portals for teens, seniors and in 30 different languages. It was good work for our city, and I’m proud I was part of it.

A friend of mine recently asked me what I do with amovementmovement. I thought about it and said: Well, in the television show The West Wing, someone asks Josh Lyman what he does at the White House, and he says, “Well, the President is the guy, and I’m the guy who helps the guy.”

So, I’m the guy who helps the guy. It is all about collaboration, creativity and commitment.

Also, I like to dance.

 
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This is the story of the JUMANO.

Back in 2011, Elia Mrak was scheduled to lead a 1-month workshop and creation process in Merida, México. Two weeks before he left for the project, he under-rotated a standing backflip and broke his left toe. The doctor told him that he would need to protect it and wear shoes when he danced. Normally, he teaches and dances barefoot, so he compromised and wore only 1 shoe for the duration of the workshop.

During the workshop, in his beginning-level Spanish, he continually referred to “human movement” as “movimiento de humano”. He incorrectly kept pronouncing the “h” even though in Spanish the “h” is silent. One patient student in particular kept reminding and correcting him, and yet Elia kept making the same mistake.

At the end of the 1-month process, this student gifted Elia with this handmade shirt with whimsical image of a human being. If you look close, you can see the single shoe, and underneath, it is named “JUMANO” to honor and commemorate the fact that Elia never learned how to pronounce “humano” correctly.

To this day, JUMANO stands as an reminder to fight for something worth fighting for, and do so with humility, humor, and art.

JUMANO is our endearing colleague, friend, and logo.