Mindfulness as Motion 

Transformative practices of physical attention and relational intelligence for dance and everyday life

Nita Little

Journey of Movement

Hello, I’m Nita

 I appreciate your presence here and I wish for you to get to know me. My history is dense, so summarizingreducing it is a trick… here goes…. 

The set up: 

I have always been a dancer and I have an amazing legacy of the finest US based dance teachers including Jose Limon, Judith Dunn, Alfredo Corvino and Takako Asakawa, not to mention Steve Paxton. Perhaps, key points are to let you know that my work is with and through the bodymind and has been since I began investigating Contact Improvisation under the guidance of Steve Paxton (1972).

Steve was brilliant at the time, not only as a mover but as a movement investigator. He passed this gift on to me because I paid attention to the kinds of questions he asked us. Together with other student dancers of his, we worked to develop what could be considered an emergent phenomenon and a new dance form, Contact Improvisation. By the 1990’s Contact had spread all over the world where it now is practiced by earnest dancers in communities who continue to develop it. Very shortly after Steve gave Contact a name, I realized that what I held in my mind when I moved was as significant as what was going on with me and my partner(s) physically.

I started to delve into the relationship of the mind and the body, thought and action. By 2000 I was expert in understanding this relationship. I had gained technical knowledge about the mind through clinical and medicalhypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) training, and I was continuing to put this work to use in bodily based practices of attention. I also had a clinical practice as a performance coach while also touring internationally to teach and perform Contact Improvisation and Dance Improvisation.

Academia and

By 2008 I was touring internationally numbers of times each year, teaching at festivals (ImPulsTanz), dance centers  and universities. I had already held visiting faculty and Lectureships at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Scripps College, Texas Christian University, Loyola Marymount University in addition to making and performing commissioned works for a number of ad hoc and permanent companies and colleges in the US and elsewhere.

Although I had received funding through a few NEA grants, I was enchanted with dance research and wanted to investigate states and practices of attention and disenchanted with funding organizations. I developed a research-based improvisation company in San Francisco, Divisadero Dance Research. And, I headed back to school – to the University of California, Davis, for a PhD in Performance Studies(achieved 2014). Dance had taught me more than was currently discussed about the Mind Body, so I needed to get into conversation with people in other fields and begin sharing what I knew from 35 years of mindbody investigations through writing and teaching.

My dissertation was titled, “Articulating Presence: Creative actions of embodied attention in Contemporary Dance”. I did a short Guest Asst. Professorship at the University of Florida (2015-16) before initiating The Institute for the Study of Somatic Communication (ISSC) of which I am Director working in collaboration with dancers in research ensembles from 5 countries – 2 additional ensembles in Copenhagen and Barcelona were about to start when Covid Isolation began. 

Present Tense

At the time Covid changed our lives, I was heading into another three-month European Tour teaching Relational Intelligence, initiating new ISSC ensembles, and giving lectures on such things as ReWilding Attention.

That all changed. I immediately developed a program I call Generating Joy, as an antidote to what was occurring around me. Through Generating Joy, I teach Relational Intelligence as a weekly online class and Composing Emergence as a Mentorship program that reconsiders relational practices in the making of dance and other performance works.

In Fall 2021, I will initiate Mind in Motion. a program for all people interested in extended mindfulness practices of physical attention that include movement as a necessity. More to come.