Annie Parr: Bringing the Gold of Dance to Yoga

“I’m a rebel. Anti-routine is my habit. I’m always looking for pathways to be creative so authenticity is the road to follow. Tuning in to what I’m needing from the start of my practice is where I find home.”

Annie Parr is the founder of MDRN YGA, a dance-inspired vinyasa movement class she offers on Wanderlust TV. Check out her brand new course, Elemental Explorations, which breaks down the fundamentals of her signature MDRN YGApractice into three foundational elements.

Can you point to a moment where your passion for dance and your love of yoga merged to become MDRN YGA?

A few years ago, I started using yoga sequencing in my modern dance classes to warm-up. Simple flows that could turn into graceful, musically inspired stretching and conditioning. Doing yoga without a mat enabled creative transitioning and sequencing in a way that is unique, dancey and felt great. Dancers pick up movement so quickly I was able to throw all sorts of untraditional and tricky floor transitions at them to experiment with this new hybrid. Eventually the dance class warm up was so rich and satisfying I felt it could stand alone as a class without teaching dance choreography. I have always been invested in making dance accessible to untrained dancers. There is too much gold and beauty in dance to keep it to myself.

In what way did the pandemic change how you were delivering your teachings?

When I began online teaching, I asked myself these questions: What do the students have an opportunity to learn about this practice and their bodies that may not have been easily accessible inside the studio? What does a successful in-home practice look like? Can I take my students to the party that is inside my private space to them virtually?

For me, the pull was to guide movement meditations and to unleash the freedom to respond to music without stylization. Nobody is looking at you, and you are not looking at anyone else. The classroom distractions and self-conscience tendency when dancing in public is eliminated. As much as I love teaching sequencing and turning people on to a different approach to yoga, the embodiment practice in my class has been a very fulfilling way of teaching.

When you teach now, can you witness yogic teachings infiltrating the rigor of dance instruction?

Yes. Yoga bits are introduced in many dance classes in the warm ups. Yoga and dance are like cousins. Both modalities can benefit and communicate with one another

MDRN YGA expands the perspective of the typical mat-bound yogi. What other practices (physical or mental) do you recommend for yogis who need to shake up their practice?

Doing an embodiment practice that is sensation based, is a powerful way to tune in to how you feel and recalibrate your body and mind.

Rigorous yoga, dance and athletic training can actually take you away from mental and physical sensitivity. So many people are disconnected from their bodies even though they might be incredibly athletic. An embodiment practice attunes you and brings awareness to your body and its state from the inside out. Movement meditations have many proven benefits. You do not have to quietly sit to meditate. You can have a moving mantra and meditation to reduce stress,  enhance focus and re-set your state of being.

Annie Parr is a dancer, choreographer, teacher and proprietress of RoCo Dance Marin County. Annie received a BFA in Dance from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and was a member of Della Davidson Dance and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company before she founded RoCo Dance in 1993. RoCo is both a dance conservatory and recreational training program for youth and adults offering over 300 classes weekly in its 2 locations in Mill Valley and Fairfax.

Annie has been a professor of dance at UC Berkeley, Sonoma State, and SF State and guest teaches nationally. She receives awards as an independent choreographer and performer in the Bay Area and is the recipient of National Dance Weeks Bay Area Dancers Choice Award and of a MILLEY award for lifetime achievement in the arts.

Annie completed her 500 hours with Nubia Teixiera and is a certified RYT through Yoga Alliance. She founded Modern Yoga in 2016 and teaches regularly through RoCo Dance, retreats and festivals.

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