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What Goes On at Hanna Barn?

That’s what people ask, Joan Hanna smiles. What goes on at the Barn? Joan, the tall, elegant 70-something dynamo who opened space at her family home in 1978 and then in the Barn in 1994, has created a unique community resource. In the renovated barn at her family home on Maury Island, she offers workshops, camps, concerts, and readings. It is a sanctuary – a lovely space with Zen-like spirit that invites creativity, contemplation, expression, movement, collaboration, connection.

Yes, AND, so what happens there? A concert on June 30 by pianist Pui Ming followed by a day-long workshop when she is joined by her partner Mary Ganzon, a dancer, teacher and cranial sacral practitioner, showcases the interactive creativity that arises when we tap into and express the inner, innate energies of life that are at the heart of all that goes on at the Barn.

The Barn allows and encourages "fearless dancing," Joan explains. And dancing here is a metaphor. Move, juggle, write, draw, make music, clown, dance, just sit still. It’s about practice and process. In the myriad forms of expression, the Barn is an invitation to be fearless together as we overcome the separation of NO/BUT (I can’t do that! I’m not creative. But I don’t know how!) to explore YES/AND (Can I be curious? Willing to inquire? What will happen if I allow YES?).

The Barn is a place and a space and an invitation to listen and notice what arises from our sensations, through our bodies, from the environment, from our connections and experience of life. To watch unattached what passes through our minds without judgment. To open ourselves to expressing this moment of possibility. In Joan’s heart, it’s nothing less than the practice of giving and receiving love.

Big words! Non-attachment, possibility, giving and receiving love. Improvisation. Yes, AND, at the Barn, you just let that go and allow yourself to be a "fearless dancer."

So what is improvisation? Says Pui Ming: "Improvisation is about listening and responding, being keenly present in and to the moment, responding/relating to what is rising within and all around and weaving the web of inter-relationship." It’s a big, wide-open field, and you don’t have to be scared.

In the Barn, which is both an empty space of beauty and serenity and full with the sweet allowing energy of the years of practice, you are held in trust. Simply being there is enough. As you take time to allow what arises, you learn to listen. A real connection to your body is nourished. Courage and trust grow; you learn to let go. You allow the "fearless dancing." It comes up and out, and it’s all right.

There are opportunities for everyone at the Barn. Practice in the various forms of body/mind integration offered empowers kids of all ages. (Literally, age 80-kids as well as age-10 kids!) Parents, participants and practitioners say the work/play that goes on at Hanna Barn makes a difference in their lives. In relationship to self and other. In everyday skills of communication and decision-making. In engagement with the world. In manifesting long-cherished dreams. In overcoming despair and feeding connection with life.

Check out what’s currently offered:

Contemplative Dance Practice and other classes based on Yoga, QiGong, TaiChi, Shibashi

Joan Hanna (

Contemplative Dance Practice is a participatory form created by Barbara Dilley, chancellor of Naropa Institute. Joan’s Friday morning practice includes: (1) sitting meditation, (2) personal warm-up, (3) open space and (4) creative expression and sharing. Open space is time to sense oneself in relation to others, with the possibility of creating relationship through movement, with no mandate for anything in particular to happen. Witnessing others is important, too. The ground is meditation, the sweet opportunity to be still at the same time one is moved.

Once her children went to school, Joan moved to Boulder, Colorado to study for a degree in Dance Movement Studies and Dance Therapy at Naropa, a university founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the first Buddhist master to present Buddhism in a psychological language that spoke to the Western mind. In the mid ‘80’s, Joan came home to a handful of students willing to play with the material she most resonated with. She introduced Contact Improvisation, Playback Theater, Authentic Movement and Developmental Movement. The practice that has sustained itself is Contemplative Dance.

Joan shares: "Over the years, my deep appreciation of the weekly practice unfolds in fresh and surprising ways as I observe myself and others grow more confident in expressing one’s own true self without inhibition or doubt. Free movement, witnessing without judgment and expressing the experience through art, writing and sharing have guided me in my long interest in community building, both in my home and on the Island – this being the very intention of the creator of the form, Barbara Dilley. When I arrived in the mid 70’s, I had a strong feeling this amazing spot of heaven on Maury Island would be shared by community. This has unfolded gradually and has come to ground in improvisation or, better said, waiting for spontaneous uprisings. Waiting and not knowing might be quite radical, or perhaps, very natural in a natural setting like the opening of a flower in spring."

Butoh Body/Mind Lab and Open Meditation

Jyl Shinjo Brewer ( 206-619-3321)

As a foundation for well-being and authentic expression, Jyl’s Thursday evening Butoh Lab explores the creative forces at work between mind and body. Using the techniques and philosophy of Butoh Dance, a modern Japanese form, as well as meditation, slow movement, creative expression, and dialogue, we delve into the roots of body and mind expression to fully understand and accept your body and its ever-changing process. Tuesday morning’s Meditation for All is rooted in Zen Meditation but without the rigid structure. We create group space to support the practice of bringing the body and mind to a peaceful inner silence, digging through the outer layers of self to find the silent unified field within. Private instruction is also available.

Jyl Shinjo Brewer has practiced meditation for over 20 years focusing mainly on Zen Meditation. She lived in a Japanese Zen Monastery for 11 of those years and was ordained as a RInzai Zen Monk in 2004. She has trained in Japanese Butoh Dance, also for 20 years, and has performed and taught Butoh. Jyl has now ‘grown her hair’ and is enjoying the process of unifying these studies and integrating them into daily life.

On-going dance classes for children and adults

Karen Nelson

When not on tour, Karen teaches "Banana Dance" (two sections: ages birth-5 and 6 and up) on Monday afternoons. The children’s natural movement and imagination, along with developmental skills and play, provide class material. Parents and teachers join in, follow, enhance and support the movement appetite of the children. Adult classes (Monday eves, Friday mid-day) provide a broad range of dance improvisation and body/mind awareness work designed to help each participant develop confidence in their own dance and embodiment practice. Karen also offers private lessons.

Karen dances to "feel my imagination" and has been working in the field for 35 years. She tours several months each year collaborating, teaching, and performing with amazing movement artists worldwide. She met Joan in the early 90’s at an East Coast gathering of dancers. Together, they created the 7-year project, Diverse Dance Research Retreat, which brought people with and without disabilities together to explore dance improvisation at Camp Sealth with performances at Blue Heron.

Camp Mik, week-long theatre camps for children ages 6-14, June/July

Mik Kuhlman (

Camp Mik offers a physical approach to acting – building creativity, confidence and curiosity through theatre games, improvisation, mime, mask and clown. See who you are as an individual and celebrate differences. Dive into body awareness, cultivate team work and build friendship. Each week’s camp culminates in a final performance for family and friends.

Mik Kuhlman is an international performer and teacher with experience spanning numerous styles from Shakespeare to Clown, site-specific and contemporary dance to film, television and voiceover. She regularly performs locally with UMO Ensemble, Church of Great Rain, Sandbox Radio Live and 14/48. Mik is the drama teacher at Harbor School and an artist-in-residence at Vashon High and McMurray Middle Schools.

So. Experience for yourself what goes on at the Barn. Join Pui Ming and Mary Ganzon June 30 and 31. At Hanna Barn, the operative word is join. Although Pui Ming is a classically trained concert pianist – and her concerto has been performed with full orchestra in concert halls – don’t expect to sit in straight-back chairs and pay attention. Give yourself the permission the Hanna Barn invites. Permission to allow the possibility of something new. Permission to explore and experiment. Permission to accept the invitation to engage in different ways with what’s offered. Improvisational listening, we’ll call it this time.

Concert details in the next Loop. Contact Joan for more information. (