by Vanessa Nowitzky
Why am I vegan, and what does it have to do with singdancing?
1) Because animals feel pain.
Sentient beings have the ability to feel both physical and emotional sensations. Plants do not suffer, as they lack a nervous system and have quite obviously evolved to be able to survive even while pieces of their bodies are cut off, and can even regenerate. Whatever plants might be experiencing, being pruned is not an emergency for them– they don’t run away. When I was a teenager, I realized that if creatures can move by themselves, and would run away and resist being caught, they must have their own desires, and therefore it would be wrong to kill them or hold them captive as that would interfere with their desires. The root of the word animated, which we say of moving pictures, originally meant like an animal, because animals move. As a dancer I’m very sensitive to motion as an expression of liberty and justice. Anything that moves by itself, I want to let live on its own terms.
2) Because evolution gave me the compassion to notice when other beings are suffering and the self-awareness to take responsibility for my own actions.
Humanity evolved by cooperating. “The scale of human cooperation is an evolutionary puzzle” –yet it’s no mystery that the creature who mastered communication and created the most cooperative society was able to dominate the planet. When people reflect, i.e., LIKE, each other, it comes down to / is ultimately a function of the mirror neurons in our brains. Monkey see, monkey feel! Com-passion means with-feel. To translate the seen to the felt to the heard, “feeling-with” another being is a form of resonance. When people resonate with each other, they can live in harmony. Harmony is resonance.
Nietzsche eschewed God, but he said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.” Which begs the question: is music intentional, or an automatic component of life? I say both. A not-necessarily audible music does occur naturally as the coordination of the motion of bodies interlocking in space. Life is a rhythmic pulse, interweaving frequencies from the rotations of the galaxies down to the wavelengths of our quantum particles. Our heartbeats know that harmony is the easiest solution, and our minds know that harmony is also a conscious allowing of the will and the heart.
Moreover, we now know that to continue our overly consumptive way of life will lead to the destruction of all life. Choosing to live in harmony with nature and the animals requires us to listen more deeply, to hear and resonate with the cries of other beings besides our own. It’s an expansion of our awareness that motivates us to choose to limit our own self-satisfaction to what actions sustain harmony for all sentient beings. Yet we can do this without limiting our joy. Indeed, we increase our joy by resonating with the joy of others. Like I tell my friends, “I’m a hedonist– for all time and all beings!”
3) Because the American Dietetic Association and 12,000 doctors in the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine agree that a well-planned vegan diet is healthy for humans at all stages of development!
The lens of science does not show us “just” a philosophy, it presents us facts, like gravity, that happen whether we believe in them or not. The facts of the physical world are always my singdancing partners, as they determine what I am able to sing when doing what series of moves. I discovered the principles of singdancing via trial and error, i.e., research.
Enough research has now been done in the realm of diet to determine what nutritional needs humans have and how to get them from plants. The habitual excess of meat consumption has been shown to cause several diseases. It’s now mandatory in California to provide hospitals and prisons with plant-based meal options.
Biology tells us that humans are omnivores. That means, we can choose what to eat– we are not obligate carnivores who cannot survive without meat. If we can live without harming others, let alone ourselves, why not choose to do so? As an intelligent culture, we base our worldview on facts, and eliminate traditions that no longer serve us, when we discover they do not correspond to those facts. For example, it is no longer legal to practice slavery, as we know all human beings to be equally worthy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Once overall awareness expands to include the experience of other sentient beings, I predict that the future of our culture will be vegan. To subject animals to a torturous existence and premature death as we have been doing, originally ostensibly for our survival, but now merely for palate pleasure, becomes unthinkable.
In traditional dance, we dance to the music we hear. But in singdancing, our voices create the musical environment we respond to with our dancing actions, which in turn support our voices, in a self-generative loop. This brings up a metaphor for life: we’re not locked into the choices of previous generations. We’re the ones who continue to make these choices day to day. We can choose how to live and we can create harmonious environments that support us and all living beings.
4) Because getting vegan organic B12 only costs 12 cents a day.
Humans use tools to survive. Just as we don’t shun eyeglasses, wheelchairs, blenders, computers, et cetera, to help us thrive, why would we turn down a vitamin pill if it makes life more compassionate and convenient?
B12 originates from bacteria in the soil, but farmed animals don’t eat out of the dirt anymore and the soil is usually depleted nowadays, so livestock farmers actually put B12 supplement into the feed of their animals. “90% of B12 supplements produced in the world are fed to livestock.”
It may be argued that washing machines, dishwashers, crock pots and so on were instrumental in the liberation of “women”– that half of the human race who were (and in many places still are) traditionally servants to the other half. Very few people have given up driving, even though we know it causes great pollution; the automobile helps us so much in our daily lives to be able to move long distances quickly. Instead, we are busy developing solar cars and finding new sustainable energies to use for our transportation, because we don’t want to lose those newfound freedoms. Likewise, in a hundred years we went from writing letters through hand-delivered mail to communicating across the globe daily using cell phones and wifi. The pinnacle of our technology becomes the foundation of our culture.
I use a blender as my artificial cow stomach so I can break down the cell walls of greens without enslaving a sentient being. I take an iron supplement because as a female athlete my body has higher needs for iron. I use a computer software program to help me notate the music I compose, because it enables me to hear several harmony lines at once and make sure they go together. I always felt this intelligence was inside me, yet it took the computer program to unlock my capacity. Even Mozart used instruments~ from the pianoforte to the orchestra~ to manifest the harmonies inside him. Once my singdancers and I practice, we create this music on our own.
Singdancing, an art form without tools, celebrates the toolmaker.
5) Because I want extreme wellness.
I was born with a genetic liver disorder, so my personal wellness is impeded by a 30% slower processing of toxins. This is why it’s been so amazing for me to stick to a RAW vegan diet free of toxicities, even the acrylamides found in baked goods. When I gave up dairy products, I found my entire respiratory system clearing and cleansing such that I no longer ever had excess mucus in my lungs or nasal tracts. It was as if I was given a cure for the common cold. Even if I did catch a bug, it lasted no more than 24 hours and did not clog my breathing, only gave me a slight fever. My breathing has stayed clear for the past 16 years.
Singdancing is an art form of extreme wellness. Clear breathing is obviously essential to the practice of singdancing. Singing and dancing at the same time requires highly functioning respiratory and circulatory systems, which a well-planned vegan diet provides. I drink green smoothies daily for the energizing nutrition of raw fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here’s a recipe for a green smoothie:
3/4 personal watermelon
2-3 cups spinach
1/2 inch ginger root
Scoop the watermelon into the blender (seeds and all).
Add 2 cups spinach, and ginger.
Use the tamper to make sure it all blends (don’t add water).
Adjust the taste to your liking by adding more watermelon to make it sweeter or more spinach to make it darker. 2 cups of spinach = 10% of your daily iron.
Drink at once, or, keep up to 3 days in a jar in the fridge; be sure to shake before drinking. It’s a very effective pre- or post-workout drink!
The vegan diet is energizing and delicious, and the vegan lifestyle — knowing I’m doing my part daily to minimize the suffering of animals — is a load off my mind. Educating myself on this topic keeps me motivated. Here is a thorough, compassionate website where you can go to understand all the issues behind animal agriculture. And here’s a comprehensive and entertaining site, searchable on any topic, for nutrition facts.
And the SIXTH REASON…
6. The circle of life is a flat tire.
Billions of humans punctured that illusion decades ago. Watch the clock here! Our planet cannot sustain this exponential growth, and we can no longer pretend to be wild animals participating in some fantasy of a circle of life. In truth, we stepped outside of that circle thousands of years ago when we started breeding animals as livestock for our own food. This astonishing image shows that we have raised a monstrous amount of cows to go along with our own population growth, and decimated wilderness in the process.
The awareness human beings use to plan our livelihood by cultivating crops and livestock instead of just hunting and gathering is the same awareness that enables me to choreograph and compose a singdance rather than just improvise. When you’re aware of the circle of life, you are responsible for your actions upon it.
What’s necessary to humanity’s survival now is a massive shift to a plant-based diet, as it produces the most food for the least resources, causes the least pollution and suffering, and gives the most benefit for its cost. We didn’t understand the consequences of our actions before, but now that we do, non-vegans who have not greatly reduced their animal product consumption show not only a lack of compassion for animals but for their own species. Once animal product consumption is reduced to meet civil needs, it will be an easier step to extend compassion to other species and go vegan! 🙂
Vegan Consciousness IS Bliss!
I am delighted to introduce my new singdancers, Carolina Downie and Anna Scheving. Together we’re workshopping my new singdance Street Deer. Anna and I were in high school choir together and she’s performed in two of my original works before: my trapeze madrigal Emerging Light and my singdance sub rosa. Carolina and I just met, but we found we had a lot in common. For example, as babies, we both spent a great deal of time under the pianos that our moms played!
SINGDANCERS BEFORE 2019:
Julia Box, Jessy Friedt, Heather Hutton, Nancy Martin, Aletha Nowitzky, Jeannie Olson, Presila Quinby, Nina Radhakrishna, Alison Stauth, Damon Van der Barr, Christine Williams
If you have performed singdancing with me, please send me your email address, so I can get your photo and one paragraph bio, and I will add you to this page! 🙂
Call to sign up, or use contact form to email me.
Currently seeking a third woman to singdance in a trio of deer, based on this film:
I have choreographed a longer singdance to express the dog and car sequences, including a fast-paced Irish jig-like section.
Chorus members of any gender are also needed to play background deer.
A variety of performers are sought for many other pieces, playing roses, frogs, birds, etc, and pieces will be created for long-term members.
Selected singdancers will sing harmonies in tune a cappella as written and perform dances as choreographed. A Singdancing Company does not discriminate on the basis of gender, orientation, age or race. We believe all sentient beings have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without harming others, in an equitable, just world.
Feb. 2019 Update: the V-PAC is on hold for a while…
Original post: I’ve started an international online community for vegan performing artists of all styles and their supporters! Here’s the site in all its raw, undeveloped glory.
1. To voice the movement of energy through the body.
2. To allow movement to affect vocalization in order to form melodic potentials which the ear can specify.
3. To embody music, vocally and physically through integrated movement and song.
example: Let us singdance.
1. a choreographed composition that is created in such a manner that the movement affects the voice to form melodies.
2. a choreographed composition which embodies music in such an integrated way, that it looks and sounds as if the movement affects the voice to form melodies.
example: How do you like my new singdance?
singdancing, noun: the act of those who singdance.
example: I love singdancing.
singdancing, verb (gerund). example: She is singdancing.
I love contra dancing for so many reasons and I highly recommend it as a way that anyone can enjoy dance!
1) It’s a painless way to start developing memory for choreography. It focuses on interesting, simple, pretty patterns. The movements are easy to learn and are called by a caller so you don’t have to remember them. Other people in the dance help you as you go, and making mistakes is just another way to laugh and enjoy the experience! The patterns themselves are awesome because they occur in two long lines that could in theory repeat infinitely! Someday I want to see a contra dance that extends across an entire city!
2) You get to hold a lot of people in your arms without getting too close. The stance is at arm’s length, allowing touch and motion through the hands and shoulders, without the overt intimacy of pelvic action. Due to the patterns in the dance, the people in your arms change every few seconds. You start and end the dance with a partner but you are encouraged to find a new partner with every dance.
3) Wonderfully jiggy live music is played, mostly English and Celtic folk tunes via acoustic instruments such as fiddle and guitar. Beautiful, both melodic & rhythmic, and intellectually stimulating as well as foot-tappingly fun! I usually sing along with a counterpoint.
4) It’s fantastic exercise that most anyone can do! Based on brisk walking, it is cardiovascular and can get as energetic as you like when you add creative hopping flair! People can do it pretty much lifelong and many elderly people become spritely on the dance floor.
5) Did I mention spinning, which is therapeutic for my ADD brain? Everytime you swing a partner, you get to spin! It’s easy to keep from getting dizzy though, by looking into your partner’s eyes- or at their ears if you’re shy!
Ashland, Oregon hosts a monthly contra dance, usually on third Saturdays. All ages attend. The next one is this Saturday, October 18th. Next dances are Nov. 15th and Dec. 13th. Instruction for beginners starts at 7 p.m. so you can learn things like what’s a do-si-do or an allemande left, and how to “swing” your partner. The dance itself begins at 7:30. The location is the Grove in Ashland, which is at the corner of East Main and Garfield St. $9, and you get a coupon for a free second attendance.
Swing you there!
is a spiraling loop of infinity.
Singdancing is a whole new genre of art, which needs a whole new generation of composing choreographers.
I am here to begin their training.
~A SINGDANCING MANIFESTOOOOO~
Vanessa Nowitzky, innovator of singdancing
To singdance is to voice the movement of energy through the body. Breath is choreographed into motion that etches sound into music.
To singdance is to allow movement to affect vocalization in order to form melodies.
First I choreograph movement, inspired by the impetus of emotion and exaggerated into its most beautiful and/or powerful manifestation. Then I notice when, within that movement, it feels good to inhale or exhale. Then I voice the exhalations, and allow the movement to affect the vocalization. Forces of motion throughout the body propel the breath, affecting the pitch and volume of the expelled air, creating rough melodic shapes as I vocalize. My composer’s ear then specifies the borders of these shapes into actual melodies, referring back to the original emotion for harmonic differentiation.
Singdancing is holistic self-expression. The act of singdancing is rooted in a deeply satisfying, primal or infant-like direct vibratory expression using the entire body and voice. As a holistic combination of composer, choreographer and storyteller, I heighten this “voice movement therapy” (Paul Newham, The Singing Cure) into the codifiable realm of music and dance. A holistic renaissance is emerging as modern humans are reaching for fulfillment on all levels. To singdance is to feel and express emotions through the twin channels of body and voice, simultaneously. The release can be incredibly enjoyable.
Any movement can form the basis of a singdance. I have even coached acrobats to sing while tumbling. Sing those back handsprings! Are the possibilities of modern dance endless? Is the potential of modern choral music infinite? Will the symphony orchestra ever be exhausted? Certainly the future capacity for singdancing repertoire is no more limited than these classic models.
Singdancing is musical theater on the right side of the brain. Ideas felt with the body tell stories more immediately and viscerally than those told verbally. Accessing voice with the intuitive mind frees the performer to explore greater singing range than he or she thought available. The integration of motion and song offers a full palette to the artist and a rich experience to the audience.
Popular and folk music is always dance music. Children vocalize their movement all day long. It’s natural to move and sing and it feels wonderful! Why has the experience been lost to intellectuals? Was it religious restraint, or overly mental methods of education and work that disenfranchise one’s own kinesthetic sense? These excuses melt away, for here’s a completely intellectual way to exercise!
Singdancing bridges learning differences. Intertwining dance so closely with music helps musicians learn dance, gaining healthier bodies, and helps dancers access their voices. Vocal range, power and stamina increase with each physically-based exercise. Theater students, who must develop both their voices and bodies, will benefit from the practice of singdancing. Voice students, who are called upon to move while acting in operas, will learn how to integrate their instrument. Composers, choreographers and directors will understand what they can ask of performers. Blocked writers suddenly know what they want to say. Any artists, even those who do not normally sing or dance, can clarify their artistic expression with singdancing, because the improvisations free up energy and clear emotional channels.
Two formidable arts, that of dance and a cappella music, each requiring many years of study, are inexorably intertwined in the act of singdancing. Students who are drawn to singdancing can begin the long road of their training here. The successful composer/ choreographer must produce and master a form of movement that incorporates breath, and understand how to map dancers through space, while simultaneously creating the melodic motion of vocal line and effectively harmonizing each part. Creators of singdance must be highly self-motivated, to rise above existing organizational structures and launch their own dreams. Each one becomes a leader and a teacher, coaching his or her performers to extend their abilities beyond their comfort zones.
Singdancing is an empowering affirmation of human creative nature, for the vibrations we create by singing, we also hear and respond to with our dancing, which then physically affects our voices, which make our music. In one continuous loop, the music from our own mouths becomes the rhythm and harmony of our vibratory environment, which in turn stimulates the act of our dance. Whether harmonious or dissonant, we create this environment, and we are responsible for our actions. As modern humans, we must all take responsibility for the environment we create. Singdancers show audiences harmonic visions, and synchronize everyone’s breath. As my composition teacher Stephen ‘Lucky’ Mosko once told me, “The purpose of art is to help people heal.”
The world needs singdancers.
The world is ready for singdancing.