Tag Archives: music





COLEMAN BARKS, poet/translator of Rumi

JAI UTTAL, intrumentalist/vocalist

GLEN VELEZ, world percussionist

ZULEIKHA, storydancer

OPEN SECRET THE RUMI CONCERT returns to Santa Fe! The ecstatic poetry of Rumi, the most widely read poet in America today, comes to life in a feast of poetry, music, dance, story and humor. The Storydancer Project is excited to bring together four unique world-class artists in collaboration: acclaimed poet and translator, Coleman Barks, celebrated vocalist-instrumentalist, Jai Uttal, Grammy Award-winner world percussionist, Glen Velez, and international Storydancer, Zuleikha. Don’t miss the opportunity to see one of Santa Fe’s most beloved performances.

COLEMAN BARKS has translated more than a dozen volumes of the 13th-century Sufi mystic Jalal’uddin Rumi’s poetry, including The Illuminated Rumi (1997) and The Essential Rumi (1995.) colemanbarks.com

JAI UTTAL is a Grammy nominated pioneer in the world music community. October 2014 his most recent recording, “Lifeline: The Essential Jai Uttal and Ben Leinbach Collection,” was released. jaiuttal.com

GLEN VELEZ is a four-time Grammy Award-winner, founding father of the modern frame drum movement, and a legendary figure among musicians and audiences worldwide. glenvelez.com

ZULEIKHA is an international performer, recording artist, and educator. She is renowned for her “storydance” performances, and collaborations with poet and translator of Rumi, Coleman Barks and celebrated world musicians. storydancer.com

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BodyListening05-26-15 from Swan Lake Publishing on Vimeo.

BODYLISTENING: A Movement Awareness Practice (MAP) for Everyone
• Body Listening is a body-friendly way to explore free movement.
• The process begins on the floor, exploring your relationship with gravity, attuning to a quiet deep awareness while being held by the continuity and safety of the floor.
• Moving from the body’s felt-sense, habitual patterns unwind and new pathways open.
• The session progresses to standing and moving while maintaining connection with your inner awareness.
• In the last phase of Body Listening, full body movements through space are explored, in relationship to other people.
• Body Listening doesn’t require special training or equipment.
• It doesn’t ask you to abandon the body you have for someone else’s idea of one.
• Body Listening invites you to inhabit the body you are, and discover what unfolds from that awareness.
• It can be done by everyone, regardless of level of health or movement experience.

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Summer 2014 – Germany & Switzerland

People keep asking me ‘how was your summer?

GERMANY – Arriving into a Hanover, Germany, in August, I heard the news that Europe had been having the most rain in 100 years. I actually experienced this everywhere I went this summer. Peaches were delicious, though some people were picking them and letting them ripen indoors because everything was so wet.


I first stayed in the village of Heckenbeck. There is a seminar house in Heckenbeck with a theater that is always booked. This village is a very creative place, and they present many interesting drama works, music and dance performances, and children’s works as well. I had a wonderful concert there.



Afterwards the director of the theater and seminar house called me back to the stage and presented me with a bottle of something only found in this place, a very unique non-alcoholic apple cider, pressed in a special way that makes it the ‘champagne’ of apples and a specialty of the region.



The group who gathered for the seminar were uniquely interesting as well: therapists, scientists, teachers, one climate change expert, people who love to dance, people who used to dance, caregivers of Alzheimers’ patients, and some people who have been working with me for a long time.

We practiced what I created, called ‘BodyListening,’ a body-friendly way to explore free movement. The process begins with the body lying on the floor, while attuning to a quiet deep awareness, and then moving in the way the body wants to move. This kind of interior work, with space to move fully, coupled with the time to inquire within has been shown to bring resilience to those who are in the practice.

For several days we had the good luck to eat outside in the garden, simple style-soup, fresh German bread and cheese, and the fruits of the summer.

In the afternoons we concentrated on working in rhythm, and learned about the way we feel inside of musical rhythmic structures. Being a musician, I enjoy the music of movement. It gives people a chance to explore different ways of moving. Rhythm is like a ‘container,’ a four-beat rhythm holds the space in a different way than three beats, for example.

Participants report that one of the outcomes of the seminar is a feeling of expansion of being, both physically and with awareness. Some people stay for more in depth private work. I love sharing this kind of space with people. It gives a place for our daily struggles to be explored amidst the spaciousness of freedom and wonder.

I learned that in the north of Germany, the ancient way that people built homes, with adobe, or mud and straw, was very similar to New Mexico. I saw some spectacular and yet simple homes, both large and small, that people had built themselves. We ate wonderful salad vegetables, fresh from their gardens.


SWITZERLAND – Moving then to the Italian Swiss Alps, I arrived once again, as I have for many years, at the Zenith Institute.

This is a camp high in the mountains, where each summer the place is built up, with tents, a main big tent, seminar tents, and tenting for participants. I stay in a shed-style house with other teachers a bit below the main tent area. We have lots of rain jokes here, and they have a pile of French rubber mountain boots, which I usually have to borrow at least once each summer. This year I wore them the whole time.

The main tent is very large, and it is here that the classes take place. On a warm day you can open the side panels, and see the breathtaking views of what look like the European Himalayas, the Alps.

It is in this high mountain atmosphere that I have had the good fortune to lead experimental movement based in the presence of nature–divine and exquisite. Sometimes we go outside and work in the mountains, studying the way our beings feel inside of the body. Between earth and the sky, we explore the meeting of the physical with deep awareness, in expression. Learning from the way a tree is rooted, reaching into the sky, and then taking that lesson into exploration.


Often we work inside of the beautiful wood floored main tent. If it is cold, the staff light the gas heaters which when wearing layers helps to keep us warm. This year because of the dampness, we had to cultivate a lot of humor to continue.


The subject of humor is a constant lesson in my life, and one that comes in very handy. As my good friend Wavy Gravy used to say to kids when we worked together at Camp Winnarainbow, “If you don’t have a sense of humor, it’s just not funny!’


SANTA FE, NM – The autumn equinox is around the corner, and so is my upcoming concert with friend and violinist extraordinaire, Tracy Silverman. We have been wanting to artistically collaborate for some time.

The special live concert filming event will enable us to begin a work called The Aurora Project. We will be able to both perform together and work with groups of young people challenged by life’s circumstances, around the U.S.


I first met Tracy when he was performing with Terry Riley, a great contemporary composer of music in our time, with a heart in North Indian classical music as well as music in the Western world. Some years ago, I traveled and performed with Terry and Tracy and other highly skilled and wonderful musicians in Norway and that’s when Tracy and I began to talk about working together.

We both work with young people, and feel very strongly about carrying the joy of music, movement, and freedom into the ever-changing world.


Please feel free to let your friends know about this work and let us know if you are interested in bringing seminars or performances to your communities.

Don’t forget to Take A Minute™ for yourself as the busyness of life speeds into autumn.
Be Well,


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TAKE A MINUTE™ is a self-care action plan that only takes a minute of our busy lives.

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The Storydancer Project (TSP), a non-profit international artistic health resource organization, serves girls, women, children and families facing challenging life circumstances by providing innovative Core Wellness Exercise and Movement Arts programs and trainings that foster and enliven greater health, self-esteem, resilience and leadership. TSP is a 501(c)(3) organization, based in Santa Fe, NM, which offers its programs free of charge. TSP works in partnership with organizations and communities locally and globally. We particularly focus on collaborating to create sustainable, train-the-trainer programs that provide the most effective long-term support for our partnering communities.


TSP’s Core Wellness Exercise and Movement Arts Model incorporates exercise, movement, rhythm, music and story to develop a resilient and enlivened sense of self, strengthen participants’ connection to their bodies and establish a sound foundation for joy and health.


TSP was created in 2001 by Zuleikha to address the lack of wellness education and resources for girls and women locally and internationally and to bring rejuvenation, leadership and self-care skills to girls, women, children and families facing challenging life circumstances such as poverty, illness, war, and natural disasters.
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Zuleikha has been invited to be Artist in Residence at a number of schools and institutions, including Lines Ballet, San Francisco, CA, Lied Performing Arts Center and Midland Lutheran College, Fremont, Nebraska, Smithsonian Institution and the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies and the National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C., Culver Academies, Culver, Indiana, and Lawrence Arts Center, Dance Department, Lawrence, Kansas.

“I felt very inspired by you and your work. It was an opening and freeing experience to hear your story to see how I could create my own way of living/dancing. I became much more aware of how dance can make a difference ( a huge difference) in our world. It changes our experience of life, of living.  It can be like being born again. It can be like dying too. Yes! I would like to do this again.” – Alicia Pugh, San Francisco Lines Ballet student

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“Zuleikha…The comedy, grief, longing, silliness, and joy of being human come through her beautiful, very intelligent, very funny presentations. She has been apprenticed to many traditions, almost all of them, but her combining is unique.” — Coleman Barks, poet and translator of Rumi
Inspirational performing artist and storydancer, Zuleikha, a whirlwind of spirit, rhythm, and dance, transports her audiences with stories of nature, world lore and life itself.
Unique and provocative, Zuleikha’s soul-stirring one-woman performances combine creative expression with embodiment of story, dance, rhythm, mimicry and humor. The stories, animals and feelings she dances bring delight as she mirrors the journey of the soul. In the mesmerizing flow of living traditions and the humor and sparkle of the ancients, Zuleikha reveals the soul of our common humanity.

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Throughout the year, in a wide variety of venues, Zuleikha joins together with world musicians and poets to make magic. These performances create a glow of humor, depth and virtuosity. Performance in collaboration is another way of creating community. Crossing the borders of many cultures, Zuleikha has worked with such great world musicians as the late African drum master Baba Olatungi, jazz guitarist Bruce Dunlap, cellist David Darling, vocalist/instrumentalist Jai Uttal, world percussionist Glen Velez, composer/cellist Eugene Friesen, avant-garde composer/pianist Terry Riley, fusionary musician Kitaro, pianist Aaron Stern, master oud musician Rahim Alhaj, Coleman Barks, poet and translator of Rumi, and many others.

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The Rumi Concert is a stunning collaboration of artists, bringing the lyrical and spiritual power of Rumi to life in a remarkably moving performance, a multidimensional feast of poetry, music, dance and story. Poet and translator Coleman Barks performs the poems of Rumi, a 13th century ecstatic poet of unparalleled lyrical and spiritual power. He is joined by storydancer, Zuleikha, whose magic of dance, song and story animates the genius and rapture of Rumi’s poetry. Together, they perform with world musicians such as Glen Velez, Eugene Friesen, David Darling, Jai Uttal, and poet, Robert Bly.


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International storydancer, performer, educator and humanitarian. Zuleikha grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, a center for cultural interchange and artistic innovation. She studied Western classical music, and devoted years to the exploration of so-called “natural movement” and avant-garde dance with choreographer Anna Halprin. Interested in how different cultures find expression in movement, Zuleikha also studied the foundations of Chinese martial arts, esoteric therapeutic movement, and Japanese and Balinese dance. She attended the Ali Akbar College of Music, which was the first classical Indian music college in the West, and later studied with the Afghan musician Ustad Hashim Chishti, who was an exponentmand master of the myriad expressions of North Indian classical music, including melody (raga), rhythm and dance.

As Zuleikha’s practice of various art forms and sacred traditions deepened, she became aware of profound commonalities. She realized that “underlying all of these creative expressions are ancient technologies containing wisdom on how the body, mind and spirit come together through movement.” In performance, Zuleikha started to work with a synthesis of dance, storytelling, poetry, music and humor. She developed movement techniques of body, mind and spirit awareness that have become integral to her presentations. For example, she performs her own style of whirling through focusing on “the roots of inner space.” Zuleikha’s “whirling” is considered by many to be one of the highlights of the Rumi Concert, an inspirational collaboration among Zuleikha, Coleman Barks, the well-known poet and interpreter of Rumi, and world class musicians. Presented to audiences throughout the world, the Rumi Concert exemplifies the connection between artistic expression and the inner experience of the Divine.

(Excerpt from article about Zuleikha, “The Dancer is in the Dance,” by Susan Skeele for SUFI, Issue 85, Summer 2013


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