We are so excited to bring you an interview with Body & Pole instructor, and “Finding Your Freestyle” creator, Tracee Kafer! This month Tracee brings her next FYF Retreat to Costa Rica, for a week long restorative movement experience.
B&P: Tell us a bit about FYF – the history, the mission, and the essence of the program.
Finding Your Freestyle officially kicked off in 2012, it was originally conceived to be a weekly freestyle class experience at the studio. The idea scratched an itch for me, I saw it as a missing piece in the studio’s cultural landscape and class offerings. The idea also fed from a desire to prioritize the type of movement that was my own bliss, and I wanted to find and build content, culture, and community around it. Belonging is a thing, ya’ll. 😉
What I may not have initially realized was underneath all of this, there was a deeper urge to validate and normalize an aspect of pole dance – acknowledging it and labeling it as a movement practice (something that is now often labeled). I wanted to carve out space that didn’t involve competitions, trick attainment, and goal obsessions, that which was the general pulse of the pole dancing world at that time. This was also a time when grounded pole movement (low flow) wasn’t as popular and validated as it is now. I would love to think I had a teeny tiny role in that!
Body & Pole was totally down to take a chance on this idea I had, and included in on their schedule every Friday night (It actually started off as a workshop, but over time became a part of the general class schedule). At the time, focused freestyle classes in our industry were pretty rare, and the format I envisioned really started to evolve away from the exploration experiences I had been so deeply inspired by when I first started pole dancing. I love freestyle, exploratory movement, and it’s function in the mover for increasing self-awareness, creativity, autonomy, and growth mindset. I wanted to create experiences in which pole movement became deeply intentional and expressive, and that pole as an apparatus and/or prop could be refreshingly redefined each week depending on our focus.
This class became a playground where both myself, and the students, found new things. Sometimes it was extremely vulnerable. Actually, that was a huge part of it for me, too. I took many risks trying ideas that came to me for this class, and I maintained that creative bubble so that content felt authentic and appropriate to what process or experience I wanted to create. Over the years I can now see that what was intuitively happening for me as a teacher could be connected with systems like dance therapy, movement research, somatics, mindfulness, etc. In this process I found that I was obsessed with self-growth, authentic connection, and in that new awareness got really curious about resistance, judgement, and self-limitation in a mover, no matter what their level.
My own structure got more defined over time, my intuitive voice became stronger and more consistent, and deeper theories and progressions within the classroom began to develop. I continued to explore this stuff online in video and written format, offering movement challenges on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and made connections with other lovers of freestyle. I started traveling and teaching Finding Your Freestyle in workshops in many cities and countries. It grew quite organically over several years from class, to online content, to workshops and traveling. Facilitating this type of format led me to hold space for countless hours of movement, community interaction, breakthroughs, breakdowns, transformations, shifts in mindset, energy, and in emotional and physical consciousness. Guys, I had found my life purpose, my way to serve in this lifetime.
After a few years, I started to get brave and empowered enough to create the longer-form experiences that I craved (there was never enough TIME with the student!) in the form of weekend intensives, and now, retreats. I’m now writing a sort of oracle deck for movers and dancers to use to help them contemplate and structure their creative process and freestyle practice.
The mission of Finding Your Freestyle is to be a source for new ways to connect to your body, your movement, and each other. To help define, and refine, what your movement practice can be, to make an art of it in your life. To turn what begins as a class experience – into a lifestyle practice, a world in which improvisation facilitates personal evolution, communication, and community.
In essence, to bring greater meaning, significance, and power to how dance and movement interacts with your life.
B&P: What’s a FYF Retreat like?
A FYF Retreat is like a movement intensive, but on vacation. There is genuine stress-and-responsibility-free space and time so you can focus fully on yourself from every aspect; body, mind, and soul.
We work on your movement, A LOT, it’s a joyous immersion, we meditate (don’t worry, in a totally practical and accessible way), we bond deeply as a group, we eat colorful, healthy food, we take in time with nature, we laugh a lot, sometimes we release big things, we learn new things to take with us whether it be anatomical, psychological, or emotional, we paint, we draw, we write, we create without pressure, resistance, or judgement. We learn to BE, then DO, then BE again.
Hopefully, at the end of the trip, you feel bolstered to take on your movement and your life with a lot more curiosity, love, awareness, creativity, and freedom. And you have a memory of holding space for that with an incredible group of people, to take with you forever.
B&P: Costa Rica! The promo photos of the space look amazing! Tell us more about the location.
Blue Spirit is an absolute dream location (and is the sister center to one of my favorite spots in New York, the Omega Institute). It is located in an infamous Blue Zone in Costa Rica, and overlooks panaramic views of beach and jungle.
The movement spaces are what drew me initially, they are unparalleled. I cannot wait to be there to feel them for myself.
Blue Spirit Costa Rica provides an extraordinary setting to all who are dedicated to spiritual transformation, personal development, and environmental sustainability. Perched on a hilltop that overlooks the Pacific Ocean and a three-mile long white sand beach that is protected as a turtle refuge – Blue Spirit offers an extraordinarily beautiful and natural setting on one of Costa Rica’s renowned beaches. While visiting Blue Spirit, you will feel the resonance of a vibrant, inspiring, and healing energy, because of the rich subtropical environment, and the cultural lifestyle.
Blue Spirit offers comfortable and elegant accommodation, delicious gourmet vegetarian cuisine, a salt-water infinity pool, koi pond, café, gift shop, spa and longevity services, outdoor excursions, and complimentary wireless service.
B&P: Do I need to be a regular at FYF classes to attend?
Absolutely not. We have some FYF regulars, but many of our retreaters are traveling in from other places around the world (even Switzerland!). We have pole dancers, yogis, cross fitters, and more coming to this retreat. There are no apparatus, so you will be exploring movement and dance untethered! Don’t worry, no extensive dance training is required (although you probably shouldn’t be a beginner mover). You can expect to bring lots of refreshing new things back home to your pole or aerial apparatus, or to open up the ability to move with just a bit of space, anywhere.
B&P: What are some of your favorite things about past retreats?
The bonds that form, the food, the stories, and the images that swim in my mind that are unique to our time together. AND ALL THE INCREDIBLE MOVEMENT! I also work with some of my dearest friends who are so talented in individual ways, so the content and space we are able to create is quite memorable and unique.
B&P: For the Costa Rica retreat, what are some of the things you’re looking forward to?
I look forward to seeing a dream become a reality, it was a personal goal of mine to do an international retreat with NO pole in 2018. I’m looking forward to finally seeing in real life the images I’ve own swooned over on my computer. I’m looking forward to what I will find in myself, and in the retreaters who show up to “do the work”. I’m looking forward to facilitating the longest-form experience of my career to date, we have almost 30 hours of session, and much of the content will be new.
I can’t wait to see the epic images created by our photographer, Cecilia De Bucourt. I can’t wait to see the art explored with our facilitator, Emily Rose. I can’t wait to see a room full of focus and “AHA!” moments in one of Emily Sanderson classes. I can’t wait to invent new pathways with Dr. Jess Linick, who is bringing her somatic and psychology expertise to our movement experiences.
I look forward to being of service to others, and to connecting deeply to my purpose. When I get to connect with others in this way, I feel alive and in tune with everything around me. I feel incredibly lucky.