A career-ending injury saw dancer Michelle Locke step out in a new direction which has inspired the creation of a new therapeutic dance modality appropriately named Wu Tao.
At the age of 23, Michelle’s world collapsed. On the threshold of great things as a ballerina with the WA Ballet Company, her career was ended by a back injury.
She damaged soft tissue during rehearsal and battled through her pain for almost two years, still performing on stage, before bowing out in 1987.
Trained by Dame Kira Bousloff, the legendary founder of the WA Ballet, the aspiring young dancer – then Michelle Martin– says giving up dance was unthinkable.
“It was a huge part of my life and my identity,” said Michelle. “I loved ballet probably more than anything else in the world.” “I had to come to terms with the fact that my back wasn’t going to get fixed. You go through a long grieving process and I don’t know that you ever get over it. But I am a fairly positive person and got on with my life.”
She went to many chiropractors and physiotherapists, but it was only when she discovered the Japanese therapy, shiatsu, that she got some real relief.
Shiatsu not only took away the physical pain and enabled her to have a relatively normal life, but it also turned into a new career as she established the Shiatsu School of WA and trained over 100 people to be practitioners.
But her daughter Isabelle’s emerging disability which was eventually diagnosed as Rett Syndrome made it difficult for Ms. Locke to run the school. So she sold the school and went on to develop something new based on what she had learned from oriental medicine.
“I was interested in looking at how I could help people to work with their own energy and balance their own chi without me having to put my hands on them,” Locke said.
The result is Wu Tao, a mixture of original dance and original ambient music which she describes as “the ultimate way to indulge both body and spirit in healing, balancing and invigorating experience.”
“Not only is it a physical workout, but it is also a healing one as well,” she said. “It is a therapy for body and soul, and works on many levels – the physical, energetic and spiritual.”
It is a 35-minute routine that creatively expresses the five elements of air, water, wood, fire, and earth.
“Each element governs a pair of meridians or channels,” Ms. Locke said. “That’s where the energy flows. For example, the air element governs the lungs and large intestine, while the kidney and bladder meridians belong to the water element.”
Specially composed music by her now partner Steve Richter, embodies the quality of each element. “Steve’s music is beautiful. He is a superb musician and composer whose creations take the dance process to another level” said Locke.
Ms. Locke feels that Wu Tao will help people feel at home in their bodies and be comfortable with being here. “A lot of people try to escape the body. We blame the body for a lot of things – the physical pain we might feel, even emotional pain. But a lot of it is in our mind. Lots of religions talk about having to transcend the body to become enlightened or released.
However, I think that if we were truly to engage in the body and our physical existence, there’s a real bliss there that we probably miss.”
The philosophy of Taoism and the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine are the foundation of Wu Tao. The Tao simply means the way or path, which in essence refers to living life in such a way as to be in harmony with the natural flow of Life. The Taoist sages looked at life in the world around them and realized that by attuning themselves to it, they could live in balance, health, and longevity. Hence, being able to ‘flow like water,’ be ‘flexible like a tree,’ turn inwards and build energy in winter, or harness the energy and move obstacles from the path in spring.
“One of the unique benefits that Wu Tao has is that you are able to embody positive states of awareness, as opposed to just thinking about them. You literally dance them into being. As you dance, you let go of all your thoughts, worries, concerns and expectations. There is no need to think” said Locke.
In Wu Tao, the dances help you to harness the power of life force energy. As you dance you begin to know yourself as one with this energy. It becomes easier to listen and follow your inner direction. There is a palpable sense of flow and grace. A natural state of Bliss arrives as the mind stops its chit-chat and you become fully absorbed in the dance.
In a regular class the dances are done in succession.
The class starts with some easy stretches and warm-up, followed by the dances and finishing with meditation and deep relaxation. You leave the class feeling centered, energized and peaceful, ready to rejoin the world. Many people sleep best after a class, and the effects are lasting and sustaining.
Wu Tao offers classes and workshops to several different groups of people including children, the elderly, and the corporate sector. It is most helpful to join a beginner’s class or workshop first, but many people jump directly into a regular class and pick the dances up over a few weeks.
Wu Tao classes are offered throughout Australia and internationally by qualified teachers. Those people enthusiastic about Wu Tao and wanting to share this healing modality with others are able to take it a step further by training as an instructor. The Training program consists of a home study module and a 7 day practical intensive and is transformative, practical and comprehensive.
For people who are looking for a different experience where healing and balance are important, Wu Tao could be just the thing. Differing from other healing forms such as yoga, tai chi or pilates with its use of music and dance, it offers the discerning participant a very delightful, powerful and energizing experience for body, heart, and soul.
Would you like a complimentary Class Now? Michelle has kindly teamed up with us to present our Hopesters with a class for you to try at home. However to protect privacy we are asking that you provide your Name and Email address to get access.