Myra Krien and her SEEDs® Program
By Lindsay Ahl In Shimmy August, 2009
Myra Krien has a quality when she teaches and when she performs that is magnetic, as though possessed by some powerful but benevolent spirit. She is someone who can command a classroom or a stage by her mere presence, before she speaks, before she dances. But it is filled with joy and beauty, this presence. This is not ego, on her part, not selfishness – making everyone else look like ordinary mortals – this is just her BEING when she is teaching or performing. You read sometimes of famous people like this: while performing they are the most magnificent creature you have ever seen. You cannot look away. And then, when they come to dinner, they may or may not shine, but it is a disappointment no matter what, because you come face-to-face with their humanness. They are not human while performing – they are electric.
Truly magnificent and inspiring teachers are rare. In order to be a great teacher, you need to excel in your chosen field, master your medium, take your medium further, and communicate clearly, and with patience and joy, everything you know about your art.
You cannot hold back from your students, because to hold back is to cheat the art. But more importantly, you need to embody what your art stands for. You need to live it. You need to BE it. Only in this way can a student really, somatically, take in the teaching. The teaching, in the end, is not through words and examples and corrections – though all of that is important and necessary. The teaching is, in its essence, through the body. This is especially true in dance, but it’s true in all the arts. The brush stroke of a painting, the breath of a spoken poem, the motion of hands on drums – in order to accomplish these things on a high level, you must be relaxed, you must know yourself, know who you are, and have the ability to share it. This is what Myra Krien embodies. And this is also what Myra teaches in her SEEDs® program.
This self-awareness and self-acceptance is important for any woman, but especially teenagers, which is what the SEEDs program was created for. Myra teaches them American Tribal Style® belly-dance, and in the same program, she teaches them personal and social skills that will empower them to be confident, independent and successful women. She uses dance as the medium that allows everyone to come together, to work and perform together. The dancing promotes trust and self-knowledge. It is never about competition, as other dance forms, and so much of our society is. Instead, through ATS®, Myra builds a community of fellow dancers, and teaches them to trust and support themselves and their fellow dancers. Through journaling, writing exercises, and talking circles, the SEEDs program teaches the girls how to listen to their own voice, respect everyone else’s voice, and figure out and accomplish their goals. She helps them to access their innermost potential.
This innermost potential is what we all want to access within ourselves. I think of this as a small seed of daring within us. If allowed to grow, that tender small shoot will transform into a blossoming tree, full of life. If not allowed to grow – a woman could lose access to her innermost self for many years. I think of the SEEDs program as the place where a young woman will find that seed, and nourish it within herself, preparing and strengthening herself for when she is that tall, blossoming, full-of-life tree. In very practical ways, the SEEDs Program teaches the young women to figure out who they really are. Myra invites prominent guests in to speak about their careers and how they accomplish their goals; she discusses finances and teaches the students how to manage money, find work, and work hard. She discusses such topics as discipline, work ethics, creativity, and competition. In the talkin g circles, the students learn how to really listen to one another, and learn that essentially, we all have similar fears and concerns, desires and needs, and yet also, we are each unique, and have some importance here on earth. SEEDs is a celebration of this, a way to celebrate others and themselves.
Myra Krien, in the end, is merely human. But through tremendous hard work and dedication, through endless hours of committing herself to creating this extensive program, she has put in a super-human effort. She has spent years creating various fundraising avenues so that girls who can’t afford to attend SEEDs attend anyway. There are endless accounts from the girls, mostly of this nature: “I have never felt this secure and happy with myself and it’s all due to SEEDs.” Or, “SEEDs has the power to change lives, because it gives its participants the power to change themselves; and it is a rare gift to find oneself in such a beautiful place, surrounded by such beautiful people, and to know that you are beautiful too.”
I think the real gift that Myra gives these girls, and the SEEDs program is designed to give, is exactly that: the power and knowledge to fully accept themselves, and also the power to change themselves into who they want to become. Part of the way we perceive reality is related to how we perceive our bodies, thus, if we change our perception of our bodies, we can change our perception of reality. It is a gift that cannot be given unless you are grounded and spiritual enough to provide not just the context, but the example of how to embody who you are with grace and love, thus allowing everyone to embody their unique selves with confidence. The SEEDs program achieves just this.
In the next part of this article, I will be discussing Myra’s Teacher Training for SEEDs, a program that is expanding SEEDs to all parts of the country, and her newly evolved SEEDs program for Adults. Until then, as Auden says, “Dance till the stars come down from the rafters! Dance, dance, dance till you drop!”