Annie Parr: Bringing the gold of dance to yoga

Annie Parr is the founder of MDRN YGA, a dance-inspired vinyasa movement class that she offers on Wanderlust TV. Check out their brand new Elemental Explorations course, which breaks the basics of their MDRN YGA practice down into three basic elements.

Can you point to a moment when your passion for dance and love for yoga merged into MDRN YGA?

A few years ago I started using yoga sequencing as a warm up in my modern dance classes. Simple processes that can transform into graceful, musically inspired stretching and conditioning. Doing yoga without a mat enabled creative transitions and sequences in a way that is unique, dancing, and great. Dancers pick up movement so quickly that I could throw all sorts of untraditional and tricky floor transitions at them to experiment with this new hybrid. After all, the dance class warm up was so rich and satisfying that I felt like I was standing alone as a class without teaching dance choreography. I have always invested in making dance accessible to inexperienced dancers. There is too much gold and beauty in dance to keep to myself.

How has the pandemic changed the way you delivered your teachings?

When I started taking online classes, I asked myself the following questions: What are the opportunities for students to learn about this practice and their bodies that may not have been easily accessible in the studio? What makes a successful in-home practice? Can I take my students virtually to the party that is in my private area?

For me the attraction was to lead movement meditations and to develop the freedom to react to music without stylization. Nobody is looking at you and you are not looking at anyone. The classroom distractions and the tendency to be confident when dancing in public are eliminated. As much as I love teaching sequencing and inspiring people to take a different approach to yoga, embodiment practice in my class has been a very fulfilling way to teach.

If you teach now, can you witness yoga teachings infiltrating the rigor of dance teaching?

Yes. Yoga exercises are introduced as part of the warm-up exercises in many dance classes. Yoga and dance are like cousins. Both modalities can benefit from each other and communicate with each other

MDRN YGA expands the perspective of the typical mat-bound yogi. What other practices (physical or mental) do you recommend to yogis who need to shake up their practice?

AnnieParr_editorial_2 A sensation-based embodiment practice is a powerful way to adjust to how you feel and re-calibrate your body and mind.

Rigorous yoga, dance, and exercise can actually turn you away from mental and physical sensitivity. So many people are disconnected from their bodies despite the fact that they could be incredibly athletic. An embodiment practice tunes you and brings awareness from the inside out into your body and its state. Exercise meditations have many proven benefits. You don’t have to sit still to meditate. You can have a moving mantra and meditation to relieve stress, improve focus, and restore your state of being.

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Annie Parr is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and owner of RoCo Dance Marin County. Annie received a BFA in Dance from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and was a member of Della Davidson Dance and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company before starting RoCo Dance in 1993, teaching 300 hours per week at 2 locations in Mill Valley and Fairfax.

Annie has been a professor of dance at UC Berkeley, Sonoma State, and SF State, and teaches nationally. She has received awards as an independent choreographer and performer in the Bay Area and received the National Dance Weeks Bay Area Dancers Choice Award and a MILLEY Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

Annie completed her 500 hours at Nubia Teixiera and is certified RYT by Yoga Alliance. She founded Modern Yoga in 2016 and teaches regularly through RoCo dance, retreats and festivals.

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