Doreen Hynd of Port Townsend gave a demonstration after the screening of “The Great Balance,” a documentary about her, in Vancouver, B.C., last year. She plans to appear at the Port Townsend screening of the film Sunday.

Doreen Hynd of Port Townsend gave a demonstration after the screening of “The Great Balance,” a documentary about her, in Vancouver, B.C., last year. She plans to appear at the Port Townsend screening of the film Sunday.

Doreen Hynd finds lightness, balance in ‘exercise art’

Port Townsend teacher subject of documentary at Women & Film fest

PORT TOWNSEND — To show who she is at age 93, Doreen Hynd hands her interviewer a photograph.

In it, she rides a fabulous horse, a steed galloping on the carousel at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C.

“When people grow older, they get back to being kids again,” she said, “to being who they really are.”

So began a conversation last Friday afternoon with this vital nonagenarian, teacher of a centuries-old “exercise art,” as she’s fond of calling it.

Hynd, a relatively new resident of Port Townsend, is the subject of “The Great Balance,” one of the documentaries screening during the Port Townsend Film Festival’s Women & Film weekend.

She plans to attend the screening at 10:15 a.m. Sunday at the Rose Theatre, 235 Taylor St., and give a demonstration afterward.

Women & Film passes, which cover events and screenings today through Sunday, are $100 via and 360-379-1333. Rush tickets for single screenings go on sale 10 minutes before show time for $15.

The great passion of Hynd’s life: the wu style of tai chi ch’uan. She has studied and taught it in her native Australia, in New York City, Seattle and Courtenay, B.C.

“I love learning something deeply and really well,” she said while sipping tea at Pippa’s downtown.

She lifted a hand and floated it above the table; this open hand was then joined by a closed one.

“We have a gesture: the fist to hand, the soft meeting up with the hard,” Hynd said before leaving her chair for further demonstration. The petite woman, whose black jacket sets off her tan face and white hair, moved like a sprite with small wings.

“Tai chi ch’uan gives you a sense of balance,” she said. “You always feel beautifully light,” lifted by your breath.

Hynd grew up a farm girl outside the town of Candelo; young people of her time had to leave school by age 14, “to work the farm, and grow food for the war effort,” as Australia aided the British in World War II.

As a young woman, Hynd went off to Sydney, where one day someone showed her a newspaper article about Sophia Delza. A modern dancer by her early training, Delza had been to China to study tai chi ch’uan, which Hynd found captivating. She wrote to Delza, who lived in New York City, in hopes of one day becoming her student.

“I was so naive,” she said.

Hynd began her training in the 1940s in Sydney, studying with Korean master Tennison Yu in the traditional yang style. In the latter part of the decade, she immigrated to the United States.

After more training, Hynd connected with Delza, a teacher of the wu style. In the early 1980s, Hynd at last began taking group and private lessons with the woman who had first inspired her.

Both Hynd and Delza, who died in 1996, are seen practicing their art in “The Great Balance.” In April 2018 the film screened at the United Nations, where Hynd was honored during the U.N.’s annual Chinese Language Day.

Tai chi ch’uan is a unifying exercise around the world, she said, as it brings people from various backgrounds together to practice. The gentle forms, Hynd added, transcend spoken language.

Her favorite moments in “The Great Balance” include the scene where she’s teaching a class on a veranda while a tree’s boughs sway above. She also likes the film’s recurring view of hummingbirds feeding outside her home. Life outdoors, Hynd said, is always a favorite thing.

In “The Great Balance,” Hynd’s student Julie Sandler Friedman marvels at her way of living.

“Wherever she finds herself, she embraces that reality,” be it New York City or Courtenay.

“What astonishes me and humbles me, is [her attitude that] this is what’s happening now and this is what I will live through … with no complaint and no commentary. Just here.”

Hynd, toward the end of the conversation, hands her interviewer an article about the potential health benefits of tai chi ch’uan. They range from osteoporosis prevention and arthritis relief to a general sense of peace.

She could speak at length about these benefits, but doesn’t on this particular afternoon.

Instead, Hynd recalls Delza, author of the pioneering English language book “Tai Chi Ch’uan: Body and Mind in Harmony.”

“My teacher was so highly regarded,” she said, “and I was very blessed to have her take me under her wing. I had no education,” at least not the formal kind.

Hynd wants to start teaching tai chi ch’uan again, this time in Port Townsend. She hasn’t yet firmed up where and when, but she did offer her interviewer some basic information.

“When we’re standing, it’s always with a soft knee. There needs to be the connection between the hip, the knee and the foot. … All of the systems of the body can’t work separately. They need to be in alignment so they can work together,” she said softly.

“I think of myself as an intuitive,” Hund added. This is a woman who believes in freeing oneself from the ego.

“You don’t need that ego … just be natural. Be who you are.”

Who Hynd is: a teacher; a guide. She emphasizes that the full name of the practice is tai chi ch’uan, and not just tai chi as it is sometimes called in North America. Tai chi means essence, she notes; ch’uan means exercise.

She moved to Port Townsend two years ago after learning about the place from her son, who lived in Chimacum.

Her most beloved pastimes are dancing, gardening and getting to know people.

After her interview, Hynd’s friend Ed Emswiler arrived to take her to lunch. The two walked down a windswept, drizzly Water Street as though strolling in the sunshine. When they noticed a new exhibit was across the street at the Northwind Arts Center, they went straight in.


Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

Doreen Hynd of Port Townsend, 93, is a teacher and student of tai chi ch’uan. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Doreen Hynd of Port Townsend, 93, is a teacher and student of tai chi ch’uan. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

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