PORT TOWNSEND — Open the door, and you feel a seductive warmth — the kind that loosens your muscles.
This is the dance floor at the Madrona MindBody Institute, a space that for three years now has been introducing new moves, adding steps like a dancer who’s too curious to stick to just one form.
Born of a tandem leap of faith by co-founders Aletia Alvarez and Allison Dey, Madrona is flying high this summer and fall, drawing people from across the world to dance classes and trainings in what used to be a gym at Fort Worden State Park.
And while the institute is raising its profile among dance centers on the West Coast, Dey and Alvarez also take care to include the local community in the “playshops” — not the same as workshops — and weekly dances here.
On weekends, there’s “yoga for everybody” on Saturday, and then “Soulfull Sunday,” a morning dance fueled by R & B, reggae, pop and jazz tunes, draws people from Port Angeles, Kingston and beyond.
Last Sunday, Vinn Marti, a Bronx, N.Y., native who created the Soul Motion dance form that inspired Soulfull Sunday, came to lead a public master class, and Madrona’s floor was filled with whirling, smiling women and men.
Madrona is also home to weekly classes in many other movement forms, including Gabrielle Roth’s “5 Rhythms,” Zumba, yoga, Pilates and Nia, an aerobics class that mixes martial arts, yoga and plain old frolic.
So far this year, the institute has hosted workshops in salsa dancing, singing, and Nia.
Last week, Dey and Alvarez hosted a seven-day training for Soul Motion leaders from as far away as Tokyo, Japan.
Marti, who leads workshops in India, Hawaii and at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif., shepherded the students through this first module in a year-long training that will bring them back to Port Townsend to teach public classes in March.
This week, Madrona will welcome another master teacher.
Ann Christiansen of Hamburg, Germany, will lead a four-day retreat titled “Sacred Athlete,” blending dance, Nia, discipline and spirituality.
“This is for everybody,” Alvarez emphasized; you need not consider yourself an “athlete” in the traditional sense.
When it comes to teaching Nia, “she is it,” Alvarez added.
Madrona is bringing her to Port Townsend because of her reputation as a teacher at the top of her art, and as a woman who is both generous and approachable on the dance floor.
A long-distance swimmer originally from Sweden, Christiansen represented her native country in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
She discovered Nia in 1997, and is now considered the leading Nia instructor in Europe.
She has also been a practicing physical therapist for a decade.
“There is so much love and respect for her as a teacher of, not just how to dance, but also how to live,” Dey said.
Christiansen specializes in showing people the way to joy, “from the inside out,” as Dey and other Nia enthusiasts say.
Christiansen’s sessions this Thursday through next Sunday are open to beginners and to those who are familiar with Nia; she will lead Madrona’s Nia class from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday and the Soulfull Sunday dance from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.
The classes are open to the public, at the usual drop-in fee of $12, or $10 for low-income participants.
For dancers who want to go deeper, there’s still space in Christiansen’s day-long courses at Madrona.
Participants pay $99 to attend both Thursday and Friday, $150 for Saturday and $125 for Sunday.
This fall, Madrona will offer yet another class blending the spiritual and physical: “Bringing in the Season: Ayurveda & Yoga for Health and Wellness,” Oct. 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Ashera Serfaty of Port Townsend will teach about ayurvedic doshas, or body types, and about using aromatherapy, spices, seasonal foods and home remedies that fit one’s constitution.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old science, Serfaty said, and a resource for vitality and self-healing.
The fee for her workshop is $25 in advance or $30 at the door.
Then Marti returns to Madrona for a Soul Motion workshop from Oct. 21 through 24.
As with the leader training earlier this month, participants who come from out of town can stay in Fort Worden’s dorms, which have been refurbished through Madrona’s Project Dorm Blossom.
Members of the local community “adopted” the dorm rooms that were once part of the military base, and added things like rugs and quilts to make them feel more homelike.
“We’ve poured a lot of love into the rooms,” Alvarez said.
“The Madrona community really showed up for this.”
For information about the institute’s workshops, accommodations and weekly public classes, visit www.MadronaMindBody.com, phone 360-344-4475 or e-mail [email protected]
Information about Serfaty and her courses is available at www.LuminosityHealingArts.com.
________Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at [email protected]