Written by , photos by and video by Sherry Mazzocchi
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Sunday afternoons at the United Palace people can dance, play drums, meditate and receive a kind of spiritual tune-up.
Yes, this happens at Sunday’s church services, but such an experience is also available upstairs from the formal worship – in a completely different format.
JourneySpace is a new addition to the United Palace’s artistic community outreach. Founded by Washington Heights artist Maggie Hernández-Knight, it’s a new center for community wellness, dance, drumming, art and a whole lot more.
Hernández-Knight designed the center to be all of the things she loved in one central location close to home. She’s interested in wellness, nutrition and yoga.
But there’s also drumming, dance and art.
That combination creates a powerful transformational experience.
It’s hard to find all of these things uptown, much less together, in one place.
Being a good artist, she created it herself.
“JourneySpace is a big dream of mine,” she said.
Several years ago, she dived into personal development. She spent a lot of time and money going to classes, while all the while wishing that there were something equivalent and available uptown.
Now there is.
For a low monthly fee, JourneySpace offers classes in Zumba, drumming, yoga, wellness talks and JourneyDance. “Anybody in the neighborhood can come and afford the services,” she said. “This is not a get-rich-quick scheme.”
Some of the activities include a drumming circle, instrument playing and meditation.
Hernández-Knight is a life-long Washington Heights resident.
She studied fine arts at Fashion Institute of Technology.
A dancer, artist, painter and author, creating the center was a big step, and one that integrates her diverse interests.
One of the things she’s most excited about is JourneyDance.
Originally created by Tony Bergins at the Kripalu Center in Massachusetts, it combines a cardio workout and a guided meditative movement, intended to take the people on an inner journey.
“Or not,” said Hernández-Knight with a laugh.
People can take the class to any level they wish.
“It’s completely up to the person,” she said. “It’s really about free-form movement that comes from you—as opposed to a class where you’re learning specific choreography.”
More than two dozen people attended a JourneyDance session last week at the United Palace for its launch.
It was an impressive mix of children, young adults and seniors.
Heights resident Giscard Sassine, 36, came with his girlfriend.
“I think it’s beyond great for this community,” he said during a break. He also liked the fact that parents brought their children.
“I would have liked to have had this as a child,” he said.
His girlfriend, Claritza Ravelo, enjoyed herself too. “It’s a good place,” she said. “I’m planning on bringing my mother next time. She does Tai Chi at the senior center.”
There was family support for Hernández-Knight as well.
Carmen Hernandez and Margarita Terc, Hernández-Knight’s mother and aunt, respectively, were also in attendance.
Terc said, “I like very much. It’s my second time.” She added that it was a good addition to the yoga classes she takes.
The drumming circle was thirteen-year-old Gabe’s favorite part.
Everyone sat in a circle with instruments provided by the center; found there were drums and all manner of rattles, gourds and other fun percussive instruments.
Hernández-Knight said no one has to be a professional to play, or get the benefits of drumming. Drum circles are an excellent way to get rid of stress, particularly if people are inclined to smoke, drink, or party to excess, she said.
“You can really use these tools to get rid of the excess energy and the stress.”
When Aida Feliciano was asked if she was a drummer, she laughed and said, “I am now.” She also liked that the classes are held in both English and Spanish.
But mostly she likes that the classes are actually available.
“I was just waiting for this,” she said.
To visit during a JourneyDance session and a drumming circle, please visit http://bit.ly/MT_90.
JourneySpace is currently offering classes at the JourneySpace Private Home Studio of Founder & Director, Maggie Hernandez-Knight on Fort Washington Avenue & 181st Street. For class schedule and locations, visit www.journeyspace.org.