Stephanie Lee

1. How would you define your personal practice?

My practice evolves around my personal physical and creative needs. I spend anywhere from 20-40% of my time on rehabbing old injuries and another 40% working on new skills. The rest of the time, I dedicate to the pillars of my practice: meditation, stillness practice, writing, and living room dancing. My friend Jesse Danger of the Movement Creative inspired me to try a ‘seasonal’ approach to movement : flow in spring, power in summer, grounding in fall, and cultivation in winter. I try to take 1-2 workshops a year with teachers who interest me or new disciplines that I have not studied before.

2. What turning points have you encountered on your movement journey?

I’ve been burnt out many times. It was hard for me to maintain a disciplined personal practice when I also work in movement because I tend to prioritize my clients’ health over mine. There was one point where I was physically teaching 30 hours a week and it became too much for my body. I wasn’t able to have any energy for myself or loved ones; the loss of several romantic partners due to work was a big eye opener. Another time, I encountered a very serious health problem and had to physically stop moving; that gave me a lot of perspective in focus and the importance of nourishment. Since then, I actively try to take time off and go on long walks on my own daily.

3. What role has injury played in cultivating your current niche?

Injury has been a huge wake up call for myself personally. In my last career as a Pilates teacher at a rehab focused facility, many of my students and clients came to me with serious injuries and that made me into a much more conservative person. I try to take things very slowly with my body and almost ‘overprepare’ to prevent injury. I read a lot about pain management and try to apply a mindful approach to teaching movement, preferring to cultivate a sense of wonder instead. Since moving to Hong Kong, I’ve learnt to take injuries a little less seriously and try out more things with my students — I know it sounds like the total opposite of what you should do, but really, with the right approach, one can learn to do almost anything.

4. Do you consider yourself a teacher? Why or why not?

I do consider myself a teacher because I really enjoy observing, sharing, and helping someone become more empowered with themselves. I honestly think, even if I wasn’t being paid (and I wasn’t always doing this for money), I would teach or volunteer to do so. Teaching has made me into a better person and it has shaped a lot of my personal practice. Plus, I meet such cool people through my job! I’m largely an introvert so this perk is huge!

5. What has been your experience with physical education, both in the schooling system and sought out knowledge/ know-how elsewhere?

Oh dear. I hated PE in school and asked my dance teachers to write me a note excusing me from the classes. They did not. I found my PE teachers very cold and almost robotic in their duty to cultivate health and fitness, a sharp contrast to my passionate dance teachers. Also they played better music.

I have to say: physical education has gotten much more needed attention in the US and in Hong Kong (I can only speak for the countries where I have worked at). I have done several creative movement residencies where dance and creative movement were woven into the PE system. I think there needs to be more room for creativity in PE classes — it’s the one thing that really encourages students to stay with movement in the long run. In Hong Kong, physical education is kind of outsourced and I think that is completely unnecessary.

6. How do you involve your mind/ emotions into your physical routines?

I am totally guilty of prioritizing physical ability over mental and emotional preparation. Since starting jiujitsu, I have become more aware of the need to cultivate a ‘warrior’ mindset so I have started to read a lot more on leadership and warfare now. I meditate daily and try to do it in unorthodox places. I always take a moment to sit down, write, and be alone before teaching class and starting any new skill work.

7. What are your personal aspirations regarding movement? How do you hope to find purpose and use in the skills you have built?

Personally, I want to go deeper into martial arts, in terms of combative skills and internal work. My goals for 2018 is to create an artistic residency and make work (dance/performance) and to compete in Brazilian Jiujitsu. Professionally, I want to find sustainable ways for movement teachers to make a living from their work. I’m taking it one day at a time at Trybe; I really love and believe in the work we do with our students here.

Unrelated to movement but related to creativity: I do this thing where I pick up random objects from the street, mostly unloved items that are castout. I clean them up, fix them, paint them..and put them back where I’ve found them. I painted 4 street objects last year so I really want to do more this year, maybe use them in a dance piece?

8. How can people find/ contact you? Do you have a site or social media handle to share?

Instagram: @stephxtrybe
Email: [email protected]

Steph’s Recent Blog Posts

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A Shared Struggle

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Playing with Capacity

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Facing Fears

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Cold Splits Challenge

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A COVID Checklist for Gym Owners

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Spontaneity & Fear

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Studying Failure

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Lessons from Teaching in 2019

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