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Monday morning cobwebs are definitely a thing. The weekend is history. A new week and all its potential ups and downs is upon us. One might have an extra cup of coffee (or tea) first thing on a Monday morning in an attempt to break the rut. But it’s never enough, is it? There might be a better way. It’s called expressive dance.

Each Monday morning at La Jolla’s Community Center one will find CoTA teaching artist Amanda Peñaloza-Banks and her students dancing and swaying their way into the week. “The class has evolved from and been shaped by the wonderful people who come to it. Collectively, we range from 40-something to 80-something, each of us with a wealth of joy, loss and wisdom to share with one another,” explains Amanda, a former professional dancer turned dance instructor. The students learn choreographed dance moves, which are synced with rhythmic music playing in the background. They also have ample time for free expression, in which they move and shape their bodies to match their feelings in that moment. “Some have danced ballet, some have not danced before, some enjoy the challenge of learning choreographed movements, others prefer the space and time to move freely as they wish, immersed in their own world. I strive to weave these elements together into an expressive dance practice that respects each person’s individuality and encourages coming together as a community,” continues Amanda.

The dancers take advantage of the community center’s space, often wandering into the brightly sunlit open courtyard at the building’s center. The class culminates with a meditative moment of introspective thought and movement, in which the dancers gather together in the courtyard, closer to one another than they were inside the studio, and move together, feeding off one another’s energy and positive vibes. One thing that is immediately evident is how closely-knit the group feels. Before and after the class, warm salutations are exchanged. A birthday card is passed around for the teacher as well as a card for a member who is returning home for the summer.

I left the class feeling energized, having been reminded of how artistic expression can give one the tools to better tackle life’s hardships (like Monday morning). Having spent an hour with Amanda and her class, I felt better equipped for the week ahead.