Finding Passion Through Dance

Since I left my job and redirected my time and energy, I’ve been thinking a lot about finding passion and living authentically. I’ve met people who have discovered what nourishes them, and I’ve met those who are searching. It’s about being true to yourself. In the last couple of years, more and more people have started to feel that way. Being in lockdown gave us the opportunity to really get to know ourselves, to become comfortable with who we are, and to change some of the things we weren’t comfortable with. After all, it is never too late to change.

I had an interesting visit with Miki Mappin the other day, sipping tea in an “igloo” dome outside of Manifestations Café in Saskatoon. The November air was chilly, but the tea and conversation inside were warm and cozy. Miki, who is 66 years old, is a multidimensional person. She has many stories to tell, but for the sake of this blog, we are going to focus on only one of her passions: dance. If you’d like to read more about Miki, you can check out her website or Google her.

Miki has a background in art, specifically sculpture, planning, and design, but she didn’t start dancing until the age of 49. “I could see that my health was deteriorating. I’m not attracted to gyms, and I always had an unacknowledged, semi-secret desire to dance.” Growing up as a boy in Saskatchewan, Miki did not take dance classes. There were various sports that didn’t hold much appeal, although figure skating sparked a flame, especially in choreography and planning shows.

“Dance helped me survive. I was going through a gradually worsening stage of things in my life with my gender identity. I was happy with my job but needed more of a creative outlet. Dance provided that physical side. In 2011, I decided to switch genders. My marriage was over, and I had lost my job. Dance saved me. I could rent a studio and put on music and just start to move, move, and stretch.”

In the middle of those life changes, Miki teamed up with Kyle Syverson, and in 2009 KSAMB Dance Company was born. KSAMB fills a gap in Saskatoon. The company’s work features Contact Improv and is usually site-specific, performed outdoors, and carries a message.

Miki Mappin and members of KSAMB perform during a gathering hosted by Saskatoon Unhoused Initiative prior to a meeting of Saskatoon City Council’s budget committee. (Read outcome.)

“Dance is fundamental. Change happens through action. Thought is movement. Anyone can dance, and one of the problems with society is that people have stopped dancing and have even repressed dancing. The fact that government and religions have repressed dance shows its powers.”

How true that is! Today, dance has become more of a competition than an art form. There are lines to straighten, kicks to make, and sequins to sew. Not that this is bad, but dance as a form of expression seems lacking. Miki has always been interested in the expressive possibilities of events, art spectacles, and political action.

“Contact improv is a very different kind of dance discipline. Rather than coming from ritual patterns, it is more related to postmodernism or the joining of dance and martial arts. It deals with partner dancing in the context of physics and what is possible. It has a gymnastics- and physics-oriented side. Another side is the incredible degree of communication needed between the dancers, environment, and gravity. And it’s all improv so movements are made in response to what is happening at that moment. It includes visceral lived research into our relationship to the world and others that make a good base on which to build an art form as opposed to theory and habits.”

A prime example of that is To the Heart, a one-hour show produced in the summer of 2020 that featured the live amplification of the dancers’ heartbeats. The performance was based on the themes of presence, love, and resilience.

Contract Improv requires a dancer to be their authentic self. It takes awareness, both internal and external. “It is making art in the moment. We love to see how we can start with a theme and have it evolve into a performance. Other people see it, but because of all the threads that have been woven, they come out with their own perspective.”

For those looking to find their passion, Miki says it is important to be aware of what is happening to them and the things around them. Any type of dance or somatic meditative practice can connect you to your body and what makes you feel good.

Finding your passion may sound like a daunting task. It is easy to put it on the back burner and just let the days flow by. But if you can find something that really makes you happy, chances are you will feel more fulfilled in your life. And we know that being in a positive frame of mind is better for our overall mental and physical health. That translates into goodness all around. How wonderful to wake up and be excited about the day ahead!

Miki has combined her passion for dance with other passions in her life. Her website states: “My practice is site and project specific. It is fuelled by the honesty, social engagement, and rigour involved in collaboration and improvisation. My life, art, and activism are interdependent. I am an eco-anarchist feminist. I am a transgender woman.”

Not everyone can weave their passion into other aspects of their life. And if setting aside time to pursue that passion is what feeds you, then that’s fine. Maybe you’re like me and haven’t quite settled on one thing yet. I have several things that make me feel fulfilled, and what fulfills me today may not have the same impact tomorrow. Maybe it’s time to accept that and just enjoy things as they come. If you’re having trouble finding something to be passionate about, don’t fear, it is probably right in front of you. Think about the highlights of your day, what you talk about with others, and what you do in your spare time. Think about your childhood and what you enjoyed doing or wanted to do. Many of us set aside our childhood ambitions to focus on education, careers, parenting, and, well, growing up. It’s sad when we completely forget about those things. Our inner child is just waiting to burst out!

Miki’s advice? “Start small, but sometimes the thing you need to do is big. The whole presence thing is so tied to awareness and what is real. We are surrounded by the choices we make. Life offers us so much wealth, and we can touch it. Dance can help us see that.”

Interesting Reads and Things

Holding a Gap: the Work of Miki Mappin – BlackFlash Magazine

How to Find Your Passion in 13 Steps | Canada

13 Ways to Find Your Passion – wikiHow

How To Find Your Passion After Retirement • SHIFT

How to Find Your Passion in Retirement – Everything Retirement

How to know your life purpose in 5 minutes | Adam Leipzig | TEDxMalibu – YouTube


One thought on “Finding Passion Through Dance

  1. I totally agree with this: “But if you can find something that really makes you happy, chances are you will feel more fulfilled in your life. And we know that being in a positive frame of mind is better for our overall mental and physical health. That translates into goodness all around. How wonderful to wake up and be excited about the day ahead!”


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