The Cortes Portraits: Kaili Blacklock-Hind
Kaili is Chaos. She dances around me. She pushes my boundaries. Kaili is trying to sway me off balance. And she does. I’ve been instructed not to resist her chaotic rhythm. Rather, I’m to lean into it.
I’m at a retreat run by Bettina Rothe, who is teaching us to move with chaos. We aren’t supposed to fight it, like I yearn to do. Instead, we are asked to reposition and re-ground our energy. Other pairs of people are also doing the same exercise to test each other’s limits. Some are visibly frustrated with the somatic practice which aims to unite mind with body. I am too, I hate it when something unexpected causes my world to flip upside-down. I take a deep breath and unclench my jaw. As I do, Kaili boldly wraps her arms around me and pulls me to the ground. I tumble with her. When she stops, I continue the movement and roll back onto my feet.
“I will embody authenticity and connection.” I declare calmly, followed by a silent giggle. Kaili stands up and leans toward me with a kind smile across her lips.
“I didn’t think you would fall to the ground with me!” she shares, amazed.
“Sometimes the chaos of life drags you down, right?” I reply, “When chaos hits, I tend to resist it. Even when I know I shouldn’t.” Kaili nods. This practice is so good for me. I want to learn how to be more fluid. Kaili and I haven’t known each other long, despite both working at Hollyhock for the past three seasons, but in this intimate Embodied Leadership program, we’ve come to know one another with deep honesty. And it’s only day four.
A certified Therapeutic Dance Practitioner and Eco-Somatic movement facilitator, with a BFA in Contemporary Dance, Kaili Blacklock-Hind is deeply in tune with the rhythms of her body. This is my first time learning Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms®. Coined in the late 1970s, the 5Rhythms® are five states of being. Connecting to these rhythms, according to Roth, offers a map to one’s true self: vulnerable, expressive, passionate, present, and instinctual. Though we are to interpret each rhythm in our own unique way, I find myself glancing toward Kaili often. Kaili’s movements are effortlessly Fluid, yet she still finds rigidity with Staccato. As Chaos, she dances with erratic delight, which turns playful when we transition into Lyric. In the final rhythm, Stillness, Kaili melts into the floor with delicate intention. The 5Rhythms®, I’ve discovered, is both dance and meditation, within a single breath.
Kaili’s practice extends past the lessons we’ve explored on retreat. Her movement work, while complimentary to the 5Rhythms®, connects more to mother nature herself. For the past ten years, Kaili has passionately taught yoga and conscious dance as the solopreneur behind Movement by Nature. Her approach focuses on reclaiming an embodied presence aligned with the earth’s natural intelligence. In one-on-one or workshop session, Kaili guides participants to listen inward, while connecting to the outer world through expressive movement. Kaili’s Instagram feed and YouTube channel are full of inspirational and playful inquires between the physical body and the natural world. In her videos, Kaili becomes the ocean, is swept up with the wind, and ushers in the winter solstice with an impromptu Qi Gong session on BC Ferries. To me, she is the epitome of a modern-day wild woman.
When Kaili agreed to model for The Cortes Portraits I knew I wanted to take her somewhere wild. Somewhere where the elements would inspire her choreography. I was surprised when Kaili told me that she had never visited Red Granite Point. On an island as small as Cortes, it’s incredible to realize that some gems have yet to be fully discovered. Here, the diverse landscape is breathtaking. Below the short summit of the point rests a small bay, where large pieces of driftwood collect in the winter months. A ridge of red granite, with clinging arbutus, hugs the left side of the bay. At the top of Red Granite point, a brisk hike reveals a stunning panorama of Desolation Sound. I knew instinctively, that it was the right location for us.
Keeping warm in the car, Kaili and I sort through the clothes she brought along for today’s shoot. Inside the car, the air is fragrant with the scent of ginger tea and tahini on toast. We decide on three outfits. One to compliment each location: the bay, the ascent, and the peak. Clamouring across the rocks into the bay, I direct Kaili onto a large piece of driftwood. She takes off her bulky winter jacket. When I invite her to move as if she was the ocean, Kaili pauses. Then, she promptly removes her shoes and wool socks. They are too stiff to be water.
Barefoot on the damp wood Kaili begins to shiver. During our retreat, I witnessed how incredibly empathetic Kaili is, and I’m worried now that she might be pushing herself too far for me. I carry over a second coat and her winter jacket as she pulls her Blundstones back onto her cold toes.
Together we walk to the edge of the water. It’s already pulled back a few meters from where it was when we arrived. Yet, it’s somehow incredibly still. Kaili wanders along the water’s edge and up onto the granite ridge. Her hair is darker than before, she dyed it last night, but her wavy locks still have a natural red undertone to them. The auburn complements the red granite around us. She looks like a nymph, wholly at home in this wild place.
After stopping to warm up in the car with more ginger tea, Kaili changes into something better suited to our ascent. Although the walk is short, it is still quite steep. It warms us both, even more than the hot tea. We pause briefly to snag a few shots, but I’m eager to get to the top.
“Do you remember those incredible photographs of Margie Gillis in Newfoundland by Christopher Darlington?” I ask her, knowing that she would be familiar with the famous dancer’s images through Hollyhock. “Those images were my inspiration for this location. It’s a place that just begs for movement.”
Kaili sees it too and quickly changes into her final outfit: leggings, a long patterned dress, and a bright orange sweater. It’s a bold choice. I’m happy I suggested it. Kaili removes her socks and shoes. Like the water, they are also too stiff to be the wind.
The mountain breeze wraps around us. Kaili begins to move with it. She so present within her expressive dance, I feel as if I’ve vanished from the scene. Kaili’s energy becomes playful. She smiles. Warm from the spontaneous choreography, Kaili sheds her sweater and adjusts her leggings. When Kaili steps back into frame and moves closer to the edge, I offer her no direction. Instead, for these final shots, I simply witness Kaili’s own unique rhythm; attuned to the environment and fully resonate with her wild spirit.