Artists Breathing

Mar 19 at Online Event

February 26, March 5, 12 & 19, 2021
In connection with the exhibition, Attention is a task we share, Robin Love is bringing together three artists from different disciplines to create an offering on breath and conscious breathing. Together with poet Brandon Wint, singer-songwriter Kyla Charter, and dance artist Nyda Kwasowsky, Love has created an online series based in a curiosity of how training with breath is central to many practices, and how coming into contact with artists from different backgrounds might offer playful ways to develop an intimacy with breath in everyday life.
As it relates to the artworks' investigation of uncertainty and the in-between space of process, this series focuses on breath as the most essential in-between. Recognising that we are living in a time when capitalism is suffocating people, white supremacy is literally and metaphorically suffocating people, in the midst of a viral pandemic the targets the lungs, Artists Breathing is an invitation back to the place where our humanity resides, and from which stem the infinitely creative and multiplicitous of ways of being.
This workshop will be released over a series of four weeks beginning on February 26, 2021 and continuing on March 5, 12 & 19, 2021.

Introduction: Artists Breathing

Part 4: Kyla Charter

Blending her soulful vocals with razor-sharp rock tonalities and pop sensibilities, singer-songwriter Kyla Charter has lent her voice, and rhythm guitar playing to a number of both local and international musical artists, including Patrick Watson, Alessia Cara, July Talk, Zaki Ibrahim, The Queer Songbook Orchestra and Melbourne based rock band Kingswood. A Toronto native, Kyla can also be heard singing on the most recent July Talk and Rich Aucoin albums respectively. She has appeared on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, The Ellen Degeneres Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge, The Bambi Awards, Made in America Festival, The European Music Awards, The iHeart Radio MMVA’s, Danforth Music Hall, Kee to Bala, CBC Festival at Echo Beach, Massey Hall, Budweiser Stage, Scotiabank Arena, The Barbican Center, and Madison Square Gardens.

A Humber College, Jazz and Contemporary Vocal Performance alumnus (with teachers including Larnell Lewis and Rik Emmett), Kyla’s musical approach weaves her remarkable gift as a storyteller, with A Capella vocal percussion, and dynamic rock, R&B and folk melodic aesthetics. Borrowing widely from an eclectic musical spectrum, in large part the result of a truly multicultural upbringing in the metropolis of Toronto, her sound is whole world, all heart.

You’re Doing It Right by Kyla Charter

Part 3: Nyda Kwasowsky

 Nyda Kwasowsky a freelance dance artist, interpreter, performer and emerging choreographer currently based out of Tkaronto, colonially known as Toronto. Her curiosity to connect humanity lies at the core of the work she is drawn to. Nyda has studied and worked with a large scope of movement languages leading to her interest in trauma informed somatic practices. Where the states of the undefined; vulnerability, humanity, mystery, conflict, difficulty, process and ambiguity exist informing her personal practice and explorations choreographically. Nyda’s intersectional experience (of Indo-Guyanese, Ukranian, British descent), and marginalized body of colour influences her focus on diasporas and colonial history within her artistic practice.

Attention to Breathing

Breath is the root, it’s the center of my practice. Thematically my work as a movement artist centers grief, loss and belonging through somatics to score multi disciplinary containers of improvisation. Working intimately with histories, generationally-present traumas from colonial supremacies as the source material in the forms of memories, stories and embodiment. Breath has become the main tool to navigate and support this difficult process in practice. Breath for me is political.

As studied in cultural somatics, martial arts, meditation (Indian forms), yogic practices (ie; Kundalini), energy medicines, classical ballet, modern techniques, improvisational techniques, physical therapies (alexander technique, pilates, gyrokinesis), tremor work from Fitzmaurice breathwork and trauma informed skills and tools, breath again is the central figure.

Breath in my work allows me to place and be in connection to sensation in the body, it slows down time (as to attend to places in the body), to be present (or not present) but to be aware of where that presence is, where is my attention?

Breath allows all experiences of sensation in the body to be valid, breath changes as I feel pleasure, it changes as I feel pain, numbness, fear, or joy. This affects rhythms in the body, allows presence to take the form of time, and the moving body to experience sensation.

Sensations tell me what I am feeling, the emotions present, the experience of what is present, what is available for me right now? I am in my truth when I can use breath to notice such things. I like to use harm reduction frameworks around the use of breathing techniques and our bodies, ex; validation, affirmation for your own sensations, what has come up?, non-judgement, not changing what is being experienced/felt, acceptance to allow for more trust, more safety to allow for continued openings and more access to noticing for awareness.

This brings me to the importance and relationship of breath to the autonomic nervous system. Briefly I will speak to the two states, the sympathetic nervous system, naturally our fight, flight or freeze which naturally occurs to take care of ourselves in this world, in response to various experiences and environments. Our breathing will feel restricted if scared, our breathing might stop if we are shocked, we might control our breath if needing to find calm, ground, center after something upsetting. It is important to recognize our breath to allow for return to our baseline. Our breath will change when we experience a scenario that feels outside of our ‘window of tolerance’, and that is ok. When we are in our parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest state), we are relaxed, calm, slower. One way you can tell this state is active, is to notice the action of yawning. Coming back to this state is supportive to our functioning and wellbeing, allowing us to repair/restore from the stresses and suffering of life’s experiences. This is difficult when we live in white supremacy, capitalist, imperialist frameworks where many are marginalized and everyone is affected by restriction and limitation to healthy functioning, happy breathing, moving bodies. We want to be able to move through these states of our nervous system, in adding trauma into the equation we observe an inability to effectively take care of our experiences with continual emotional response, dysregulating the nervous system. The impact can be observed through research of the polyvagal theory.

In speaking to trauma, we have all been affected by the harm of supremacies. As a body of colour, breath, feeling, expression, cultures have historically been erased and oppressed. White culture has experienced that suffering to varying degrees. The white culture that frames our relationships to self and those around us is designed to limit, restrict and control (ie: the corset, the chair…on and on and on and on). An experience I can share is of my history coming from the eurocentric dance landscape of classical ballet, where there was no value placed on anything from the neck up. It’s easy then to use power, to take away agency, to govern and control bodies of people. Leading to my gradual experiences outside of this liminal environment. I was introduced to Fitzmaurice breathwork, by Lee Su-Feh which shifted relationships to breath and body for myself. In this work, I was reminded that breathing isn’t just about feeling good, it was about the holistic experience of FEELING!

Quote from Catherine Fitzmaurice; “The premise of the Tremorwork® in the context of Fitzmaurice Voicework® is that in allowing a flow of autonomic, uncontrolled vibrations to pass like a wave through the entire body, chronic tension blocks are, first of all, made very apparent, and secondly, encouraged to release when the person feels ready to allow that. My specific interest has been not only in the fact of the tremor itself but primarily in how the breathing changes during this work. It is like putting respiratory muscle holds and habits of behavior into a churning crucible, a melting pot, or kaleidoscope, out of which a new order of patterns of ease and efficiency emerge. The work is necessarily self-regulatory: it should be guided but never forced by an experienced teacher. ”

Quote from Wilhelm Reich; “Free, self-regulated behavior”

From ‘Breathing Matters’ 2018

In Fitzmaurice, something that resonated for me was that our breath flows internally (dependent on NS function) and when it comes through our mouth via sound, it becomes our relationship to the world. I am in a process of reclaiming my voice by using breath in this method. Because of my past, histories, and experiences, this practice has initiated a process of finding purpose in my voice, I felt silent/silenced for so long. My agency, autonomy and self expression has returned. My emotional body feels able again to use breath to connect to my art practice for empowerment.

So breath in my work has acted as a tool to enter difficult subject matter, in being used as a tool for healing. I can use breath to feel safe, to take care, to be in response to memories, past or present that come up in practice or performance. To take care of, attend to what has come up for me in that moment, as each moment (even if in performance/or daily life) is always changing, never one moment the same. We can accept and be in that change as we attend to our breath, or simply notice our breath.

And then especially together, collectively, in community, we can feel or not feel more wholeness with ourselves, to share (or not share), to be vulnerable (or not), to feel comfortable (or less comfortable), ‘safe’ or ‘not safe’, more connected//or not in relation and relationships to one another, to space, place and environment. The awareness of breath can support our truest selves as we move through the world, individually and collectively.

In association to breath, the practice of AWE plays a huge role in my explorations and experiences. If I spend time to notice and listen to my breath, if I can find release from control, it surprises me. The attending to allow anything to happen creates space for being awed. I find if I am emotionally at capacity, I will find nature, or walk to the water. My body sometimes knows it’s limits and naturally will guide me to a place of awe, to remember what ambiguity, surprise, true connection feel like (that’s life force) and it’s powerful. This practice is also self regulating, holds curiosity and connection to sources of inspiration.

I use breath, as I mentioned to slow down time, to ‘decolonize’ time, to move away from societal constructs. As a performer/artist, my offerings are not shared to satisfy, I am not a commodity as all things in capitalist frameworks become. So breath again acts as a decolonial tool, as a political protest as I practice to abolish all frameworks of how I was taught to breathe and feel through ‘whiteness’, into how my breath allows me to feel moving away from generational dehumanization towards an empowered coloured body (moving body, moving breath). Allowing breath to inform access/availability to feeling, access/availability to my own experience of feeling, healing and centering the empowered experience, the thriving future of how breath can hold us all.

I want to acknowledge my privilege as an able body in accessing the availability of my body, time and space to explore this topic. I hold only my own lived experience in my offering and acknowledge that all experiences are held as equally with value.


I want to credit and thank Lee Su-Feh for facilitating their practice informed by Fitzmaurice Voice work as the place of learning and connecting my own practice and to my breathing body. And as the mentor, support and the loved person they are!

Specific uses/identifying of these sources;
Autonomic Nervous System research
Polyvagal Theory - Stephen Porges Catherine Fitzmaurice
Wilhelm Reich
Octavia Butler (quoted)
Brian Soloman (Oral Storytelling&offerings)
54321 Grounding Method

Exercise # 1 (Parts 1 & 2)

A transcript of the audio can be found here: Exercise #1 (part 1&2) Voice recording by Nyda Kwasowsky

Exercise #2 The practice of AWE

  1. Locate a journal and note all/if any experiences of AWE in any given day of your week
  2. Determine whether it feels possible to add this practice to your life in this moment for a longer duration, notice how/if it changes you

Part 2: Brandon Wint

Brandon Wint is a poet, spoken word artist and multi-disciplinary collaborator based in western Canada. Brandon is trying to use his heart, artistry and mind to contribute to the broad re-imagining of the systems that govern the human word. He understands poetry and collaboration to be part of summoning the courage and sensitivity to make a revolutionary contribution. He is presently the artistic director of Tree Reading Series, and is the author of Divine Animal, a collection of poems that contemplate the complexities of Black experience as well as eco-grief related to climate change.




A Tired Wind

Part 1: Robin Love