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Virtual Physical Listening LABs

For anyone looking to deepen their embodied learning, communication, decision-making and creative process

FOR EQUESTRIANS: What you will learn in a Physical Listening LAB

JoAnna Mendl Shaw

Many equestrians have expressed interest in taking a Virtual Physical Listening LAB but are hesitant...

Here is some information about the sessions that I hope will entice you!

Please join me this Fall!


PHYSICAL LISTENING LABs begin Monday September 12th.

The fee is $20 per session, paid via VENMO

Each week I generate a new ZOOM Link which I send out on Monday morning


Email me if you have any questions, please feel free to email me or call:

Cell: 917-533-4946

How did the LABs Develop?

I am a dancer and choreographer who has been choreographing performance works with dancers and horses for over 25 years. My company, The Equus Projects, travels throughout the United States and in Europe, creating projects with local equestrians and their horses.

Natural Horsemanship has been integral to how I train dancers to create embodied dialogue with equines. Linda Parelli has been a mentor and equine advisor to The Equus Projects since 2004!

Equus Projects is based in NYC. I do not own horses. For many years we only had sporadic contact with equines – mostly when we were already in the creation process with horses. So, we needed to devise a way to practice our horsemanship skills in the studio. As dancers we realized we needed heightened spatial awareness, tactile awareness, an ability to modulate the intensity of our movement from Hair to Skin to Muscle to Bone. We needed to be incredibly sensitive to the energetic state of another moving being. We had to be able to adapt choreography to this other sentient being. In fact, we needed to be able to completely change a choreographed sequence in an instant. We began to rehearse skill sets instead of actual set steps. This process developed into “choreographic scores” – or rigorous rule structures that determined our movement vocabulary. In essence we were training ourselves to allow the horses to create our movement material!

In addition to being porous receivers of movement information, we knew that we also needed hefty leadership skills. The bedrock of the leadership lies in our capacity for the multi-sensory listening: tactile, aural, visual, kinetic listening. But in tandem we also needed actual leadership skills: Clear decision-making, timing, strategic thinking. A deeper understanding of different horsenalities and how strategy must shift for different horses. We devised ways to practice these varied forms of decision-making in the studio and in that process, we developed a whole repertory of improvisational structures designed to sharpened our decision-making.

We found that this interspecies approach to movement investigation and creative process was influencing our choreographic voice. The work began to access deeply personal territory without lapsing into indulgence. We found our performing had shifted into a whole new  level of honest, visceral intensity.

Then the pandemic descended and my dancers and I devised inventive ways to teach much of this Physical Listening material virtually. While a ZOOM experience will never be as visceral as in-person, the virtual classes were very successful. Equestrians attended and found the material informative and immediately applicable to their communication with their horses.

Who Takes a Physical Listening LAB?

The folks who take the LABs range from equestrians and equine trainers to dancers to actors, therapists and equine assisted learning specialists to writers, directors and choreographers.


Interspecies Lens & Playful Learning

An equine-centric lens is always present in all the sessions. The learning atmosphere is playful and supportive. We begin with a simple physical warmup designed to engage thinking and sensing. We move into perception investigation that range from guided movement interludes to writing and drawing exercises. We spend time inside directed improvisation exercises designed with highly specific directions and clear goals for takeaways. We end with a short creative assignment. Participants are welcome to fully engage and/or observe. No matter how you participate you are sure to come away with new insights!

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