Brush and Push 

Paint Dancing brings together two seemingly disparate passions.

Put together tunes with a driving beat — funk, world music, hip-hop, electronica, R&B, reggae, house, blues, jazz — and nontoxic water-soluble paint in more than twenty different colors. Throw in a hefty supply of acid-free paper and a dance floor and what have you got?

It's Paint Dancing, an experiment in creative expression hosted on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month by Beth Hird and Zach Pine (the location of June 13's session will be revealed only to those who register). Some things you can't imagine doing at the same time: Reading and surfing. Sleeping and swordfighting. Ice-skating and surgery. Brushwork and footwork? Now that's multitasking.

Dancing helps us "to loosen up: to lose the mind, to come into more of a kinesthetic awareness, to paint with a body energy, a kind of joy and sense of play," says Hird, a painter and sculptor who studied at RISD, CCAC, the San Francisco Art Institute, and London's Slade School of Fine Art. "I'm pretty interested in somatic energy systems, and I find ... that dancing helps me to paint with a different kind of energy and awareness. I'm pretty sure painting does the same for dance. Applying paint to a surface," she explains, "is a very tactile and sensuous experience." She likes seeing "that type of paying attention, that type of awareness or curiosity, being transmuted into another form, such as dance or music or writing."

One night two years ago, Hird was hosting a community dance group in her art studio. "The paint containers were still open. Someone asked if they could paint a painting while dancing. I said, 'Sure' and then several people began to follow suit." She'd never thought of combining the two activities, but "the paintings were amazing to watch: a real synthesis of movement and energy and creativity." She and Pine — who DJs for Soul Sanctuary Dance every Sunday at Ashkenaz — hosted a few combo-sessions. Then they heard about Matt Jones, a Seattleite who had formed a nationwide series of Paint Dancing meet-up groups that donate part of their profits to charity. Hird and Pine decided to form an East Bay group; 25 percent of their profits go to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

One of Hird's favorite aspects of Paint Dancing is "the wall," a large communal mural to which all participants can contribute. She finds it "incredible to watch the transformation of a huge blank four-by-twelve-foot space into — you name it — sometimes something completely abstract and wild, other times a theme which builds on itself and then morphs into unexpected dreamlike images and juicy colors, rhythmic shapes. Each week I'm amazed to watch it come into being, often with strangely cohesive elements, as if the music has some secret visual language it transmits." 8 p.m., $12-$25.


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