Cedric Lamar, Actor, Theatre Artist, Singer/Songwriter, OSF company member - Ashland, OR:As artists, we’re often searching for ways to train our instrument, get better, and tell our stories with more depth, sharper precision, and less fear. Typically when we hit a personal plateau in our endeavors we decide it’s time to buckle down and work on our technique, hone our skills, and reinvest in the things that have given us success in the past. But sometimes what you’re trying to access can’t be found in another barre class, voice lesson, or private tutorial. Often what we’re searching for isn’t outside of us waiting to be found and consumed, but instead is already inside, waiting to be processed and used in the art we create.
But how do we get in there, and, if we somehow stumble upon this rare and sacred soil, who will lead us through the lessons that appear, guiding us to be courageous with what we find, and lead us lovingly back to safety? Tía Laída Fé (aka Candace Younghans), that’s who.
This all comes from my experience working with her for almost a full year on an immersive theatre piece where my decades of stage time, scene study, improvisation skills, modern dance class, and practice responding truthfully under a myriad of given circumstances served me well in many areas, but couldn’t help me sift through my raw emotions, connect body and mind, and get to a place where I could trust myself and know that I was truly enough. While I could feel the flutter of potential somewhere inside me, I was at a loss on how to draw upon the deep well of experiences that have made up my life to that moment. After all my training, I found myself in foreign territory with no knowledge of the terrain or clear path to my destination. This hallow ground, buried within your own soul is the region where Tía’s unique talent to communicate resides. Simple questions that don’t lead to answers, but instead even better questions. Realizations that strike you first in the heart, for your brain was kindly asked to wait at the door. Challenges to your very idea of self that are too tempting to not take on, for the potential to grow and evolve are so great.
As an actor, playwright, and singer-songwriter, I am a lover of words. Tía helped me realize that words, thoughts, and ideas, while essential to some parts of the the creative process, were not going to get me where I wanted to go, no matter how much talent I had in those areas. Sometimes the things you thrive at are the exact things you need to set aside for a moment so that you can be a vessel for a higher wisdom, and achieve a deeper understanding of what you’re truly seeking. With Tía’s encouragement and instinctual knowledge of how the body oftentimes holds truths that the mind can’t, I learned to let go and tap into a different plane, one that I heard tale of its existence, but was either too scared to visit alone, and/or questioned my own worthiness to participate in.
If you believe you possess intangible qualities just beneath the surface that may have the power to unlock your true potential, and ESPECIALLY if you don’t believe, or have a hard time realizing your own unique strength, wonder, and capacity, I strongly recommend working with Tía and allowing her process to work through you. I can say, without hesitation or doubt, that I am much closer to the artist and person I want to be in the world having spent time under Tía’s tutelage. I have discovered parts of myself I either didn’t know existed, or I chose to ignore in a strange attempt at self preservation/sabotage, because it was just too powerful to acknowledge.
Let it be understood though, I still struggle... I’m human. But I now have a better understanding of what the struggle is about and am therefore more prepared to work through it and towards the type of person and creator I want be in this world. And that is priceless.
Ryan Ginn, Counselor, co-founder Full Bloom Intentional Community, ecstatic dance DJ/facilitator,(community participant "What About LOVE?" 2013 Performance Intensive ) - Ashland, OR: As a performance and creativity coach, Tía Laída Fé (aka Candace) is bar none. She encourages the full embodiment of wild, undbridled, and authentic creativity through movement, writing, and improvisational vocalization. I am forever grateful to her for the tough love and depth of presence that helped me grow into my full size while on stage and in life for that matter.
Marga Laube, Filmmaker, Ashland, OR Certain frontiers of the human spirit are best traveled with the help of a seasoned guide. Tía Laída Fé (aka Candace Younghans) is such a guide. When a frontier of emotional healing or new artistic vision beckons to be discovered, I ask Tía Laída Fé to witness and accompany me into those unchartered territories.
She is able to guide others into the inner chambers of their own truth because she has done her own work, and intimately knows the telltale signposts that appear in the body, in speech, in life circumstances, in emotions. And she never stops transparently tending to her own growth; that too helps me trust her more.
Part spirit-talker, part Earth Mama, part big-truck driver and dog lover, part Auntie, part priestess, part dancer, part beautiful woman, part cultural creative, activist & community leader, part performance artist, Tía Laída Fé possesses a rare blend of skills, gifts and traits, and a calling that makes her an ideal companion and navigator on the innermost legs of the journey within.
Tía embodies a kind of selfless love. ("Selfless love" in this case doesn't mean weakness or sentimentality – for she is one of the more fierce guides you will encounter, and those words shouldn't be taken to mean martyrdom – because she is a consummate model of good self care.) Rather, her goal really is your ultimate healing, authentic creative expression, and deep well-being. This rare absence of agenda can be felt in her presence on a first meeting, and that feeling only grows over time.
For any of you healers or guides or artists alive today who are up against your own contractions, fears, limiting patterns, and self-defeating behaviors, engaging with Tía and her offerings can bring you closer to who you really are, closer to that best version of yourself that you know yourself to be. With her unflinching and total reception of each person or group that crosses her path, she disarms the most cynical and skeptical among us and finds a way into our hearts.
I have worked with Tía for almost five years, both creatively and through SEWing, and though she is 10 years my junior, I look up to her as a role model for how to Love. Having done three decades of dedicated psycho-spiritual, shamanic, and inner exploration practices, I can say that Tía Laída Fé was a beacon for me when all other lights went out. Her sensitivity and skill in the tricky realm of trauma make her a richly dimensional and safe space where other modalities and practitioners couldn't fully help me.
Each SEWing session I've done with Tía has been a deep dive into my own being, swimming through the shipwrecks there, recovering long forgotten treasure. Though sessions can be emotionally challenging in certain ways, SEWing is ultimately a wildly pleasurable, wholly satisfying, and utterly empowering experience.
Rosannah Star Riess,Circus Artist & Choreographer - Leipzig, Germany/ international (2009): SEWing with Candace? ...it’s like suddenly discovering I’ve got a Versace gown on underneath the smelly old overcoat I cover myself in. Shed the layers. The really good stuff is on the inside. The SEWing method connects artists to their art by being a conduit for honesty and understanding. It enables artists [and all humans interested] to manifest and express what was once jumbled and unknown...
SEWing is a doorway - an avenue. SEWing is an exercise in self and honesty. SEWing has allowed me to delve into the unformed, unspoken, inarticulate world of my “self-yet-to-be” and my “art-yet-to-be-created” and to snorkel, as it were, through this turbulent sea of innumerable mysteries. The SEWing practice is structured to empower wild exploration and productive abandon. It is an anchor and a life-line, allowing me to leap into the unknown material within. Through the SEWing practice with Candace Younghans, I have experienced startling self-discovery and moments of unparalleled, confident self-expression. SEWing practice is a definite, simple tool and yet, may be used to create the infinitely complex. I find it absolutely necessary for authentic character development.
Beginning with exploration, the process quickly allows one to identify and then clarify the seed of a character. Continuing to apply the process iteratively enables the amassing of great amounts of information and detail, a format for evaluating the discoveries, and then a means of implementing these insights into performance. The process is challenging and ecstatic. At the end of a session, I always feel more like myself - never that I have simply shrugged on someone else’s knowledge.
....... that’s my experience of SEWing with Candace Younghans.
Sharon Rylander, Actor, Producer, 'User Experience' Specialist for tech co. - San Francisco, CA (2009): My experience of SEWing after 5 private sessions... Almost immediately, I could feel my body changing shape. I wasn't necessarily overweight, but I had lost a lot of my tautness. I feel new muscles forming, and I like it. It makes me feel natural, as if I were born to be strong and I'm coming home to this discipline.
Much more importantly, I'm learning how to live inside my body, which is also a way of saying "being present." I spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer for work, giving the helm to my logical, thinking self. Acting gives my right-brain a workout, but my body was still left out of the equation. How can one be truly living in the moment when the body is ignored?
Clearly, the body stores emotions, experiences, truths. The more I begin to work with movement, the more I'm understanding that my body is an inexhaustible warehouse of information, and in fact, knows how I'm feeling long before my logical mind does. I might have had an inkling of this insight before, but the evidence is now coming at me in full force. So, another benefit of SEWing is that it's creating a quicker, more accessible dialogue between my thinking mind and my own deeper truths.
Much of the benefits I'm talking about perceivably could be achieved through other methods. And that's fair enough - to each his own. What I personally find helpful--in addition to the above--that is very specific to this work includes:
1. It's not therapy, so there's a discipline to the work that keeps me grounded by definition
2. At the same time, I feel fully safe to express emotions as they come up (and they invariably come up), which I don't get in other spaces.
3. I love that I can go at my own pace and have a "coach" there to guide me
4. There's something inexplicable but necessary about being witnessed. As these truths-through-movement surface, I find I *need* someone there to validate them. This validation is simple: it needs absolutely nothing more than just observing/listening, but without it, something inside feels incomplete.
5. By definition, the work exercises my focus on the *now*. There's nothing to learn, and yet I'm learning a lot, on all sorts of levels.
6. It's teaching me how to communicate my inner world through movement. How cool is that? I love to communicate, and I'm realizing how much of my life I've had to stifle movement. I can't get enough of this new medium.
7. Did I mention it makes me feel great?
To those who haven't done this Self-Exploration Witnessing (SEWing) work with Candace Younghans, I would describe it as one part physical training, one part movement-as-diary, and 10 parts life exploration. Very cool stuff.