July 6, 2013

Ancient arts surprise at Farmers Market


---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — An impromptu “flash mob” brought the calm of Qigong dance to the farmers market Friday morning.

The gentle hand and foot movements, much like Tai Chi, stilled busy market chatter and the human hum for about 10 minutes.

Not one of the busy shoppers suspected that eight or nine practitioners would form an arc and bring their meditative motion to the woodchip-padded pavilion floor.

But everyone stopped visiting with friends and laughing with local farmers to watch, with an apparent mix of curiosity and interest.


The flash mob’s demonstration started as Meadowmount School of Music student Andre Washington struck the first classical notes on his cello.

Qigong instructors from Ascent Wellness in Essex, Courtney Anderson and Brian Trzaskos, opened with a few, slow hand gestures that then drew in the other performers.

The gentle mix of stretching and breathing seemed to fit right in with the morning’s warm, soft breeze.

A few children started copying the moves, watching carefully, imitating the rise and flow and turn of arms.

The performance was meant to introduce market-goers to outdoor summer qigong classes that start next Tuesday in the Colonial Gardens, beside the Adirondack History Center Museum.


Anderson and Trzaskos organized the market surprise introduction.

But both have been students of qigong and Tai Chi for years.

Trzaskos explained how the ancient Chinese form of movement harmonizes the “body-mind.”

“The body-mind is one thing,” he said. “When you do these practices, you release medicine within.”

The motion of arms and simple stretches is contrasted with breathing techniques to accompany each movement.

“We’re so busy in our lives,” Trzaskos said, “we become distracted. We’re not really taking full advantage of the medicine inside our selves.”

Working alongside their parents, Trzaskos and Anderson’s children shared what they’ve learned of the ancient meditative dance-like steps.

Oliver Hughes, 5; Wyatt Trzaskos, 8; and Charlotte Hughes, 7, stepped into the center of the quiet flash mob.

“I like it,” Charlotte said after the performance ended. “I basically do this with mom and dad.”

Oliver had a single word to say of what he thinks of the ancient practice: “Good.”


Their grandfather, Claude Earl, stepped into the flash mob for a few refrains of the cello. He lives in Lewis and came to help Friday with the grandchildren.

He said qigong is a good way to release stress.

“For me, I have arthritis in my lower back; this keeps my body moving and it’s a wonderful stress reducer.”

Trzaskos said they do teach forms of qigong that can be accomplished during a break at work.

It’s called “cubical tai chi” and has proved helpful for relaxation on the job, he said.

After the flash performance, the pair gave an impromptu qigong workshop on the grass outside the museum.

“All of the ancient healing practices rely on the breath,” Anderson explained, moving slowly through the sequence of steps.

“Chi, the animating force of life, is coming into your body to be used when you need it.”


For 21-year-old Lauren Audi, the unexpected class was a novel way to learn about an art she’s wondered about for years.

“I love it, it reminds me a lot of meditation,” Audi said.

From Ballston Spa, she is visiting friends here this weekend. She said qigong has an immediate effect.

“It’s a calming energy that sort of rushes through you. And it takes you out of the noise of life,” Audi said. “I want to learn more about this.”

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