Social Capital

January 21, 2010

This week’s post is written by Theron Shaw, Director of Development.

I made an investment yesterday. Actually, I just added some capital to an asset that I’ve been building for some time now. And I’ve noticed a funny thing – I’m often tempted to spend out of that “fund,” and whenever I do, it just ends up being worth more.

“How can I get an investment like that?” you ask…

Well, my investment yesterday was that I took two ginger pumpkin scones and three little bags of gingerbreadman-shaped doggy treats (one for Ace, one for Blanca and one for Mina the German Shepherd) to our neighbors down the street. It was an investment of social capital, and I’ve been working on that investment since we moved here a couple years ago when I began to stop and talk to them and their three dogs anytime I walked past their house. The social capital there is my relationship with these neighbors, whom I love to talk with and whose dogs say enthusiastic (albeit noisy) hello’s to me every time I walk by.

Social capital is defined as the collective value of all “social networks” (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (“norms of reciprocity”). Robert Putnam said it well in his book Bowling Alone Americans are bowling more than ever before, but not in leagues – people are bowling alone.

And social capital is a fascinating kind of capital, because unlike the capital in your bank accounts (aka “dollars” or “Yen” or “pesos”), the more you spend it, the more it’s worth. The less you spend it, the more it loses value. The more I rely on my neighbors to water my plants while I’m gone, the stronger our connection. If I get too busy and don’t stop to talk with them for a year, the connection grows cold. The social capital between us has decreased.

Makes me think of that campfire song I learned as a kid… “Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away…you end up having more.”

Turns out that InterPlay is a sophisticated technology for creating social capital. When we tell our everyday stories to another person, when we do a hand-to-hand dance, when we stand in a circle and create improvised music with our voices, we are creating social capital – connections with people around us that make our world work.

Economists and sociologists in the academic world have spent lots of time studying this phenomenon of social capital, because without social capital it’s very hard to get anything done.

Imagine if you didn’t believe that the bank was going to take care of your money when you gave it to them? That’s also known as a “run on the bank,” and usually makes headlines.

Imagine if you had to stay at the car repair shop all day while they install your new transmission, because you are afraid they might steal your car if you left the premises?

Imagine if you couldn’t ask your friend to water your plants while you’re on vacation because you’re afraid he might steal your computer and stereo system?

Social capital – the same kind of thing that InterPlay creates – turns out to be essential for making our basic day-to-day activities possible.

InterPlay’s Million Connections Campaign is about social capital investing. When Cynthia and I started a year ago dreaming up ideas for celebrating InterPlay’s 20th Birthday, we wanted a game to play that helps point out the intangible contributions that InterPlay makes to the world every time someone raises a hand to a partner’s hand. Imagine InterPlay connections like little drops in the “this-is-a-world-I’d-like-to-live-in” bucket. Will a Million Connections fix all the broken and painful parts of our world? No. Will they make the world a better place? Yes.

That’s why we created a place to count your connections– it’s a fun, easy-focus way to play a game together, as the global InterPlay community. It’s a game called “Let’s See If We Can Measure Just How Much InterPlay is Changing The World.” Join me – it won’t hurt at all, and your investments will be worth more! (And for the Shapers out there who have been asking “What counts as a connection?” – check out Phil’s explanation.) This is an easy-focus game – the goal is more about heightening our awareness, and the awareness of our communities, about how much InterPlay really is creating health and beauty and grace and ease in the world.

What if the Million Connections Campaign gave each of us the courage now and then to have the kinds of Connections that are most juicy, using the kinds of things we know how to do as InterPlayers?

What if you played “I could talk about” with your family members who you only see at holiday gatherings but don’t really know anything about (except that they’re kind of conservative and that’s a little Scary!)

What if you did vocal play in your living room with your friends and family – teaching them how to “start something, mess with it, and find an ending”? What if that was way more fun than playing Cranium after dinner?!?

What if you and your significant other could howl and cuss and swear at each other in a made-up foreign language, feel much better afterwards, and not have to clean up the mess of having actually said all those nasty things in English?!? (Thank you to InterPlayers Sharon Pavelda and Randall Mullins for that brilliant inspiration!)

Personally, the Million Connections Campaign has heightened my own awareness – and courage – to try some of these things.

Of course the Million Connections Campaign is about two goals – Raising $1 Million and Creating 1 Million InterPlay Connections, over the next three years. The $1 million is the fuel for this global social movement, and it is what will get us to the 1 Million Connections goal. We named this the Million Connections Campaign, because neither of these goals is worthwhile without the other. If we raise $1 Million, and haven’t created a single InterPlay connection, we failed. And we won’t be able to create those 1 Million Connections without some additional resources for training new leaders, for doing InterPlay outreach projects with new communities, and for administrative staff and resources across the country to keep everything moving.

So go out and be a Social Capital Investor!

For those of us who actually have lots of social capital in our lives – InterPlay connections, family connections, friendship connections – we are in a position to be social capital investors! Just like a venture capitalist is looking for a place to invest some money in order to create more money, social capital investors can look for a place to invest our social capital where there is the greatest hunger for connection, community, relationship. And by investing your social-capital-building efforts, you’ll end up with more than you started with! And don’t forget to tell us about your connections– it’s more fun that way!

Thanks for all the Connections you create in the world,


P.S. And for all you techno-curmudgeons out there who think that Facebook is the death knell of human connection (and I confess that I have tended to be among this curmudgeonly lot!), science has proven that Facebook is good for you!

P.P.S. I’m sure there’s a connection somewhere between social capital and helping out the folks in Haiti whose homes and cities and lives have been ravaged by the recent earthquake. If you haven’t already, join me in sending them a financial contribution through Partners in Health, an organization that has worked in Haiti for over 20 years, providing health care in some of the most remote parts of that country.

Be each other’s healthcare

December 21, 2009

Play like you mean it! Life depends on it.

On Friday, twenty of us set a rhythm with feet, one step right and one step left. Over the beat, we spoke desires and concerns. That’s when Nika said, “Be each other’s health care.” What a beacon in the midst of US health care wars and the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

As an artist, family member, and teacher, I’m dedicated to health in body and soul. Meanwhile, my husband’s outpatient surgery, Mom’s Alzheimer’s, my athletic dad’s pacemaker, my siblings tussles with stress from success at work, and my communities’ big waves of disease and depression, I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have health care.

“Be each other’s health care.”

You are my body. Frank Forenich states in “No Body is an Island”, our health is profoundly extrasomatic or beyond the body… Emotions are not just experienced by individuals, but shared, unconsciously and unintentionally, across social groups… and so-called “non-communicable” or “lifestyle” diseases may in fact be “spread” through social networks, influence and mimicked behavior. To say that heart disease, diabetes and obesity are matters of “lifestyle” misses the point because lifestyle itself is highly contagious. An enormous percentage of our health and disease is “catching,” one way or the other.”

InterPlay and Body Wisdom, Inc. arose because Phil and I realized that modern thought, language and practice dismiss the creative, curative power of total physicality. Treating the body as an abstract problem to fix reduces health, joy, ideas, and love in individuals and groups. Nations? Yes. When the poor are ill, I am ill. When a prisoner is tortured, it comes back. When I treat earth as abstract, I become abstract. Connectedness is a fact. Our health depends on each other.

So here’s a little Rx for being each other’s health care:

Look for good: Something good crosses your path? Savor and pass it on like multivitamin.

Affirm. Praise others randomly, especially at home. Humans expect chaos. Random praise disrupts theories of suffering and reminds us of life’s benevolence.

Play like you mean it: Step over speed bumps of self-consciousness. “Out” your playfulness once a day. music, dance, word, food, doodle, silence, sport, games, make faces, wear costumes.. Embodying permission to play encourages the play genes elsewhere.

Forgive like a 7 year old: Dogs do it, so do second graders. Relax complaint. Get over “shoulda’s.” Move on. When someone can’t play nice, let them be.

Bring soup, hold hands: When things get real bad, showing up for 5 minutes or more if needed counts.

Hard to get over speed bumps, reactivate play, affirm body wisdom, or show up to beauty and health? Maybe, you are trying to do it alone. Don’t!

Check yourself into an InterPlay life practice program: multiple sessions in friendly groups with great leaders. Life changing, world changing health connections!

“…civilized human beings are alarmingly ignorant of the fact that they are continuous with their natural surroundings. It is as necessary to have air, water, plants, insects, birds, fish and mammals as it is to have brains, hearts, lungs and stomachs. The former are our external organs in the same way the latter are our internal organs.” Alan Watts -Does it Matter

InterPlayful Gift Giving

December 2, 2009

Gifts love to move. When a gift passes between one person and another a bond happens. That’s why I have notorious gift giving tendencies. Connection is too much fun!

When Anita Bondi gifted InterPlay with 100 sets of the InterPlay Inspiration Deck, a new 21 card deck and 42 page booklet based on the principles and practices of InterPlay, I immediately gifted a set to my sister. She has a great sense of humor and works hard at a corporate job and as a fun-loving mom. She emailed,  “So I brought my fun pack of round cards.  I was drawn to the Loosely and Tightly card…..I am thinking take it loosely….yeah…relax…then take it tightly….yeah….strangle it…till it can’t breathe…..back and forth back and forth…loose and tight. And then I turned the card over……Loosely and Lightly.  Aaaaah.  Ok.  No strangling involved whatsoever….interesting concept.  I am having to rethink this whole thing now….soften my grip and relax.”

InterPlay Inspiration DeckPhil and I used the deck at the Oakland InterPlay Leaders Reunion. After partners did a dance-talk on a project or concern, each person picked a card. Each card has a principle on one side (e.g. side by side), a story with character, color and symbol to bring it to life on the back (see the Virtual Friday Morning InterPlay on Nov. 20th for the story of side by side). A tiny booklet shares what InterPlay says about the tool and gives 3 “try this” exercises to use in day-to-day life. The leaders reflected on projects or concerns from the point of view of the tool they picked: witnessing, easy focus, affirmation, etc. In the group each person shared their tool and how they might apply it. Leaders loved the cards. We sold 33 sets!

Will they work for non-InterPlayers? “Yes.” Anita says, “We have people using them in doctor’s offices, hair salons, with their families.” See examples on FACEBOOK or at or

For InterPlayers or InterPlay wannabes, how ’bout an InterPlay gift certificate? We’ll send the person of your choice a gift certificate in any amount for a Body Wisdom produced event, Untensive, Life Practice Program, Training, class or workshop, and we’ll include a green feather and a “You’re one in a million” button. Call us with their name, address, and your method of payment.

Of course, we have other cool stuff. People are sharing Dance: The Sacred Art: Discovering the Joy of Movement as Spiritual Practice as a companion for anyone looking for a new way to pray, heal, or soulfully connect or to renew their passion.

You can order the Inspiration Deck, Dance: The Sacred Art, and other books and CDs from the InterPlay website.

“It’s Time!” -The Body

November 24, 2009

Think of traffic. The faster we go, the harder to avoid collision. We are many. We are diverse. Our empathy mechanisms are on overdrive.

Result? We pull back, shut down, isolate.

Kids do it. Teens do it. Family members do it. Workers do it.

Teamwork? Community? Family? Too tired, too hard, too much!

Think of the economy. “Do more with less.” Work harder for the same or less pay.

Result? Fatigue. Overwhelm. We strive for resiliency, tools, but self-help won’t fix this.

Think of school, health care, work, religion. Sit side by side. Nose in a computer. Face your teacher/Dr./Boss. Concentrate. Get the message. Individual effort and achievement = success.

Result? When we fail, we think something’s wrong with us. Leave education and religion.

Throw in trouble, mental illness, trauma. Governments, lawmakers, school administrators, insurance, and police step in, our least creative, compassionate solutions.

Result? Humans need connection, fun, inspiration, challenge, compassion and noble causes MORE THAN EVER!


In Teaching Compassion, educator Kimberly Post Rowe for the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development identifies the need to build connection in a classroom to move people from empathy to compassion.

InterPlay is twenty years old. Like a visionary, energetic young adult, its creative methods and simple ideas move people in all kinds of circumstances from overwhelm to ease, isolation to connection, and more importantly than ever, from withdrawal to compassionate engagement! A deep breath and a sigh, a quick round of naming things that we have in common, shaking out whatever we’re sitting on, bringing our fingertips together and lifting up common concerns. It’s the little things that will change the world.

One Man’s InterPlay Gratitude

November 4, 2009

Dyck DeWid has a strong mind, strong heart, and big body spirit. When I met him I felt his strength more prominently than his heart. That has changed. Check out what this big, married contractor guy says about InterPlay in North Carolina. I love you Dyck.


Dyck Dewid and Cynthia Winton-Henry

Face Dances in North Carolina

“Right in the middle of a fall day, it seems important to tell how special the InterPlay Community is to me… and maybe how rare it is too.  Looking at my life, I belong to 4 or 5 other groups.  And over time I’ve been in many more than that.

In No Other Community have I observed or felt the broad unconditional acceptance that is so easily fundamental to InterPlayers. This is so important to me, I’ll shout it if you don’t mind:


I don’t know if people everywhere don’t have the same problems, humor, insecurities, egos, fears, masks, hopes, grief, guilt, and all the rest a big list?  Don’t these affect one’s energy of accepting diversity and one’s capacity for personal freedom?  Surely looking thru our own lens must affect how we all perveive one another, no?  Yet, in InterPlay these common attributes don’t seem to interfere with our individual abilities to accept and affirm one another in a sincere and honest way.  In InterPlay these don’t seem to interfere with our giving one another what each of us needs or wants.  On the contrary, the fabric of the community is just this.  It has become in me a joy filled willingness, even an importance and urgency to find the precious, the strong, the delightful, the innocent… the God, in everyone.

A more personal accounting, an inner view:  I am somewhat aware of my affect on others.  That in the quest to find who I am, my purpose, and to be true to myself, I can disturb some, can scare them, make them wary or mistrustful.  This places me in a minority or ‘on the fringes’ at best, of most groups.  Naturally, there is a partial number either unaffected or positively affected.  But, the others seem to be greatly affected with my disturbance to their foundations or equalibrium.  This is an accepted, possibly even relished part of my everyday life.  For, though I may not understand completely, I am both confident and full of joy with life.. I’m not sure whether the IP Community came to learn and accept this over time, or whether they are helping create it, or both.


The health, beauty and wisdom of InterPlayers comes in all sizes, sexes, ages and cultures. If you are ready or willing to learn to play again then magic will happen. Give it a few years and Grace and Joy will start coming out your ears, mouth, mind, and heart. I love how this always surprises me. Want to see what twenty years will do? Check out this Wing It! concert Youtube of the four originals dancing their hearts out.

20th Anniversary Bash!

October 20, 2009

Hey, who knew?

20 years ago, did we imagine that a class of a dozen or so people and a performing group of 4 would turn into a global social movement and a performing company of over 20? Not hardly, although we did admit quietly amongst ourselves that we wanted to change the world.

Did we think we would still be doing it 20 years later? Probably not. But regardless of what we intended, since we have been at it for a long time, we should have a big party to celebrate, don’t you think?

In the InterPlay universe, we’re ready to celebrate the smallest step, the most incremental accomplishment, the tiny act of courage, because we know that if you keep at it, eventually it adds up to something. InterPlay hasn’t spread like wildfire, but by just keepin’-goin’, one small connection at a time.

And yes, we’re gonna celebrate!

This weekend WING IT! will perform three times, including the reunion of all four original company members.

Oct. 23-25, Fri & Sat at 7:30 pm, Sun at 2 pm
at InterPlayce, 2273 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

On Saturday evening, November 7, we will have a wonderful free-fundraising-event-birthday-extravaganza with dessert, entertainment, inspiration and hoopla! And we’ll introduce the Million Connections Campaign. That’s how many InterPlay connections we plan to make in just three years! You can help by logging in your connections at

And if you’re in the Bay Area, we’re hoping to make a connection with you on November 7 and at the WING IT! concerts.

Come join the party!

Nika: A “Powered by InterPlay” Coach

October 13, 2009
Nika Quirk

Nika Quirk

Nika Quirk, president of the Body Wisdom Board, has interplayed for about 17 years. A dancer, systems thinker, and beekeeper with an M.B.A., she has served both for-profit and non-profit organizations. As a social entrepreneur she is a savvy small business consultant and EveryDay Leadership coach. Being a beneficiary of her coaching, I want Nika to share her work with us because InterPlayers need ‘nuts and bolts’ ongoing support to create InterPlayful work and lives. We need help to continually clarify our purpose, consider our use of time, energy, and money, and garner crucial encouragement to take new steps.

Nika says, “As changemakers (social entrepreneurs, artists, activists, InterPlay leaders, etc.), we often notice the personal wear and tear of holding the center of something new. It takes physical, spiritual, mental and emotional energy to make the new world that we want to live in. We need community that affirms our body wisdom, grounds our life practice, and supports our purposeful work. A circle, sustained over time, in which to witness, babble, shake out, discern.”

Nika is offering unique coaching in affordable small group tele-sessions- “powered by InterPlay” to support EveryDay Leaders who want to sustain a daily life practice and build a creative livelihood.  Wouldn’t it be great to get support from someone who knows what it means to “go the speed of the body” “use easy focus” “get rid of the icky stuff,” and proceed incrementally?

A visionary listener for times of change, Nika muses…

“Our planet shifts
Old structures fall
Feel the urgency?
Time to engage
With all we’ve got.
Notice the rhythm?”

What is your rhythm? Is it time to thrust, swing, shape or hang? Is it time for a solo, duet or ensemble? What do you need for your next clear, strong initiation? Can phone calls work for embodied activities?  Nika says, “Over the years, I’ve been integrating InterPlay into coaching by phone, teaching online, and facilitating groups like the Body Wisdom National Board via teleconference. We all know the joys of being body-to-body together but in casting a wide community web, I believe that maximizing the possibilities of telecommunications strengthens our interconnectedness.  Just like hand-dancing at a distance, we can stretch our kinesthetic imaginations to find the connection.”

Nika is forming coaching groups of 6-8 people. Interested? Email her at to learn how this form might serve you. Are there other people you’d like to form a group with? Let her know. Individual coaching is also available by phone or Skype, at sliding scale fees – you can schedule directly from her website. As she says, “My mission is to inspire both ease and action in these turbulent times, and to offer my services in a way that I hope is more financially accessible for you and still a self-sufficient livelihood for me.”

Nika’s blog, services and other information can be found by visiting Quirky Auntie’s “Sustainable Living” Room.

Are you a coach and InterPlay leader? Let me know how you blend InterPlay with your services at

Amazing T.I.P. technology available through InterPlay

September 29, 2009

You’ve heard of twitter….amazing!

facebook, myspace, online chats…remarkable!

Now there’s T.I.P. – Talking in Person! (coined by moi)

In five years studies will confirm TIPing as the most high functioning, potent form of communication. Social networkers in InterPlay who use TIP already know this to be true. More than sharing info and selling products TIPers GO DIRECT! Direct communication is one of the most powerful instantaneous CREATORS of body connection (social glue) and wisdom. Body to body communicating faster than the speed of words we can experience interpersonal health or disease, organization or disorganization. We can accelerate and increase shared knowing  We can make a better world in an instant.

InterPlay cultivates the willingness and ability to TIP. TIPing includes movement, vocalization, stillness, words, and actual contact. WHEN THIS HAPPENS BODIES LOVE IT! MINDS LOVE IT! HEARTS LOVE IT! Because InterPlay focuses on affirmation and honoring each person’s experience real time InterPlay is hot, loving, and juicy.

Last Friday I learned that computers want to help us TIP. Dorothy came to the Friday Morning drop in class, opened her laptop to gmail. Her friend Katie was online and waiting. Dorothy “called” her via the internet through video chat. Up came Katie’s live smiling face, (she’s an InterPlayer at Yale Univesity). She was able to see us and we were able to see her. She danced with us, witnessed us, and said her name in the circle in the moment, directly connecting, but from different sides of the US. WOW. It was awkward at times. The computer couldn’t hold the connection and Dorothy had to help it, but it was direct and worth it.

I get energy from TIPing. If I want to make a thing happen, clarify confusion or give to someone, I call or get together. InterPlay allows me incredible opportunity to do this. Add some rest, food, and the ability to stop connecting and Voila…the world looks pretty good.

Want to learn more about how TIP technology works? Check out the NOVA video on Mirror Neurons. The body’s incredibly cool neural network genius. You got it, why not use it.

Keep on TIPin…

The Wedding of Lives

September 14, 2009

Have you seen that great InterPlayful video with the guys and gals dancing down the aisle? As far as I know Jill and Kevin and their gang are NOT InterPlayers, but I think we should make them honorary ones! Anybody know them?

Cynthia and Stephen Winton-Henry

Thirty years ago, September 8th, 1979, Stephen and I danced right in the middle of an outdoor ceremony to a violin playing a tune from Fiddler on the Roof. Our “I do’s” were spoken under a willow tree. A homemade banner hung over the pool that said, “Together we jumped into a pool that wasn’t there until we jumped.”  Improv, here we come. Sure, sometimes it’s felt like we were in over our heads. Commitment, that never-ending dance of step-step-steppin’, has been hard, easy, rewarding and demanding. It turns out that hanging out with Stephen is one of the best things I do. He is good for me and to me.

Thirty years ago, Phil and I also began dancing together. Members of Body and Soul Dance Company, one of the first dances we shared, choreographed by Judith Rock, was called “Covenant.” Appropriate. Covenant is what you do when you choose to keep faith with a person or group. Covenant requires all of us. With unspoken promises from our hearts, our thirty years accumulated without a marriage. But anyone who has watched us dance remarks on the unique wedding of our lives. Covenanting and choosing to work together is not something we planned. It was gifted to us by each other and by some greater dream that asked us to create, serve, love, and inspire. Either that or we are just insanely obstinate.

This coming weekend InterPlayers Theron Shaw and Elizabeth Mendana start their marital journey. InterPlayers Randall Mullins and Sharon Pavelda will preside. Let’s wish them all the blessed anniversaries they can stand.

P.S. Did you dance during your wedding? Let me know about it. Want to know how InterPlay supports relationships? Share your story and I’ll spread the good news.
P.P.S. Happy Anniversary, Stephen and Phil.

InterPlay Dream

September 1, 2009

It’s happening in my dreams.

Last night I dreamt that waiting in line with others, a friend and I took a deep breath, let it out with a sigh and laughed. People nearby laughed too. Ease, relaxation, and connection were suddenly present. At another place a friend and I started laughing and shaking out our voices. Bubbles of life were released. Others joined in.

InterPlay’s spirit spread into social realities beyond the walls of InterPlay sessions.

InterPlay connections generate health. Pittsburg InterPlayer Rich Citrin says InterPlay gives us “stress resilience.” Complex, diverse human interactions challenge us. Stress is often unavoidable. Conscious practices are crucial. Identifying and choosing what brings us grace is a key. Simple, fun, at-the-ready practices change our world.

21st century lives require not only conscious individual practices, we need collective practices. This month’s entire ODE Magazine is dedicated to laughter. Laughing is a great group practice. So is shaking out our tension and breathing together. Of course, the most phenomenal practices for human health are dancing, singing, telling stories, affectionate contact, and hanging out: what I call the Five Recommended Daily Requirements. That’s why Phil and I are developing a body wisdom tool kit for work groups, service groups, and communities to practice healthy body wisdom together.

One of the secrets in my dream was being with a friend. Deep breaths and sighs didn’t feel forced. We do it all the time TOGETHER. The power of two or more is a mighty power.

Out in front of InterPlayce last Friday, Lauren and Lisa set up an art cart, inviting people to make a 5 x 7 drawing about HOME. Each Friday they’re on the street sharing art and building community. I showed them our studio. Lauren asked, “Are you living your dream?” I thought for a moment and said, “YES.” It’s with the support of a life time practice, friends, and divine guidance. But I have bigger dreams. I dream of healthy connections and meaningful lives for everyone.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To appreciate beauty; to give of one’s self, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — that is to have succeeded.”

Coming up…

InterPlay Community Development Tool Kit Workshop

September 24 at InterPlayce in Oakland, CA.
To register call 510-465-2797.

November 12th in Portland, OR
at the Applied Improvisation Network Pre-conference.
To register go to the Applied Improv Network website

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