For episode 032 of Gutted, I chatted with Lauralynn Balcerzak, a performance artist, sound healer, and body tuner from Lake Tahoe, California. I was excited to chat with Lauralynn, a woman who has spent much of her life using movement practices and performance as a way of reconnecting to her body, on how she has strengthened her intuition and innate inner wisdom through these practices.
Lauralynn’s performance art is focused around pole dancing and pole acrobatics, however, she has never felt quite right using clubs and bars as her main place of creative expression. Recently, she created a pole dancing routine that she performs outside—in nature—as a display of political action. For this performance, the pole serves as a symbolic representation of the earth’s central axis and Lauralynn’s movements and actions on the pole tell a story about the state of our earth’s climate and environment. She aims to push the edges of what traditional pole dancing represents as an opportunity to educate others on her stance with global warming and environmental sustainability.
Lauralynn grew up in a small suburb outside of St. Paul, Minnesota. Both of her parents are psychologists and she remembers there being “a lot of awareness and intentionality in goal setting and behavior modification” during her youth. As Lauralynn reflects on her upbringing, she expresses immense gratitude for the tools that her parents taught her, many of which still support her daily actions and behaviors. Additionally, as all parts of ourselves are multifaceted, Lauralynn notes,
“[My parents are] these two beams of light or something. And you know, some of my path has actually been heartbreaking as I’ve come into my own. Because in order to be true to myself and my body, I could feel myself being pulled away from some of the paths that were thought to be best for me.”
This reflection leads Lauralynn and I to discuss the inevitable disappointments that are felt by others when we are operating from a place of deep internal truth. In order to clearly follow our own unique path, we have to let go of the attachments and expectations put on us by people that both love us and want to see the best for us—but we may not actually know what those are. Lauralynn mentions that she has taken on the professional title of “body tuner” versus “physical trainer” in her work, because she is committed to supporting her clients in fine-tuning the expression of their body’s truth. She states, “It is a wonderful thing to behold when someone is living their own truth and the universe aligns around that.”
Lauralynn earned an undergraduate degree in chemistry. The summer after graduating, she began to take kung fu lessons—a type of body practice that has continued to serve her for many years. After the summer came to an end, she took off to Italy to participate in a year-long, science-focused Fulbright scholarship. She shares these two things together as a way of making sense of how they impacted her in similar and dissimilar ways at the same time. She notes,
“I think after all that academic structure, kung fu became a practice of a bodily structure that was still very mental and spiritual, but [also] very physical. And somehow it just felt like [kung fu was] ‘filling the void’ after all of the academic[s]. It was exactly what I needed.”
During her year of study in Italy, she was impacted by the Italian culture to slow down and appreciate the enjoyment of life. She remembers her experience in Italy to be one guided by “heart and connection and love and the body.” When she first started her lab work at an Italian physics institute, her mentor Marcello said to her,
“The American government is paying you to be here. So I’m really not your boss, you know. I’m not paying you, I’m hosting you. You can come to the lab if you want . . . but if you don’t come to the lab, it’s not a big deal.”
This experience in Italy allowed her to hone her skills in choosing freely—in checking in with herself and asking herself what choices felt the most freeing and affirming to her soul’s desires. The time and space that was both created for her and celebrated by her allowed her to see that the academic path that she was walking on was not serving her or making her happy. It was at this point in her life that she decided to walk away from becoming a scientist and embrace a career that was more focused on movement and the wisdom of the body.
Throughout this entire process, Lauralynn still practiced kung fu and was introduced to pole dancing. After taking her first class, she remembers thinking:
“I felt like I was being given a slice of life that I have been deprived of all along, but didn’t even know—you know? And it was all about sensuality in the feminine body and slowing down and enjoying your curves. It was all about curves and circles instead of lines and arrows.”
“I knew that [pole dancing] was what I needed to do. I knew I needed to spend time on this because I felt so thirsty for that. All of the sudden it was like this thirst that you realize you didn’t even know you had.”
Her foray into kung fu and pole dancing became a beautiful exploration of dance and music and movement. There was a healing happening for Lauralynn in the classes that she was taking, a healing that eventually led her to move to San Francisco and become a sound healer and body tuner.
At the end of our conversation, Lauralynn and I return to the overarching theme that we had been exploring for our entire interview—the relationship between the masculine and the feminine. The importance of knowing both of these sides of yourself and using the body as a profound tool to choose freely, even if it means disappointing those around you.