by Sandra Ballentine
“The 360 Emergence, cofounded by Kate Shela and Amber Ryan, is a meditative healing experience disguised as a rad expressive dance party. Shela, a dynamic Brit with a salt-and-pepper streaked mohawk, uses everything from Billie Eilish to Beyoncé, Brian Eno to Stormzy, and Lizzo to tech house—as well as her own magnetic voice—to ignite, elevate, and soothe her refreshingly diverse following during the 90-minute class, which she prefers to call a lab. The tracks flow organically according to Shela’s read on the collective mood of the moment, but any resemblance to raving ends there. “There’s no talking, no drinking out of coconuts or drumming,” Shela says. “We’re coming in for a focused, intentional, rigorous practice. I am a shamanic dominatrix, so I hold a very, very strong container.’”
by Kate Shela
My name is Kate Shela, a Londoner living in LA. I come from an Eastern European immigrant working class lineage, straight from hip and hilarious survivors. I am a movement architect and shamanic practitioner. I guide people through workshops designed to pass on the knowledge I’ve gathered, to help people become more comfortable in their human suits.
Every class I teach, I’m scared in anticipation. Over 20 years of this shit and it’s still the same. That fear is lightning, not something you wield, but something you receive. The more terrified I am, the more powerful the bolt I conduct. Once the first song starts, the first step of the first dance, the fear is gone. I become present. All my attention is on the dancers. I enter my passion, my purpose. There’s no room for fear.
The scent of fear signals we are ascending towards depth.
Fear is the Great Awakener. Fear is my companion. It keeps knocking at my door to keep me on my toes, to remind me to pay attention, to take action, to breathe deeper, to get the fuck out of a shady situation, to sniff out what needs to be revealed.
For much of my life I didn’t pay attention to the fear. I judged it, without even noticing. I held my breath waiting for the axe to fall. I tried to ignore it, because it felt like my native territory. I was too close to see it. I was numb to it. I thought it was part of my identity. I could only move through it when I realized the fear was separate from me – what I feel is not who I am. My fearful self was the person I judged the most. Now it’s become an ally. It flags up a disowned part of myself. If I can integrate it, the blindfold slips off. Yes, fear is a part of my identity, but I get to choose how big a part.
Scary lives next door to exciting, frightening a hair’s breadth from delicious, their edges lined with healthy boundaries. Fear is a chance to leap into a new perspective. We get to update ourselves. With the right support systems, fear can be a catalyst into sustainable change. Most of our self-talk is negative and it’s rooted in fear. Owning that fear can transform it. I try to treat myself how I would treat my best friends. And I adore my best friends. It’s obvious stuff, which has taken a while to learn. The way I love others is really the way I love myself and that has been a gorgeous realization. This concept that we cannot love others if we don’t love ourselves can be looked at the other way round: the way we love others is the deep underlying way we can love ourselves.
Depending on my day, fear can both hinder and motivate me. I might luxuriate in the terror space to honor my vulnerable victim, then feel the upswing of moving through it, knowing this is just one aspect of me, not the orchestra of my story.
What I fear the most is having too much meat on the bone. I have fears of being too bright, too big. I am a wild stallion with a deer heart. It’s the dance of polarities and the fear of not being accepted for my unique ingredients of power and vulnerability.
My fear wants to be brave. It wants to grow and be challenged so strength can emerge. It wants to have a good time. Fear is a journey of comforting discomfort. It’s the sand that works its way under our shell to create the lustrous pearl.
Taking LA as an example: it took me a long time to take root in this place. I’d lived here in the 1990’s – my twenties – but that was a different time. I was a wardrobe stylist, younger, single. Moving here again in 2007 with my family was way out of my comfort zone, even though it was my choice. I had no friends, no work or extended family. This city is an elusive creature, a secret city. Unlike London,Paris or New York, the city’s architecture won’t allow you to just stumble into its magic. You can’t push here. It uproots the transplants, shakes us up and shapes us in new ways. It’s not a comfortable experience. You need a personal introduction to all its wonders. The people were the keys. It takes time to forge meaningful relationships. Ten years later, I have a basket of friendship and a container of work that supports me. I’ve found my home.