Vital Signs Residency Format

Vital Signs is created by you, and directed by Guides, who will curate a balance of structured and unstructured activities. We have changed our structure to have a more focused event and now participants may join for the week or the weekend.

This is an experiment in having community support while you focus on a creative project you love! Each morning there will be a community practice that warms up your body, your creativity, your sense of possibility and you get to work (individually or in collaboration) in the afternoons. There will be opportunities for feedback on your project! Explore the balance between community and personal manifestation. Some of the practices will include exploring sexual energy and its capacity to ignite our creativity and healing as social change makers.

Solomon has decided to step away from guiding the group to focus on his work in Montreal, and we will be focusing everything into one week with Barbara Ann, Z and Abbi all guiding this week together. Stay tuned for a revised description based on this new configuration . . .
Guided by Barbara Ann & Z and Abbi will focus on unleashing desire in our erotic and political lives!
How do you unleash your desire in your creative, social, erotic, and political lives? What is your relationship to your artistic expression in this era of Trump, bridging inclusive and divisive views? What do you really want? How do you ask for it? How do you create it in community? What is the balance of structure and freedom, of solitude and connection, that nourishes what you really want? The first week is guided by Barbara and Z. It is time to clarify your creative project, channel your aliveness and desire into it and create something fulfilling. Activities will include embodiment practices, partnered touch explorations, communicating desire (through voice, touch, and art), group and solo rituals and spontaneous invitations. There also will be a sexual empowerment ritual focused on healing racism. You are invited to explore and transform how you internalize oppression and initiate reconnection, so you can express even more of your truth and creativity.
Abbi will focus on presence, the fertile mystery of what is alive, nourishment and nature.
Abbi is a passionate explorer of the exquisite, the sensual, and the expansive potential of the present moment. She invites us to explore the fertile mystery of what is alive, what is ready to be born, and what tools will help us tend to that which has been born. She invites us to experience embodied community and the nourishment of desire. Her skillful facilitation will invite us to arrive deeply into meaningful connection and infinite possibility, providing opportunities for dialogue with self, earth and community. Each day, she will support what is alive in the individuals and community and will offer embodied and liberating practices that will support participants to show up fully and authentically, listen deeply, practice grounding and expansion, while exploring pleasure and sensual playfulness, practicing self care, and integrating new experiences. Abbi will offer a sensual food/desire ritual and more. She will also invite the group to co-create a radical action to share our personal work with a wider community by creating some embodiment activism. Your dreams, desires, creativity, sensuality, and your full selves are all welcome.

Weekend Attendance:  You are invited to join in on this residency experiment.  While we have to give registration priority to those signing up for the whole residency, we have some openings for people to attend one or two weekends. The participants and guides of the week prior to your weekend will welcome you and will craft experiences for you to explore the vital signs process.  

Vital Signs Guides

Barbara Ann Michaelsbarbara-ann-michaels-2014-ica

Barbara Ann Michaels, Jester of the Peace, makes a career of the interplay of love, art, and comedy. She creates participatory environments and performances in which people connect, and can have transformational experiences. In addition to auto-biographical shows and writing, she often devises interactive events around shared cultural experiences, such as elections, the olympics, holidays, and common life milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Ms. Michaels has been presented at The Miami Project with Claudine Maidique Gallery, The New York Clown Theatre Festival, San Francisco Fringe Festival, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston Museum of Science, and many festivals. She is a current Artist in Residence at Unarthodox in New York City. She has been seen on The Learning Channel’s Four Weddings, in the New York Times, Boston Globe, New York Daily News, New York Magazine, on CNN, in The Guardian and the Huffington Post. Her motto is: Art is love. Love is Art.

Zahava Grissfullsizerender

Zahava Griss is a kinky, gender transcendent, dancer, bodyworker, and embodied leadership trainer.  They have been dancing for 30 years and love the way dance deepens presence, creativity, and community. They have certifications in Urban Tantra, Esalen Bodywork, Deep Bodywork, Yoga for Birth, Pilates, and Health Coaching. They studied the sexual and spiritual arts of Sufi whirling, Sexual Shamanism, BDSM, bioenergetics, and transformational group dynamics.  They perform and teach at national conferences on healing racism, Dark Odyssey, Touch & Play, Black Entertainment Television, New York University, Hunter College, the International Inspiring Women’s Summit, the Kennedy Center, the NY Midwifery conference, prenatal yoga teacher training, and the Deepak Chopra Center. Learn more at

Abbi Jaffefullsizerender

Abbi Jaffe is an embodiment activist and teacher, bodyworker, social worker and community builder. Abbi inspires others to follow their own body’s curiosity and impulses, embrace grief and celebration, unleash their radiant resilience, and to be exquisite.  Abbi has been leading people on expeditions in the wilderness and within themselves since 2000 and is asked to teach throughout New England.  Abbi operates the beautiful Dharma Door retreat in Underhill, VT and co-owns The Everything Space in Montpelier VT, which create somatic education opportunities as an integral part of social and environmental justice. Her favorite things to share these days are the somatics of digestion, natural fitness / primal practice, contemplative dance practice, and her trauma informed curriculum for yoga teachers at Middlebury College. Learn more about Abbi here: a Vital Signs Guide, Abbi is interested to explore her ideas of what is possible within a community that is exploring its edges as well as getting outside every day to play, run, and sing with the trees in winter. As a Vital Signs guide, Abbi is honored to empower others in the projects they have brought while supporting the group to continually deepen in presence, compassion, possibility, and integration with a connection to activism.


Includes room, board, tuition (*US dollars). Meals are prepared by the group, with guidance from an incredible local restaurateur, Suzanne Podhaizer.

Whole vital week (first week or second week, Sunday @ 5pm – Sunday @ 3pm ) = $650

Vital weekend only (Friday @ 5pm – Sunday @ 3pm) = $200

Register, More info and Questions:

Make a commitment to boost your vital self this new year!
Fill out the Application 
If you have questions about the application you can email Hilary Lake at

Vital Signs Values

The Vital Signs Guides value collaborative exploration, edgy inquiry, embodied activism, conscious communication, intimacy practices, radical self-care, playful disruption, community living, and addressing oppression with the search for equality and freedom. We look forward to sharing these with you!


What does ‘Edgy’ mean to us?  Edgy is an alive place of exploring one’s edges.  An edge may be where your comfort zone and desire to know more meet.  At Vital Signs we welcome Edgy Inquiry.  What are your edges?

Is your edge being in a community that expresses physical touch? As all of the guides are seeped in the practice of contact improvisation, there will be an undercurrent of touch in the community.  With touch, comes all of the alive places in ourselves that are comfortable or uncomfortable with touch.  Guides are skilled at teaching about consensual touch.  Is your edge being more sensual with the world in general or to have more intimacy with nature and others?  All of the guides have a practice of and comfort with sensuality.  Is your edge exploring the potency of sexual energy, with or without sex?.   Guides are skilled at navigating this terrain with a group.  It is expected that people will have different comfort levels, and so there will be multiple activities offered when appropriate.  The guides are there to check in with and work with you to support your personal edges and/or your desire to not engage your edges at a particular moment.  It is our vision that there is potency in having people exploring their own personal edges, wherever their edge may be, within community, and that being in that environment can spark creativity for all of us.

How will the guides support participants?  The guides, in collaboration with the participants desires, will offer one or more/simultaneous activities every morning, and most evenings.  We have activities that we think will help get your creative juices flowing and/or support you to arrive more grounded in yourself each day.  Activities might include embodied practices of clarifying your intentions, energy skills and self care, rituals, authentic movement, partner practices, a response process for feedback on projects, a nourishing food ritual, clowning, meditation, and embodied dialogue.  We will also work with the participants that are attending to have them offer activities when the right mix of timing, skill set and desire to teach present themselves.

How much am I required to attend the activities versus working on my own project?  Except for a few community meetings, you can opt in or out of activities and craft your own flow of engagement and integration with the support of the guides.

What if I am not interested in exploring a group activity that is being offered?  Every day there will be opportunities to join in multiple activities either led by the guides or curated from the participants. If a guide is offering something that doesn’t interest you, the other guide might also be leading something else, and you could curate your own workshop or ask for what you would need for support.  The guides are here to help facilitate your process.

How do the two weeks relate to one another?  What if I can only come to one week?  Each week stands alone in being a complete offering and also build upon each other.  The guides for week two understand that some participants will have been there the first week and others will be arriving fresh for only the second week.  Abbi and Solomon welcome the energy of the new people and the new week and will support the organic process of integrating the community.

Do I have to be a dancer or enjoy dancing to attend?  This residency is open to a diverse range of folks, and it is being facilitated by guides seeped in the practice of contact improvisation dance and on land that has held many different embodied practices.  Contact improv is a an awareness practice that invites the participant to notice their body and their relationship to gravity in each moment.  Just walking or standing could be considered dance.  You do not have to be a dancer though you may indeed be in a community that dances in each moment and enjoys movement and moving.

What is Embodiment Activism?  During the second week, potentially the first week as well, we will explore embodiment activism and will create an action for the streets of Northampton.

Visit for more ideas and information.

What does it mean to be a trauma informed residency?  Humans are highly resilient and at times experience trauma.  While your guides are not therapists, they understand the nature of trauma and will be monitoring the group at all times to create as safe a space as possible.  The guides will also work with you to choose activities and projects that are right for you at any particular moment.  Trauma informed space is not trigger free space.  Trauma informed means understanding that triggers can come out of nowhere and might be important tools for growth.  Trauma informed means having compassionate guides who care for your wellbeing and practice empathy and kindness without judgement.  Trauma informed means that everyone is welcome to show up how they need to at any particular moment.  If the residency is not the right place to be for you for any reason, trauma informed means supporting you to make a different choice of activity or location.