Dango Rose And Kelly Elle Kenworthy On Their Saatvik Offering At Campout For The Cause In Buena Vista, Colorado, June 1-3, 2018
By Ashley Shires
With so many yoga and music festivals out there, Campout for the Cause stands out as a conscious, authentic gathering, focusing on purpose and deep connection. Each year the festival chooses a different nonprofit cause, and this year it is supporting a two-year old girl with a rare childhood cancer. The festival is packed with amazing Wondergrass bands and innovative yoga instructors. I was thrilled to interview the talented Kelly Elle Kenworthy, owner of the Little Yoga Studio in Boulder, Colorado, and Dango Rose, founding member of Elephant Revival, on their creative collaboration at this year's festival.
We are so excited that you will be collaborating at Campout for the Cause, offering yoga with live music. How did you the two of you start working together?
Kelly Elle: I’ve always been a fan of Elephant Revival, and Dango came into the Little Yoga Studio to practice. Later, he did the teacher training in the winter of 2017.
Dango: At the time, I was touring tons, so Kelly and I got to know each other because we worked one-on-one through some of the teacher training material. And we found out that we had a lot in common. We had a real connection.
Dango, coming from a music background, what made you want to do a yoga teacher training?
I’ve had a solid yoga practice for 15 years. At the time, I wanted to expand upon my outlets; I was looking towards creating an Elephant Yoga offshoot – on the Elephant Revival tours, where I could teach at festivals. If we had days off at cities, I was thinking about doing workshops.
At that point, I was frequenting so many yoga studios around the country. The tour bus would pull up in a new city every night. At 8:30 in the morning, I would check my MindBody app and find the nearest yoga studio. The cool thing about that was that I wasn’t searching for a certain type of studio. I woke up literally not knowing where I was, and that was how I gained my bearings in the new city, by finding the studio that had a 9:00 a.m. class. From there I would start my day.
What was your first yoga and music collaboration?
Kelly Elle: I love spending time curating playlists for my weekly public classes, and I enjoy discovering new music that I believe our community will enjoy. When my relationship with Dango began to grow, I thought it would be amazing to teach as he plays live. One day I saw Dango at the studio and had the guts to ask him if he wanted to try it out. We both thought our annual Thanksgiving donation class would be a great place to start. Dango spoke with Evan, his recording producer, and they decided they would play together for that class, and that they would take an improvisational approach.
Dango: At that point, I’d been a student of Kelly’s, more or less, for a couple of years, and I appreciated her teaching style. She has a special, unique teaching style that is connected, grounded. She has an intuitive sense of where her practitioners are – she can sense into the feeling. Most vinyasa teachers choreograph their classes ahead of time, but she still suits the flow to the moment of the day. That’s how I like to approach performance and live music – there is always room for improvisation.
How did the first collaboration go?
Kelly Elle: We had 94 students in our little studio, and we raised $1900 for a local nonprofit, MESA, Moving to End Sexual Assault. After the success of that class, we decided to offer this live music collaboration at the studio every other month, and now we have the opportunity to offer epic live music with yoga at festivals!
I personally love your amazing rapport, the organic flow of your collaborative classes.
Dango: My yoga practice has always informed my music. That’s where I think the link is. I approach my music like I would my yoga practice or spiritual discipline. They interweave. And the improvisational aspect sinks into the parasympathetic nervous system – the state you also find in meditation or savasana. Like Kelly with her choreographed class, Evan and I also have an idea of what style pieces we will play – some composed, some more free-form – but it’s a template. In that respect, the improvisational aspect is something that Evan and I share well together. We do it with roots instrumentation, focused on the mandolin and the guitar. And then we sense each other.
I’ve done teacher trainings and I know the arc of a class, and I resonate with Kelly’s approach – she becomes part of the band, kind of leading the band. We stay tuned in to that flow, where the practitioners are, whether it’s the peak sequence or cool-down phase; we’re working with that arc.
Kelly Elle, I know that music has a lot to do with your identity, plays a big part in all of your classes.
Kelly Elle: I firmly believe that two of the most universal languages we have are music and movement. To combine my two loves of moving the body, through yoga poses, and adding music, especially live music, is super incredible; it transcends all of the bullshit. In our last collaboration at the studio, it was so intimate it felt like a transcendental experience. As a participant/student/practitioner, to be fully present in the moment, it’s like being at a festival and dancing and connecting to the live music, but with more precision. (Laughing) Or not.
Can you tell us about your collaboration at Campout for the Cause?
Kelly Elle: Think acoustic improv meets vinyasa. Think Americana-based composition meets conscious flow. All under an open sky, next to the river, with a radical tribe.
What are your favorite parts of the festival?
Dango: What makes it so cool is that for one, proceeds always go to a good cause. This year has to do with children’s cancer research. Also, it’s homegrown. But like all of Scotty Stauton’s festivals, it’s also super high quality. There is always a great crew, great sound, great grounds. It’s a combination of my three favorite activities: outdoor summer music festivals, yoga and the river.
Dango, with Elephant Revival going on hiatus, what are you looking forward to, moving forward?
Dango: Currently, I’ve been following the mantra, "Write, Record, Produce – Repeat." I’m constantly in the studio working on a variety of projects with the intention of furthering the Transcendental Folk sound. These releases will soon be made available through elephant-collective.com. I’m also balancing it all out with the outdoor activities I love: kayaking, hiking and gardening. I guess those are the top three. And biking. You know, (laughing), what people do here in Colorado.
And Kelly Elle, what else do you have coming down the line?
Kelly Elle: I am currently leading a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certified teacher training, which is keeping me pretty busy at the Little Yoga Studio. Outside of that, we are fine tuning our offerings at the Little, discovering new opportunities for our students, and dialing in our summer show schedule!
For more about Campout for the Cause: campoutforthecause.org.
For more about Kelly Elle & the Little Yoga Studio: littleyogastudio.com.
For more about Dango and Elephant Collective: elephant-collective.com.