Out Of Chaos

     Orchestral sounds are created through a synergy of sound and motion. The players, the conductor and the music all play their part like actors on a stage. The sea of musicians flows and sways to the rhythm of the music. It is an all-encompassing energy that bursts off of the stage and onto the audience. It emanates from each individual musician pouring their soul into the instruments they are holding, the ones that they’ve invested countless hours in mastering. “I kind of view the pages of music backed up against a landscape,” Los Angeles-based violinist Jordan Ann Martone said. “It’s the story I’m trying to tell through the piece of music.” The orchestra becomes an actress whose body language and facial expressions reach the deepest caverns of the audience’s collective soul. “People don’t realize it because music is always there,” Martone added. “It affects people more than they realize.”

     Having grown up in the city of Lancaster, Calif.— located in the northeast part of Los Angeles County— Martone and her family made frequent visits to the city of Los Angeles for various events and performances. “I would always go to shows and musicals with my family,” Martone said. She comes from a musical family and began to play the piano at the age of 4. “When I turned 7 or 8, in my elementary school, there was a strings class,” she said. It was a small strings program in a community that glorified sports and the military. However, the young Martone was convinced that she wanted to take part in this program. Convincing her mother of allowing her to leave the piano for the violin was a different story. “My mom told me: ‘I’m not going to let you quit the piano, but you can add the violin’,” she recalled. Having been raised in a musical home, Martone was familiar with all of the instruments. “But the violin was the one that was really unique— the sound— and I liked it a lot,” she added.

     Because she already knew how to play the piano, Martone found it easy to play the violin. She was the only kid in her school that was serious about playing this instrument. “I was kind of an oddball in my school because it consumed my life,” Martone said. As her skills improved over time, so did the quality of the violins she was playing. “Every violin is completely different because they’re all handmade, usually,” she said. “So you can play something absolutely perfectly on your instrument and then go pick up somebody else’s to demonstrate and it’ll sound terrible.”

     Martone went through a series of violins, starting with a beginner, factory-made, cookie-cutter instrument to one that was high-quality and one-of-a-kind that she purchased from her violin teacher Michael Ferril. “It was something that I could not afford,” Martone said. “But I was so lucky to have been in that situation where I was able to purchase it.” With violin, unlike a piano whose notes are already in tune, you can put your finger anywhere on the instrument and it can sound awful. “Getting it to sound good is so difficult,” she said. “In my opinion, it’s one of the hardest instruments to play.” It takes years and years of sounding bad in order to reach a point at which you can make the instrument sound good. Most people who try to learn the violin get discouraged by the bad that they never get to the good. Martone herself went through a period of self-doubt. “Things started getting hard, and I actually had to practice more and be more involved if I wanted to progress,” she vividly remembers. She started to get impatient with the disproportionate amount of practice she had to invest compared to the small amount of progress she was making. “My mom sat down with me and told me, ‘This is one of the hardest things you’ve had to do in your little 10-year-old life,'” Martone recalled. “‘If you push through this, I think you’ll be really thankful.'”

     She was glad that her mother didn’t let her quit, because that’s what it took. That little extra push. “It took rewiring my brain,” she said. “You do it just purely by your musical mind and muscle memory, which is kind of crazy now that I think back on it.”

     Martone stated that she owed a lot of her career as a violinist to her mother, who is a stage actress and singer. “If I wasn’t a violinist, I might go into acting,” Martone said. She believes that acting teaches you stage presence and performance techniques. “It drives me nuts when I see violinists on stage that are just ‘plant-and-play’ type of people,” she said. “They stand and have no expression. They make the most beautiful sound you’ve heard, but where’s the expression? Where’s that story you’re trying to tell me?” While she’s on stage, Martone takes on the persona of an actress singing a song and really performing it for the audience. “That’s what I know. It’s my performance experience,” she said. She feels that it helps her enhance the story that she is telling through her playing. “Entertain me! We’re in the entertainment business. It’s a big part of what I do,” she added.

     While a student at the California State University in Northridge, Martone was asked to substitute for a violinist in the semi-professional Debut Orchestra. The concert would feature music by the world-famous film composer John Williams, conducted by Williams himself. “I thought I’d be playing somewhere in the back,” she said. “But no. I was playing third chair, second violin and I was freaking out.” She was playing the hardest music that she had ever encountered right under the very man who wrote it. “It was a lot of pressure because I definitely wanted to do a good job. I had to do a good job,” she said. “It was so incredible and so memorable. It was a dream come true and the biggest kick in the butt all in one.”

     This performance set in motion something that Martone had wanted to do ever since she was a child— watching videos of musicians in the studio, recording the music for films like Star Wars. “I have a huge love for film music. I listen to it a lot. I’d say that it forms 80 percent of my listening material,” she said. “It’s my favorite music.” Aside from her live performances and teaching— privately and at local schools— Martone enjoys recording music in the studio. She has played on soundtracks for films, television shows and video games, most of which she cannot discuss until after the project has been released to the public. “The film industry is not as wealthy as it used to be,” she noted. “I realize that I live in a different age now.” Even in LA— the film music capital of the world— there’s been a large amount of outsourcing to Europe and other orchestras overseas in order to save money.” However, Martone remains hopeful. “If I could go to Fox Studios and record for those films every day, that would be my dream job,” she said.

     Her love for film music can only be matched by her love for the city of Los Angeles. “I just can’t believe I’m here,” Martone said. Even in the midst of hours upon hours of traffic, the violinist appreciates the fact that she is in LA. “I don’t care. I get to drive down Highland Avenue, in the city where my dreams are coming true,” she said. Even in her various travels to New York, NY and Paris, France, she has never found a place quite like LA. “It represents so much opportunity for me personally. It’s very exciting,” she added. “I’m so happy to be here. I’m very lucky that I am. It’s a huge deal.”

     Martone is writing the script to her life with a bow in one hand and her violin in the other. Her devotion for film music has led her to become a huge advocate for it. “I wonder how different people’s lives would be if they listened to more film music instead of pop music on the daily,” Martone said. The growing popularity of live orchestras playing along to film has garnered mass appreciation for orchestral music. In an age where this type of music is no longer in vogue, orchestras are losing their footing in people’s lives. “It’s interesting to see the popularity of that grow, because everybody loves movies,” she said. “When they realize that an orchestra is playing that right now, it helps bring the appreciation back. It’s helping the interest in live music a bit more and the classical study that goes behind that.”

     She sees music as the silent hero to the entire world of film and television. “I don’t think people realize how important it really is in everything they watch,” Martone said. “Without film music, you don’t have a film. You have one with much less emotion.”

     Like a seasoned actress preparing for yet another role, Martone approaches each project with the same enthusiasm and curiosity she did when she was in her childhood strings class. “It’s discovering new music or things I can do with my instrument that I hadn’t before,” Martone said. “Because I love music ultimately. That’s the core of what I love and what I do.” When people ask her if she ever gets bored of playing the same instrument she has played all of her life, her answer is always a resounding “no.” “The music is constantly changing and evolving, and there are so many different possibilities out there,” Martone said. “You never know what’s going to affect you the most.”

     She is willing to embrace each role life serves up for her, even if it were one in which she wasn’t a musician. “I would always want to be involved in the arts. It’s the only thing I’ve ever been drawn to,” she said. Whether she’s playing as part of the orchestra’s body or in an all-female electric strings quartet, Martone draws energy from the music, her fellow musicians, the conductor and the audience. “I never know which performance hit the person in the back row,” Martone said. “It’s that thought that keeps me going.”

To learn more about Jordan Ann Martone’s music, please check out her website:


Oseguera, J. L., Jr. (2017, July 30). La Violinista [Photograph]. Silhouettes, stripSearchLA, Los Angeles.

Cory Bilicko

Don’t Thank Me

Colors have deep, subconscious and subversive significance. The rods and cones in our eyes process them incessantly. They look for their presence even when they are absent. They crave them. There are colors and shades that take a few moments longer to process. Those found on a person’s face. Long Beach resident Cory Bilicko has such a face. One that is clad with a warm, colorful smile. It is more than a mere gesture of gaiety manifested by his lips. You can also see it in his eyes, in the way he waves his hands as he speaks and in the way his legs cross under his perked-up torso. He smiles with his whole body.

I feel his smile in every word he utters, in every concept he meticulously dissects and in every piece of art he creates. The artist’s easygoing personality is transmitted onto the canvas. It is present in every brushstroke. There’s a hedonistic undertone to everything that he does and chooses not to do. It invites you. It envelops you. It enraptures you. His paintings have the same effect. They don’t look like photographs or lifelike representations. They are alive, like an illusory face that our eyes carve out on the trunk of a tree, harkening to a world of childhood fables in which animals speak and trolls live under bridges. His paintings allow your imagination to be feral and run free with the apparitions in your mind.

Complex at first sight, his paintings don’t reveal themselves right away. You really need to look at them. You’re lured in by their beautiful distortion of reality. You become transfixed by the imagery. With every blink of your eyes, the image becomes sharper. His paintings have a fresco texture, mixed with the grittiness of eastern Orthodox art and the northern Renaissance. “With representational paintings, I think my way through them, but with abstract art, it’s about choosing colors that feel right,” Bilicko said. He associates certain feelings with certain colors and textures. “It’s not about choosing the right color, but the right amount,” he added. It is his belief that with a more limited color palette, paintings seem to have a more sophisticated look. Even as he searches for perfection in his pieces, the artist wants to show the imperfection and work that went into them, like the brushstrokes created by the painter’s hand.

His inspiration comes from a variety of places. “It comes from my fears, uncomfortable situations that have happened and nightmares,” Bilicko said. These are the things that get him into a certain headspace. “I think that’s what it is. I kind of have to get myself into a strange place where I don’t really know what’s up. That’s when I can be creative.” Placing himself in a different reality that he can exist in, to feel safe and comfortable. That’s really what his art is about. It’s about feeling. “This has become my artistic point of view. To take disturbing shit that I’ve experienced or that I’ve envisioned and doing something with it, to control it, to try to make it beautiful. Palatable,” Bilicko said.

Bilicko’s art is approachable. It is palpable. Palliative. It looks like something you can understand. Something you yourself could’ve made. “The word visionary comes to mind. Most of us have ideas, but what’s the difference between a person who has visions, creativity, imagination and someone who has those things but can then physicalize it, manifest it in a form that other people can experience. That’s an artist,” Bilicko stated. An artist is like a shaman having the capability to follow through and present his visions to others. In the end, he believes that it doesn’t matter whether society or he himself views himself as an artist. “I’ve never been like that. I just don’t give a fuck,” Bilicko said. “You know, if I take a shit on a canvas and call it art, many people aren’t going to like that.”

The titles that he chooses for his pieces range from literal or descriptive to more abstract and up for interpretations. “I never try to think of a title before I finish a piece or while I’m working on it. It’s always after,” Bilicko said. “They’re always an afterthought.” They usually come to him from a feeling he’s holding on to while he’s creating the work. It always goes back to the feeling. He likes to come up with titles after he has lived with the pieces for a while and has gotten to know them a little better. It’s a more natural fit. He feels for his paintings. He suffers for them. They are an extension of him. His children. Then and only then does the title become a more significant part of the piece as a whole. It engages the beholder; it makes them a part of the process as they have to do some of the work to figure it out. “People notice things about my art, and I love that,” Bilicko said, “I learn a lot about my pieces through what people tell me that they see.” The Long Beach artist enjoys it when people make up their own narratives for his art. Often when people ask him to explain the meaning of a piece, his reply will usually be, “I don’t know. You tell me,” Bilicko said bursting into laughter. “You tell me what you see, because I don’t know.” The art lends itself to any kind of interpretation. It is art that is meant to be interacted with, meant to be touched and touched by. “I do hope that my art, in general, helps people and also that my story helps people,” he added.

Bilicko’s paintings have a narrative that places the viewer in the middle of the action. They are narratives that you can look at, ingest, digest and then profess to someone else. They are oral histories. Like cave paintings that existed before language itself. His art allows you to think about it while at the same time not overthink and simply immerse yourself completely in it. “My art is about feeling good,” he said as he cued Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’ on his playlist. “It’s about making myself feel better.”

He paints as a way of digesting a feeling. “It’s part of the cathartic process, the physical nature of creating,” Bilicko said. In abstract art there are no rules. It is more random. “My abstract art is an expression of my emotions whereas my representational art is an expression of my thoughts,” he added. His art is an exploration, a journey through the subconscious.

“I don’t make art to impress people. I’m not trying to create a masterpiece. I’m just trying to deal with my shit and survive and be happy,” Bilicko said. “It’s very simple.” He almost sounds like a missionary delivering the gospel of art to the masses. “It saves me. It gives me a respite from all the crazy shit in our world,” he said. A lot of people can benefit from his message. He doesn’t really care about leaving behind a legacy, “It’s more about what I can do for people now, which is to help them understand that art has a truly transformative, therapeutic value to it. If that message continues beyond my current existence, then that’s great,” he added.

Any type of art form is meant to make you think, to make you feel. It’s supposed to make you want to interpret it. Art isn’t utilitarian. Its purpose is to inspire, to transcend, and in transcending, make your mind transcend along with it. In an age when everyone with a phone is a photographer, with photo-editing cloudware an artist and with a blog a writer, it’s difficult to distinguish between those who do it for art’s sake and those who put “art” in “farting around.” Those with a message from those with none. Both kinds are enjoyable to consume; however, as humans we search for meaning in everything that we do. We search for feeling. Deep down, Cory Bilicko is not a painter. He is a storyteller, one whose craft utilizes images and colors, nightmares and beauty, painful realities and distorted lullabies in order to affect the popular narrative of humanity. He is the Sharpie that draws a big smile on a nuclear warhead while giving the middle finger to the establishment. He and his art are enemies of the ordinary.

To see Cory Bilicko’s art and his upcoming shows, check out his website: www.corybilicko.com

Oseguera, J. L., Jr. (2017, July 13). Il Pittore [Photograph]. Silhouettes, StripSearchLA, Los Angeles.

Surrender Yourself

In the realm of music, it is a common practice to focus on one instrument and a limited number of styles in order to become highly skilled at them and attain full mastery. This is not the case with musician and artist Eddika Organista. She likes to explore different styles of music and their unique instruments. Her curiosity for the unknown is applied to her songwriting process. While most run away from the disparity to something more pristine, she embraces it and makes it part of her creations. In her song “Yagate” (Japanese for “In Time/Soon”), Eddika explores the notion of leaving behind a way of life and embracing a new one. The song was inspired by a sci-fi graphic novel that Eddika is working on. It deals with the dark state of an alternate futuristic universe meant to mirror our own. The song forewarns “Your world is no more” and advises to “Embrace the new one.” The advice is given by Eddika in a smooth rhythmic melody serves as a reflection of the types of changes occurring in Northeast Los Angeles.

I met Eddika at Tierra de la Culebra, a pocket park nestled deep in the historic neighborhood of Highland Park. At first sight, the park looks like an abandoned plot of land, but upon further inspection, it reveals its whimsical beauty. Mounds of concrete protrude from the dirt and are intricately decorated with multi-colored tiles, resembling a snake’s thick coils. The community has recently welcomed a high number of new residents who in turn have attracted newer and sleeker businesses. However, this park remains as a vestige of the former inelegance of the community. It is a community park because it is tended and taken care of by regular people, not the city. The park’s vast arboreal greenery along with the sea-foam painted benches brought out the caramelized turquoise in Eddika’s eyes. The curls that draped on the side of her face reminded me of those found in old photographs of French cabaret singer Édith Piaf.

“I didn’t want to sing along to the radio,” Organista said “I wanted to sing along with the guitar.” Growing up with a musician for a father, Eddika was always surrounded by a variety of instruments, such as the guitar, electric and acoustic basses and pianos. She picked up the guitar and began to learn how to play on it the songs that she most liked. Her father’s taste in music had introduced her to the exotic sounds and rhythms of Brazilian music. However, the music of Brazil wasn’t the only aspect of this country that had appealed to Eddika. The words that accompanied the songs always lingered on her mind. “I wanted to imitate the sounds of Brazilian music because I liked the way they sounded,” Organista said. It sparked her 10-year-old curiosity and felt like she understood a little bit of Portuguese. She decided to complete a minor in it along with her Ethnomusicology degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It was almost like predestination. Fate. Things had come full circle. The music of Brazil that exposed her to the exquisite sounds of Portuguese eventually led her to study the music and language formally.

As a child, Eddika did a lot of moving from her place of birth in Boyle Heights to various parts of Mexico to Las Vegas to her eventual home in Highland Park. Now that her home is static, it is the city beneath her that is moving. Changing. It is like musical chairs, where those who can pay the increasing rents can sit and those who can’t have to move. Many of the businesses in Highland Park have undergone refurbishment along with their names, which were once in Spanish. Now they have trendy cheeky names in English and sell products that the remaining original residents can’t afford or don’t want to buy. They don’t appeal to them.

While studying at Pasadena City College (PCC), Eddika was teaching percussion to children through LAUSD’s LA’s Best program. “I feel like percussion is more accessible to me,” she said, “you can just grab a stick and create a beat.” Through the LA’s Best program, Eddika was able to bring the joy of drumming to the impoverished schools of Northeast LA. She was also fascinated by the physicality required to play the instrument. “It makes you dance as you play it,” Organista said, “that’s why I like it, because I like to dance.” Percussion has always played a big role in Eddika’s life. From a young age, she always wanted to learn how to play the drums. “If I had the chance to relearn music, I would have started with the drums,” Organista said. In addition to drum instruments, Eddika also plays other percussion instruments such as the shekere (a beaded gourd) and the maracón (a cylindrical instrument filled with seeds). The maracón, in particular, is a very difficult instrument to get the hang of as you have to time perfectly the trajectory of the seeds. “Your movements have to be very direct and sharp,” Organista added as she mimed the movements required to play the instrument with her shoulders.

As were once the inhabitants of Highland Park, the residents of the neighboring community of Boyle Heights have been very vocal and direct about their feelings on the topic of gentrification. Many of them have resorted to public demonstrations and vandalism. Anarchy of the people and by the people. Unlike Highland Park, who has consigned itself to its impending fate, Boyle Heights has yet to surrender itself to the burgeoning gait of progress. They are still trying to find ways of keeping the trendy coffee shops and designer thrift stores from infiltrating their humble community. They’re up to the challenge.

When it comes to songwriting, Eddika likes to start the process in different ways. “I want to challenge myself to try other things when things get too comfortable,” Organista said. She follows a similar philosophy to that of her friend Dominique Rodriguez (Percussionist) who likes to change the setup of his drum kit. “He created a customized drum set made up of bongos, congas, a tambourine, bass drum and a cowbell around his neck,” she said. Eddika doesn’t have a prescribed way of writing music—sometimes using percussion instruments to write a melody—”The congas fall into a different pocket and keep the groove very intense” she said.

Having been a long time resident of Highland Park, Eddika has experienced the dramatic change that the community has gone through; from working class to have-no-class. “As a child, my family and I used to visit some family that lived here and it was a very different place,” she recalls, “Highland Park was considered dangerous.” The danger levels have subsided a bit ever since the neighborhood began to undergo gentrification. The ruckus of gun shots and illegal fireworks has been replaced by that of the Gold Line train blaring its horn and drunken hipsters heading home to their overpriced apartments in the middle of the night.

Eddika’s lyrics are almost prophetic in that they perfectly describe what most of the displaced people of Highland Park feel: “The world that was mine disappeared.” She refuses to be a patron of any of the new businesses because they are bringing too much change in too short of time. The song continues: “It no longer is. It exists no more.”

As we departed from Culebra Park, Eddika pointed out to me an old woman peddling a cart. I couldn’t see her face and in the two years that I have lived there, I had never come across her. “She goes around Highland Park picking up trash,” Organista said. “I see her every day.” Even as the world around her keeps changing, this woman is steadfast in her work, in her purpose. With all the changes and influences that have led Eddika to this point, she is trying to find a way of dealing with the change, just like the old lady and all of the survivors of gentrification. Eddika continues to allow a wide spectrum of influences to guide the flow of creativity, in her life and in her music. She doesn’t question where it is taking her. She simply allows this creative effervescence to take over her and meld with her until all of these disparate streams of influence merge into one. Until they surrender to her.

To listen to Eddika’s music and find out about upcoming shows, please visit her groups website: www.elharukuroi.com

Oseguera, J. L., Jr. (2017, April 6). La Percussionista [Photograph]. Silhouettes, StripSearchLA, Los Angeles.

dan overberger

Everything In Its Right Place

My journey to find a man that helps others to find themselves.

In the outskirts of Hollywood’s lavishly paved terrazzo tiled with brass stars sidewalks and noisy insomniac street life, lies a small quaint cottage with its own parking. This meager structure—known as the Women’s Club of Hollywood—once served as a safe haven for women and now serves a similar function in the lives of beleaguered Angelenos every Monday and Wednesday night. On those nights, you’ll find a man who use to go by the name “Stress” who teaches people how to leave behind the body stimulating flood of hormones he derived his name from. Today, he simply goes by the name of Dan Overberger.

“The word is ‘experience.’ I don’t teach yoga anymore. I’m trying to create a yoga experience,” Dan stated. People come away from Dan’s practice with his words, ideas and his essence. With other yoga practices, you leave tired and physically satisfied, but not with an experience. Each person is a force travelling through time and space that ever so often collides with another force that, as is the case with Dan’s classes, are so strong that they leave a lasting impression years after the collision occurred.

Dan is the living-breathing embodiment of Hollywood culture, like the gurus of old in a modern day landscape. He is of average height, slender yet muscular, moves with grace and purpose, is soft spoken, but what he says has a gravitas that is heavy and profound. Dan tries to be unfiltered and not think too much about the meaning behind what he says. He likens this approach to the process of writing a song: “When you hear the melody, the words seem to manifest themselves.

“The way I understand it and the way you understand it can mean two totally different things,” Dan added. His good nature is present in everything he produces—his website, writing and music—including in email exchange. Many people say that intention and tone are lost or hard to read in written words, but Dan’s rings true. He writes with wit and simplicity. He writes the way he speaks. There’s a “blue-collar-do-it-yourself-punk-rock element” to his classes and the people that have a similar background to his get more out of them.

On your way to the Women’s Club, you come across the Will & Ariel Durant public library—on the corner of La Brea and Sunset—which acts as a shelter for the homeless during the day. The smell of old books and old sweaty men fills the rows of stacks near the young adult section. Their presence serves as a sort of cautionary tale. “50,000 people are on the street in a town where some guy gets $3 million to be a character on a movie that was a comic book. You know? That’s a weird disparity. It’s just weird,” Dan said. He himself was temporarily homeless, but never “skid row” homeless, living out of his car. However, even in that squalid condition, he felt compelled to help people in this situation once he got out of it himself. Since then, he has worked with the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition and raised money for them through yoga benefit events.

Making your way from Sunset to Hollywood via La Brea—a main south-north thoroughfare—you hike past bright neon signs for fast food, strip clubs and cheap motels. Sunset—with its rich history of sex, drugs and rock and roll—and Hollywood—with one of opulence and decadence—serve as a Sodom and Gomorra where the scent of the now legal marijuana lingers in the air. In the balmy breezeless night, Middle school girls in checkered uniform skirts were out with their mothers selling chocolate, while men in mangy wigs were out with their pimps selling their bodies. Treats made available for a variety of palates.

One of the things that Dan discovered from his time as a homeless man was that the Los Angeles community is not one that really helps people at a certain point. “America is not a place where we pull each other up. It’s a place where we climb on top of each other,” Dan said. It made him take business more seriously. Even though it’s hard for Dan to see yoga as his “job,” he loves doing it. He sees that his job revolves around people and helping them get to where they’re going to get. “It doesn’t have anything to do with me, but through me, as whoever I am, is how I facilitate it,” Dan said. He believes that if people relate to him it’s because they’re on a similar path or have a similar background. In America, yoga has been co-opted by several institutions such as the gym and the new age community in forms of physical fitness and self-help. “Yoga is yoga. It’s its own thing,” he added.

The closer you walk towards Hollywood Boulevard, the more you begin to notice the residential buildings that were recently built there. These high-priced high-rise buildings seem out of place and out of touch with the people that live in the neighborhood. Set & Flow Yoga, another studio in the area, rents out the commercial space located on the ground floor of one of these buildings. A young curly-haired woman wearing fashionable yoga attire was manning its desk. She was helping people and having conversations on which brand of kombucha or ghee was superior. Veganism for vanity. There seems to be way too many yoga studios in LA and so many people that have done their teacher training that can’t find work. “A lot of people want to be the teacher because they think that it’s a forum to voice, to be heard, and tell their story,” Dan said. “The only reason I tell my story is so that others can tell theirs. There always has to be something for someone else or else it’s just masturbation.”

Initially, Dan wanted to teach at a specific yoga studio, the place where he used to study and had a couple of revelatory and awakening moments. For a while, Dan was obsessed with wanting to teach there. It became his goal, but it never happened. Unlike other yoga studios that might intentionally or unintentionally impose barriers on people, Dan’s approach is based on removing these barriers; which may present themselves sometimes as fluff or intimidating. These barriers may also be economical—some yoga studios around LA only take in students willing to pay costly monthly subscriptions—or educational where the jargon that accompanies the practice revolves on understanding a list of Sanskrit words.

Dan has no real interest in opening his own yoga studio in a physical-mortgage-paying-subscription-incurring space and prefers the flexibility and practicality of his Black Market Yoga, hosted out of the Women’s Club. “I’m an extremely practical person, on some level,” he said. When he thinks about running a storefront yoga studio, he has visions of himself being up all night going through numbers and trying to figure stuff out, like calling people and finding out why one of his teachers can’t come to work tomorrow. “That’s not my life. It might as well be a 7-Eleven,” Dan added.

On the corner of Hollywood and La Brea—the major intersection nearest to the Women’s Club—there is a mega church that has a “come-as-you-are” approach and welcomes the eccentric and diverse people of Hollywood to its stadium seating and rock concert atmosphere worship services. As this establishment struggles with the various vices enticing the lost flock of Hollywood, two buildings over, Dan struggles to bring the subconscious mind into the fold of the self. Of the various layers that comprise the human body, Dan finds that the subconscious mind is the most difficult to bring into alignment. He believes that it affects us in ways we are not aware of; whether we’re dealing with a physical, emotional, or spiritual ailment. Even if we don’t know the source of the ailment, we have to know what to look for. “It’s like telling someone who hasn’t had sex what it’s like to have sex,” Dan said.

Like religion, where we like to believe in fragmented views of God—as a redeemer or bringer of judgment—yoga is also compartmentalized. Ashtanga yoga prescribes a whole way of life in addition to the physical practice. This, in turn, is set aside and dissected by people who are only interested in the physical. “It’s like going to the store to buy a car and only wanting a hubcap,” Dan said.

The building right before the Women’s Club is another brand new building with high rent. The very same space that withstood the gender discrimination of the early 1900s is now withstanding another of the real estate variety. “There’s a lot of financial fear in LA,” Dan said referring to the dire real estate situation in the city calling the phenomenon “economic terrorism.” It seems like the Club is being surrounded by an onslaught of burgeoning modernity, sitting on a piece of property that makes developers’s mouths water.

When you arrive at the Women’s Club, the small cottage double doors open to a welcoming central passage room. Upon first walking in, you are greeted by an antique Victorian card table with cabriole legs and scroll feet decorated with leaf carvings, exquisitely adjoined together by an ornamented stretcher. It neatly displays a variety of informational brochures. The more you walk into the room the more pronounced the scent reminiscent of an old church becomes.

The space that Dan uses to host his students is located to the left of the passage room. It is a banquet hall with a stage at the far end and windows lining the southernmost wall and tall stacks of chairs on the opposite side. It is on the stage that Dan sets up his sound gear and where his students coalesce around. These devout yogis line their mats sporadically across the clean floors of the large hall. Some of them begin to stretch their bodies and focus their minds through meditation. Dan hopes that through yoga and meditation, we can find the crazy and the defects within ourselves. “Humans see everyone as crazy but us,” Dan said about giving advice to students. Initially, Dan found the role of mentor difficult to cope with. It wasn’t until he realized that he was allowed to say “Hey man, I don’t know” that he felt like he didn’t have to know the answers to every question. “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the answer to their question,” he added. “Sometimes people want a human interaction with someone.”

Dan believes that as a student, you always develop a feeling for the teacher because they are guiding you to a certain space. You think that the teacher understands that space or that they know where they are taking you, “but we all go to a different space,” he said. It took Dan a long time to figure out that there were limitations to that. Sometimes it’s difficult for a teacher to know where the student is coming from exactly. “It’s dangerous because it would be like dropping a bomb on their lives and they may not see it even after you’ve pointed it out to them,” Dan added. “They may see it and feel embarrassed.” He finds that this realization often creates a ridge between the student and the teacher.

Dan moved around the Club—turning lights on, off and dimming them; lighting incense; turning on some reggae music—comfortable as if in his own home. At least in that moment and for the duration of his class, he did own the room. As people began to arrive, Dan, as a shepherd who knows his flock, casually greeted them with a friendly “Hey!” Even in the dark, he recognized his students like the prodigal children he hadn’t seen in years. “I can’t see in the dark so I don’t recognize you, but I recognize your voice,” Dan said, directing his student to the extra yoga mats on the stage.

A student came up to Dan and reminded him of the times when he use to go to people’s houses and play records. “I feel like I’m going to your house to listen to a record,” the student said. The Club is a haven, as warm and as welcoming as a home. Dan was welcoming his students home. “I love this album. It’s going to be great,” the student added referring to Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon,” a record Dan often plays when there’s a full moon. That night, a waning gibbous—when the Moon and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth—lit the sky.

In the darkness, red, green and blue lights pierced through it adding to the soothing ambience of the room. Like the album art—designed by Hipgnosis and George Hardie—we had traversed the prism of the monotony of everyday life into the chromaticism of yoga. The smell of incense and the sound of chatter filled the dark room, as if on the shadowed portion of the moon.

Dan begins his classes with some light banter and levity. His comic timing is impeccable. His slight, wiry figure and lithe light-haired silhouette began a really long one-hour dance; with occasional stillness and movement. Dan asked for stillness. He instructed his attentive students to breathe as he cued “Speak to Me/Breathe in the Air” with a smooth fade in and crescendo into Claire Torry’s primal screams, like Charles Bukowski’s will to write, which should come bursting out of you.

Allowing the rhythm of the music to guide him during class, Dan programs his musical choices so that he can move people in a certain way. “For me, it has a huge impact and it’s very connected,” he said. Even though he was exerting a high amount of energy, his body language was unaggressive.

Dan spends a combination of time on and off the stage, demonstrating positions and making his way through a sea of people as if walking through a living sculpture garden, adjusting students’s positions and spreading his voice through the hall. Dan’s soft voice and sweet drawl provides a soothing yet authoritative guide to do things with your body you don’t normally do in everyday life. You hear a hocket of puffs of air across the room as students exhale.

Amidst the darkness—of the sky, the room and the side of the moon draped in it—these people found the light within Dan, within themselves. The moon was bright, but that night, no surface shone brighter than the light that burned beneath it in that room.

Unlike other yoga spaces in the city that have commercial space in which you feel like you’re in a store—a place where they sell you stuff—Dan’s practice is ethereal and lives in his students’s minds and hearts. They love him and would follow him to any space, not limiting themselves to the Women’s Club or Runyon Canyon, where he teaches during the day. His students feel that Dan gets them. “What I believe is what I believe and it’s not my job to force that onto others,” he said. Giving people personal or spiritual advice is a little broader than what a yoga teacher generally does; however, in America, that’s what’s expected. “Absolutely not! It’s a Western thing,” Dan said referring to the separation of yoga teacher and mentor in India, where he studied. One of Dan’s first teachers barely spoke any English, so most of his practice there was silent. He was expected to work on things on his own. “In India, yoga is much more like a martial art,” he added.

Dan famously ends his practice with a short meditation and the phrase, “You’re living your dream… don’t miss it.” He himself was living his dream of being a rock guitarist named Stress touring across Europe with his Death Rock band—a combination of gothic and punk rock music. However, that dream felt labored, like slowly chipping away at a wall with a pickax. On the other hand, yoga has felt like a series of open doors that Dan simply keeps walking through. “It’s almost like setting out to do something slows me down,” he said. Through Black Market Yoga, Dan is trying to distance himself from a corporatized place and associate instead with something that hasn’t been commodified. “People love power and I think that being a yoga teacher—from the outside—seems like ‘wow, everyone’s listening, I can really get them to buy products that they don’t need’,” Dan added.

The Daniel Overberger Experience takes students through difficult yoga poses that may seem undesirable at first, but through perseverance allow you to explore where the undesirability is rooted. Dan believes that exploring these undesirable fields allows you to face other “real world” fears like moving or facing your landlord or boss. “If you can go beyond the fear, the mind opens up. But initially, the fear closes the mind down,” Dan said. “Everything’s got to be in balance. Unless you’re in balance, then it’s sometimes good to go to the extremes and be in the moment.”

To learn more about Dan’s approach and his yoga class schedule, check out his website: www.blackmarketyoga.com/

Picture used with permission of Dan Overberger.