Being Called to Matera

ElaineWatermark Arts Videos, Materadancescapes, Artist Videos, News, Watermark Arts in Italy

A magazine photograph of a renovated cave room in Basilicata, Italy, intrigued me. Every cell of my being knew I had to be there. All obstacles dissolved and in no time at all, I was transported from my home in the Hudson Valley of New York to the southern Italian town of Matera.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Naomi Walker, Claudia Catani & Elaine Colandrea with San Falcione and Matera in the distance, from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

I have followed that call for over 15 years, making pilgrimages to Matera to retreat into what I call earth wombs, caves that were once sea beds, with shells and fossilized sponges embedded in the curved limestone walls. This locale has cradled me in the breath, sound and movement explorations of Continuum – a biological awareness practice based on the fluid nature of all life.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Image by Prue Jeffries. From left to right: Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea and Naomi Walker in San Falcione from the Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

Matera has nourished my soul in transrational, inexplicable ways. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being a troglodyte settlement in harmonious relationship with the environment, as well as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, Matera has been continuously inhabited since Neanderthal times with a history of providing refuge for spiritual seekers.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Materadancescapes film The Heart of the Cave.

I wanted to transmit my experience of being there – of wandering the shepherd’s paths on the steep, thyme-scented hillsides, of sheltering in ancient, frescoed cave churches known as rupestri with my fingertips touching the furrows of long ago pilgrims’ carved crosses in the cave walls. The vastness of the Murgia plateau under the strong Mediterranean sun, the fields of asphodels in springtime flower, the falcons swooping and diving in the ever-present wind currents – all of this and more I had absorbed and wanted to share with others.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Materas’ Murgia from Materadancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

As a dancer, my own sensed experience was my place of beginning. Like other artists, investigators and shamans, I know things by becoming them. A creative collaborator once wrote that in another time and place, I would be a temple dancer. The limestone caves and landscape of Matera – sacred places of refuge, discovery and sustenance – resonated for me as the temple for this dancer. An American by birth, with grandparents of southern Italian heritage, I embarked on conveying to others the healing this locale offered me, the inspiration for communitas I found there, and the deep sense of home I discovered in Matera – all of which grew into Materadancescapes.

Image by Prue Jeffries. Nature in the Murgia from Materdancescapes film Chiaroscuro.

In this endeavor, I have been assisted by many along the way. Watermark Arts Creative Director and heartfelt collaborator Prue Jeffries traveled with me to Matera, along with her trusty drone “Stella” and video equipment. With an intrepid sense of adventure, she has filmed and documented my journey, along with her own perceptive and artful eye for nature in this compelling landscape. Spending days with footage, the Materadancescapes film collection has come into form under her loving attention.

Elaine Colandrea

Photo by Prue Jeffries. Elaine Colandrea in Parco Murgia Timone, Matera.

A number of people native to Matera have served as loving guides to this land of cave churches. Damiano Scalcione was the first person to generously welcome me to Matera, and has continued to do so with every visit. Claudia DiPerna, along with her husband Michele Cenzone, opened my eyes to many of the cultural features of Matera. Michele Cappiello and Maria Teresa Barbaro graciously and kindly offered their vast knowledge of the local nature, history and culture. Paolo Montagna, Director CEA, made arrangements for us to film in Parco Murgia where Chiaroscuro was created at the San Falcione location. Francesco Catucci hosted us for the filming of In the Heart of the Cave. Since my first visit to Matera, Antonio Panetta of Locanda di San Martino, along with the devoted staff, has provided me with a gorgeous location for visits and workshops and made me feel at home. Each of these individuals has gone way beyond themselves to support me while I am in Matera. I treasure them as friends of my heart, fellow pilgrims in the journey of life.

Elaine Colandrea, February 2020

View the Materadancescapes Collection.

Awakening the Elemental Self

AdminWatermark Arts Videos, News

The Elemental Nature of the Body: Somatic Movement Summit V

July 19th to 24th, 2020, Omega Institute
Rhinebeck, NY

Choosing a path of opening in the face of global crisis and personal adversity begins a journey inward to connect with the most primordial movements of nature and with the elemental self to reveal our inherent biological capacity for innovation.

Through the somatic awareness practice of Continuum, this restorative retreat investigates the vital chemistry of all life. Embodying the qualities of earth, air, fire, and water awakens the body’s fluid capacity for healing, insight, and creative engagement.

Register here:

Connect Deeply with All That Matters

AdminNews, Newsletters

A note from Elaine:

Good news! Registration for the July 19-24, 2020 Somatic Movement Summit V is now live on The Omega Institute’s website.

This restorative 5-day retreat, an opportunity for self-care and Continuum community, is back by popular request.

The workshop theme, The Elemental Nature of the Body, is described and illustrated in the video above and the artwork from the Watermark Arts somatically-informed creators below.

Please join me and an extraordinary faculty in the verdant Hudson Valley of New York this summer.

I look forward to connecting with you,


PS – Omega has helpful people at 833-871-8178 / 844-340-5852 to guide you in the registration process; also feel free to contact me,

Read the newsletter here.

“Trusting the unknown”: Ellen Cohen on Continuum & Creativity

ElaineContinuum & Creativity Interview Series

Through the practice of Continuum, improvisational dancer Ellen Cohen learned to trust in the unknown. From the Watermark Arts Continuum & Creativity series.

“I had learned in my dance training with Erick Hawkins that moving the way our bodies naturally function is not only safer, but could be beautiful. In Continuum, however, my body was the choreographer as well as the dancer! This intrinsic artistry is what inspires me to this day.” – Ellen Cohen  Read More

Human, Being by Beth Pettengill Riley

ElaineFeatured Artists

Skin trembling day after day,
Heart fumbling out a new rhythm,
Unsettled by the news
Sorrow seeping into bones,
Crevices deep with ancient holding and fear
Being swirled up in this moment of uncertainty

Red-shouldered hawk arrives again for winter refuge,
Bigger this year, more majestic,

Impossible to ignore,
Swooping through canyons outside the living room window.
His cries pierce the morning sky:
A warning?

“Live closer to what is natural:
the rhythm of light and dark;
the drawing in and down of winter”
A call to quiet rest.

View poem

Threads of Grace by Niki Berg

ElaineFeatured Artists

A Photography Project about Women, Words and Ancestors

“Threads of Grace” is a continuation of my interest in women and their ancestors and how words can impact the visual expression.

These portraits are of women from a variety of backgrounds, who have chosen one word that represents and connects them to the past.

This connection serves as a transmission from their ancestors to today.

I see this work as a kind of energetic threads—a quilt of global humanity in which generations are woven together by Threads of Grace.

View Gallery

Life sustaining life with somatic art and community now

ElaineNews, Newsletters

A note from Elaine

You and I are self-generating, like the earth itself.  As part of nature, we are constantly renewing ourselves with nourishment from the elemental forces that make up all life.

This process is called autopoiesis and the practice of Continuum leads us into highly attuned awareness of its generative undercurrents. Breath, sensation and inner impulses of movement are primal, primary expressions of autopoietic life.

At this critical juncture in our highly industrialized, tech-dominated and climate-challenged world, we invite you to consider this question with us…

What happens when we apply the wisdom of our autopoietic selves to environmental problems, group dynamics, family life, and how one moves in the world as an activist/advocate, artist or teacher?

This inquiry is the passionate heart beating at the core of Watermark Arts and the theme for our retreat at Omega 2020. Join our Continuum communitas in July to listen deeply for five days to the forces of renewal within you, so hungry to reveal solutions for restoring a way of being in which you and all nature thrives.

This month, our somatically informed artists share their sensuous, vibrant world visions with you. ChiaroScuro, filmed by Prue Jeffries on the limestone landscape of Matera, Italy, is an elemental setting that resonates with my soul. The earth wombs, caves that were once sea beds, cradled Claudia Catani, Naomi Walker and me. Niki Berg’s new gallery Threads of Grace weaves generations of embodied experience into “a quilt of global humanity.” Beth Pettengill Riley’s poem Human, Being is a timely testament to embracing our role in the earth’s continual rebirth.

In this season of the heart, I offer you what I love most in the world.

Read the newsletter here.


ElaineWatermark Arts Videos, Materadancescapes, News, Watermark Arts in Italy

Conceived and produced by Elaine Colandrea, Artistic Director, Watermark Arts

Filmed and edited by Prue Jeffries, Creative Director, Watermark Arts

Performed by Claudia Catani, Elaine Colandrea & Naomi Walker

Music: Stella Maris by Moby courtesy of

Filmed with permission in San Falcione, Parco Murgia Timone, Matera, Italia

Special thanks to Maria Teresa Barbaro & Paolo Montagna, Director CEA Matera

San Falcione

Rock churches excavated in the 9th and 10th centuries generally conformed to a Byzantine model, having a rectangular or square chamber with plain walls and behind these two arched presbyteries supported by a central pillar. The rock church of San Canione, better known as San Falcione, is no exception. Attributed to the earliest Italo-Greek monastic communities which settled in the area around the 9th century, it’s one of Matera’s oldest rock churches. Located in a small ravine, it’s easily recognised thanks to the perimeter wall built in the 19th century by the noble Gattini family, who used the cave complex as an enclosure for sheep and goats. Inside the church, where the floor is now lower than its original level, there’s a fresco of Saint Nicholas on the central pillar and one of a bishop saint on the right-hand wall. Still on the right, in the altar recess, there was once an extraordinary fresco of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple: Joseph, Mary and the Child were clearly visible, along with Saint Simeon and the prophetess Anna who blessed Jesus with one hand while the other held a missive with words ‘This Child created heaven and earth’ in Greek. Many small cavities excavated around the church are the remains of a medieval apiary.

Welcoming Rori Smith to the Watermark Arts Creative Team


Rori Smith, Watermark Arts Editor

Rori Smith is a dancer, somatic movement educator, and researcher based in midcoast Maine. Rori began to study Continuum with Ellen Cohen in 2014 and is currently mentored by Elaine Colandrea. Rori’s writing Beneath the Cultural Body: Sensory Experience in Continuum Practice was shared at the 2017 Somatic Movement Immersion at Omega Institute and she had the pleasure of performing Elaine Colandrea’s choreography at the 2019 Somatic Movement Summit. Rori continues to perform and write on the themes of embodied memory, interdependence and resilience inspired by nature, culture, and Continuum.

Water ~ Source of Creation, Source of Solutions

ElaineWater Blessing Project, News, Newsletters

Watermark Arts dedicates 2020 to honoring water

With fires raging, there is a need for new solutions to environmental, societal and personal problems. Now is the time to call upon the healing power and generative wisdom of water.

The Water Blessing Project is an invocation to water and to self-inquiry in service to the whole of existence.

We invite Water Blessings to be collectively shared around the world through performance and individual movement meditation practice.

Read the newsletter here.  Learn more about the Water Blessing Project here.