WEST ORANGE, NJ - On July 31, the West Orange Arts Council presented an introduction to T’ai Chi Chih under the setting sun at the Oscar Schindler Performing Arts Center. The group of nearly 30 people, mostly West Orange residents, met on the lawn at OSPAC to provide an opportunity for local artists and residents to balance their cosmic energies and circulation.

The first- time event was co-chaired by WOAC members Bill Cofone and Carol Black-Lemon and developed from the West Orange Arts Council‘s group Creative Connections.  Hosted by accredited T’ai Chi Chih instructor Bill Walton, the hour-long session taught the basics of the art form’s 19 movements to a group ranging from children and adult beginners to seasoned T’ai Chi Chih advocates.  Intended to holistically develop both mind and body, T’ai Chi Chih was chosen by the WOAC to inspire and awaken creativity.

While teaching the group five basic stretches at an easy pace, accredited instructor Bill Walton spoke of the benefits and history of T’ai Chi Chih.  Potential benefits of a regular routine included increased energy and awareness, reduced stress and tension, a better sense of balance and an overall renewal in one’s sense of health and wellness. The discipline was developed by Justin F. Stone in 1974 to provide accessibility to people seeking immediate benefits from a stretching routine.   According to three year T’ai Chi Chih veteran student Sarah Umansky, the individual benefits of this activity are various and unknown before they are achieved. Umansky explained, "You move from your core all the time… you find less reliance on excess," as some of her personal benefits. T’ai Chi Chih is easy to learn and fun to learn, and its benefits have been cited in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and AARP.  Carol Black-Lemon wanted to offer ‘a place to create and unwind,’ and from the success of this event, there is sure to be a follow-up soon.

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The group consisted of a few families, children from ages 10-20, couples, friends, and adventurers.  No athletic ability was necessary to enjoy the class.  After the formal instruction finished, the group gathered and discussed the events. Some students spoke to Bill Walton about his classes and others spoke to Carol Black-Lemon about upcoming events with WOAC Creative Connection. Creative Connections’ next meeting will be held Aug. 14 at 7 p.m., and the community will be notified of the venue shortly. Details will be posted on the West Orange Arts Council, website, www.woartscouncil.org .