Zipper Dancers at Dance Camp Northwest 2014 on the Olympic Peninsula

The Roots of Zipper Dance

The people, places, and events that have influenced the dance method


         Maia Schaberg began her formal dance training at the Northwest Dance Center in 2004 followed by the University of Idaho in 2005.  In 2006, James Schaberg was introduced to the philosophy of co-creative partner dance created by Mykl Werth at Northwestern Michigan College.  In 2007 Maia began attending the dance department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, WA.

          In 2008, James started teaching co-creative partner dance in Traverse City, Michigan.  In 2011, he moved to the Pacific Northwest where he spent two years developing the Zipper Dance curriculum while teaching at a variety of studios.  It was in Bozeman, MT where James began calling what he taught Zipper, based on Mykl Werth’s unique concepts of balanced partner movement.  Just as a zipper brings two equal sides together into a connected whole unit, Zipper Dance unites two dancers into a whole balanced unit of partner movement.

          In 2013, James met Maia.  She had graduated two years prior with her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance from Cornish. The two dancers began collaborating on the Zipper curriculum and co-instructing classes.  Later that year, the couple developed a method of teaching co-leadership in dance; much of the Zipper Dance curriculum now centers around using co-leadership to dance to any inspiration or music.

          In January 2014, James and Maia wrote and published the Zipper Dance book as well as trained three other Zipper instructors on the West Coast of the United States.  After spending the first part of the year touring with their workshops, they are now based out of Northern Michigan where they continue to teach.  Through the ten years of its creation, Zipper Dance has been highly influenced by the teachings of Mykl Werth and the entire social dance scene that spawned out of Northern Michigan.  The method has also been greatly affected by modern dance, Contact Improvisation, and countless dancers, artists, and teachers in the Pacific Northwest.

          The following influences include only the people and places that have directly influenced the theory and exercises that are taught in the Zipper Dance curriculum and are published in the Zipper Dance book.  James and Maia Schaberg are filled with gratitude for all the dancers, teachers, and friends who have indirectly influenced Zipper Dance.  Please email additions to

James and Maia Schaberg instruct on the 2014 Zipper Dance Book Release and Teaching Tour



  • Pullman, WA – Maia Schaberg studies modern dance, improvisation, ballet, and partnering at Northwest Dance Center with Crystal Fullmer.

  • Traverse City, MI – While attending Northwestern Michigan College (NMC), James Schaberg observes the NMC Social Dance Club beginning in West Hall with Lucas Elder, Josh Kiel, and Kristi Spencer (Social Dance includes Swing, Latin, Slow, Blues, Tango, and Waltz).

Mykl Werth, Kristi Spencer, Lucas Elder, and Josh Kiel discuss Northwestern Michigan College’s Social Dance Club


  • Moscow, ID – Maia continues studying at Northwest Dance Center and begins at the University of Idaho, studying improvisation with Julie Anderson.
  • Traverse City, MI – James completes his Certified Flight Instructor certification with Bill Donberg, graduates with his Associate’s Degree in Aviation from NMC, and becomes an adjunct aviation instructor at the college.  The NMC Social Dance Club expands into the Physical Education building.

Maia dances at the Northwest Dance Center


Moscow, ID – Maia continues studying at Northwest Dance Center and the University of Idaho.  She also furthers her interest in partnering with Hilary Thomas of Lineage Dance Company.
  • Traverse City, MI – James begins attending the NMC Social Dance Club and becomes fascinated by the co-creative nature of the dancing.  He then takes Mykl Werth’s Swing, Latin, and Slo’ social dance class at NMC.

James begins learning partner dance


  • Seattle, WA – Maia begins attending Cornish College of the Arts, studying improvisation and contact improvisation with John Dixon and modern dance with Michelle Miller and Deborah Wolf.

  • Duluth, MN – James relocates for work and builds on his salsa skills at the Redstar Lounge.  He experiences a ballroom dance class and becomes aware of the difference between ballroom and the freestyle partner dance that he learned in Michigan.

Cornish College of the Arts dance department students perform “Silent Stars Remain”


  • Seattle, WA – Maia continues at Cornish College of the Arts, studying anatomy & physiology with Carla Corrado and Laban Movement Analysis with Tonya Lockyer.  She regularly attends Blues dances at Waid’s Restaurant and Swing dances at Century Ballroom.
  • Traverse City, MI – James moves back to Michigan and studies modern dance with Dorothy Eisenstein at NMC.  He continues deepening his understanding of freestyle partner movement through dancing with Brooke Bueby, Beverly Cady, Megan Caplinger, Braden Giacobazzi, Elizabeth Ross, and Jamaica Lynne Weston at the NMC Social Dance Club and Traverse City Opera House.  James and Mykl Werth begin the Be Here Now film project and write a feature drama screenplay based on the dance scene in Northern Michigan.  James also becomes one of Mykl’s teaching assistants.

James Schaberg becomes a teaching assistant to Mykl Werth

left photo from the 2008 Houghton Scarlett Masquerade/right photo by George Michaelson


  • Seattle, WA – Maia continues at Cornish College of the Arts, studying modern dance, improvisation, and partnering with Wade Madsen, Alexander Technique with Sarah Padilla, and Teaching Methods with Lodi McClellan and Michele Miller.
  • Traverse City, MI – James apprentices with Mykl Werth as they continue to work together on the Be Here Now film project.   James films and releases the 15-minute “A Chance To Dance” video which documented the current partner dance scene in Traverse City.  He continues attending the NMC Social Dance Club as well as contra dances with the Bayside Travelers Group.

“A Chance to Dance” video from 2009 documenting the Northern Michigan social dance scene

video by James Schaberg


  • Seattle, WA – Maia studies Feldenkrais: Awareness Through Movement with Becci Parsons at Cornish College of the Arts.  She graduates that year with her Bachelors of Fine Arts in Dance.  Maia then performs as a freelance modern dancer.
  • Everett, WA – Maia begins teaching creative dance at The Dance School.
  • Bellingham, WA – Maia is accepted into and begins performing with the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company.
  • Traverse City, MI – James joins a modern dance collective led by Gretchen Eichberger that produces and performs the first civic production of Martha Graham’s American Document.  He also takes lessons in modern dance and BrainDance (as developed by Anne Green Gilbert) with Hughthir White.  James begins learning Tai Chi and pushing hands (as taught by Master Yuwen Ru).  He instructs partner dance to middle and high school students at five regional school districts’ after-school programing.  James teams up with Dan Kelly and Mykl Werth to begin exploring production of social dance instructional videos.

James dances in Martha Graham’s “American Document”

photos by Debra Jenner-Townsend


  • Seattle, WA – Maia studies BrainDance with Terry Goetz at the Creative Dance Center.
  • Everett, WA – Maia continues teaching creative dance, BrainDance, and modern dance at The Dance School.
  • Bellingham, WA – Maia continues performing with the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company and as a freelance artist.
  • Traverse City, MI – James performs partner dance improvisation at Northwestern Michigan College.  He facilitates a new weekly partner dance jam at the Good Work Collective.  The instructional video project that had started in 2010 dissolved.
  • Bozeman, MT – James relocates to Montana where he conceives the name Zipper Dance for the method of partner movement he begins teaching at The Dance Center.  During the start-up of Zipper Dance in Bozeman, James was advised by modern dancer Kari Halvorson and later on by Teena Brugh, a freestyle partner dancer and graphic design artist.

James begins a weekly partner dance jam at the Good Works Collective in Traverse City, MI


  • Seattle, WA – Maia performs as a freelance modern dancer.
  • Bozeman, MT – James instructs Zipper Dance at Your Yoga and Be The Change Yoga.  He learns West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop at Montana State University’s Swing Cats dance club.  James learns Bachata and Samba from Bozeman’s Sizzling Salsa dance club.
  • New York, NY – James takes part in the annual Dance Parade and instructs Zipper Dance at the Om Factory.  He attends his first ecstatic dance at that same venue.  
  • Bellingham, WA – James begins teaching Zipper Dance at Inspire Studio.  He studies ballet at The Dance Studio, Argentine Tango with Lori Anderson, yoga with Bryan Givens, and Contact Improvisation with Logermund Nathamundi.  James also completes Logermund’s instructor training for Kaleidoscope Community Yoga, which he integrates into the Zipper Dance curriculum.

Zipper Dance introduction video created by James


  • Seattle, WA – James and Maia dance together for the first time at OmFusion at OmCulture.
  • Bellingham, WA – James begins instructing at the Fairhaven Firehouse Performing Arts Center and Presence Studio with the support of dancers Lori Anderson and Suneeta Eisenberg.  He continues developing the curriculum with the help of communications advisor Robert Bystrom.
  • Ft Flagler, WA – James refines Zipper Dance curriculum as he facilitates workshops at Dance Camp Northwest.
  • Portland, OR – James and Maia begin teaching together at the Quaking Grass Community Center, Studio Goatlandia, and the Red Rose Ballroom.  They further develop the Zipper Dance concepts with the support of advisors Kristin Winslow and Kevilina Burbank.  James and Maia study Butoh with Vangeline, Acro Yoga with Zoe Rae and Logermund Nathamundi, and attend Contact Improvisation jams at Conduit Dance.
  • Whidbey Island, WA – James and Maia instruct at Island Dance and hold the first Zipper Dance day-long intensive with the support of Maureen Freehill at Butopia: Sanctuary for the Embodied Arts in Nature.

James and Maia begin collaborating on Zipper Dance in Bellingham, WA

IncitEd campaign video for the Zipper Dance Book and Teaching Tour


  • Portland, OR – James and Maia successfully reach the goal on their IncitEd crowd-funding campaign, enabling them to write and publish the Zipper Dance book.  James creates the Zipper logo with two dancers making a balanced heart.  He facilitates the first Zipper Dance Instructor Training.  Carsten Almskaar, Andreea Grad, and Satori Grace Harrington become Certified Zipper Instructors.  Each of the new teachers provide insight for the theory, exercises, and teaching methods written in the book.
  • Continental United States – James and Maia embark on their Book Release and Workshop Tour.  They teach 26 workshops in 19 cities across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Texas, and Michigan including at SomaSpace, Madrona MindBody Institute, California Center for the Arts, and as part of Oakland Ecstatic Dance.
  • Tigard, OR – Satori Grace Harrington begins instructing Zipper Dance for Friday Night Fusion.
  • Bellingham, WA – Carsten Almskaar facilitates a Zipper Dance four-part lesson series and Hám Fusion dance event.
  • Benzonia, MI – Maia Schaberg instructs a six-week Zipper Dance course at the Mills Community House.
  • Ft. Flagler, WA – James Schaberg and Carsten Almskaar teach two workshops at Dance Camp Northwest.
  • Hancock, MI – James and Maia Schaberg instruct an eight-week Zipper Dance class at the Copper Country Community Arts Center.

James and Maia begin collaborating on Zipper Dance in Bellingham, WA

First teacher training in Portland, OR

2014 Book Release and Teaching Tour route

Five windows into the 2014 Book Release and Teaching Tour