The Magic of the Mountain: Meet Choreographer and Yoga Teacher Claire Otterness

Claire Otterness is Mount Madonna School’s (MMS) new choreographer and high school yoga teacher. She comes to MMS with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Social media coordinator Carly Wheelehan got the chance to speak with Claire about her passion for dance and yoga and what excites her about joining Mount Madonna School.

What kind of values are important to you?

My passion is to try to make yoga accessible for all. I believe that should honor the cultural roots of the practice while also making it digestible for young people. Yoga at its heart is not a workout routine just for the thin and able-bodied. The heart of yoga is an inclusive practice that is equitable for all bodies. 

What are you enjoying so far about teaching at MMS? 

This community works toward being inclusive toward everyone. And I love that I spend my days here dancing! Dance is my joy. It feeds my soul and I feel fulfilled at the end of each day I leave this mountain. This planet is chaotic right now, so I am so grateful to enter a space of peace, creativity and joy each day I come to work.

Can you talk about the upcoming middle school production of “Elf The Musical, Jr.”? 

Elf is a joyful story that you can’t not smile at. It’s about reviving that spirit of joy that we can all tap into, but can get shrouded in some of the darkness of the world. We can access that joy through imagination and creativity and working together – and that’s what we’re doing to pull off this musical! The music is so uplifting and jolly. It’s a heartwarming performance. 

I live with my sister Chelsea [Otterness], who is the [MMS] performing arts director, so our household is all “Elf” and “Into the Woods” right now: props and costumes all over, constant singing and dancing. We’re living and breathing it right now,and it’s so much fun.

What else are you looking forward to about the school year? 

I’m looking forward to “Ramayana!” and being a part of the magic. I saw the production for the first time this past year and loved it. It was clear from watching that “Ramayana!” is the heartbeat of the school. It was nothing less than jaw-dropping and I was floored by the end. It really does take a village to put on, and I’m looking forward to being a part of that village. 

The magic of this mountain comes together for all of our productions, and the “magic” is really just our collective passion for peace and play. To me, that’s the spirit of Babaji [the late Baba Hari Dass, the inspiration for the founding of Mount Madonna School] and this institution.


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications, 

Nestled among the redwoods on 380 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The program, accredited by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.