Wednesday, October 24, 2018

(My) Values and Living Them Out (as Human-Person Me)

A conversation with a dear friend yesterday about values and living them out got me thinking again about checking in on my own. It's been really important to me to be able to state them without looking back at any writing, but here we are, nearly to November: it's been nearly a year since I again defined how I want to think about all this (i.e. New Years), and I STILL cannot offer them up when prompted. This think-through is another chance to change that.

After this great conversation, I revisited my most recent check-in, and noted that the three words I had condensed down to still didn't feel quite right. This got me thinking again about "priority/ities," and how they function in our lives. To the same tune of thinking about "buckets" for how you divide your resources, I got thinking about buckets for collecting your priorities (or as I'm taking to discussing them, at least in this post, how you "live out your values"). While I am down with the "values" word, I think the "priorities" word has too much baggage for me. Instead, I'm leaning toward this:

Values and Living Them Out.

I also tend to lean away from the "mantra" word, as feels to me like a co-opting of something I don't entirely understand. So I'll stick with values. The thing I want to memorize/ that I am returning to after trying some words that didn't feel like they fit:

Vitality
Purpose
Contribution

Even "Purpose" to me feels a little stagnant - it feels like a thing that exists rather than is constantly developing. Perhaps its just a matter of me reframing it for myself while remaining open to the idea of change. 

As for the "Living Them Out" part, this comes in so many ways for me, but there are three main categories I feel have emerged in my (copious) amount of time thinking about all this:

Growth
Relationships
Dance

I think this is resonating for me because these three categories really serve all three of those above values. To me, "Growth" includes health and leaning into curiosities, which for me often intersect as subjects like food, cooking, sleep optimization, building presence and movement. It also serves my topical curiosities about things like music, mystical lore, fashion, personal finance, emergency preparedness and simplicity. Really, I believe curiosity and following to me tantamount to being a healthy human-person. In this way, Growth allows me to live out Vitality, Purpose (curiosity leading to new ways to find Purpose) and Contribution (therein helping me contribute more to others as a result of my own discovery of what is working for me in striving to better myself as a human-person). 

"Relationships" is my container (love this "Container" idea, Leo Babauta) for Kris, my parents and his and our brothers and sisters and my friends. I consider these to be my closest and most important relationships - I value the ones I have in working scenarios, though perhaps consider them to be a part of that "Purpose" value. That said, I also consider these listed Relationships to be part of my Purpose, as well as my Vitality of course, and a way that I am able to offer Contribution. It's all connected. My own work on myself an delving into curiosities often makes its way back to the people I care about, helping them figure out their own best modes of self and curiosities. Therein, the Relationships container fulfills all three of my values as well, in very interconnected ways.

And the big D, "Dance." It feels important to state that I am completely open to the idea that the label on this may change (or be added to) some day. For now, I feel Dance is also a big three container for my own Vitality (health, focus, dedication, determination, curiosity), Purpose (it feels most resonant here, as "Dance" and "Purpose" feel nearly interchangeable to me) and Contribution (it is my way of contributing to others through helping them find joy in moving their bodies, connecting to others, finding presence in themselves, connecting to history through education and performance). 

Therein, 

Values: Vitality | Purpose | Contribution
&
Living Them Out: Growth | Relationships | Dance

This is how I check in.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Jill Bernard's "Drum Machine"

Another post following a performance viewing experience!

On Wednesday night, Kris and I went out to catch Jill Bernard's "Drum Machine" at HUGE Improv Theater, and I'm really glad we did! The gist of this performance scheme is that the improvisor takes a topic suggestion from the audience (as is common in improv) and then works one on one with a pianist to turn it into a musical on the fly. If this sounds amazing . . .



This clearly isn't something just any improvisor can do. Speaking from the standpoint of a (jazz) dance improvisor, I can say this with confidence. It's one thing to feel comfortable enough to make up some movement on the fly. It's another for it to feel cohesive with the sound, the aesthetic at hand, and the movement being in-the-moment selected. The same really rings true here. It's one thing to make up some lyrics on the fly. It's another for them to follow a catchy tune and be in key and modulate with the pianist. And that's just the musical aspect. It was a whole 'nother ballgame for her to make it all humorous and to track with the topic. And the topic this time around was the Spanish Armada.

Talk about intellect and wit! You have to be encyclopedic to manage creating a humorous musical on the fly about the SPANISH ARMADA. Beyond this, it was a true pleasure to witness the thought process of Jill and the accompanist. It's so fascinating to watch humans think and perform at the same time. This is not to say there were moments where I found myself thinking "Oh, she really looks like she's processing right now . . .," but it is to say that to me, it feels like part of the electric energy that makes any kind of improv so interesting. To do and to view.

Apparently this concept used to be the performer and a drum machine for music (thus the title), though she has now moved to using piano accompaniment, even when she travels. She'll ask the community she's in for a recommendation on a piano player, and says that it's worked out every time - a totally heartening thing! I think I'd love to see the original concept with the drum machine some time too, as seeing the performer generate the accompanying sound as well would just be a trip.

In short (which this has to become because it's time to do other work!), witnessing the musical-comedic-improv prowess of this on-the-fly performance was utterly captivating. I'm grateful to live in a community where such awesome performance is happening all the time, including on a Wednesday night in September! Cheers, Jill.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dance Church(es)

Dance Church was everything I wanted and hoped it would be, and more. I saw so many friends. We mostly danced our greetings and joy rather than spoke them. At Dance Church, there were just a couple rules: leave your shoes in the coatroom (unless you brought dance-floor only ones) and keep conversations off the dance floor. Simple. Easy to follow. Made space for everyone to do their thing.


It was so inspiring to feel entirely comfortable putting out your you however you wished without having to worry about anyone invading your space. When people did come into my space, they felt it out first and I did the same, which made our exchanges all the more joyous.

My hear feels SO full. I truly physically feel as though my heat is growing in size, like in the Grinch! I gave and received so many hugs, all welcomed. Several of them were with people whose names I didn't get to catch, and it doesn't even matter. Shoutout to the woman in the pug-doing-yoga tank! I'm realizing in my immediate reflection here that I've been craving something exactly like this. It's all ages. It's in the morning. The music is killer. The DJ feels the room, including bringing us down gently at the end so we could feel everything we had experienced and carry it with us in body, mind and soul when leaving. The people - from so many walks of life. There were physicalities of bouncing with cane, contact improv, bellydance, modern floor work, jumping up and down, and plenty of who-gives-a-shit what you call it!

I've been really missing going to festivals. I think it's because I've been romanticizing what I want from them - and really, what I wanted I found here. While I love the live music, friends and goof-off of festivals, what I really, REALLY want is TRULY open people with no auspices, free movement, good grooves, and for access to all this at a time of day that works for me. It was thrilling for this morning person to get to put it all out from 11am-1pm on a Sunday. MAGICAL. I also came across, by word of mouth and flyer, other opportunities that share some of the feel that happen from 7-9:30am on Tuesday and Thursdays - I will definitely be checking these out too!

I feel utterly ecstatic to add this opportunity to my awarenesses of things that will satisfy my social dance needs. I cannot wait to go back.

This week I also got my ass out swing dancing at 301 Main on Thursday night, which was totally refreshing. I am definitely going to keep going right at 10pm in the future - it was excellent to have plenty of space to dance and there were definitely people already out to get it at the beginning :)   It was also wonderful to have a partner in crime in Kristina: I am so grateful she texted me a couple weeks back, because she's now very much on my radar again as someone with which to go out social dancing.

On a related note, it was fantastic to see so many dance community friends at Dance Church, each of them noting they are surprised more dancers don't come. I wonder if the organizers just don't know about the Dance Community Newsletter, or if they want to keep the word more controlled to be sure the folks who are coming are the ones who really want to be there. When chatting briefly with her there today and expressing my enthusiasm, Mary Ann Bradley said "Welcome to world peace," and she was totally right. So many different types of people working out their problems on that floor, together. It was utterly inspiring.

Back on a swing dance note, Kristina and I had some exchanges that were really lovely when talking about the purposes social dance serves in our lives. She mentioned that having started working in the emergency room of a hospital in a major metro area at the age of nineteen gave her soul a lot to process early on, and that swing dancing was her outlet to do so. She eloquently mentioned something about "that dance floor being the best listener, with her just stomping it all out." Talk about a totally beautiful way to phrase that.

I'm really glad I held myself to this new year's intention better this week after checking in with all of them last week. Experiencing live music, social dancing and interaction with folks in these scenarios GIVES ME LIFE, and I know I give life to others these ways too. While I'm bummed I missed the opportunity to hear some life music on Friday night, I really did hold myself true to this intention in several other ways this week, and I look forward to keeping myself right with this the best I can.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fall Check-In

It must have been thinking about expectation management at the start of this week that got me going on doing another check-in on my New Year's Intentions . . .

Presence
Simplicity
Embodiment



Presence: Holding good on making space, keeping my mind clear on my morning walks, really being with the moment and the folks in it, feeling this within dance.

Simplicity: Keeping it simple - only taking in and putting out what will best help me live my values and accomplish my goals.

Embodiment: Putting the above into practice in all my actions, and directing all of that toward "living my best life" and contributing to others living theirs.

In action (revised):

creation every day
contribution every day
inspiration every day

Actions that fit under "creation every day":

Movement every day: I have made pretty good on this, be it a walk or my circuit workout or a yoga or dance class or rehearsal or a performance. Opening up my perception of what qualifies has made a huge impact on my feeling successful in this area. Occasionally I have a day where I don't experience movement as I define it, but it IS occasional, and I'm proud of that. 

Cooking every day: Again, opening myself up on how I define this has been really helpful. Most days I cook breakfast, many days I cook at least two meals, and on most days, I'm likely to have listened to a food-related podcast or read a food-related article, which I deem to fall into this. Keeping with this expectation, and feeling really good about it being reasonable. I'm also realizing as I type this that both this and "movement every day" seem like nourishment - for the body. I see my morning walk as nourishment for the soul and my morning writing as nourishment for the mind, and I do these things every weekday . . . I think what I'm getting at is just recognizing this idea of nourishment.

Social dancing: This one has been challenging, as the ways I visualize wanting to practice this action are often late at night, and that just doesn't jive with how I tend to work best as a human. I keep putting things on my calendar and not going, which sets me up to disappoint myself. What I know I need to do is re-think how I wish to involve myself, and I've already gotten some leads since starting to think this way! First, Kairos events. Second, Dance Church (on my calendar for this week!). Third, accountability partner and buddy! Kristina Anderson randomly texted me about going out dancing, and I was so grateful! I GO by myself, but it's a lot more likely and a lot more fun when you have an accountability partner/ buddy! It also helps to know that she, like me, enjoys ALL social dance, so she is a potential friend for pretty much anything I wish to attend! 

Artistic and organizational development: My actions in creating new choreography, developing better organizational systems for my projects (and life in general) and upping development efforts to support them are all examples of this.

Dance classes more suited to my interests: Creating movement. I am still a bit delinquent on this action, as ballet and modern are often the classes offered when I am most able to take. I am trying to be diligent about getting to classes like tap and African styles, though I've been doing the same thing as with social dancing - adding items to my calendar like that will make them happen, even though they are at times like Saturday afternoons that don't feel super-conducive to the activity. Right now, I super-enjoy that a great deal of my weekend time is free/ unstructured, and I've tended to think that my sheer desire to attend classes like this would win out, and it often doesn't. One work-around I'm trying is to consider other times I can conveniently take class (like when I am already at the Cowles) and try to take advantage of those scenarios. This one may be a balance of clever work-arounds and continuing to try and put my head down and "just do it," even when conditions aren't completely perfect (like Saturday afternoons).

Profession-reflective writing: I'm in and out of feeling success with this. I continue to keep the NDEO presentation-into-article and Improv articles on a (highly organized, segmented and dated) project list, though continue to push them back with little progress made to make time for things that feel more pressing. On the front half of the year, I was a lot better with writing reactions here to the shows I saw. This is definitely an area of opportunity: I continue to see shows regularly, so I want to continue to hold myself accountable to sitting down the next morning and writing something up. Another thing worth mentioning here: I've folded my category of writing (also recently titled "thought") into my "education" category, which helps with simplifying the way I think about these things, but keeps me from seeing the "writing" word, for better or worse. Perhaps having reached out to Jill about whether or not we'll actually go for that article will work to clarify that I should set my sights on the NDEO presentation-into-article project when it comes to writing, and in that, it seems logical to me to consider the time in mid-December before the holidays, when I'm off from teaching, as a high-point for really getting some work done on it. Right now, I'm in a high-point of working on admin for RS, so by then I'll have made progress on that and will hopefully feel more space to put some focus to writing. I'm grateful that I'm coming to recognize and understand this flow of mine and to work with it!

Actions that fit under "contribution every day":

Movement every day: Technique teaching and rehearsal and performance all work for me as sources of contribution, as they bring movement to others, and that's how I work within my profession to contribute!

Social dancing: Dancing socially provides joy not only to me, but contributes joy to the experiences of others! 

Artistic and organizational development: Many of these actions also create opportunities for dancers and choreographers :)

Profession-reflective writing: Something really cool that came out of the practice of writing about the shows I saw this year was producing writing that helped two artists I addressed. I hope this affect of my writing being useful to others (that's often the point) continues in these small ways next to the bigger ways.

AND . . . actions that don't really fit either of those . . . so I added "inspiration every day":

Movement every day
Cooking every day
Social dancing
Artistic and organizational development
Dance classes more suited to my interests

Experiencing live music: Turns out this really only fit under this category - though I suppose there is a case to be made for "creativity," as not output comes without input. That said, it's important to me. And this is another one where much is to be desired in how I'm handling it. Perhaps I need to 1) take a little time at the end of each month to consider when and where I DID hear live music, and 2) take time at the beginning of each month to add ONE live music event to my calendar. Hearing live music at least once a month would feel like a success to me, at least now.

So, all the actions I desire to take to fulfill my value-driven outlook fit under this category. Seems like it's worthwhile to add this way of thinking :)

Reflection on what's working and what isn't
Affirmation for what is
Ideas for making what isn't actually work

Check-in.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Oh-Shit-Addendum

Addendum.

Discussed the what and not the how.

What's the how looking like?


Education:
  • WSU: regular schedule
  • Cowles: case by case
  • Zenon: split with Karla - this works - provides access to so many resources
Performance:
  • Performer: Contempo and RS/E
  • Choreographer: RS/ E
  • The big question is how these things work together. When would the cohorts of RS meet? Probably still summer, maybe in early January? Set the times and roll with them/ auditions?
Writing:
  • On an as-able basis
  • Writing about shows I see
  • Always writing reflectively and for marketing and development purposes

I think what is hard to give up on about scholarly writing is that it helped put me on the map with a lot of people. That said, I am now ON THE MAP with a lot of people, and will be even more so if I continue with new RS ideas. Additionally, I think I'll accept that like writing, organizing is folded up into all the work I do regularly, and that perhaps I can just accept it as a skill I use frequently than an "area of work." Maybe these more so become "areas of work" at a later time in life/ some other time?

There's some good "how" brainstorming. I'll let it keep simmering/ address it during my artistic retreat?

Oh-Shit-I Need-to-Write-a-Grant-For-Next-Year Check-In

Timing.

Prioritizing time.

As a resource.

In the place where planning for the next couple years has to happen while you are in the midst of so much . . . it's like that's all the time . . .

Feeling the importance of really checking in on my values and subsequent priorities as I attempt to lay plans for the next year professionally. After all, if this important step is skipped, my value of intentionality/ simplicity will not be put into action, and I won't be able to action on my desires for my personal life too.

Presence
Intentionality/ Simplicity
Embodiment

I believe I'm bringing into being Presence by the simple fact that I am offering the time and focus toward pondering all this (side thought: one thing to let go of is EE - I don't REALLY go out of my way anyway, so maybe I can mentally let it go . . . it'd be REALLY neat to learn how to twirl fire and do such gigs, but it'd also be neat to Parkor, and learn to play the bagpipes, and various other things I've chosen to curate out/ let go of . . .). 

Intentionality/ Simplicity (at least when it comes to this situation of being pushed into "season planning," per say): At the heart of going through this process is my desire to be intentional with how I use my resources (time, focus, money, etc.) with regard to my professional pursuits, so as to allow Vitality (a Priority) in the personal. 

Embodiment: That's walking the walk, which I'm attempting to do by maintaining Presence and creating Intentionality/ Simplicity.

These measures bring forth my Priorities - Vitality, Purpose and Contribution.

Bringing me to how my thought processes today will enable me toward Desired Experiences: perhaps I should see social dancing and tap and African classes as under the hood of "physicality every day," and I think I should see my morning walks as such as well - I ALWAYS get those, so in a sense, I am already experiencing that desire. I think it's ok to call that out, as I feel I am in no danger, especially considering how Contempo is shaping up for the year, of getting lax in the dancing aspect of this desire. As for cooking and nutrition, I've pin-pointed that "time in the kitchen" with food podcasts, at least once a day, helps me experience this desire. I'm excited to have just bought a cast-iron pan and to have good knives again, and will continue to experiment with trusted and new recipes of interest for leisure as able.

I've made pretty good on seeing shows, and sometimes on writing about them (i.e. "research and performance-reflective writing"). Perhaps I also want to factor into this desire providing verbal feedback to artists - while there is no written documenting of my thoughts, the practice of arriving to them happens. Regarding live music, it seems like, in relation to my resources, this is always the first thing to get jettisoned. I'll embrace my place of awareness on this and move toward change on it.

Where does this bring me in relation to my professional desires? They include:
  • Education: between WSU, the Cowles and Zenon, I'm good here. In fact, I'd like to be doing LESS teaching even though I love it, as I'd like to make more space for other things - it's just difficult when this is where much of the money is for me. Perhaps I should expand my viewpoints a bit to acknowledge more regularly that "Education" comes in many forms - to the folks involved with my productions, from offering feedback and doing special events/ talk-backs, etc. Perhaps I also need to make a mindset shift with the "this is where I make my money" thought process. Stretch myself to further envisioning how the other work can make me more money, making it easier to release the reins on some of this teaching. Building MORE space for my colleagues to tour/ bringing them in will hopefully also result in more of them "bringing me in" to their companies/ schools/ etc. 
  • Performing the work of others I find interesting (Contempo): This is going to be a lot in this arena this next year, but so it goes. This is why it feels even more important, in relation to everything else, to know exactly when we will be rehearsing. Going to reach out to Mallory today about EEE's current rehearsal schedule. Would Ann be open to me teaching once a week to be able to have space? Otherwise I'll have to include space rental (Cowles is more convenient for ME) in any proposed budget I offer. Can also apply to Jerome for this, MRAC org grant, St. Paul Star, and perhaps more national awards when trying to bring in national folks. Collapsing everything into one org would also save me org time - one board, etc. This is where I had fallen before, but . . . Embrace the name-change.
*Good time to note that I'm frustrated this "season planning of sorts" is having to happen now, as I've gotten excited about my idea for an artistic retreat for myself, but deadlines call. I think I'll do it anyway, I just think much of the formative thought is happening now. I also feel a little fear that I'm trying to square a new idea away to quickly to get a grant in, but there is also something said for just needing to make decisions. 
  • Exploring my artistic voice and making from it: Continuing my own choreographic projects with more support.
  • Garnering more monetary support for these projects, supporting my community of local, national and international folks interested in jazz and vernacular (particularly American) dance styles informing concert dance approaches and bring brought to stage - while also making opportunities for myself as a maker and performer within this main interest.
I think this is the juncture (ha! piece title) at which I attempt to do some (grant)writing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

I Am SO Much Better at Watching Dance Than I Was 15 Years Ago . . .

This was a major thought coursing through my brain after I attended the CandyBox Festival put on by ARENA dances. In it's second year, this is Matthew Janczewski's way of supporting creation in the Twin Cities dance community: by making space for artists at several points in their careers to present without as much worry about production details. As someone with her own such program AND with the fortune of, for the first time, receiving a commission/ presentation that allows me the same benefit (the Right Here Showcase 2018), I know how impactful this can be. Anyway.

What I came here to say is that it occurred to me, after seeing Carl Flink/ Black Label Movement's "This Bleeding Heart" for the first time since 2004 or 2005 (can't remember which school year the piece was set on University Dance Theatre), that I am MUCH better at watching dance than I was 15 years ago when I began my undergrad dance degree at the University of Minnesota. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to see a work reset from that period of time in my life when I was just discovering how much dance could be. At the time, the piece was just REALLY AMAZING to watch, with movement vocabulary I had never seen a dancer perform.

This past Saturday night, it's messaging hit me more clearly. The title became political. The content was in stride, with a "personal as political" feeling running alongside the dancers as the bent and twisted and flew and caught and crumpled. I caught gestures I hadn't seen the last time many years ago, like the dancers hands meeting back to back and poking their own hearts. It was intriguing how much the music stuck with me, but how little of the physicality specifics I remembered. I had practically all of the details of all of the pieces of the music memorized, and it moved me in really deep ways to hear it all in sequence again in concert with the movement: it brought back feelings of my world being opened up in school, of camaraderie with the folks I danced with day in and day out, discovering together the possibilities that artistically-crafted movement could bring. These feelings hit me in the gut on Saturday.

Back to what I remembered from the last time. I had forgotten about the focus light coming in at the beginning, but remembered very quickly when I saw it how much that imagery had impacted me when I first saw it, and was moved by how much it did again. I cannot quite put my finger on why, or how I feel it may relate to the conceptual ideas I was able to take away this time, but it moved me. Perhaps it has to do with finger-pointing? Isolation of incidents? Whatever it may be/ for me, it was and is impactful.

I had a clear memory of the groupings of people and movement on the ground that the light focused on and the diagonal cannons, but didn't remember much about the split outs of complex partnering. Those moments were really interesting and were highlights for me this time around. I contextualized them as political dialogues this time around, something that never would have happened without the light-bulb regarding the title turning on.

My strong feeling about "being better at watching dance" was also directed by my experience of watching Taja Will's work "Gospels of Oblivion: To the End of the World" that night. I can clearly imagine my 18 year old self watching a work like that and thinking "What the hell is going on?" Hell, I see that look (and hear such sentiments) from the 18 and 19 year olds that take my Dance Appreciation class at Winona. It was pretty impactful to recognize my growth in how I watch performance when taking in this piece. I've of course recognized this idea BEFORE, but it was particularly poignant this time around, given it was happening in concert with seeing a work I hadn't seen since I was that age.

I took so much from the moments Taja created in the work, and had less need than my 18 year old self to find a "sensical" way to string them all together for myself. I've gotten better at recognizing that the impactful moments will move with me past the evening I see something, stringing THEMSELVES together however they need to. Perhaps this is also on my mind as of late, having been prepping program notes significantly less dense than I may have for my Right Here piece. Of those moments, I was very impacted by the tin-can call and it's absurdity, how that absurdity carried into the karaoke moment (and my realization that original music was written for this work). The performers moved so fluidly between modes of expression in this piece, creating well-rounded "characters" of sorts who were equal parts specific and anonymous. I felt sad for the loss of their lives at the end in both personal and general ways.

I also felt the glitz. Their sequins and disco ball were so absurd in the suggested setting that I gathered a sense of both obliviousness and knowledge but lack of shits given surrounding the demise of the performer's world. Did they not know, not care or both? Were there contained senses of care and responsibility that these people only let come out in times of vulnerability, and how is this a parable for the ways many of us approach our natural resources and place within a larger world? Sequins are fun, beautiful and disturbing all at once.

Feeling a sense of grounded gratitude for taking more away from dance each year I continue to swim around in it's glory. I'm grateful to Matthew, Carl, Taja and all the other artists on CandyBox for making and sharing!