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!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Estonian Hiaku

majestic mounts
from my sidewalk view down
snow like ski hills

Monday, April 16, 2018

Birthday Check-In

After 10+ pages in my personal, handwritten journal . . .

Priorities:
Vitality
Purpose
Contribution

Values:
Presence (Groove/ Connection/ Responsiveness/ Playfulness)
Intentionality (Genuineness/ Curiosity/ Kindess/ Simplicity)
Embodiment (Reflection)

Desired Experiences:
social dancing - swing and house
live music
tap classes
African dance classes
cooking
research & performance-reflective writing
physicality every day

Doing well with: social dancing (could do better), have been to tap and African, though not frequently. Have written after seeing dance and music shows, though would like to increase this too - thinking about it, I HAVE seen several shows since my last check-in that I haven't written anything about. Doing well with physically every day, though room for improvement.

Desire to:
Memorize "values" as a mantra of sorts:

Presence
Intentionality
Embodiment

Onward into the year :)

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Reflecting on Reflection House

This year, I challenged myself to up my dance writing in the form of jotting down reflections of shows I see or dance experiences I have. This round of this challenge to myself, I will focus on the production Reflection House, a new work by choreographer Jennifer Glaws/ Jagged Moves. I'm familiar with her work, after almost ten years of seeing it evolve, and one of the things that struck me most was the clarity of her pathway forward as an artist.

I was able to see bits and pieces of ideas she's been chewing on for awhile, as well as new threads that have developed in the last couple of years to take her where she is headed. Regarding long-held ideas of focus, I saw Glaws playing with soundscapes driven by heavy beats made into a full aural pallet by way of a network of interesting sound effects derived from everyday life and fantasy, webbed around one another. This made way for the dancers (who were stunning) to weave in and out of the sound, sometimes interacting with it directly and other times existing alongside it.

Another idea I feel she's been exploring and continues to examine is the interplay of solo movement themes that build into duets and exist amongst the action of the full group of performers. This framework landed particularly well within the life of this production's concept, the exploration of how humans yearn for self and group understanding or fit. Glaws' program note included terminology "selected and collected identity," which I found to be particularly revealing when viewing this new work. The dancers moved through this idea with equal measures of groundedness and inquiry, embodying the human experience of being equal parts confidence and questioning, not only of the world around us but how we move ourselves within it.

A relatively emerging aspect of Jennifer's artistry is further building the world her choreographic work moves within by way of video technology. She made interesting use of pre-created images, including silhouettes of bodies in interesting shapes, which dancers attempted to fit themselves into and around, as well as live video capture and projection, which snagged visuals of dancers moving through the moment we were experiencing together, once removed by a camera. Also incorporated were sketch-like visuals that shifted throughout the room as the dancers teetered back and forth from one side to another, one raised platform to the next.

Another creative element that felt new to me in experiencing Jennifer's work was the very physical incorporation of set. The space had been molded from an open gallery in a multi-artist studio building (a very ingenuitous find for a performance location) into a veritable adult playground. While the ramps and platforms and walls were stark white, they very much created a simultaneous sense of obstacle and play, speaking to the concept of the work. They provided complicated and intriguing surfaces for not only the dancers to experiment with, but for video projection experimentation as well.

I'd like to come back to those stunning dancers. These performers were very much in it in self and their group while also connecting with viewers in a way that felt genuine and of them moment, rather than put on or directed as clear audience engagement can sometimes feel. They were raw in their physicality, attentive in their listening to the sound, each other and the space and generally just a kinesthetic thrill. Of particular note was the solo section performed by Mirabai Miller, through which she twisted to, accented and offered question of a segment of spoken text addressing the course of self development and internal and external perception. With a wide range of physicality and dynamic in both choreography and performance, this section is still imprinted on my mind days later.

As a whole, Reflection House was an intriguing next step in the formation of Glaws' artistic voice, and one that I'm likely to continue pondering. She weaved together a great deal of production elements in a way that they felt cohesive and fully-supportive of her exploration, yet left me with unsolved inquiries about the sense of "selected and collected identity" it got me thinking about and feeling.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Dance to the Music

I had the pleasure of hearing live music TWICE yesterday, both somewhat unexpectedly.



The first time was at an Intergenerational Dance Hall put on by Twin Cities-based organization Kairos Alive! They have over 20 years of experience putting on events that welcome people of all ages, backgrounds and experience levels to enjoy dancing with one another (thus the title). I have been curious about checking this organization out, but didn't get to it until it was on my list as an evaluator for the Minnesota State Arts Board. I'm now feeling really sorry I haven't gotten to one sooner: it was incredible.

Artistic Director Maria Genne, who was the primary facilitator, made a comment to the group about halfway through that folks used to dance together as a regular pastime and that this group is working to offer that opportunity once again. It really got me thinking again (I believe I think about this on at least a weekly basis) about how elements of popular culture have their hey-day and then become niches to which people dedicate themselves. I'm sure there are things that fade into complete obscurity, but it seems to me that for the most part, things find their dedicated audiences beyond their time of popularity, and live on with those folks.

While it makes me sad when I think that social dance has in certain ways "fell victim" to this, I'm trying to encourage myself not to see it that way. Instead, I'm working to reframe it in my mind to understand how such intergenerational dancing, led by a shared set of accessible knowledge for each type of dance, is finding it's own niche home, just like swing dance.

Reflecting back on the week, I'm proud that I made it to the swing dance, went to the Intergenerational Dance Hall and heard music there, AND out at Day Block Brewing for a friends birthday. I chalked up to two social dance experiences and two live music experiences in one week! AND I danced my booty off at Pigeons Playing Ping Pong last weekend too. ALSO - this week will end up being a two dance show week as well, having seen St. Paul Ballet last night and seeing Jennifer Glaw's Reflection House today. It's ridiculous to me how hard it can be to hold yourself accountable to doing things you enjoy, just because they require an interruption of habit (or perhaps more like it, a building of habit around them). Getting off topic. Just glad to be holding myself accountable to these New Years Intentions/ Desires.

Back to Kairos/ the swing dance. Both of these events had very real audience numbers. Beyond that, they were both genuinely diverse in so many ways. I opt to say "genuinely" because sometimes you can feel when it's been somewhat forced, an achievement of an organizational goal rather than a result of honest to goodness interest in the programming. Both these events had genuine-ness dripping off them from everywhere! It took me a little time to warm to the Intergenerational Dance Hall, as it started with really simply prompts for the kids in attendance (which was totally appropriate to the situation). It took me until getting to my car to realize that starting that way not only was the right accommodation for their audience that day, but also allowed the facilitators to build the entire thing up in energy so that by the time it came to a close, we were bursting out the ceiling together in joy.

And to social dance to an ensemble of INCREDIBLE live musicians at 10am on a Saturday (not to mention in the American Swedish Institute, a cultural gathering place I've never been to, and with such a diverse group of warm and wonderful strangers to boot): downright magical. I sincerely cannot WAIT to go to another one of Kairos' events. In fact, I'm going to put them on my calendar after I finish this post.

My second live music experience yesterday was listening to OVRFWD at Day Block Brewing, upon invitation from a friend for her birthday. It was a joy to stand and listen. Generally, I let my body take over and really get some dancing in, but this music didn't ask for that and that was ok. My body of course had it's reactions, they were just less pronounced than they might be with more "dancey music." I found myself listening in for the meter, for structure and improvisation, visually taking in the ways the guitar players physicalized their riffs. I also found myself describing the music like "acid jazz on metal," in response to my friend saying that it sounded like "jazz on acid." I'm not sure if this makes me pretentious or awesome or both. Probably both.

Anyway, I just really enjoyed my time standing (and swaying a bit) and listening. It gave me a renewed respect for the standing (and swaying) folks I often look at and wonder if they are having any fun. They are. The fun is just happening primarily in their heads. I think there is something to be said for letting the body take over, but I also think there is something to be said for being so focused that the body is taken in more stillness.

I had a lot of other things rolling around in my mind this morning (looking at differences in loss, between now and when I was much younger, thinking about lifestyles in different areas of the country, seeing the bits of quirk that poke out of my mostly pristinely-organized and streamlined home as a physicalization of my approach to artistry and movement - cool and confident and reserving quirk for when it's most effective), but I'm feeling satisfied with what has come out (and hungry!).

Looking forward to more viewing, doing and hearing of dance and music, starting with Jen's show in a couple hours. perhaps the house session tonight and They Might Be Giants on Thursday with Kris!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Flow



I think there is a major difference between "settling" and "finding flow."

Flow changes direction, but does so in a steady way. "Shift" almost sounded too stilted, like 'making something happen.' Groove sometimes feels like it can imply a sense of comfort, which is good in the right amount. Comfort, without complacency. Flow.

No wonder there is thing called "the flow arts."

Motion, groove, direction change with a sense of steadiness.

Being able to find balanced footing on the deck of the ship, no matter how the tides turn or the ship is chosen to turn.

Flow.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

NYI February Check-In

Vitality/ Presence
Purpose/ Intentionality
Contribution/ Embodiment

Priorities:
Vitality
Purpose
Contribution

Values:
Presence (Groove/ Connection/ Responsiveness/ Playfulness)
Intentionality (Genuineness/ Curiosity/ Kindess/ Simplicity)
Embodiment (Reflection)

Desired Experiences:
social dancing - swing and house
live music
tap classes
African dance classes
cooking
research & performance-reflective writing
physicality every day

I can direct myself more carefully when it comes to several of the above: I intend to go swing and house when Contempo rehearsals are over. And I need to hold myself to that! I just reached out to friends about which live music alert systems they use, so I'm working to better my awareness with that. I intend to get going on class better also, now that my extraneous teaching obligations are over. That said, the classes I want to attend are often at night . . . a good excuse. Whitney often has Saturday classes, and I need to haul ass to those.

Cooking is going ok. I do want to hold my flame more carefully with research (social dance - what does it look like today?!) and writing after I see shows. And yes, physicality every day. I DO get it every day, but I'd like to push more carefully toward the circuit workout on days I have a lot of rehearsal or teaching and a class on the days I don't.

Good to check in.