Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Open Christmas Letter to Friends

Oh boy.

It seems that I find myself typing a Christmas letter. I sit here, considering the amount of time I have spent making fun of such things in the past. Keyword – past. It is amazing how things shift as you increase in age, and how you find yourself identifying with things you formerly thought were strange, such as only seeing best friends once a month or every couple months, getting tired at 10pm, turning down another beer…..

I am realizing that, as we grow older and better define our lives, our schedules become radically more different. The light bulb – it is not a lack of desire that keeps us from seeing or speaking to our favorite people as much as we wish – it is a simple matter of your time being more full and more inconsistent. I like to jokingly refer to situations of mismatched schedules as a syndrome of becoming adult-like. While such a symptom can be frustrating, it can yield wonderful surprises, such as finding those with whom you can pick up with from where you left without a hitch in the conversation. Moments such as these make all the in-between time worth the wait. Additionally, you find the people that you maybe never exchange communication with, yet still find yourself thinking about here and there. I like to think of these people in our lives bearing in mind this phrase; friendships do not have to be life-long to be life-changing.

What I am getting at, after quite the run-around (shocking, I know. I have always been someone of so few words J ), is that I can see the purpose of the Christmas letter more and more clearly each year. As someone who, regardless the amount I see you or speak to you, is a life-changing friend, this Christmas letter, I see, is just another way to create connection! So follow my yellow-brick road…….. If I begin in January of 2009, I was living in Calgary, Canada, training with a wonderful company called Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, and living in a house with three lovely gals who turned out to be wonderful friends. With them and the many other friends I made there, I became a more huggy person, threw some great parties, helped through tough times and was helped through tough times. I saw some beautiful mountains in the Canadian Rockies in Banff National park, danced in a elementary school educational show on jazz dance and saw more gymnasiums than I expected to for the next several years, honed my ear and my eye to dance as music visualization, increased my already growing passion for musical, jazz and vernacular-related dance forms, had my choreography selected for a professional festival, and learned how to inject some balance into a usually too-busy lifestyle. Now that I am home, I have yet to emulate those qualities here that I gained while in Calgary. I have realized that I will always err on the side of crazy when it comes to the amount of things on my plate on any given time, but at least now I see that and know I must inject some down time into that schedule.

Landing back home in Minneapolis in May after realizing that, sometimes no amount of work you do will change government regulations, I decided to shift my desires toward other goals, and made plans to move to Chicago in September to train with another jazz-based company. I lived at home in Prior Lake with my family for the summer (which was great after being gone for so long), and worked as Summer Education Assistant at Youth Performance Company, a youth theatre education organization, where I met some great people and had a wonderful time. In addition, I danced in the summer show with the Eclectic Edge Ensemble, a local jazz company that I have been with now for four seasons, and co-produced, choreographed for and danced in a local jazz dance choreographer’s collective showcase we titled Rhythmically Speaking. This show panned out to honestly be one of the highlights of my life to this point – we had nearly sold-out audiences every night, wonderful fun dancing together, got reviewed in the Star Tribune newspaper, and felt at the end that we had really created another spark for the Twin Cities jazz dance scene. After seeing the crowds our show drew, there is absolutely no question that there is an eager, excited jazz dance audience in out cities. The show was at the Bedlam Theater August 20-22, and after completing that, I spent another state fair working for the 4H program, after which I moved to Chicago.

Chicago, though short-lived, was another learning experience for me – after getting there, only to realize quickly that it was not the place or time for me, I realized that sometimes no amount of planning can trump gut-feelings. After re-evaluating my personal and professional goals, I decided to move back to the Twin Cities, and it ended up being a wonderful choice. A choice not without trials, I have been impatient with working 30 hours a week working at a coffee shop, knowing that is just a place-holder and a creator of cash. However, when I hear employment rate statistics on the radio, I am reminded to be grateful just to be employed, and then I get over myself. The reasons I took the job (flexibility, leaving it there when I am done working) have been fulfilled up to this point, and I do enjoy the shop and my co-workrs, so I just have to keep reminding myself that it is just for now and I am taking many great steps toward other more important things.

During the other hours of my work week, which I have found to be at least equal to the 30 I spend on the day time cash job, I have been teaching dance all over the metro, working toward becoming a certified personal trainer (which is the idea for the next day job!), and rehearsing and performing with the Eclectic Edge Ensemble (jazz company) and the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers, an Appalachian clogging group that I just joined! Most importantly, I have been working on my own choreography and progress toward eventually having my own music, jazz and vernacular-based dance company in the Twin Cities. Among such progress is planning future jazz choreographer shows, launching a blog and newsletter on jazz dance in Minnesota (, showing my work in several local showcases, and doing a lot of research and thinking regarding the development of my own style. To get a better idea of what this means, see what shows are coming up for me, and to watch a work sample, visit my website (I am proud of it, and owe a lot of thanks to Kris, the center of a fantastic, supportive relationship and creator of the site);

Though there are difficulties here and there (and aren’t there always in this life), I have a lot to be grateful for, including wonderful people in all departments of my life – family, friends, relationship, mentors, co-workers, creative professionals. I am enjoying being back in the Twin Cities, but know two things about future locations; 1. I will definitely have some more adventures before I land, including graduate school in dance theory (I have been accepted to the University of Surrey in England but have chosen to defer until the time is right), and 2. when I DO land, it will be in the great state of Minnesota, home of my ever-expanding Midwestern pride. I know that I have a lot to figure out yet, but feel that I am on the right track, and I truly owe that to people like you, who have been their along the way for this life that has been a sequence of wonderful adventures, with more to come.

So cheers to adventure, and hopes that our paths will cross again so we can seek some more…………………


Erinn Liebhard

What a Weekend....

I am getting to it a bit late, but that matters little, because my excess excitement from this weekend - Wild Goose Chase Cloggers 30th Anniversary Show weekend - is still as sharp as a tack.

Mixing wonderful, varied people, a kitschy space, a lot of food and a bit of liquor, and any kind of dancing creates an excellent cocktail. In the days to come, I was looking forward to the weekend while also feeling like it might get a bit long. It did not take long into Saturday's practice to realize that the second part of my assessment was incorrect - the time went by all together too quickly.

The people - these people, pulled together by a love for old time music or clogging or rhythm-making, come from all sorts of work backgrounds, many different places, are of many different ages, and their other talents and interests are amazing and varied. Among the stand-out people experiences was meeting and chatting with an ethnomusicologist, who happened to be one of the hosts of the party that was thrown Saturday night. Though I met him on my way out the door, he took the time to chat with me and answer some questions about grad school. He was, in fact, so invested in the conversation that he took me up to the library to grab me a couple of books, excitedly insisting that I must give them a read, and then drop him a call to chat about them! This is just one example of the kind of quick connections and support I felt throughout the weekend.

Of course I cannot overlook the space in which we operated. Moving our efforts from the Oddfellows hall on Saturday to the Bedlam on Sunday for rehearsal and the show, I keyed in to the fact that there is always something about getting into the actual place where you will be performing that lights your insides on fire. Bedlam especially - it is the kind of place you can come into and feel like you are at home - for the amount of time that you have it to present your show, it morphs to feel like you have lived there for years.

Over the course of the weekend, I also could not help but notice how much these people seemed to love food! The food at the party was immpecable, the food that WGCC founding member and now event-planner Greg brought to the Bedlam on Sunday was ridiculous, the amount of food and drink lavished across the crowd at the end of the show was far beyond what I imagined. This piece of the experience leads me to one thing - these people like to enjoy themselves, and the things that create enjoyment are simple things - good people, a good place to be, good food and drink, and most importantly - music and dancing.

Oh the music and dancing. Live cajun music and social dancing, Irish music, old time music, bluegrass music, bagpipes, clogging, waltzing, square-dancing.....yes, this all happened within the span of 36 hours. I have mentioned to a couple of people that the more time I spend studying and practicing dance, the less and less I am interested in perfecting and presenting things that 'normal' people could never do. This is not to say that I am completely un-interested in a wow-factor. The kind of wow-factor I enjoy is one that is, after development of a love and dedication, and some practice, accomlishable for anyone who chooses it. Dance should be about the practice as well, not just the presentation. When brought up in concert dance, one spends so much time preparing for and worrying about a one or two or three time shot at showing people. When involved in social dance, the experience of doing is just as important, if not more, as is the presentation of an end result to outsiders.

More eloquently, I am becoming more interested in dance that asks you to join in rather than to just watch. Breaking from the show into a square dance was absolutely inspirational - asking the audience to share the floor and come spend time dancing - to me, dance should make you want to hop out of your chair and join in!

To sum up this random jumble of thoughts, I took away so much from this weekend in regards to how I practice, think about, view and experience dance. This group as already inspired me so greatly, and I am looking forward to what I am guessing will be a lot more time dedicated than I had initially expected!

Cheers to the practice being just as important as the presentation.

SHOW ROUND-UP: Shows seen 11/6 - 12/4

Wake The Dead
Rainy Day Cabaret at the Old Arizona Theater
November 5-7

Much Ado About Nothing
Prior Lake High School Theatre
November 5-13

Mixed Blood Theatre
October 16 - November 22

27th Fall Concert
Zenon Dance Company
November 19-29

***The stand-out; 'Booba' by Andrea Miller, Artistic Director of Gallim Dance in New York City. This dance is an excerpt from the larger work 'I Can See Myself in Your Pupil,' of which excerpts can be seen on YouTube - I literally laughed my ass off the whole piece. Laugh out loud kind of laugh. The sheet randomness, oddity and ridiculousness of the movements, facial expressions and formations was enough for this dance to need to exist.

I was also extremely kinesthetically affected, as the more I explore my own movement tendencies, the more I find myself wanting to move in abnormal yet rhythmic ways. It is arguable that all dance is composed of abnormal movements - movements outside of what the body does to locomote itself through the tasks of daily life, such as walking, standing, eating. To a dancer, at a certain point, all widely accepted and taught dance vocabularly becomes normal movement, movement that is used to locomote the body through a regular day. Maybe my desire to move in splayed, gyrating ways to complicated rhythmic patterns it is due to a partnership beween my want to explore movement outside of regular, taught dance vocabulary and to listen to music with rhythms that make me want to dance. Whatever it is, this piece hit me hard in the heart and the funny bone, and injected me with inspiration.

Bedlam Theatre
December 3-19

Sounds of the Season
Bloomington Medalist Band
December 7th

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dance and Democratization - Everybody Dance Now

I attended the Reggie Wilson/ Andreya Ouamba master class at the Walker today, and offering that existed in conjunction with their commissioned show there this weekend. I was quite excited, after reading from a couple of sources that I would be experiencing African, pos-modern, improvisation, etc.

I did not leave with what I thought I would. This is not to say that the class was not enjoyable, or that what was touched upon was not worthwhile. It IS to say that I figured some things out about myself regarding how I see dance fitting into certain descriptions. These musings likely apply to most art, though I stick with dance, as it is what I know and what interests me.

To begin, I will touch upon the idea of 'post-African.' In preparation to sit and write my thoughts, I did a little more research about the companies and the show they have created for the Walker. Admittably, I was not entirely familiar (or really familiar at all) with either choreographer's work, I only knew the descriptions I read on flyers. Upon reading more, I came across a description of Wilson's (the American choreographer) work as "post-African/Neo HooDoo Modern dance." I did have to look into 'Hoo Doo,' which pertains to dances done during traditional ring shouts. Coming upon this information only lead me further to believe in my initial thoughts; Post-African? As far as I am concerned, Africa still appears to be a continent, and African dance is still thriving as a form. Just because it discovered its foundations hundreds (maybe thousands) of years ago does not mean it is no longer a vaild form. The passing of time allows a form to grow more rich, to develop in new places. I am not suggesting that 'traditional' forms should not experience innovation, growth, fusion - I believe very much the opposite. However, in speaking of titles and descriptions, I do have a difficult time with the word 'post' and the meanings it can create.

When I hear something described as 'post-insert-word-here,' I think that the subject at hand has passed, seen its day, been moved on from. Take the classic dance example - 'post-modern.' To be post-modern is to be over and done with modern's beginnings, anything classic, to be exploring 'new' territory (even though the territory at hand may be as weathered as a Graham contraction). When paired with 'Hoo Doo,' the term 'post-African seems just plain contradictory. African dance is a form that should be treated with reverance for its ability to carry through decades to so many places and people, not something that should be deemed as passed.

Reading further into this idea of 'Post-African,' the literature I read about the show basically suggested that Wilson has overcome his African-ness by fusing traditional movement with modern. If a choreographer's interest and wish is to explore such a thing, more power to them, but I have a difficult time pairing that exploration with the idea that the individual has 'overcome' their roots, or somehow managed to make their roots more worthwhile in the eyes of 'modern' critics. What is there to overcome in this situation? Years of tormented ancestors and cultural difficulties, yes. But it is exactly these things that should cause a choreographer or a critic to not reject or overcome roots, but to embrace them and use them as fuel. Maybe Wilson does do this. However, the literature describing the show, as well as my experience in the class lead me to believe otherwise.

Along these same lines, I ponder the creations of collaborator Ouamba from Senegal. Oumaba's work was described as having an 'interest in an improvisation-influenced approach.' I have the utmost respect for anyone who can come to find what really drives them, and if it happens that modern improvisation is what drives Ouamba and he knows this, he is on his way to the kind of comfort within creation that is difficult for an artist to find. The way in which his influences have been presented is the source of my mind conflict here. I feel as though his interest in improvisation is being paired with the fact that he is from Senegal in not the best of ways. To be more clear, it seems that he is an African artist being hailed for the fact that he has discovered and embraced a more Western approach to concert dance.

Maybe this is all an illusion in my head, as I do carry a bias regarding modern-based versus traditional dance forms. This bias was only enforced by the way I felt participating in the class at the Walker. The stark white walls and extreme minimalism (so minimal that some functionality is lost) I was surrounded by yesterday made me fell void of comfort, on edge, too detailedly-human to fit into such surroundings. In other words, even the surroundings of modern art (or 'high art,' the way I feel such artists often look upon their own work in contrast to anything else but would never admit thinking of such descriptions) are fashioned in a way that make the viewer feel small, insignificant, of a lower place. These feelings brought me back to the thoughts that have been forming in my artistic center; I am Mid-Western, I love the small town feel (regardless of the fact that I will not pursue it as a living style), I revel in personal connection and comfort that comes from small, everyday, ordinary interactions. Key word here; ordinary. This word does not carry negativity to me, but rather, the opposite. Ordinary carries familiarity, openness, inclusion. The shiny lifeless walls of the Walker, and the class they held within them yesterday both seem to stray away from such feelings for me. I am not trying to put this forward as a judgement against anyone who does enjoy such art and surroundings, but rather as an explaination why I (and many other well-informed minds) prefer the exact opposite. Preference of the opposite is not a hallmark of ignorance or inability to understand 'modern' creation, but rather is often a choice to embrace the important and beneficial ideas of tradition, familiarity, inclusion, socialness and pure enjoyment.

As a class participant, though I knew not what I know now from my admittably minimal research, I gathered the same feelings in my body that I have been expressing in words. I have for some time now been exploring my need to reconnect with the familiarity, inclusion, socialness, tradition, and music as a driver for the desire to move. In taking the class this morning, I found myself deeply pondering this and a couple other topics pertinent to what drives movement in my body. About ten minutes into the class, I realized that I hadn't taken an extremely post-modern (for lack of better terminology, but isn't that what has been said for at least 20 years now?) class for over a year. Having been deeply absorbed in jazz and vernacular forms for over a year, the approach felt like a thing of the past. The beginning plies and such were familiar enough, but all too familiar; the 'need' to correct pain-stakingly small body details.

Specificity is a perfectly desireable objective as a choreographer or a teacher of dance, but I am coming to realize that technical specificity is really not what I enjoy or what I am after. In fact, I will go so far as to say that I am seeking the very opposite. Experiencing this class today, though I really did enjoy myself, even if just for change of routine and outlook, I was brought a step closer to discovering what I am about as a performer and choreographer. I have known from recent previous experiences that I am about the music, I am about personal connections, I am about connecting to other people. Additionally, I am coming to realize that I am about dance as a thing of regular people. It is something that everyone can do and enjoy. To be academic, I am about the democratization of dance. When did dance become this elusive thing that only select few people could be deemed good enough in which to participate? During the time of the court of Louis the 14th? If I remember my dance history information correctly, it seems that modern dance originally came forth as a rebellion against the codified and elitist world of ballet. It seems to me that much of the modern dance world has cycled right back to the position from which it originally rebelled.

How were these thoughts triggered? By an instruction small but poignant; a request to align my ribs into my body. That is the nice way to say it. To me, this is an instruction to uncomfortably tighten my whole torso, to give up any freedom it may experience, to limit expressive possibilities. I understand and respect the idea of finding 'proper alignment,' but I also think that the idea of proper is malleable, and Wilson's proper was tighter than I had wished. This and other ideas within the continuation of the class - 'no hip movement,' for example - bring me right back to what it is about much of modern dance that I do not enjoy. The reverence of precision similarity. What about style? Style is not so important in the eyes of choreography that says big things, despite the fact that each body performing it is different. This is an idea that I just cannot embrace. The more time I spend trying to perfect precision similarity and technique is all the less I have to enjoy moving in the styles and ways that my unique body wishes to experience. This strings together what I find myself doing as of late - jazz, clogging, square dances, contra dances.

And there we have it - I am less and less interested in techniques that set dancers apart from regular moving humans, and more and more interested in what kind of dance stirs the soul and is open to all people, regardless of their access to formal dance training. There are style and groove components in every body on earth, and I love to see what activates these things.

One thing is for sure - it is certainly not precision similarity!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can't Read It

I cannot read it anymore.

I have tried a couple times over the last couple of years, the lastest time the most successful, getting ALMOST half-way in (the book being a total of 185 pages). 185 pages is something I should rip through in no time. Especially when the book pertains to art. So I guess that just means it is bad....

Which book? ------ "The Romantic Manifesto" by Ayn Rand.

It was my intention to spend some time today thinking creatively by reading this book. When I picked it up to read it, I found myself dreading the time I would spend, taking it only to complete the task I had set forth some several weeks ago. I then decided that I am not a masochist and should not force myself to do things I do not enjoy doing. Wow, what a revelation.

I guess I thought if I continued reading that I would like it, considering that I really enjoyed "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged," and consider the former to be one of my favorite books. The source of this favoritism has much to do with the detailed yet light and interesting way she writes, but also with her philosophy - in ways.

These 'ways' match how I am in 'ways' what one might consider conservative politically - I am to a certain extent for the idea of limited government, all about personal responsibility, and can often see the benefits of self-interest (insert Ayn Rand here). At the same time, I am a believer of some government sponsored social programs and in all aspects of human rights.

These ideas being at odds with one another 'in ways' exemplify how, as a 'liberal' artist with personal responsibility streak, my past enjoyment of Ayn Rand is at odds with my current feelings of deterence and desire to laugh at some of her musings. Examples;

"Art is not the means to any didactic end." - Pg. 22

Art is one of the best ways to share moral and ethical ideas, as well as a structure in which to teach such ideas. To suggest that art is merely in the moment and participatory (which are indeed some of its best situations, but not only) is to limit its capacities.

"The product of America's anti-rational, anti-cognitive, "Progressive" education, the hippies, are reverting to the music and drum-beat of the jungle." - Pg. 64

This is just plain hilarious. Back to the idea of participatory and sensory experiences, suggesting that hippies are anti-cognitive is hilarious! If someone is dancing to music or beats, in those moments, all they can think about is the sound and how their body is reacting - could anything be more cognative? Cognation does not need to be planned or forced in order to be experienced, reacted to, and gained from.

"Music is an independent, primary art. Dance is not. In view of their division of labor, the dance is entirely dependent upon music." - Pg. 69

Also just plain funny. I find it interesting that I am actually taking the time to refute this, as an intense purveyor of the idea that dance that is inspired from and exists due to music is not only valid but incredible. However, there certainly is a large piece of me that insists that dance is an act of art in itself that in no way REQUIRES music. In this same line of thought, I also prescribe to the idea that music requires artistic motion - in my mind, dance - to exist. Therefore - dance and music can certainly be lookd upon as free-standing art forms, but when examined deeply, lean on one another to exist. When this thought is broadened, I would go so far as to suggest that no art form can exist without the presence of others silently informing one another.

I did eventually get to Pg. 120, but the last quote from Pg. 69 was so hilarious to me that I did not get much out of the subsequent 50 pages.

So thanks, Ayn, for applying objectivism to art - in defending romanticism alone in creation, you have provided me with several wonderful fits of giggles.

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Act of Creation - "The House Can't Stand"

A simple one - meditating on and putting into words thoughts on the show I absorbed last night.

"The House Can't Stand," written and performed by Steve Epp and directed by Dominque Serrand, was both a romp through the mind of a wife left alone to her house by a deceased husband and relocated children as well as a stringing together of several politically-minded theatre happenings. Visually, each individual picture the show created (down to the sock on the legs of the table in the set) was brilliant. Yet, those pictures were created from and motivated by both intense characterization and the abandoning of such a labor.

The two artistic minds behind the show created an utterly fascinating character whose actions were equally as fitting later on in the show as they were unexpected at the beginning of the show, speaking to the cultivation of a personality intensely interesting enough on its own. I do not say 'enough' to suggest that such a thing should be left as is when it can be further developed by a fitting storyline or creation of a series of images, but rather to underscore the importance of letting a solid character hold it's weight. I felt that the weight the character created initially was made less so by the amount of randomization that came to pass within the second half of the 'storyline.'

I am also not trying to suggest that any 'good' show MUST have a solid, follow-able storyline; I am simply saying that a very clearly defined character, such as the aging housewife in this play, should be allowed to pull it's weight, and should not have to knock fists with numerous storylines for attention.

At the same time I pull down the value of having too many random things going on, I would like to boost it back up in the fact that the idea and execution of 'happenings,' can be very intriguing by themselves. Transitions from the side of a far-off road to a Hooverville-style tent encampment to the tent of Abraham Lincoln and back again to the suburban house where we started was interesting enough in itself, but my interest was hard to maintain as I tried to sort out the relevance of it all to the character that was earlier on in the play so strongly developed.

In a nutshell, I highly enjoyed the visual and movement aspects of the show - I'll get so specific as to say that I was pre-occupied in a good way by how the character's left leg stayed more straight than the right, even creating an interesting physical profile for how she approached the situations in which she was put. Additionally, I was quite taken by the character created, and the ridiculously witty and relevant one-liners tossed. I just wish the journey I followed her on had a bit more clarity.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The (Fettered) Quest For Adulthood

I just concluded a conversation with a friend that started out as casual and enjoyable, and turned into something that left me questioning my capabilities and investments in particular frienships. This is a bitter, bitter taste in my mouth, as I deem myself someone who takes great care to keep in contact and to do little things for my friends that not only help them, but show them that I care deeply.

It IS possible to be someone who is both opinionated and accepting, rash yet caring, outspoken yet a good listener, modivated yet in balance when it comes to making time with friends, flighty in action yet grounded in sense of purpose, creative and out of ordinary yet respectful of ordinary choices.

I think a lot of people in our age group are beginning to operate under an idea of adulthood that is not complete. Adulthood is not JUST getting married and buying a house (as an aside, I would like to state that I not only see nothing WRONG with those things, I think they are wonderful things that can bring a lot of people a lot of joy, but my thoughts on that should be obvious to anyone who knows me well enough to know that I maintain opinions but NOT judgement), it is much more - it is a process of refining how you interact with the world around you. And that includes the people in it.

This can also be thought of as maturity. I think maturity is another concept that many people our age think they possess, when certain elements are either missing or inappropriately assessed. People who are mature can also be people who dress silly just for the fun of it, people who do not have a 'proper' job in order to allow other elements of life to take precedence, people who randomly get in their car for day-long road trips just because they had the urge. In order to be mature, people who do these things also; make sure that their silly dress fits within the codes of the places where they work, they carefully plan how their job can provide them with a steady income to do other things, they make sure that the random road trip does not directly affect other people close within their life or their work schedule.

An element of being mature at this age is to be able to comfortably state an opinion or personal issue to someone they trust or deem a friend, knowing the other person (if they too possess this element) will be able to understand that talking about such things is coming from a good place and not one of accusation. No matter how 'adult' the job, the dwelling, the relationship situation - if one chooses to talk about people to others rather than to the person themself this important element of adulthood - maturity - has not yet been found.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Artists Statement

How is this for change?

Artist Statement, February 2008:

I began my involvement with dance as an energetic child who enjoyed being in motion and exploring life’s possibilities while playing dress-up. Noticing this, my parents enrolled me in dance class, and a pairing of innocent preferences developed into a passion for the art of dancing. My formal dance education at the U of M helped me identify the capability to focus on an objective, utilize determination, put to work my ability to be resourceful, and to correctly attend to my strengths and weaknesses regarding the pursuit of a multi-faceted career revolving around dance.

Though in hot pursuit of a professional life with variety, I have been surprised since graduation to note how important the production of my own creative work has become. I have seemed to lock into the medium of movement because it has constant shift – no two performances are ever the same. I have also begun to notice my increasing disillusionment with words. In a society that is increasingly injected with more digital images and sounds everyday, there is something refreshing about working with and viewing a physical, human body. Further, the rapidly-spreading societal plague of being ‘too busy’ and in need of constant convenience makes me feel as though people are frequently missing out on the small but poignant moments in life. If there is any a time to stop and notice, it is in witnessing the messages human bodies can transmit while moving with intention. I have often thought that my interest in this subject matter comes from my inherent need for organization and resulting tendencies to miss out on chance happenings. I yearn to break free from such habits, and look upon creation of performance art as a chance to communicate how I constantly see related predicaments in others. It is the central idea helping people identify and address their tendencies toward such complacency in life which pushes me forward.

Artist Statement October 2009:

A Twin-Cities-based performer, choreographer, producer, administrator, teacher and writer/theorist, I seek to refine my creative interests in rhythmic and musical dance, specifically jazz and socially-related forms, through a series of many expected and unexpected experiences.

I began my involvement with dance as an energetic child who enjoyed being in motion and exploring life’s possibilities while playing dress-up. Noticing this, my parents enrolled me in dance class, and a pairing of innocent preferences developed into a passion for the art of dancing. My formal dance education at the University of Minnesota helped me identify the capability to focus on an objective, utilize determination, put to work my ability to be resourceful, and to correctly attend to my strengths and weaknesses. In the pursuit of a professional life with variety, I have enjoyed working in many capacities as a dance artist, yet the production of my own creative work has consistently come to the forefront of my efforts. In the search to define my creative impulses, I have been trying to break down why it is that I love to dance, and have come to find one constant; I love to create and match with my body the rhythms and musical qualities that I hear and sense.

I enjoy dancing socially just as much as I enjoy dancing in a concert setting, and the common thread between those two things is music. Musicians savor a close relationship between their ears and mind, and by throwing in the additional element of the eyes, musically-motivated dancers develop a keen relationship between the operation their body and the acting of listening to music; in short, they create a visceral absorbing of and response to music. Our bodies run on the rhythm of the heart, and this intense human experience alone is enough to create purposeful, satisfying, engaging and visceral dance, particularly when matched with just the right tune. The sheer variety of rhythmically connected music and dance creates seemingly endless possibilities for movement and idea explorations, as well as an electric environment fostering the constant wonder of could be done next. Truly understanding musicality, rhythm and honesty in emotion can provide a solid base for successfully and whole-heartedly catapulting into new musical and movement territory.

Within these explorations, I seek to define how dancers can embrace integrity and honesty to their personal experiences as a way to access a piece’s intention, providing them a way to truly connect to and therefore better understand and present the work. Intention within my work often relates to how embracing the need for constant convenience and the idea of being ‘too busy’ can cause people to miss out on the small but poignant moments in life.

My enjoyment of creating and matching with my body the rhythms and musical qualities that I hear and sense, connecting to the music, versatility, the creation and embracing of humanness and personal integrity through abstract movement, and the desire to assist people in opening up their eyes to the small, poignant moments are the things that move me forward (well, in many directions actually) as a choreographer and versatile dance artist.

Reading one against the other really puts into perspective how much I have come into my own regarding my thoughts on dance in the last year and a half. I was about to type 'how my thoughts on dance have changed,' and realized that to be far from true; this new artist statement sums up the things that have always been operating in the back of my head, even through my time studying modern and post-modern dance in college. While delving deeply into that kind of thought around dance was something I value and would never take back, I am feeling relieved that I have found the right place for that information in my brain, and am beginning to learn how to let my heart lead instead.

And when my heart leads (and lets my head come with), I know now what is powering it and how to describe it.

The Passing Of Time

Seems to level things off a bit. Something that can seem frustrating and like the only thing that matters in the world can become extraineous when left to simmer for a length of time. Another way of saying this exists in the immortal words of my wise, world-observing grandmother;

"Things will always look better in the morning."

This advice was passed on to me via my mother, and I find it true time and time again. I tend to fixate on problems at hand so intensely that all other things are shut out of my mind, in turn eventually shutting down my ability to think like a rational person. When I am willing to sink in to this idea of letting go of the thing being fixated upon for now, only with the promise to return to it later, I am able to bypass that fixation due to the perspective gained in what is often just a half a day to a day or so.

Fixation (when it comes to problems) = Stagnation
Fixation (when it comes to creative thoughts) = Thick and exciting new ideas

That is all for formulaic advice today.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Big Thoughts

In writing this, I realize that I am not sure where my five-year plan is – the one that I created as a part of my Survival Skills class as a junior in college, over three years ago. This is not so much a problem, considering my ideas of what I would be doing within that time have proved to be drastically different from what I ended up doing – in a great way. I am definitely curious to create comparison, but I have a relatively good idea – perform. I am not sure what the mention of my location happened to be, but location and content definitely ended up different – I found my interest in choreography quite quickly, just a couple months out of school. As school was ending, I specifically remember thinking to myself ‘choreography was fun to do in school, but just not my thing.’ As it turns out, three years from when I wrote that plan, I have produced three shows and had work in three others. Though my stream of ideas is not yet always consistent, my feelings of inspiration definitely are – I have been feeling constantly stimulated by tons of things – people, music, rhythms, situations, landscapes – I feel like I am (almost) never switched off.

Even the breeze that just hit me, as I sit here on my recently-attained Chicago patio feels inspiring. I had a moment of ‘oh no, will I regret it if I leave,’ followed by the realization that the few feelings of inspiration that I have felt in the last few days have been generated by things I could notice and feel in many places – that they are not specific to Chicago. Feeling that breeze and looking around to realize that I am sitting on a high porch of an old, character-filled brick building that soaks in the sounds of salsa and the smells of many different kinds of cuisine – THESE surroundings should make me feel inspired, yet I sit here with the feeling that this just isn’t right traipsing around through my consciousness.

I have only within the last few hours started developing the feeling of wondering about what I may miss out on if I do not stay, though again the rewards reaped from heading to what my heart tells me will likely bypass opportunities I could receive here in the short amount of time I am now willing to stay. Let’s say it was still my plan to stay until I got into the company – I think I could accomplish such I thing. Committing to staying here, I could create an amazing toehold for myself, get connected with some great people, and really get some things going. However, I can feel quite strongly that Chicago is not where my heart is. Particularly with the kind of work I want, my heart cannot be anywhere but with me at all times.

I now find myself pondering the idea that I stay a couple of months to study with JRJP, as I already have an apartment. There is a flaw to this logic – I would still need to find a job – I cannot just spend what I have to be here for a couple of months. Getting a job for a couple months then quitting seems quite silly, unreasonable and hard to attain. Let’s say I stayed two months – with two classes a week from them, I would be getting sixteen classes – I got 15 classes during the week I took the intensive, which I plan to continue taking. I keep flashing back to the idea of wanting to really learn this – which I continue to realize just does not interface with where I want to be in the next even just five years.

My natural tendency is to want to do way more than my time and my brain can actually handle, due simply to the fact that I am a motivated person with many interests. In all this thinking, I realized that I have been maintaining way too many unarranged goals with way too little order and careful thought. “I want to get an MA,” “I want to get a PHD,’ “I want to write books,” “I want to own a dance company in the Twin Cities,” “I want to do research,” “I want to perform.” Throwing in “I want to further pursue this important relationship,” was what really put the breaks on my speeding train of ideas, and forced me to sit down and think about how these things all operate together. I truly did take love, realizing it, voicing it, and most importantly to this rant, moving again, to realize all this.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Waiting for the Dust to Settle

Here I am in Chicago.

Doing exactly what this title suggests - imagine that.

Waiting for excitment to drive me forward - I am not used to this unmodivated sort of feeling. Usually excitement creates inspiration (or is it the other way around? Either way;), but this time I am digging around my head and heart and not finding either.

I am doing my best to convince both that an ample amount of time is needed to evaluate the situation, but another part of my body has been operating within this equation the whole time - my gut. Friends have told me that this is a body part that people all-too-often ignore.

What this means for me is figuring out what to listen to for decision-making, and then using my head for the clean-up work (what about my hands and health, ha ha ha? I must have left them at the 4H building last week :) ). I am a mix o contractions on the issues this situation brings up - while I like to think that I do not care if anyone thinks I am a failure, at the same time, I care a great deal. This brings me to what is and is not failure - a small piece of me thinks that walking away from this new 'adventure' would be, though another knows that it is in ways heroic to listen to your heart when it is screaming at you. Within that last sentence is another issue - adventure. I have been billing this in my brain, during the months leading up to it, as an adventure, much like Calgary. Though when I think about the two (at least with what I know of the later, which is admittably little), Calgary FELT that way - that feeling of excitement and inspiration in my gut. Chicago is not feeling that way. While I know I should give it time to develop it's possibilities, it is hard to let that happen when the opposite feelings are occuring in the pit of my stomach.

I have already thought through how this feelings can be attributed to many things, both personal and professional, some of which were not operating factors as Calgary unfolded last year. It seems unwise to ignore such change and assume that I am in the same condition and frame of mind as I when I went on an adventure last year around this time. A whole year and a LOT of things have passed since then - wouldn't it be obvious to me that I would be approaching everything in life differently, even, or especially, going on an adventure?

I often make decisions because they are what SEEM like the correct path, but moreso because I am the kind of person who needs to have a plan. Having a plan, regardless of whether it is well-thought, makes me feel more calm, makes me feel like I am going somewhere and not stagnating. It seems like the reality is that making an ill-thought-out plan is not the be-all-end-all, and that having to mull through things in the same place before arriving to the correct game plan could be the proper, and even best, choice.

That brings me to thoughts on the 'what's next' idea. I have been doing a great deal of thinking this last day and a half, almost so much that my brain hurts. It took this great displacement for these thoughts to start happening, so I can at least be grateful for doing so, regardless of what the outcome becomes. It seems that there have been plain ideas ahead of me, and options I have not been considering, first off; travel. I do not know why it is in my head that I must RELOCATE somewhere to train, study, experience. If I know I want to be where I know I will land eventually, why not BE there, and travel as I can to gain knowledge? I have always put this off as something I do not have the money for, but realize that it may just be a matter of looking at how I put my money away differently. This way, I am positioned to move forward toward what I want to do where I know I want to do it, while continuing my need for adventure in small and reoccuring doses.

Other thoughts include the idea that I could be gaining here is not worth what I would be missing at home. Initially, my intentions for this relocation were to come here and stay however long it would take me to get into a company and work with them so I could have the experience of working with a paid company. This shifted from 'however long' to 'max five years' to 'max three years' to, in my mind, 'I'll try a year.' Knowing that I wish to impose these time limits, and also that it can often take people four plus years to get into the company I wish to be a part of, these ideas do not seem to align. Yes, I would love to have consistent, paid company experience under my belt at some time in my life. I keep forgetting that there is plenty of life ahead. I worry that the more set I get into my ways, the less likely I will be to pursue such ends, however, if I know one of the ways I am comfortable (and almost desire) being set in is being where I want to end up, it seems I should embrace that and work toward other ideas in that setting. It may be that my 'paid company' experience is found in what I create myself. While I would like to get it with someone else, I could also think of it in a 'why waste time' frame of mind, knowing that there any many things I want to do myself.

All these thoughts, jumbled up like cold alphabet soup....ew. So what happens now? It seems like more sinking, more thinking, gathering advice from trusted friends and letting a little bit more time pass. One thing I do know that I did not before - I would be equally as proud of myself for listening to my heart as I would be for sticking it out - maybe even more proud.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Topic opic opic.

Sun through the blinds. A rare occurance not much seen in these parts at these times.

Trying to make what I want while creating the fuel that drives.

Words and sounds, scratches and drifts Drops and feelings.

Failing flowers in a dish of former food. All former at some point.

And here I sit, thinking about business.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mental Patterning

I am sitting here in my room, at my desk, at my computer, feeling satisfied that I have spent an amount of time in the same place, creating a rooted feeling. After several weeks of chaotic running from here to there, particularly with last week being filled by the EEE show, I was in need of some recuperation time, time alone.

However often and severely I create such a need for myself (and I can admittedly see that it is me and me only that creates these situations for myself), there are very few times I realize, if ever, that I regret it. While, at the time, such a level of scattered busy-ness can feel de-centering and more trouble than it is worth, the process of looking back on such times is most often accompanied with fond thoughts.

A perfect example; this past week. After having not worked steadily for nine months while in Canada (which provided me a lot of free time to collect myself), jumping into a full-time day job with commitments at night was a bit jarring. The first couple weeks of this schedule, I had a hard time remembering and comprehending how I used to operate like this all the time. I am still not too sure of how I used to do it, but have all the same fallen back into such a pattern.

Having had the pleasure of experiencing the exact opposite while I was in Canada, I was given a chance to gain perspective and find a balance between the two. Theoretically, I had discovered such a balance. In practice, it has become clear to me that I have not.

Then it occured to me - like many to most things in life, my ability to properly pattern my time to live my life at its optimum will be a fluctuating thing. I will always be teetering between too much and too little in order to find the proper balance for what life has dealt to me at the time. It seems that there is no such thing as the perfect balance - to believe such an idea would be to accept that life does not change at all as time goes on - something that, when written down, is clearly completely absurd (which is a good thing!)

All of that being said, though this week was a whirlwind, I had a magnificent time all throughout the course of it and looking back on it from a post not so far away. Though my pattern was experiencing a spike in activity (notice I have chosen to avoid the word 'stress,') making it hard to focus on any one given thing, it is that same whirlwind feeling that contributed to my enjoyment of a fast-paced, exciting environment full of quality people. They were all experiencing the same feelings in working toward the common goal we shared, and that in itself was enough to allow the quick pace to meld from something that could cause anxiety into something that created excitement.

Thanks to the powers that be for creating such situations that allow for further understanding of how I see things, and the people and places that function within. Looking beyond the initial layer of a situation always digs out to the surface interesting things....

Monday, July 20, 2009

More to Come

Where have you been?

I have been watching, waiting for new material.

Where have you been?

There will be some - swills of jazz dance successes and gargles of planning.

And a circus-punk marching band from Chicago.

I'm out. For now.

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Field Songs"

On Wednesday I attended my first dance performance since I have been back in the Twin Cities. It was at times delightful and at other times reminiscent of why I left to seek another kind of training.

The first half of the show was choreographically varied and quite engaging. "Lost Lullabies," a piece the company had performed before though I had not yet seen, was among the delightful moments. I was surprised by the use of Jack Johnson music, having figured that Carl would steer clear of pop music all together. The choreography was a perfect balance of creating its own thought line and purpose while reflecting on the musicality and narrative provided through the lyrics. When the piece moved into its second section, I felt it was just the right time to do so, though the music carried the piece on for much longer than I both expected and wished. The world that was created in the first piece was nicely deconstructed and re-built in interesting ways, but simply carried on for too long and lost me in the process.

Leslie O'Niel's piece "Trigger," forced itself to exist in suspended time. While watching the piece, I lost my sense of where I was located in both time and space, just existing with the dancer as she explored a memory that she either retrieved from long ago or simply got dropped into with a little bit of personal context. The astral quality of the music assisted in this feeling of suspension, and the memory seemed to simply fade, not end.

"A Fractured Narrative for a Sad Ending," was another piece that felt slightly too long for what it was offering. Despite this, I found myself immersed in a series of actions that at first did not seem to lend to one another, but contextualized themselves as things went along, keeping me interested for the most part and never able to guess how the next set of feelings would be communicated. The 'fracturing' lead to a lot of interesting juxtapositions between sections, causing the feelings the piece moved through to come across even more stark. I found myself most interested in the utilization of props and color - the use of a plexi-glass wall between the two main characters, which later served as a place for the smearing of paint, as well as the opposition created between pieces according to the color palates presented provided mind-bending ways for the 'fracturing' to take place. Instead of discerning a direct connection between the plexi-glass paint wall and the narrative, I was simply moved by the wall's presence and the way it was utilized, giving me a place to connect to the piece without becoming too distracted or worried by why the wall was present.

Flink's new piece "Field Songs," composed the second half of the show. Complete with a live roots-rock quartet and a dance floor of sod, this piece fulfilled its promise of being scenically and aurally pleasing. These elements were enough to make me enjoy the experience, however, I hoped for a more filled out product when it came to the choreography. The ideas being explored regarding urban sprawl and its affect upon the people of dying out rural communities are both interesting and terribly important issues, but also huge issues. When taking on such a large topic, it is quite difficult to really deliver a package of thought unless the product is very focused, and focus is what I felt this piece lacked.

On the contrary to a couple of the pieces in the first half, I left that this piece could have been longer, as there is plenty of room in this large topic to explore, but not without a clear focus. I felt that what the dancers were going through were real and important physically, but because the characters were given little chance to contextualize themselves as people, I had a difficult time identifying with what they were feeling and seeing it as important and impactful.

However, back to scenic interest, everything that was happening physically was aided by the interesting scenic ideas. One dancer spent the entirety of the piece sitting in a small 'garden,' in the middle of her concrete jungle (which took up about a third of the laid stage, the other two-thirds being grass), placing pieces of grass into the ground one by one. What an interesting physical image - one that certainly would not have crossed my mind - that just continued to pull me in and keep me involved with its presence. Additionally, the placing of pieces of concrete to create a pathway across the grass toward the end of the piece was symbolic and genuine enough that everything leading up to this action was made worth it just to get there.

All in all, the scenic elements created a great world in which to explore such important concepts, though the exploration does not yet feel complete; greater work toward making genuinely connected use of intelligent, impactful live music, and striving toward more defined characters with strong, focused messages could carry this piece even further into both the feild and our feelings.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thoughts on Blink

"Blink" by Malcom Gladwell - a great book.

"How good people's decisions are under fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal." Pg. 114
*This is why we do all these things - to prepare the brain for the 'actual' situation - to know as much about as many factors as possible so that when the factors that can only be present in the 'actual situation' show themselves, you are all the more likely to handle the situation as best as you can. Adding an audience, with dance or performance of any kind, heightens the situation beyond what one is capable of feeling without that factor. One can remember from previous experiences what it felt like at that particular time, but never be able to actually put themselves in those shoes until they have been purchased and put in front of them. It is preparing the dancers for everything added in when performing (lights, the stage space, costumes, music levels, show order) that makes the addition of the audience, a non-duplicatable, one time thing, managable and even a positive additional attribute.

"Allowing people to operate without having to explain themselves constantly turns out to be like the rule of agreement in improv. It enables rapid cognition." Pg. 119
*Self-employment: The obvious benefit is getting to decide what you do yourself. An additional side effect of that is not having to explain it to anyone else. This catapults me to the last weeks of desire to be done training (explaining myself to someone else) and be off on my own (making my own snap decisions and not having to wait for permission or approval). This may be much of why I enjoy independently producing - I have people to answer to (my dancers, the theater), but ultimately I am making decisions on my own that affect the people involved.

"Once we know how the mind works - and about the strengths and weaknesses of human judgement - it is our responsibility to act." Pg. 276
*All important thoughts processed such as these are just that - thoughts - unless you take them into action. This is why I am so staunch about speaking and acting exactly the way I think is best. I do not try to push these thoughts on others, but rather, focus my energy on acting the way I wish. This way, at least I am not being a hypocrite to myself. You are the first person that you answer to, and once you have that down pat, things can radiate out if you wish them.

This book made me think a lot about how I take in information and pass it on. I know I have a tendency to make quick judgements and have spent a great deal of thought trying to figure out how I can be less abrassive in hopes of being more effective in communicating. This is all fine and good - a worthly pursuit of positive self-development - but becomes a negative pursuit when it gets in the way of honesty and efficient thought. Long story short, I am simply trying to say that no one way to think and communicate is correct. Much like most (or I argue every) things in the world, thought and communication require ying and yang. A little bit of editting here, and bit of snap judgement there, and you are on your way. As long as these actions are concious!

Beyond those thoughts, just comments on attempts to create a well-working routine. I have a decent one set up for myself - up at seven, run and exercise till 8, breakfast, work creatively until 10 or 11, depending upon what the day has in store. I try to do this six times a week, leaving one day for wiggle room. For the most part this has been sucessful, but what has surprised me is the amount of work I feel I have. Granted, I do have a show coming up, but am only doing one piece for it, so it is not like the choreographic work load is gigantic. However, when I was rehearsing and creating several pieces at a time for a singular show, I was not trying to keep myself engaged in outside creative practices like writing, music listening, etc. I suppose when it comes to that sort of situation again, I have to be willing to be flexible. When I have permitted myself the luxury of time to do such things, it is a-ok to do so. When I am in fact doing several pieces at a time, I will have to allow myself to drop some of these exercises in favor of having the time and brain-space to be thorough with the choreographic work.

Starting to think about practical work, and the theoretics have run off course. I should probably listen....

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Beginnings of a Jazz Manifesto

I spent a great deal of time trying to formulate my thoughts on the Wen Wei Dance show I experienced on April 15th. Not one to normally experience a knee-jerk reaction after seeing a show, I usually need some time to mull over what I saw before I can really know my thoughts. However, the week it took me with this show seemed excessive. After mulling a bit, I realized that training deeply in a certain approach can tint your glasses. By that, I mean when I was training in a modern-based university, I saw shows like this all the time, and, while they often did not move mountains for me, they were easy to tap into, and after seeing so much of the same kind of movement, it was harder to discern that much of it seemed recycled. After spending the greater portion of a year training with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, I noticed quickly how much the Wen Wei show seemed to look like so many of the other shows I was seeing in the Twin Cities. DJD has altered my outlook on dance quite a bit this year, for numerous and varied reasons. Not one to be short on words and definitely one to ponder my thoughts through writing, I followed these tendencies and launched into these reasons below.

I am modivated to move most often by the sounds and rhythms that I hear, so to me, this is often simply the most authentic way for me to get engaged in dance (and authenticity is argueably a concept important to all dance practicioners across the board). Purpose for and connection with the music is such a large part of what is done at DJD, and this aspect of it is easily identifiable to me as the main reason why I feel personally in tune with the work. I like to dance when I am out at a club just as much as I like to dance on stage, and the common thread between those two things is music. DJD has brought me closer to using my eyes, ears and mind keenly regarding the relationship of dance and music. The Wen Wei show could have been performed in near silence, and likely would have been as affective for me as it was with the score being used, due to both the music's lackluster quality, and the lack of connection between it and the choreography and performance. Dance existing as a spawn of the music is NOT something that should be looked down upon. So many modern and contemporary schools believe that the dance should come first, and that the music should be created or found for it. While I appreciate this idea and sometimes engage in it myself, I do not think it is the be-all-end-all of dance.

My previous deep, institutional training was executed by a set of people in which there were many believers of the 'Be-all-end-all, music-after-movement' adage. Fortunately, there were a couple who were not so straight-lined, but in fact had their feet pretty firmly planted on the other side of the line, such as my wonderful jazz instructor Karla Grotting. This is not to say that none of the people from either side waivered over the line - there was quite a bit of waivering (and truthfully, I am coming to think that much of my choreographic product waivers in this area as well). It is to say that this line I speak of seemed quite tangible. As I got further into my schooling, I discovered that, with its respect for and connection with the music, as well as the notation of history and permission to emote, jazz dance seemed to be my most fitting form. I have since placed great importance on the continuation and development of jazz dance within the Twin Cities and in general, and have done a lot of thinking regarding how to fight of the music-after-movement skeptics. Some of the various thoughts I have collected;

- Collaboration: As a jazz dancer, you are not a 'slave to the music,' but a part of a collaboration. The musical part of the collaboration, be it in improvising or in dancing to a piece of pre-recorded music, can serve to take you places as a dancer that you may not have gone on your own.
- Versatility: Jazz music has fused with pretty much every other form of music, and if it hasn't, it can. Owning the basics of this dance form can provide a base for catapulting into new musical movement territory.
- Instrumentation: When people hear the word instrument, they think music. However, the word 'instrument' simply refers to a device. Both dancers and musical instruments (and a great deal of other such things) are devices to convey emotion, so why not explore those two devices together for a more powerful affect?
- Which Came First? Music or Movement: This can be as age-old as the chicken-egg arguement. Dance and music are inherently connected. Music cannot be made without a body, and the body often best responds emotionally to music. When seen in this light, their interconnection seems hard to deny.
- Embracing Humanness: When experiencing a dance that simply seems to be celebrating the music, if one takes into account the inherent humanness of dance and music existing as result of one another, this dance already has its purpose, and there should be no need to add on an externally-modivated purpose if the creator did not feel it necessary. This incredible humanness alone is enough to create purposeful, satisfying dance.
-Rhythm is Key: Our body runs on the rhythm of our heart. We can make rhythm with our bodies. It seems that the concept of rhythm could be the key to future permutations of dance, considering that it is always there, regardless of the status of music.
- Music & Dance Are Still Important in Popular Culture: With music, this statement seems obvious. With dance, it is becoming moreso (with positive and negative affects) due to television shows such as 'So You Think You Can Dance.' I have questioned in the last couple of years why it seems that when it comes to entertaining oneself, people do not seem to 'go out dancing' anymore. While this was a sad black hole of thought for me for awhile as a lover of social dance, it became clear to me with more thought that it is not that people do not 'go dancing' anymore, they simply refer to it as something else ('going to the club'), and execute it differently (most often more free-form than in the past, where learned, uniform dances such as the waltz, fox-trot, polka and lindy hop dominated).
- Jazz is an Audio, Visual and Corporeal History of Our Country: I don't know that this needs much justification. :) If history is not a valid modivator, why the hell do we continue to support ballet?
- Definitions: Jazz music and dance employ rather different definitions. In a way, I think that jazz music seems more open than dance to taking different fusion forms under the hood of its main title, but I also tend to think the term 'Jazz' has become a bit of a catch-all in the dance world. It seems that dance latches onto the 'jazz' title for anything that exercises counts and uses that device as a way to provide a surface-level musical connection, and this could be a big reason why certain crowds of dance enthusiasts seem to be skeptical of 'jazz.' When done properly, dance to jazz music can have such a deep, emotion connection with the music that offers performance power like no other. When seen this way, I find it very difficult to be skeptical. It will take work to well-define each, but in the mean time, I know that for me personally, being able to grasp a hold of and use this defined word of 'jazz' has become less important. As far as I am concerned, I am modivated by sound and rhythm, and much of the music that inspires me does not fall directly under the hood of 'jazz.' This does not stop the fact that it inspires me, but I think it will force me to try and find a new definition for what I seem to create. These thoughts have lead me to another word to ponder: Vernacular.
-Modern Disconnect: A modern disconnect from jazz music seems to be the attitude that it is 'sit and listen' music. Even if it is free jazz that employs close to no identifiable rhythmic structure, this music is still utterly capable of making a body want to move, and people should be encouraged to do so and in turn become an active participant, rather than to sit and be a passive observer.

An additional side-affect that I have experienced from training at DJD this year is the desire for and practice of knowing not only the intentionof the dance, but how you fit into it. Knowing the choreographer's intention is all fine and good, but if you do not know how to make it come across, something is missing. I believe the dancers in the Wen Wei show did the best they could with what they had, which seemed to be direction lacking clarity. I saw loose relationships develop and create suggestions, but the nonchalantness of their performance against a non-changing sound backdrop made it hard to distinguish which situations were important. To find a connection between intention and performance at DJD, it is not only encouraged, but expected that a dancer actively pursues this through combinations of speaking with the choreographer, creating a back story or character for oneself, going through dances and examining the opportunities to exploit these ideas, as well as opportunities to connect with one another if that is what the dance calls for. These are just examples, but the through-line is knowing how to develop your performance so as to best communicate the idea. The movements alone are not enough - they must be executed with integrity and honesty to your background for the piece to really get the intention across. For me personally, this meant not being afraid to show emotion through my face. Overdoing it is often better than under, as overdone can be toned down, but underdone can make it hard to dig that emotion out.

With several opportunities to sub adult classes, I rediscovered my desire to share my passion with competent, developed people who wish to be there and absorb the knowledge. I was able to form some great classes, including specific classic exercises I plan to bring home and integrate into the workshops I will be teaching this June at Zenon Dance Company & School (a very exciting step for me).

If you want to be a choreographer, you must be creating consistently. In my mind's eye, I know this is true, but it never hurts to hear it again. A couple times. No - Consistently. I have commited myself to the idea of daily improvisation practice, and have began to read Twyla Tharp's book 'The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life,' so as to better understand myself as a creator and what I need to do to keep myself at my most productive and high-quality level.

I am musical and connected, rhythmically correct and invested, but I can always push myself further physically. I hesitate to say 'technique,' because that causes self-doubt and gets me in my head, but thinking 'physically' makes me push further. In addition to our dance training, I took up going to the gym and taking yoga classes for a period of time, and I was pleasantly surprised to see just how easy it was to take on more. This also further developed my interest in personal training, as well as a desire to see just how much physical conditioning I can take on and what the results might be in the future. I believe that additional training and conditioning, paired with willingness to push myself physically while dancing, can take me places as a performer and movement lover in general.

I enjoy chocolate-chip cookies and yet-to-be-defined baked-goods, all in the same basket.

Whaaa? I will connect this seemingly random subtitle in a moment, rest assured. Back to a previous connector, my observations of the Wen Wei show made more sense to me as I considered the fashion of my training this year. Who knows; maybe if I had been training in a modern school all year, I would have raved about it. However, I know myself well enough to doubt this. I think I have simply had the opportunity to better understand why it is that I enjoy dance, and much of that has to do with respect for and use of the music, alongside many other great reasons. As I move further on my creative journey, it seems to me that jazz as a dance form is a delicious chocolate-chip cookie, fresh out of the oven when done right (like at DJD), and that while I know I enjoy baked goods (dance/ movement creation), and am getting a better idea of what spices to add to make the product as delicious as possible, I am still figuring out the best cooking methods and what to call this delicious baked good when it is done. Regarding the place of my time with DJD on this journey, I can say with utmost certainty that I tried some amazingly delicious cookies, and am much closer to figuring out my recipe. With equal certainty, I offer that I am sure my recipe will include chocolate chips.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Double-Sided Tape

I have been trying to formulate my thoughts on the Wen Wei Dance show that I experienced on Wednesday night for quite some time now. Not one to normally experience a knee-jerk reaction after having seen a show, I usually need some time to mull over what I saw before I can really know my thoughts about it. However, the amount of time this show has taken me has gotten excessive. I can only find it fit, then, to assume that I have mixed feelings. Double-sided tape.

To begin, after mulling a bit, it WAS easy for me to realize how much training a lot in one certain form can skew your perception of everything you see. By that, I mean that when I was training in mostly modern in university, I saw shows akin to this all the time, and, while they often did not move mountains for me, they were a mode of thought easy to tap into. Due to the frequency with which I saw such shows, I also noticed less when I felt that the vocabulary looked awful similar from one show to the next. Because I was seeing so much of the same kind of movement, it was harded to discern the fact that much of it, when looking in from outside, seems recycled. After spending the greater portion of the year training with DJD, I noticed quickly how much this show seemed to look like so many of the other shows I was seeing in the Twin Cities. DJD has altered my outlook on dance quite a bit this year. At least in practice. Purpose for and connection with the music is such a large part of what is done at DJD, and one of my favorite parts. I like to dance when I am out at a club just as much as I like to dance on stage, and the common thread between those two things - music. Dance existing as a spawn of the music is NOT something that should be looked down upon. So much of the modern and contemporary schools believe that the dance should come first, and the music be created for it. While I appreciate this idea and sometimes engage in it myself, I do not think it is the be-all-end-all of dance. I am modivated to move most often by the sounds and music I hear, so to me, this is simply, often the most authentic way for me to get engaged in dance. And authenticity is a concept that is arguably important to all dance practicioners across the board.

That being said, I had a very hard time with the sound scape in the show. The choreographer's notes explained that the concept is trying to explore dual cultures, being a Chinese-born Canadian. He wanted to do this though the use of Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons.' I heard the first season worked into the scratchy, repetative soundscape, but none of the next three because I had been placed into a lull by the surrounding sounds. The soundscape did very little for me because it never went anywhere. Apparently the concept surrounded the idea of a day or a year in the life of, and while I can see that one might envision such a cycle as relatively consistent, it can also be thought (and I think would be more effective) that a day or year cycle has many ups and downs, both major and minor, so why not show that? I think that came through here and there decently well in the choreography, but my ability to really bite into the dance I was watching was negated by the sound that NEVER seemed to shift. It made me think about what I was going to eat when I got home a couple times, as well as let my eyes droop more than a few times. I am not trying to say that all dance has to be directly connected to the music, but if you are going to have music, find a way to make it purposeful somehow. I almost thought that this show could have been performed in near silence and that it would have affected me nearly as well. I am simply saying that training with DJD this year has made my eyes, ears and mind keen to the purpose with the music, and really further developed my love for dance that really USES the music.

An additional side-affect that I have experienced from training at DJD this year is really knowing not just the intention, but how you fit into it. Knowing the choreographer's intention is all fine and good, but if you do not know how to help it come across, something is missing. Here, to find that, it has been combinations of speaking with the choreographer, creating a back story or character for yourself, going through the dance and examining where you have opportunities to exploit these ideas, and also finding opportunities to connect with one another as ideas or characters if that is what the dance calls for. These are just examples. But the through-line - KNOWING the ways in which how you perform can help to communicate the idea. The movements alone are not enough - they must be executed the right way to really get things across. I think that the dancers in this show did the best with what they had. I saw loose relationships develop that seemed to suggest that they were just examples of what a certain relationship can look and behave like without creating a specific story about Jane and John Doe who were dancing together. This idea was aided by some really physically interesting and innovative partnering that was executed astonishingly. Overall, I DID get the feeling that these were many different people moving through many different things, but I felt for awhile like these things were supposed to be important, considering that the choreographer returned to many specific formations and repeated certain gestures, but with the nonchalantness with which the repeats were performed, and against a non-changing sound backdrop, it was hard to try and distinguish why the repeated situations were important at all.

In regards to the 'generic people experiencing things' idea previously mentioned, I felt that the vocabulary for the most part was conducive to this, but the very beginning scene, in which the dancers walk out and stand in parallel facing forward and staring into the audience, was clique and unnecessary. I hate the word clique, and honestly belive that if something such as that was imporant to you as the choreographer to include, more power to you. However, I cannot as an audience member shake the fact that the only impact that image had on me was 'modern dance staring. 'I am every man, and I make that clear by standing here in the beginning and staring at you before I move.'' I would have been happy for them to have simply launched into the next sequence, which was one straight line running from up to down stage, which moved across from St R to St L in interesting patterns that came back later in the dance.

All in all, such observations as the one I made above are likely clearer to me considering the fashion of my training as of late. Who knows - maybe if I had been training in a modern school all year, I would have raved about it. However, I know myself well enough to doubt this. I think I have simply had the opportunity to better understand why it is that I enjoy dance, and much of that has to do with music. I felt about this show much like the function of double-sided tape; Opposed.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Methods of Strumming

Dragged strumming. No picks, just fingers. Lacking definition, but comfortably soft. A comfort level that can only be maintained so long while remaining comfortable. But straying away to a new method brings new challenges and new ways of presentation. Such a leaping off point can be its own method of comfortable, if the subject is ready and wanting of the challenge. If the ready and wanting are not present, neither is comfort.

I am not too sure if I need a pick or just my fingers, nor do I know which is which for what is desired. That is most likely due to the fact that the subject of want is still quite unclear. Each way to stray seems to have its benefits and drawbacks. I am feeling a bit of a dent in the side of my zepplin after talking with my assumed summer employer this morning. Laid two people off this year? Not surprising. What is; unsure as to if they will be hiring anyone for the summer, as the current employees have been at one another for shifts and the patio opening is likely to assuage the situation. I have experienced no worry about summer employment up to this point. This dent has caused me to evaluate with more fervor the situation I am about to walk into, and how much I am really looking forward to it. I want coming home to be a re-charge, a refreshing stop between now and what is to come next on the grand scheme of career betterment in dance. With the prospective assumed job looking dim, I cannot help but feel dim about it all in general - I question if this time back will in fact be a pit-stop, or if I will instead fall in the ditch. I know myself well enough to know that I will not ALLOW myself to fall in the ditch, but the worry of course still crosses the mind. Doubt is an extremely common part of the human condition, yes? Or I will choose to believe so in order to work on tapping out the dent on the zepplin.

Truly, everything does work itself out, but I have extreme difficulty not having a plan of some sort. In general, I have been working to operate with a casual demeanor in regards to the directions my life takes, but for the most part, the point of the compass has been somewhat clear throughout. It is arguable to say that it still is, as I know physically where I will be in a month, where I will sleep, but everything in between those major details is still pretty elusive. I am generally a fan of purposeful positive thinking, but receiving today negative information about the state of my assumed emplyoment for the summer makes it very difficult to continue this purposeful choice and ignore the fact that the unemployment rate in the US at this time is 8.5. Considering that I have not even been in the country for severl months, let alone working consistently for anyone, I do now feel caught up in a current of worry regarding the obtaining the regarding of a job. And yes, true, I do think eventually I will find something, but I lament the wasted time finally getting to it when I could have been working, as well as the fact that it may not pay as well as the assumed job for which I was planning. I am not one to need to much, and I intend to keep a relatively tight budget this summer, but I was looking forward to letting a little bit more loose than I have been these last few months, so as to feel unhindered from doing the things we may want to do while I have time with my loved ones from home. I also heartily dislike putting so much focus on monetary gain, but in light of the hard, unignorable facts that I have been depleating my savings for months now, I cannot help but put focus on this, no matter how much it bothers me.

I suppose some discouraged feelings here and there are natural, but indeed hard to acknowledge them in light of their deflating of feelings of anticipation for your next step, which is in fact only a relatively small stepping stone to the next step. Now it is all a matter of the interaction between feelings that cannot be helped and choices made to decide the method with which I will strum.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

West Edmonton Mall

The mall was a strange occurance. Just something I wanted to see (not necessarily participate in, just see), and I went out of my way to hop a bus and check it out. All the express buses the for the day, I caught the #1, an extrodinarily-long route with many stops. While this at times seemed like an inconvenience, it was really a semi-hidden, semi-obvious blessing. The ride there was in the daylight, so I was able to observe the change from downtown to outskirts, in class, in upkeep, in charm (the respective levels of the former not always in ways one would expect). Even within the edges of downtown, there were small-time, small-budget establishments whose edging on run-down gave them character rather than a sense of repulsion. I am having a hard time deciphering between whether Edmonton has hidden charm, or pockets of. I think it is pockets of; there are sections of town that seem impersonal and boxy, like the South portion we first drove into. However, there were sections of town that were positively charming, like when you come to the bridges of the river valley and first see the large river and raiven that edge directly, steeply up to meet downtown. Brilliant. I digress.

There were of course some characters on the bus. There was a man who was smiley and giggly, to the point that you could not tell if he was friendly or drunk. There was the heavily-accented but soft-spoken old Greecian woman who I sat next to, with whom I exchanged a couple of small conversations - just enough for it to be pleasant. There was the too-young-mom whose ambitions clearly got overlooked, but that was overshadowed by how much she clearly loved and enjoyed her young son, who spent the majority of the ride scream-giggling out of joy (which I surprisingly for the most part enjoyed). On the way back, there was a woman sitting next to me who inched on passive-aggressive elbow-wars (which I sometimes get pulled into, and this was one of those times). Such occurances can be frustrating, but this time they were not for me, because I was content in observing, both the negative and the positive. Both need to exist for a well-rounded world. And it of course always helps when you have prescribed the situation its own soundtrack, this time Collective Soul, self-titled. It is like watching an abstract film that has both a sound score and subconcious commentary. All if you choose to observe. I digress yet again.

My trip to the mall was also made pleasant by my bus driver, who not only made sure I understood the routes I needed, but also joked with me. I arrived at the mall 50 minutes before closing time with no stress in my heart because I knew I would not be there for long. I had come to simply observe, and that was whole-heartedly the extent of my wishes. I parted with my Greecian friend and made my way into the white stone fortress.

The best way I can describe it was that it was its own strange little world. I choose strange in the fact that, to me, it does not have a positive or negative connotation in particular, it just quirkily IS. Exists. I felt neither positive or negative judgement toward the place (as I expected to, of course the judgement being the later of the options), just strangeness. Its, strange, isolated existence, both geographically and meta-physically, were enough to baffle me and make me giggle simultaneously. I am glad for its existence, simply so I can marvel at its strangeness, and enjoy the fact that the mall that had too many stores to count, a casino, an amusement park, a water park, a skating rink, demo platforms, fountains, Chinatown, a friggin pirate ship floating in a little sea in a rotunda, and probably many other equally-baffling things that I forgot to mention, a place that probably housed many who had spent away their entire day, took me only 45 minutes and a Tim Horton's coffee (to make change for the bus of course). Though fakeness seemed to permeate the walls, as I came across both a Euro-walk and a Chinatown that wre given their character and strive toward authenticity with plastic, molded architectural likenesses on the wall, I can STILL level with the mall's existence. A slice of life. It just made me grateful for my passion to get out and see 'the real thing,' and my growing ability to see things offered for purchase as 'just stuff.' Truthfully, there was so much to look at, let alone DO, that there was to much at which to look. Though I am admittably easily-overwhelmed, this was overwhelming. For some, it must be an enjoyable experience. For others, it turns them away and toward a quest for the simple. Seemingly, there is polarity in everything; Even the mall.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

New Hair, Old Schedule

Out with the old, in with the new, and back in with the old again.

New: Hair cut -

Unfortunately, these pictures do not best-represent how blond and how bodied the cut is. I love it!
As for bringing back in the old, it is back to the old schedule with "Live and In Synch" now over. It was a great two week performance journey, and I do miss the show. I would have loved to have that third week we were supposed to have, but at the same time it is great to be back in class and soaking that kind of information in as much as possible before time here is finite.

Not much inspirational or deep for me to say right now, just the basics of life as it functions. And really just to put up pictures of the hair, yes?

Friday, February 20, 2009


I great many days between posts. I have not had much time to process quietly to myself through words for quite a bit. The last couple weeks have been a constant stream of goings-on; this is not a complaint, but rather, just something to notice. I cannot suggest, however, that I have no strong feelings regarding what was keeping me busy. A dance festival that I had choreography in, Kris coming to visit, rehearsal for a show for DJD and classes are all REALLY wonderful things to keep busy with.

Walking home after cashing my check today from DJD, it hit me that this is my job right now - performing. I felt exhausted, and had a check in hand to compensate for said exhaustion. What a great feeling. I have been paid for dance before, but not as much (for performing) and not as regularly. It occured to me on my walk that this could be the situation all the time. Of course, I am fully aware that you can make a living in just dance, even just performing, but I have not experienced it quite as fully up until now. A good feeling indeed.

I have also had some revelations regarding teaching, as I have been doing quite the amount of subbing as of late. I always through I just did not care for teaching much and that I just was not very good at it, but that is not it at all - it was just the content of what was being taught, and to whom. I will put it this way - I am not a children's ballet teacher. I have been subbing adult funk and modern, and have very very much enjoyed myself. Beyond that, the students have enjoyed themselves as well, making it clear by coming up after class and asking where I normally teach (to which I have to sadly respond "Nowhere at the moment!") With adults and forms I am interested in, I can communicate clearly and comfortably, and can really see a change when I provide insight to the class. It is so exciting to see the concepts get embodied. I have of course experienced that with advanced dancers in the choreography that I have created, but there is just something special about seeing a beginning student have a lightbulb flash in their brain - I am usually equally to MORE excited than them when this occurs! I have been able to gather that I truly do enjoy teaching, and have made it another quest for before I leave Calgary to have solid beginning and advanced jazz classes ready to teach, to bring back to the Twin Cities. I met with Joanne about this, and she provided me some of her insight as a teacher, as well as the information that we are welcomed to check out any videos in the DJD library, which include videos of some of the company dancers teaching specific techniques (Luigi, Matt Maddox, Betsey Hauge, etc.) I have been doing my best to write down some good, solid basics of these masters to use in class, but it most certainly will be helpful to have a video to reference when really trying to get it all notated solidly. I am feeling very excited about the idea of having these solid classes to try and offer back home - try to find a Y, a studio, somewhere (I was thinking maybe Tapestry Folk Dance Center?) to offer a beginning adult jazz class so I can get the practice teaching, as well as begin to further stir interest in the form at home.

As for the next choreographic project, I suppose I should contenplate the last one before moving on. Alberta Dance Explosions went fabulously. There were a couple tech fumbles on closing night, but it was solid other than that. Our tech on that Monday night went longer than I expected, but that was due to the fact that they actually hung some specials for me, which was a lovely treat. Tech run Tuesday, public dress rehearsal on Wednesday, the same day that Kris came in. I actually felt that dress rehearsal was the best run of the piece we had. Good thing the audience was full! The audience was close to sold out every night of the run, which was also very pleasant. I had a great time getting to meet some other area choreographers and seeing what they had to offer. I also really enjoyed seeing how they ran their festival as well, as someone who would like to put together more such shows myself. The one big thing I did note was that they offered a survey to each choreographer at the end - a splendid idea, and I was sure to fill it out and return it promptly. I know I always love to get feedback, and they certainly deserve to receive some after providing us each an opportunity to showcase out work. I wanted to be sure they knew I appreciated the opportunity, so I made cards for the key players. Closing night was lovely - my dancers got me a gift (the sweetest hood-scarf ever, which has barely come off my head since then). I really appreciated it - it was me that should be giving gifts and not them, but I wrote them cards and am taking them out for wine and sushi this weekend, so I figure that is a valid thank you. I also really enjoyed receiving a check for the presentation of my work - it has kind of been a stretch of several days of payment for dance, a REALLY nice departure from the norm of not receiving paychecks. Just receiving a paycheck was nice, but the checks all being for different dance-related things was the icing on the (dance cake?) The best thing about the festival for sure was how the piece turned out. I can say honestly that I feel very sure that the piece, at its moment in time, turned out just the way it should be right now, and Kaja and Andrea performed it better than I ever could have asked for. Their willingness to be a part of the process and great decisions for active performance were overwhelmingly wonderful. I certainly had a lot of moments over the weekend of 'Wow, I am so glad I came here. I would not be here doing this festival with these wonderful people had I not come.' What a great thing to feel.

Kris' visit was very nice. It was for the most part great, good fun, and the parts that were not great, good fun were great and good in their own ways. I have really appreciated both of us being able to open up to one another more as we get to know one another better, as well as developing the ability to talk about important things when they need to be talked about, as well as when to leave them on the backburner in favor of enjoying more simple things presented in the moment. It'll be a tough three months (who ever thought I would be thinking such a thing about anyone? Certainly not me - I call that personal growth :) ) but it'll play out just fine. I am definately not wanted to wish my last couple months here away - there is simply too much to be done to be thinking in such a way.

Now that the festival is over, the focus of this big busy stretch has become Live and In Synch, the DJD educational touring show for kids. We finished rehearsal this week and had our first show this morning. The show is about an hour long, and is absolutely PACKED with material. Between the show itself, set-up and tear-down, it makes for an exhausting couple of hours. And we do it twice a day! Though I am quite tired at the end of it, I am certainly not complaining - today was awesome, and I am truly looking forward to the next two weeks. The kids enjoyed the show so much, and it is great to see very clearly that you are having an impact. I love to spread a love for dance to an interested audience, and they are certainly that. Additionally, I feel so strongly for the work that DJD is doing, and am so happy to be a part of spreading that to people. All jazz dance and music-interested people have to band together to further this fringe form. I am pleased to be doing that here, and it makes me look even more forward to doing the same thing at home.

As for the next project (finally!), unfortunately it will not be Fringe Festival. We were not selected in the lottery, and are 60th on the waitlist (unlikely in my thoughts). Despite this, I still really want to do a show that presents the work of Twin Cities jazz dance artists, especially considering that I have had solid interest from several very talented and high profile people in the community. I am trying to collect my fleeting thoughts regarding how to put this show up myself (though not by myself, as the lovely Heather Parker has confirmed interest in co-producing) in time to make something happen. It is certainly exciting, but it is another ball to juggle in a currently rather full circus. I have never had a juggling problem in the past, but have had the luxury of not having to quite as severly for the last several months, so I am going to have to get in practice. I figure I will put my all into the kids show, and once that is over, I can focus on compiling my notes and thoughts from my experience up here, while also trying to nail down some details for such a show (theater space, dates, etc). Woo!

While many things float in an undefined space for me right now, there are two things of which I am positive - I am really excited to live at home for the summer, and I am so very glad that I came up to Calgary this year!