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