Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mission and Resolutions 2011

I can hardly believe that something so short took me 5 hours of evaluating a year's worth of thinking and writing - must be concise (a goal in itself!) Below are the results of my annual New Year's Resolution extravanganza, which this year also included a retrospective of my mission, goals and accomplishments to accompany the usual survey of last year's resolutions and all the thinking/ writing that followed. I will spare you the lengthy goal and accomplishment section :) Happy New Year wishes, particularly to those who continually help me on the way to bettering myself - Thank you.

Mission

Erinn Liebhard is a creative professional developing her own passionate interests in and community support of jazz and rhythm-driven dance and public health, through program support, creation, marketing and management. She strives to achieve a creative/work/personal balance that will allow her to develop as an individual creative force while managing stable employment and personal goals.

Resolutions 2011

Strive/ ENJOY/ Reflect

Flexibility/ Planning

Groundedness/ Change
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Live the way you desire



Happy New Year!!!!!!

The Intro to my Christmas List

It's interesting; in trying to put this together, I am finding that there is very little materially that I can think of wanting - I guess I should consider myself pretty blessed, because I am not going without THINGS I need or want (though I could sure use some new bras, socks and underwear, but I know you will not buy me those for Christmas!) I guess I truly am to the point where what I want is experiences - concert tickets, travel, dance classes, dance workshops. In a way, this is exciting to realize, but in a way, it helps me figure out why people often want THINGS - they often cost less, not more!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Personal Performance Review?

Maybe that is what this is. Between these screens and the pages in my journal, a constant attempt to evaluate myself. Let's face it - I am not a line of work that provides me periodic performance reviews, so I have to do it myself.

I suppose I do not HAVE to, but it's sure hard to tell if you are getting anywhere without trying. That is why, over the free time I have at the holidays (in other words, self-imposed suspensions from working on projects that do not have set hours, ie, pretty much everything important I am doing), I intend to evaluate my progress, new skills, goals, etc. I'd like to know what I have accomplished in the last year. It has become hard to tell when the to-do lists I keep are electronic, and deleted week by week. This seems like something I am going to have to change if I want to properly track progress. I had the fleeting thought of trying to switch back to a paper calendar as well, but I think I have decided against it. The crucial tracking is all in the tasks. Fortunately, a plan has been laid to track Rhythmically Speaking hours, but I put that plan in place in late September and have, to this point, not been so awesome at using it or being diligent with it. Now that everything in that arena is solidifying, I suppose it is time to get serious about that.

Another reality - most of this is in prep for creating my yearly batch of New Years Resolutions. Yes, some find these lame and overdone, but for me, they ARE that personal performance review I am referencing, Because so much of my work crosses over into the personal arena (I think this is true for most artists), it is crucial to take time for personal evaluation. I look forward to putting these resolutions every year, because it forces me to slow down and reflect rather than bulldoze forward. The fact that I have not posted a substantial entry to this blog since September is decent evidence of the bulldozing. And indeed, I know myself well enough to know that if I do not take the time for this kind of reflection, the direction and objects I am bulldozing may not even contribute to the overall path I have set for myself as desireable. That being said, I suppose the obvious answer is to allow myself time to use this tool. In the past, I have been pretty good with prioritizing this. The period of time I was best was certainly when I was in Canada, as I had a surplus of time and a practical deficit of money. In the Spring and Summer of this year, money was at slight surplus, and time was in extreme deficit. Now, I definitely have more time than I did in the Spring and Summer (by carefully calculated choice), but money is borderline.

The two great factors in dictating earthly choices. Sometimes I hate this, because it feels so binding, and other times, I think it awesome because it encourages prioritization and creative thinking (both of which I could use more). It seems like this is a pattern I will fight with for quite some time, at least as long as I continue to forge the Dance Artist pathway. In the mean time (as I have no intention of jumping ship from that pursuit for the forseeable future), I have just been trying to focus my 'job' energy on making each hour pay a little better. Trying to take on more teaching, finished my personal trainers certification (yes, I am no ACE certified!) in hopes of using that for daytime teaching and even hourly options at a YMCA, intending to search for sering opportunities in the new year. The last option will likely need to wait until mid to late spring, as patios will be opening and restaurants will hopefully be hiring. I have come beyond the need for the people I am working with to know I am intelligent - where it matters most (dance pursuits), they know this. However, I feel like landing work in a gym will help with concerns in this area. In the midst of this flurry of thoughts, the most immediate goal is the idea of 'making each hour pay better.' This way, I can keep the amount of 'job' hours low and the amount of 'work' (dance) hours up.

Wow, there is a whole lot going on in this brain. The theory is that if I dump it out now, focusing on all the other things I am to work on this afternoon will be much easier. This theory generally works.

Intended actions of this 'Personal Performance Review' I intend to undergo in a couple weeks;
- Taking inventory of ALL the things I have accomplished in 2010.
- Writing an email to go with Christmas cards to the people who influence me as a dancer, outlining what I have been up to and how they have helped.
- Writing a detailed 'Take 10,' an idea I took from a book called 'Brag: How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.' Sadly but truly, many talented and wonderful people do not know how to talk about themselves without feeling guilty.
- Assessing my personal mission statement, an idea I got from the book 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.' Wow, I feel like I am being paid to advertise self-help books. Also, Kris is in business school and they spend a bunch of time teaching them about such things, and I believe it is rubbing off on me. In a good way. There sure isn't anything wrong with being aware of how you spend your time and how to best spend it, particularly where busy-to-the-core artists are concerned. DO NOT BE AFRAID of mainstream 'business strategy' and 'personal guidance' books. DO NOT BE AFRAID!!!!
- Assessing the goals and plan that go along with this mission statement (including key information and contacts. I guess this is a five year plan of sorts, but the first time I tried making one of these, I went ape-shit and made a detailed excel documents with exact times. Fortunately, I have amazing, insightful friends (Kim M, Kim W, Sarah, Kris) to help me see when I am blinding myself).

As a result of this personal performance review, I want to take everything I get out of it to;
- Re-write Mission Statement
- Re-write Goals
- Write my New Years Resolutions
- Re-write my resumes (dance and work)
- Re-write the language on my website, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Blog profile - basically anything public that provides a scope of who I am as a professional

Other ideas? They are welcomed. As I am totally serious about there being no one else to provide me a performance review, I really want this to be worth it, and suggestions from trusted friends would only help!

I thinking of all this, one of the things I am most excited about is taking inventory of all the things I accomplished over the year. To me, this is more than meeting work-related goals, but includes all the fun times and adventures. I have to admit that even though I consider myself very self-confident and aware, I can get down on myself, questioning whether or not I really have accomplished anything or done anything to the level of excitement of which I expect for myself. In thinking about the last year, in turns out, it really isn't hard to being a list;
- BellaVida
- Winnipeg Folk Fest
- Another successful year of Rhythmically Speaking
- Rhythmically Speaking becoming a Fiscal Sponsor of Springboard for the Arts
- Completing a successful Rhythmically Speaking GiveMN Campaign
- Forming a Rhythmically Speaking board, complete with Zoe Sealy, a long-respected member of the dance community
- Renting the Southern for next year's RS Show
- Substitute teaching for Karla Grotting at the U and for her advance BALLARE class
- Performing with Eclectic Edge (Karis Sloss and Zoe Sealy), Karla Grotting/Jeffrey Peterson/ Jennifer Glaws for Rhythmically, Lisa Conlin, Kelly Radermacher for Fringe Festival
- Laying plans to perform with Off-Leash Area for 2011
- Choreographing/ presenting 4 different works ("Catious Conscience" - Performed Jan at Patrick's, "I Can't Ignore You" - performed March at 9 x 22, "Did I Do That?" - Created, Peformed August at Bedlam and December at Patrick's, "Arguegreement" - Created, Performed at Zenon Scholarship show Dec)
- Collaborating with Dameun Strange, composer, on a new music and dance project
- Applying for the Momentum Grant
- Applying for a Jerome Travel Grant
- Applying for the Live Music for Dance Minnesota Grant
- Serving on an MRAC panel
- Undergoing voice lessons, getting my voice back in shape and having a song prepped for auditions
- Worked at the State Fair for 4H once more, making my paid service there total 6 years
- Worked as Booking Assistant for Bedlam Theatre, gathering new skills, assisting an organization I care about and making great new artistic connections
- Passing the test and becoming an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer
- Joining the YMCA and learning about exercise science and habits, furthering my own personal fitness and nutrition
- Passing the three-year mark in a wonderful relationship
- Gogol Bordello
- Pretty Lights
- Lotus
- Tab Benoit
- Planning and Executing Otto's Suprise Gradutirement Party
- Planning and Executing the Clogger Holiday Show
- Many memorable clogger gigs (Fergus Falls, St. Peter, Big Island)
- Hanson (and buying Sarah's ticket for her birthday!)
- Choreographing for Arts-In
- Teaching Youth Jazz class for Zenon in the spring
- Becoming confident in subbing abilities by subbing throughout the metro all year

This is a pretty decent list, and it ain't over yet! I guess the moral here is that accomplishment is all a matter of perspective.

Now I am really amped for this 'Personal Performance Review.' Reflection, here I come!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

today (is a flashback) that coughed up a 'plan'

It's grey, rainy and crappy here, and I am feeling ill-motivated. This is especially weird because I have been really on-it the last week and a half. I had been letting everything I need to deal with pile up post-fair, thinking I'd have all this time on my hands. Ha. Should have known better of myself.

How did I get myself here? . . . Yes, this is not just a question drunk 20-somethings ask themselves when they wake up in an unfamiliar front yard.

The first two weeks of August were filled with Fringe and trying to amiccably navigate my way to the end of my employment with Bedlam. They are fly-by-the-seat, and I am sometimes almost too organized for my own good. I thought in that regard maybe I would learn something from their operating method, and if it were a show or artistic project I had been involved in, that may have been the case. Because employment seems to be one of the few things where I have seemed to think I could locate consistency in my life, I came to see that while I very much respect their mission and what they do as artists, and have loved having the opportunity to produce work there, me and the administration just were not meant for one another. My last week of work was the week previous to my show, the last long-run show in the space.

All this got me thinking a bit more, particularly as it became clear that, beyond August, my financial situation would require major revamping in terms of working enough at a good enough rate to subside. However, I put this tangle of thoughts aside to get my show up, running and closed.

The show was generally a success. In the middle of it all, I found myself getting pretty overwhelmed with the amount I had taken on. The amount as a dancer, no problem. The amount as a producer, no problem. The amount as a choreographer, definitely not a problem. The problem? All these loads mixed together into one big lump of cookie dough with not enough water in it. I came through, but there were times that I questioned the amount I took on. However, dancing in 4 out of 9 of the pieces in the show was precisely what I wanted for myself as a performer from this opportunity. Considering the kind of work I love and excel at is not happening as frequently as I'd like it to in the Cities, when I create opportunities for it to be presented, of course I am going to do everything in my power to perform within it as much as possible. Yes, it caused some headaches, but I do not regret it in the least. I got to work with choreographers who I had always wanted to work with (Jeffrey Peterson and Jennifer Glaws), and got to continue working with my deeply respected mentor, Karla Grotting. Though the week itself was insane, I am glad I did it the way I did.

This year's show also brought some unexpected difficulties. Two major things stick out to me; first, the choreographers seemed to think that the space was available for them to use, no need to ask. This caused overlapping 'rehearsals' and general discord. It also did not help that I happened to be the Booking Assistant for Bedlam at the time, the exact person with whom to schedule such rehearsals. This was a task I was not planning on having to fit into my to do's that week. We got it under control by putting a 'space sign out' sheet up backstage that noted the ONLY available times and split them into equitable slots. The other thing was the audience videotaping! We made announcements at the beginning with the normal stuff (no cell phones, no flash photos, etc), but didn't think we'd have to make an annoucement about video! The last night, the house manager spotted someone taping and went in to tell them to put it away, only to discover the same person taping by the end of the first half again. Rude as hell. So we made an annoucement at intermission stating that videotaping is strictly prohibited - it blocks the view of others, and Heather and I were paying to have a professional video done. If people want a video, buy the damn DVD - we are only planning to charge $10, which is ridiculously cheap comparitively. So after that annoucement, there was a guy in the FRONT ROW taping. I got so pissed I wanted to stop dancing and tell him to put it away, but I knew that would obviously only make me look like an asshole too, so I refrained. But boy, did I want to!

Overall, it was great - audiences were not has big as we wanted Thursday and Friday, but Saturday made up for both - we had people sitting on the floor, and considered it an overall sell-out! The work was great - the show itself was generally seen as even better than last year, and I got written about specifically in a review - I have never had a reviewer focus on me as a performer, so that was VERY exciting; http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2010/08/20/its-all-about-rhythm.

Then, it was almost immediately off to the fair. I had one day of nothingness (I had it written in my calendar for months. The day following the show, Sunday, was labelled 'Nothing Day,' and I promised myself to plan nothing). I ended up taking myself for a bike ride, out to breakfast, and went tubbing with Kris on the Cannon River. Good times. The fair was what it was - every year I end up feeling like I am eternally frozen at 16 in that building. People tend to forget that 4H kids grow up and get real jobs. I often found myself feeling frustrated by how tiny little changes could do a lot of good, but how people who have worked there for many years simply respond 'but this is how we've always done it,' and make no effort to absorb new ideas. I think that my time working for 4H at the fair is limited. I really love giving back to the program and being in that building, but I want to be able to utilize my skills (I have been a manager for crips sake, it's really hard to be treated like a teenager) to the best of my ability. This really got me thinking about how it would be a dream job to me to work year-round for the Fair! In short, I was happy to be there, I cannot imagine being anywhere else during that time of year, but I am hoping that I will be there in coming years for a different employment situation!

During the fair, even though I had pushed off thoughts of 'what's next' for after, I found myself starting to think about the upcoming year, and realizing that my slate was not clean at all, like I thought it to be. Even though I decided to stick with my coffee job and not add any hours to make up for my lost job, I still feel like the world has piled on me. The next week, I sat down to assess my commitments for the year and their duration, as well as my future goals. I used to have a big, detailed ten-year plan, but my experiences are coming to suggest that such things never hold true when they are so stringent. Part of good planning is to realize that your plan my be de-railed by a life circumstance or a new opportunity. So I revised this ten-year plan of sorts into more of a list of goals and information, split into categories that reflect my current and desired commitments. I also wrote myself a personal mission statement in attempt to define more clearly what I actually want and am trying to accomplish with all these pursuits. In the course of this, I also re-did my resumes. Beyond that, I sat down and attempted a general assessment of what a typical week would look like for me this fall, and where the open spots were to pursue my projects. I was expecting to work about 20 hours, and have about 20 hours for projects, not including rehearsals for Eclectic Edge Ensemble. Sadly, during a period that I really thought I am under-committed, it turns out all the projects I have on my own really take something like 30 hours a week. I think I am coming to realize that my weaknesses do not lie in planning, but rather in the execution, specifically in regards to estimating how much time a thing takes.

I have realized that I have a tendency to just make a list of all the things I need to do and think I can accomplish in a week, without really thinking about how much time each thing takes. Sure, I have even gone so far as to give tasks days, but I still never tried very hard to figure out how much time each would take. So I have attempted to turn over a new leaf in that department.

I am planning to make a to do list for each week starting mid-week before, depending upon the progress of each task on the current week's sheet, as well as looking at my goal document and seeing which smaller elements of major goals I could begin to take on. So this fall, I have found myself committed to the following; working at Ginkgo three mornings a week, teaching dance one night a week, choreographing a piece for the Zenon scholarship program, choreographing new work with a composor/ live musicians for a showcase in February, making prorgess on my personal training certification, attempting to further develop Rhythmically Speaking, dancing and being on the board for Eclectic Edge, taking dance class as much as I can, and taking voice lessons with my dad to improve my voice for auditions. I also want to put a lot of energy into figuring out the best plan for my career/work development. I am starting to reach the point where I can no longer work between 3 and 4 jobs at a time, many of them for crappy pay, just to make ends meet and allow me to pursue dance. However, I still place great importance on my development as a dance artist. My major goal is to make more money in less time (who doesn't want to do that!). I am trying to be reasonable, and figure that if I can find the right job (involved enough that it modivates me but not so involved that it fries by brain from being creative when I am done), it can work. I don't think it is unreasonable to think I could get $15-$20 an hour at my current experience level, and especially if I get further schooling. With that, between 25 and 30 hours I am set! To figure out the right way to navigate this and what path to take, I plan to go on a shit ton of informational interviews(have already started setting them up) and to start opening my search to corporate job boards. I used to pride myself on never having worked for a corporation, but when it really comes down to it, not all corporations are evil, and not all non-profits are awesome. Bottom line, corporate jobs are a lot more likely be to paying in the range I need, and may also open me up to areas of work that I had not been able to break into or consider previously. I do know that I do not desire to work in arts administration at this time - it has started feeling ridiculous to spent a bunch of brain power trying to better one arts non-profit when I could be taking all that thought generation and applying it to the development of my own pursuits. Ideally, my work/time situation would lay out as 20-30 hours a week in a fulfilling and well enough paying career-esque job (event planning, public health, other areas of interest), and 20 hours pursuing my development as an individual creative force within the Twin Cities dance community (as a producer/ curator, performer, choreographer, teacher and writer).

Oh boy, that is a lot of stuff.

Obviously, I have been putting a lot of thought in. And now, the challenge is to make sure those thoughts turn into actions. Particularly on a day like this.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Suspension of Mental Programming in Favor of Sensory Experience

I gotta call that guy. Too bad I might just find out that he is a whiz on paper, an asshole 'in person.' Journalists. . .

Newsweek provides a fair share of interesting ideas to consider, even in it's flimsy weekly magazine format. I guess I kind of take that back - any publication managing to produce any sort of physical format right now should be lauded. Boy, this is all kinds of not the point.

The point, yes, that is where I was going - is that, among these interesting ideas, there was an article that explored, and in the end blostered, art that 'has no meaning.'

Now, 'art that has no meaning' is somewhat of a misnomer. The dual act of creation and then observation is purposeful in itself. But I'll move beyond that; art that is viewed as 'having no meaning' is often the kind that allows you to suspend mental programming in favor of sensory experience.

In writing this, I am afraid of sounding dangerously as though I am in favor of not thinking. This is in no way what I am meaning to suggest. Rather, I pose that allowing an amount of time in your mind each day for wandering, sensing and feeling is a rather grand idea. Now, art that makes you think hard about something specific is joyful in it's own right, just as art that asks you to clear your mental slate in favor of sensory reaction to what you are experiencing in the moment holds its own set of cards.

This 'defense' of sensory-based art comes during a time that I have been thinking a lot about physical and mental health, and short-term memory loss. In thinking through options for what I'd like to learn about more and work in as a daytime support job to my pursuits as a dance artist, I have been researching and thinking a lot about public health and work/ leisure trends that have come to dictate how we take care of ourselves. Overarchingly, a couple of key ideas continue to surface throughout;

- We are asked to lick up (without even tasting) and process more information than ever at faster and faster paces
- We spend too much leisure time on activities that ask very little of our brains and bodies (perhaps in response to being asked to process TOO much during work periods?)
- We have been inundated with tools that are, while arguably helpful sometimes, a great hinderance to building mental capacity for memory (for example, the ONLY cell phone numbers I have memorized are my own and my mothers)

I feel like I am creating bullet-points to support the 'Slow Food' movement. There must, then, be a 'Slow Brain' movement? Now, that just sounds not-PC.. . . .

After taking a little time to look into this idea, I came to see that there are several different thought arenas on this (as I should have suspected, with everyone and their mom able to publish web content on a near-immediate basis these days. In fact, what exactly is it that I am doing right now than? Hmm...). A couple things to look into;

http://www.slowplanet.com/blog/home/
http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/worklife/06/06/balance.slow.movement/
http://www.slowmovement.com/

I'm aware that bolstering these ideas is ridiculous coming from me, a great example of 'time deficit as status symbol,' but I am working consciously to change that. The best way to do this for yours truly? Art.

Creating, performing and watching dance are a thing of patience for me. I find, time and time again, that the quicker I try to get an idea from my brain into dancer's bodies, the less defined, dynamic and interesting the idea becomes. These are among the things that deserve the amount of time they need to develop into what they could become. And should that also be true when we are considering our own selves as the subject?

Returning to dance, I'd like to posit that the positive benefits of these larger ideas of slowing down and really tuning in can be reaped by engaging in dance that simply asks you to be a part of the moment; to be a visceral, sound-hearing, emotion-experiencing machine.

Colors, rhythms, movement patterns, accents, dynamics, spacial reorientation, emotions, shared experiences, bodily connection.

Jazz and rhythm-based dance forms encourage viewer enjoyment and creativity in ways in which other dance forms seem to often feel uncomfortable. By allowing individuals attentions to focus on what they are drawn to rather than asking them to look for something extremely specific, they are able to become involved and let their imaginations wander down various paths, encouraged by what they are taking in. Many people I speak to who are not regular dance-goers cite their reasoning as 'I worry the whole time about whether or not I am getting 'it.' Do we really want attending an evening of dance to be another place where people are forced to jam more into their already crammed heads? If your answer is yes, more power to you (I can, after all, appreciate the benefits of this kind of dance). If your answer is no (which, mine often is), please help me continue to encourage the 'yeses,' that the 'no's' have some pretty serious logic to their methods, too.

Suspension of Mental Programming in Favor of Sensory Experience. Now, take in some rhythm-driven, emotion-laden, visceral-feeling dance about nothing, and tell me what you feel.

Nothing? . . . Didn't think so.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Thrill of Anonimity?

Sometimes I find myself pre-editing what I am planning to write out of the concern that someone whom I do not want to may find their way to it. What a blaring ridiculocrity - that is not a word.

A squirrel just jumped up in the corner of my window. Bold.

I know sitting down to type this that I was not sure I was in the right mold of mind. It seems that it is happening anyway.

Back to the original, stated purpose of creating this jumble of words - I have been realizing, in the last few days' newest installment of 'oh, shit, am I running my life the best way possible?' that the answer is no, and one of the ways I have come upon to fix that is to have less friends.

Wow, that sounds stuck up and ridiculous, melded into one goofy little sentence. But think about it just a bit more . . . how much time do we now waste trying to maintain relationships that may not hold much stock any longer? Because we are provided with tools that make this 'easy,' we march to our instant messaging programs, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else, relying on them to maintain what were once meaningful connections.

Let's face it - not ALL meaningful connections you create in your lifetime can last. A personal example of this - I am currently feeling very disconnected from my friends from Calgary. It has been over a year now since I moved home, and my contact with most of them has largely reduced to little chits on Facebook, or has all-together dissappeared. Whenever I realize this, it makes me very sad, but in contemplation, has pulled me back to a new year's resolution I made several years ago - to truly believe that friendships do not have to be life-long to be life-changing. I came to writing this after having spent an amazing week as a 4H camp counseler the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. In all honestly, I no longer talk to anyone that I met there, including the guy I ended up dating for awhile. While I could look upon this as sad, I realize that I'd rather look upon it as what it really was/is. It WAS one amazing week of my life that I truly will never forget (down to the water-squirt games in the field, setting up my cabin to Dave Mathew's 'Busted Stuff,' on the little silver boombox that no longer works, the maple-flavored sausage that could not possibly have been good for us in any way, and paddling a canoe out into the lake to provide a performance version of a camp song that included the canoe tipping and it's contents dragging itself back to the fire drenched). It IS a golden memory that I cherish, and a big part of that is the people - Kayla, Alex, Cooper, and others - that created it.

In writing this, it occured to me that one of my favorite teachers from Calgary, Joanne, used to regularly read my blog, when I was living up there. It flattered me at the time, and now it makes me sad that I do not interact with her on a regular basis. However, in considering the larger picture, a return home was inevitable, and along with that, a reduction or loss of regular contact with the relationships I established. Seeing it in this light can at first be discouraging, but ends up being a reminder of the beauty that life carries in it's flexibleness and unexpectedness. I could have as easily never gone to Calgary and met any of these people, and in realizing that, I MUCH prefer it the way I have it - I did meet them, I did have to leave them, but I will always have what it was while it was happening, and connection points to the universe that I would not have had before.

In it's flexibleness, life also does a version opposite of what I had just described. Sometimes, you drift away from close relationships in which you are unsure of what kind of connection you will maintain, only to discover a number of years later that your connection has weaved itself out of fishing line rather than grass. I always knew I would maintain a relationship with Sarah, but never could have expected how important she has become in my life. It is somewhat of a joy to be able to name on your ten fingers the people you really want to see regularly in your life, and she is one of those people. Along with her came Aaron - leaving high school, I never would have expected that he would be a pivitol person in my life, but he certainly is now, and that unexpectednes makes our relationship all that much more enjoyable.

In this same line of thought, as much as I want to maintain relationships I find important, I also have the relatively newfound desire to shed excess ones. That sounds terrible when one has the gumption to actually state it, but we all know it is true. In a world where we are expected to process more and do more, limits have to be drawn somewhere, or we will 'more' ourselves into an oblivion. There are all sorts of art pieces and commentary and movements out there who project this feeling - "We Are Not Gadgets" by Jaron Lanier, the Slow Food movement, the backlash against fast food. While these sorts of things may make this idea seem unattractively trendy to some, I find a lot of value in them. As someone whose natural tendency is to want to do as much with my time as possible, I am realizing that I may not be wrong about this desire, but rather, the way I go about it.

Tuesday was a very overwhelming day for me, my usual day to dedicate to artistic pursuit. Generally, this is my favorite day of the week, though it can often hold equal amounts of resentful feeling due to it's creation as a day to get 'everything' done. When 'everything' creates more things, my feeling of being in control of my time and life seems to get jettisoned out to the sea. I don't think my life needs to exist in that kind of delicate balance.

In my hopes to be moving toward my goals, I have been trying to do it in the fastest way possible rather than the most efficient. To me, 'fastest' entails dancing in as much as I can regardless of how much I really want to do any given project, and taking on as much as possible so I do not have any spare moments. In that way, I feel that I am doing my best to avoid failure because, how can I fail if I am doing everything possible?

My, I can certainly count the ways if I actually stop to think about it. Here is a way - I am doing a lot, but none of it to the best of my ability. I am doing a lot, but it keeps me in a constant state of flurry that keeps me from comfortably settling, even into my leisure time (which I already try to limit as much as possible). Know what ths necessitates? Maintaining many relationships in impersonal ways rather than having a couple handfuls of really meaningful relationships that I can dedicate the kind of attention I really wish to in order to experience them in the most fulfulling way possible. The age old dilemma of quantity v. quality. And the really difficult thing here? It is that no matter how hard and long you try to figure this dilemma out, it is an ongoing, life-long struggle. That may sound cynical, but I would rather think of it like this - such conflicting concepts keep us from becoming complacent, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable we are in our current or projected lifestyles.

So, in the midst of many question marks, forth comes a great many ponderances and dilemmas. While they may be frustrating, they seem to be catapulting me toward a continued better understanding of how I should/ how I want to function within the world. As the wise lady checking me out at the co-op said after she witnessed me run into an aquaintence from the freshman dorm and muse on how we both seem to be 'still' trying to figure our lives out, "Anyone who tells you they have everything figured out is lying to you." We spend our whole lives figuring, which more often than not seems like a difficulty, but really has its hidden beauties . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Amazing and Ridiculous - Two Words with Dual Meanings

That is what BellaVida was indeed. A music festival I attended in Gevena, MN last week, BellaVida is what hecklers would call a big ole’ hippy-fest, and supporters would call the best damn time they have all year. I found myself experiencing the weekend as a curious mixture of the two.

What was + Amazing/ Ridiculous was the music. I felt so at ease and blessed when I laid my blanket down under a huge shady tree between the two stages, positioned just so that each set could be heard with relative distinctness. Looking up at the gentle breeze swirl through the huge old trees while hearing a bad-ass saxophone wail away is certainly an out of the ordinary and welcomed combination. Additionally, I got to meet some pretty fun people and camp out under the sky, cooking my food as quickly as I could on camp stove to encourage my booze to calm down. Lastly, and seemingly one of the most important reasons it was + Amazing/ Ridiculous was the change of pace it provided. Though I still have not managed to nail down a decent routine after what seems like several months of toil, a change of pace is always welcomed by someone like me, whose gypsy-tendencies seem to scratch at their stomachs more often than they should.

What was - Amazing/ Ridiculous: I was amazed at how many people I assumed to be there for the music we so gone from using that they missed a lot of music. There were times when I would look around at the crowd for the headliner and wonder “Where is everybody?” They were back at camp, getting ripped. Now, I do not consider myself someone quick to sentence judgment, it does not take me long to decipher my own leaning toward something. I found myself leaning toward sadness that it seemed to take many people too many out-of-the-body elements to condition their vessel to respond in a way deemed to be exciting enough, big enough. The other – ridiculous that really caught me off guard at this one was how many people truly seemed to be trying to emulate an era that has passed. Don’t get me wrong – Ms. Jazz Dance Crusader is all in favor of preserving the best parts of history, however, allowing them to come back hollow and rot from inside out does not do anyone any favors. History’s elements come back best when they are made to be fused with the greatest of elements that have been seen since and are developing now. In short; Woodstock is over, kids.

So there it is. Amazing/amazing, Ridiculous/ridiculous, much like most things we encounter in this crazy world.

Peace.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Courses of Jumble

'Just this' forever? I have a particular friend I think of often in that regard - he moved down to Austin after spending his first summer out of college home, and I am pretty sure he is doing in Austin precisely what he did here - barely worked and had a lot of amazing adventures. While amazing adventure is for sure a good reason and a good thing to do for awhile, I think it runs out for people who are purpose-driven. He is a really conscious, smart cookie, so I have a feeling that this kind of lifestyle will not last for him forever.

I have to admit that I am envious of that- ie getting out to unfamiliar places and experiencing - but I am coming to realize that I can do that without moving or having it work related. I think I have been hesitant to accept that, because I do not want to become the kind of person who works a grueling job she hates to get to vacation time so I can flee my real life. That has been a struggle. However, I am at the same time realize that a lot of people that I love are at home, and I do love the Twin Cities. So maybe for me, that just means taking part in fulfilling work here, a place I love, and then taking the opportunities it allows me, or social obligation allows me, to go on adventures as I can.

Beyond that; confusion. It feels like a matter of trying to decifer what things I want to move toward. I feel like last fall, I had strained the soup for the big objects. Now, I feel like a big pot of soup. Yes, soup.

In a more defined explanation, I have realized that I have a whole lot of interests that are not necessarily going to be catered to should I choose to go for a Dance MA. In the midst of thinking further about all this, I started thinking about and compiling information on other programs that might suit my specific interests, and have come to various different ideas; Public Health, Event Planning, Venue Ower, etc. I have realized that the one common thread holding all my interests together is my desire to connect people to one another physically and socially. It bothers me so much that more and more of our leisure is becoming remote and static, and I want to be a part of the movement that encourages people to enjoy being physically active and social. I have tried to boil this down into a statement of sorts;

To first understand and draw conclusions, and then make use of data and possible new research to encourage abstract movement (social dance) and somatic practices as leisure/ lifestyle options that provide mental and physical health benefits. Using these ideas as an alternative to current public health outreach, which is very exercise and diet focused, can engage new audiences in a time of crisis physical and mental health crisis, which has been encouraged by our work and even our play developing to require less physicality and social interaction.

In the midst of all this future change thought, which is both confusing of course but also exciting, one thing that has stayed consistent is my desire to perform and choreograph. I am seeing a day-time, money-making career shift as an opportunity to work less for more money so I can spend half the work week on whatever that is, and the other half on my work as an artist.

I am grateful that at least that desire has not changed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Music You Can Eat

The post below was written for the MN Jazz Dance Collective blog and newsletter (www.mnjazzdance.wordpress.com).

As a dancer, more often than not, dance concerts trump other forms of live entertainment when it comes to what I most frequently attend. While I whole-heartedly enjoy my outings to see works of dance art, I occasionally find myself wishing I could be better at supplementing my live-performance diet with some more theater, music and other such stage revelry. As a performer, creator or appreciator, variety can only benefit your eyes and ears, opening them up to fresh ideas and new ways to see things you deemed familiar. This weekend, I put this wish into action, and ended up experiencing one of the most amazing live music shows of my life thusfar.

I attended Dosh at the Bedlam Theater, and my experience was akin to the strange title of this post – music you can eat. To be more clear, this was music that you don’t just hear; you experience it. It felt so thick that I could reach out and grab it, eat it, and enjoy it’s taste. The element that made this music so tangible to me was it’s depth. Dosh, a one-man-band of sorts, is a wiz-kid when it comes to creating layer upon layer of sound, adding new patterns and rhythms and accents at every turn. Utilizing both traditional jazz sounds and instruments, from his savvy on the piano to quality guest-chops on the saxophone, he also pulls heavily on ideas of electronica and free jazz.

I could go on, trying my best to be a music critic, but I will spare you and cut to the point; this concert got my head spinning so creatively crazy that I felt like I wanted to stay up until 4am just to process my thoughts and feelings. Of course, I fought that urge and wrestled myself into bed, but my head remained excitedly swimming through a pool of creative ideas and general happiness.

Have you recently had an amazing, moving live music experience? What were the elements that made it unique and incredible? How did you find out about the artist? How did the experience inform you as a creator, performer or observer? Comment below if you wish!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Experience as Empathy and Patience

Yesterday was among the more annoying days I have had in some time.

This day was filled with running errands, the kinds of things that people do who do not see anything wrong with prioritizing taking care of themselves (ie normal people and not me). Stopping at the pharmacy, making a deposit, filling up the gas tank, getting the driver's license renewed, stopping at the post office, getting the car washed, calling in to set up a doctor's appointment.

Almost every single one of these experiences is set up in a way that is meant to be relatively convenient, yet every single one also had a road-block of some kind that kept it from living up to this idea. Let's begin with the pharmacy; I stop to pick up my prescription, which I had recently switched to this pharmacy, as it is very close to my apartment, and family owned. Seemed like a nice little place, and a good opportunity to support local business. Short story kept short, when I politely questioned why only one month had been filled and not the three I am used to, I was made to feel stupid for not knowing why and for inquiring about it. The tone of voice in which I was addressed made it feel like the answers to my questions were obvious. Not very nice treatment for when you feel like you are doing a small business a favor by switching from big (and in that way, often much more convenient on many levels) to a small. I guess this situation is a good example of the fact that small business is not always better than big, and this is a black and white I should allow to grey a bit more here and there.

Onward. The next stop was SuperAmerica. nothing 'out of the ordinary' to report here, so forward it was to the DMV. Yes, the Department of Motor Vehicles. I figure I am being smart by stopping in there around noon on a Thursday. Who could be there? Just a couple people skipping over quick on their lunch break, right? No sir. The place was packed (I would insert 'as usual here,' if I had only had the foresight to just relegate the DMV to its proper place as a constant rat race). While my number did come up rather quickly, the amount of time I had between pulling it and getting called to the counter was barely enough for me to find the proper form without assistance, let alone get it filled out. In the midst of all the hubub and shuffling, my picture ended up 'distracted third-grade kid,' but am I really going to ask for the gal to take it again? Even if you are vain, it is not the common chump who seeks out opportunities to prove it. I guess my ID will just have to feature, until I am 30 and have to renew again, me looking like a cotton candy truck just pulled by.

The rest of the day's experiences included a grand total of about an hour and a half on the telephone, skipping between the insurance company, the doctors office and the physical therapy office, all of whom seemed to have someone else to refer me to and different ideas of what information I needed. Who knew that you had to make so many calls to so many parties who want so many different things, all to make a single appointment?

This is where purpose comes into this entry and complaining slips away. Who knew? A lot of people know, and that is something that a mostly-healthy gal like me often has the fortunate situation of being able to forget. I so rarely have to deal with the healthcare system, I find myself quire removed from the every-day realities of getting it to work for you when you are in need. I am not touching upon this as an entrance point into further complaint, this time centered around healthcare, but rather, as a way to suggest that people could use some more empathy in their lives.

I was entirely frustrated and practically pulling out my own hair after a series of transfers and disconnections, but somewhere within the frenzy, it clicked; though going through these experiences is in no way pleasant, not everything in life is. Additionally, there are plenty of people who have to deal with these 'unpleasantries' on a daily basis, and many through no fault of their own. While I can't say that I would want to spend an hour and a half on the telephone trying to make an appointment every day, I am realizing that there are some people who have to do this, which is a good reminder of both exercizing patience, as well as trying to generally give people the benefit of the doubt - who knows, among the people you pass each day, who has had to deal with something as frustrating at this, or worse?

Additionally, this negative experiences throughout the day served another purpose; contrast. While a good portion of the day did in fact annoy me as I previously suggested, there were a couple situations that made me smile and appreciate the little things. The first was my stop to the post office. I had already had a couple of difficult encounters previous, and while this experience may have been as pleasant as it was because I was ready for something on par with my earlier run-ins, I'd rather chose to believe it was so because the person I interacted with was a good one. I came in to drop off a change of address form, and had a couple questions with it (because honestly, can I really do anything without accompanying it with some inquires? It's just not my style :) ). I was prepared to once again be made to feel stupid, but experienced quite the opposite. The counter worker, who has been there since at least when I started working at Muffuletta and most likely much longer than that, was simply just knowledgable and happy to share that knowledge with me. I have interacted with her several times before, but there was something just releaving about her earnestness this time. I walked out of the post office feeling refreshed, my sense of good in people renewed.

The second experience was another that was certainly not out of the ordinary, but well-needed and well-placed within a day that had been full of the opposite; it was just a nice, pleasant check-out guy at Rainbow. I am not saying we had a full-blown conversation (though I'd sure be happy to - I often notice myself wishing I could learn to stop talking once in awhile), and the words exchanged were inconsequential - I cannot even remember what they were, less than 24 hours later. What I am saying is that his amiable demeanor was refreshing, and that these little occurences really do make a difference in the quality of how we experience and enjoy our time within a day.

To conclude, in less words, such daily encounters are important, and not just because they are a result of necessity. These encounters remind us to empathize, to be patient, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to enjoy the casualities that are simply refreshing. And if nothing of this sort comes out, at least you have some good grumblies, which go well shaken and served in the company of friends who work in customer service.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Observations Makes Arts's's's

"The seeds of an idea you planted long ago are about to blossom."

These are the kind words offered by a fortune cookie message that found its way to me long ago, then eventually found itself pasted to the inside of my journal, to live there for purposes such as this.

I sure hope that fortune cookie is right! I have been noticing things across the span of several months, when walking, out to eat, driving, running errands, watching TV and movies, chatting with friends and strangers; living, it seems. I was pondering this morning that all of my observations seem to be very people-driven. Interesting realization, considering my last big spewing of words onto this hyper-paper. Despite this realization of the importance of and quality within people, I find that I am desiring to go beyond my natural tendency to be drawn to people alone when it comes to the creation of comment through movement.

That being said, I created an inventory of ideas, both to see if it really is just about people and if there is anything worth really digesting, as well as to see if I have noted other infuences within my observations, all for the purpose of trying to make movement worth watching. While I was going to share this in a listed posted on this wall for all, it felt funny to me to simply free-for-all my ideas and how I got there, a worry rooted not in the idea of stealing, but more in the idea that I want to tell people these ideas through the dances I create, not a list on my blog. So indeed, this list was created, but is to be locked under the protection of my many layers of organized digital folders.

In the process of creating said list, I did start to notice a key; all actions, and then I suppose general currents within the world, are created by the actions of living things (people or animals), but their widespread affects become their own concepts. Therefore, it is indeed true that everything I notice seems to be "about people," but at the same time, people are just one part in a chain of ideas, depending upon what you prefer to focus upon within a given concept.

Another factor playing into my fear that I only ever work off 'people' is the fact that the formation and performance of my comments (my art, if you will) are completely centered around and dependent upon people. This is probably an element of why I have been drawn to dance and often find it difficult to be drawn into painting, something that I find awesomely reflective of my general existence as a 'people-person.' However, I am also realizing that this current is part of what makes consistently creating as a dance artist difficult. Sometimes, one is just not in the mood to be with people and converse, etc, or simply would rather just be alone (and we all have those moments, regardless of how much we love people). It is very difficult to respect such feelings in yourself when you are feeling the pressure to create consistently within dance - unless it is a solo, how are you supposed to create a piece that can be performed when you do not feel like working with people? I have this hang-up that it is assumed that unless you are shooting out work (quality aside) like you shoot out .....well...... I'll let finishing that analogy slide ...... that you are not actually an artist.

I used to wonder, at the beginning of my undergrad, why so much time passed between my professor's shows. After working at it a bit myself, it has become obvious; if your only task in creating work were to generate ideas and choreography, your shows would be much more numerous. Some people reach that point, where they have a whole infastructure of talented people behind them, whose jobs are to get the work produced and out there. Some people never get to that point. The important thing to remember is that there is always a process (accompanied by some time) to get toward that situation, or at least a permutation therein that would still make you happy and satisfied.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's About People

Similar words, from a couple respected people within the span of a few days, have caused me to think pretty deeply about the modus operandi and result of actions that people take. Previous to the wise words of these respected people, my easy answer would have been something to the tune of "my actions are usually to further an element of my career," or "to get everything done in time," the later being particularly true when it comes to how I operate on a daily basis.

My triggers to think about this came from advice in two different scenarios - the first from a satisfied reader of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and the second from a discussion about a dance piece centered on the idea of how, at the metaphorical end of the day, life is really about people.

While I have not yet had the chance to read the afore-mentioned book (though I plan to now), I did connect right away to the choreographers explaination for how she arrived to this conclusion, and why she wanted to showcase it in a dance. In explaining the piece, she started by saying that it is all too easy for one to get caught up in the obstacle course of daily life. Though the course changes form with each phase of life, offering new challenges with each new chapter presented, there is one constant; there are always too many important things to get done on time, in order to stay on top of things and be successful.

The key to analyzing this assumption is pondering what it is that drives us to get these too many things done. Yes, 'too many things' was followed by 'to get done on time' and 'to be successful.' This is where I haved stopped in the past, in trying to figure out why I operate the way I do. Go further. Why is it important to get things done on time and be successful?

First, I draw up the idea that these things are important because we think that what we achieve individually validates our existence as humans, our purpose for being on earth. However, this is not specific to you alone, one person at a time. A factor of what makes the world truly interesting is how we are all connected to each other in some way - My purchase of coffee beans creates revenue for farmers in Ethiopia, that farmer in Ethiopia is then able to invest in cellular technology developed in India, so on and so forth. Though my example is strikingly similar, I am not talking about glogalization here. I am talking about how our personal actions, in the long-run, really are about how we relate to other people, and the importance of those connections.

I'll make the scale a little less worldly - this time, I'd like to suggest that the quality attention and intention you invest in your interactions with co-workers is just as important as the quality you invest in completing a project. Or; the quality you invest in interacting with a loved one is just as important as getting the house clean. When it comes down to it, the house, pending fire or other disaster, will always be there, but your loved one will not. I do not say this in a way that suggests people are important only because they have a shelf-life. Rather, our abilities to interact with people in ways that we cannot with a broom are precious, and should not be overlooked or sidelined due to tight scheduling.

This idea is something that I can easily and joyously understand, but will be a challenge to put into action. I thrive off the necessity of getting numerous things done in a simultaneous fashion. In fact, a big ponder last month was whether or not I create tasks to make myself feel like I am on top of things and going somewhere. These things said and considered, I do not desire to cut out any current projects from my life; after evaluating, I realized that I really DO want to be doing nearly everything I am doing, outside of tasks that are simply necessity for sustaining of life (i.e. day-job-to-make-enough-money activities). Despite being happy with the fullness and variation of objects on my plate, I have realized that it could be beneficial to reconsider how I go about . . . eating them?! Ok, cryptic, stick-to-the-analogy tools aside, I have realized that I could be more conscientious about how I interact with people.

In my heart, I am fully aware of the fact that people are the true driver of what I do, but that idea often stays a bit buried when I am trying to accomplish a task. In other words, I have a tendency to sideline people or rush through an interaction without noticing because I am so focused on the task at hand. After being triggered by two respected people to think more about this, I plan to be more active in supporting quality within my interactions as they happen. While I have never had difficulty expressing how grateful I am for support and interactions I experience after they happen, I could stand to be in the moment more on such things (well, most things, really :) ).

How will I do this? Unfortunately, there is not an instruction manual (that I know of, anyway), because I would sure love that. However delightful a manual would be for me, this one is the kind of idea that seems to be different for each person to put into practice. I am going to begin with the simple idea of trying to be actively conscious of how I interact with people, and I will go from there.

My 'at heart' understanding of how anything I do, though filtered through the achievement of personal success, is really for the purpose of connecting with and supporting my loved ones and people in general. In my case, the teaching, performance and creation of dance are conduits for the development and passing on of my ideas about the world, most of which are meant to reach out to people and ask them to see and feel the world more actively as they live in it. Hopefully, after having pondered all this, I can work toward always treating my daily interactions with as much purpose as I do the consideration of and acting upon my internal drive. When it comes down to it, these two concepts share a common source; people.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

From Ear to Eye: Ideas to Aid Jazz Music Lovers in Viewing Jazz Dance

Written for the August 2009 edition of CODA, the Twin Cities Jazz Society newsletter.

Saxophones, trumpets, drums, dancers . . . the beginning of a large list of musical
instruments. Wait a second – dancers?! Yes! Dancers should indeed be a part of this list, according to those who study and practice jazz movement. This sentiment is not as uncommon as one would imagine. Lovers of the jazz aesthetic can agree, regardless of whether they prefer music or dance, that the two media are inherently and beautifully connected to one another for many reasons. It is these elements of connection to and respect for the music, versatility, embracing humanness, and most importantly, rhythm, that provide the common ground for jazz
music lovers to view and appreciate jazz dance.

One of the most satisfyingly simple and authentic ways for both a dancer and a
viewer to get involved is finding connection to and respect for the music. Purposeful use
of and genuine connection to the music is a hallmark of quality jazz dance. Many jazzers
enjoy dancing socially just as much as they enjoy dancing in a concert setting, and the
common thread is music. Jazz musicians savor a close relationship between ears and mind, and by throwing in the additional element of the eyes, jazz dancers develop a keen relationship between the operation of the body and the act of listening to music – they create a visceral absorption of and response to music.

Another factor that can be taken into account by jazz music fans watching jazz dance is the concept of collaboration. Both jazz dancers and musicians have the distinct pleasure of working in tandem with several elements at once to produce a unified whole. Varied instrumentation (be it several dancers with their own distinct movement style or several musicians with their own distinct sound) creates numerous possibilities for unique and satisfying outcomes.

Jazz dance and music also share in the joy of improvisation, another element that encourages the creation of fascinating chance encounters. The jazz aesthetic also fosters versatility, an element that keeps jazz-interested folks constantly wondering what could be done next. Jazz music has fused with pretty much every other form of music, and if it hasn't, it can. The same idea goes for dance – jazz fusions have created seemingly endless possibilities for movement and idea explorations. Truly understanding the basics of this aesthetic, such as musicality, rhythm, honesty in emotion, and collaboration can provide a solid base for successfully and whole-heartedly catapulting into new musical and movement territory, fostering a sense of variety not

Jazz dance is unique from other dance forms in the fact that it often seems to be simply celebrating the music. seen quite as much in other forms as it is in jazz. In a solid jazz-dance concert, the appeal of this idea can often be seen rather well through presentation of a wide range of movement styles and music choices, allowing the viewer to enjoy several styles in one
sitting. Jazz also allows musicians and dancers a sense of emotional freedom. As a vernacular
form from its roots, rather than trying to rise beyond it (as in forms such as ballet), the
jazz aesthetic asks its participants to embrace and showcase their humanness by using
common energy to emote. Jazz dance is unique from other dance forms in the fact that it
often seems to be simply 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. This incredible humanness alone is enough to create purposeful, satisfying,
engaging and visceral dance, particularly when matched with just the right tune.

Finally, there is rhythm; Our body runs on the rhythm of our heart. We make rhythm with
our bodies through the creation of music and of dance. This bond is a strong one, and it
comes across quite clearly when experiencing a well-thought-out collaboration of jazz
music and dance. Regardless of the music choice, rhythm is ever-present in dance. It is simply up to the choreographer and performers regarding how much they would like to acknowledge it. People who feel drawn to jazz often find rhythm to be the most essential element in their medium. Sharing interest in this creates a common thread for jazz musicians, dancers and viewers to understand and appreciate one another’s pursuits. Connection to and respect for music, collaboration, versatility, embracing humanness, and rhythm provide a common ground
within the jazz aesthetic for dancers and musicians to appreciate one another’s work.

The inherent and beautiful connection between movement and music, though elusive, gains
clarity when considering all that the two media share. Keeping this view in mind, it
seems only natural that dancers be included on a list of musical instruments. Operating
from this standpoint, jazz music lovers will be on just the right track to take a leap into
whole-heartedly viewing and truly enjoying jazz dance.

Erinn Liebhard earned her degree in dance at the University of Minnesota in 2007. As a
choreographer, her work has been presented by the Eclectic Edge Ensemble, the Red Eye
Theater and the Lowry Lab Theater in downtown St. Paul. Additionally, her work has
been presented by Dancer's Studio West in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, as a part of the
Alberta Dance Explosions Festival 2009. Her interest in the development of jazz and
vernacular dance recently took her to Calgary to study extensively for a year. She and
collaborator Heather Parker are co-producers of “Rhythmically Speaking: Seven Jazz
Perspectives From Emerging and Established Choreographers.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Social Dance Subculture


This past weekend, I attended and helped host Moosejaw, an old-time music and dance weekend put on by the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers at the Maplelag resort near Detroit Lakes, MN. I knew I would have fun, as I enjoy dancing and music, but didn't really know for sure what I was getting myself into.

The first couple of hours of arrival, I could feel myself shrinking in response to the clear indications that everyone seemed to know each other. I was dissapointed in myself for my reaction, unclear as to whether it was really a desire to be inward, or if it was simply that I was not prepared for a weekend of being around many people all the time for a whole weekend. Despite my initial feelings, these reactions washed away quickly, as the family-style dinner was served and the music and dancing began.
As quickly as I knew someone's name, we were just as quickly sharing in a dance. Square and contra dancing are designed for people who like other people - this is apparent in the hand holding, eye contact, partner switching, and unspoken idea that it should be your pleasure to take part in the dance, regardless of with whom it may be. Additionally, these forms of dance are for people that love music and rhythm; old-time and bluegrass music operate around repetative and catchy rhythms and hooks, and they rely on easy to understand musical structures and patterns, which come out in audible chunks of sound that are easy for dancers to identify and for musicians to structure around the dance on hand.
Creation of community seems to be the number one result of being involved in this kind of music and dance. Though people may get involved for the purpose of serving their own love of these things, they end up on the other side having not only experienced the joy of really listening to music and the synergy of moving their body to it rhythmically, but they have also shared in these joys with others.

After getting involved myself, the openness of this community people is so obvious to me in so many ways, and one of the ways this was embodied this weekend was the willingness to learn new things. Attendees stepped out of their old-time comfort zone to learn and partake in traditional Ukranian social dances, taught by Don LaCourse of Ethnic Dance Theater and danced to the music of the Twin Cities-based Ukrainian Village Band. Though very few of the weekend's attendees had experience with this kind of dance, it did not take them long to pick up on and enjoy it. I truly believe that it came as quickly and enjoyably as it did to everyone there because they foster a general atmosphere of interest, willingess and support, and this showed in everything, from learning a new dance to locating the hot tub!

I could go into unnecessarily minute detail, simply for my own pleasure of recalling the weekend's hijinx, but I will try to stay relatively to the point; the old-time dance and music subculture is alive and well due to a couple of key factors - an extremely welcoming crowd of people, diverse in background and age and experience, and music and dance forms that are simple, communal and rhythmic. I often receive slightly befuddled reactions when I tell people that I go to square dances, or that I have joined an appalachian clogging company, or that I recently spent a whole weekend clogging, listening to jam sessions and contra dancing at a secluded Northern Minnesotan resort. I think it is easy for people to be detered by the title of 'old-time,' which often draws up ideas of outdatedness. In trying to explain, it is often difficult to put into efficient response why it is that I have been so drawn to this community, yet I will try.
I am glad that I have not let the genre title of 'old-time' get in the way of how I see this community and what it can offer me as a dancer and lover of music. Just because a form has a long history does not mean it is outdated; on the contrary, history allows digging into past experience to find ways to engage new people, as well as to keep interested the people who have already been drawn in. In short, I find this subculture's sense of open, unapologetic, community-building, fun-loving simplicity to be among the freshest apporaches I have experienced regarding sharing a love of rhythmic musical patterning and movement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

West African Dance Workshop with Djenba Sako

Monday night's workshop was awesome. This is not to say that I had a revolutionary learning experience, but I certainly had a revolutionary movement experience. To me, this is one of the nutshell-sized ways to explain why traditional African dance, while not 'pushing any boundaries,' has extreme value to offer to both trained dancers and novice dancers alike.

To begin with, the evening's teacher (Djemba Sako), a guest artist from Mali, brought with her a whole sense of authentic styling and teaching, both of which had a certain casual (I might say cool) flair. Despite the fact that she seemed to be operating through a language barrier, the detail and clarity in her body of experience was enough to communicate to us students exactly the way in which the movement should be executed.

Seeing videos and learning from a third party instructor are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in a craft when that is what is available. Even better is striving to supplement such learning with learning directly from the source, which is exactly what this opportunity provided. Dancing to the drumming of Fode Bangoura and the instruction of Djenmba was an incredible, exhilarating brush with authenticity.

The setting of the experience was perfect - a mirror-less studio in a community center that I had never even heard of (Sabanthi Community Center), and folks with whom I had never before danced. The newness of this community was invigorating for me; it was so exciting to discover that there are communities of dancers expressing themselves that I had not been aware of until putting myself into the middle. After my short-lived experience in Chicago, I pledged to myself that I would delve into excavating my information regarding what is happening for dance learning opportunities in the Twin Cities. I was pleasantly surprised to quickly find class opportunities in places that I had never before heard of - Central Do Brasil, Sabanthi, etc.

However, just uncovering information regarding these classes did not get me very far. Yes, it was exciting to gather the knowledge, but it took experiencing one of these opportunities in person for it to really sink in how intricate and exciting our dance community can be, with its multiple, far-reaching arms.

After Monday night, I am definitely going to make a more concerted effort to get myself out to more of the unfamiliar and exciting dance opportunities in our great cities.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Clean Slate, Blank Brain

Clean slate, blank brain.

It is amazing how quickly your brain can fill up with thoughts upon waking, no matter how hard you try to keep it un-tainted. Focusing on nothingness when there are so many opportunities in the opposite direction is amazingly difficult. Food, bathroom, to do list, when do I need to be to work, did I call that person back? Tainting.

But here is the bigger question - do creative impulses come out of that stream of unavoidable thoughts, or out of managing to avoid them? I am sure there is no constant, but for each person, there must be a tendency. I can only assume that, since I am not manufacturing amazing creative thoughts every two seconds, most of my tendency must lean toward when I manage to avoid that stream, or maybe when I swim upstream?

I think that is the purpose of why, a couple of weekends ago, I decided to try and plan nothing - tried to avoid that stream of thoughts, and instead let time develop as it would. This idea seemed romantic and fantastic, and I couldn't wait to let it unfold.

Turns out, it was nothing near what I was making it out to be. Another impotece for this little experiement was also the thought that shaking up personal patterns can be good for you. In theory and sometimes in practice, this is true. However, what resulted from my no-plans weekend was me feeling like a boring, time-wasting person avoiding what I really wanted to be doing - moving toward completion of plans.

Another thing that called me to try this was the realization (which I did arrive to long ago, but seem to have sincere difficulty affecting) that I tend to let never-ending lists dictate me. I say this in a way that suggests that there is such thing as a list with an end point, which I believe to be entirely untrue, at least where highly motivated people are concerned. Therein lies the problem. Often, these lists dictate my time in a way that seems to run me in circles, rather than in a defined direction. I realize this.

However, after a couple weekends ago's experiement of trying to plan nothing, as if operating in a blank fashion equal to that of simply trying to run through a list at as fast a pace as possible, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, would help me in some way.

What really comes out of all this is the continued reenforcement of the fact that nothing is black and white (I suppose even the concept of 'black and white' itself has to be grey somewhere), everything is best in moderation. But not moderation for moderation's sake, moderation with thought behind it, careful enough that it is purposeful, but not so planned that interfers with a moment's ability to unfold into what it wishes to be.

So, new approach; two weekends from now, I am going on a road trip with Aaron and Sarah. At first, I hadn't even asked what we were going to do, in order to respect the ways in which randomness can carry us. Realizing that I was too curious to have no idea, I asked her the plan, which turned out to be holing up in a hotel room because no one has money and talking through with a friend some troubles. Glad I asked.

With information and perspective, I am going to choose to let randomness draw the cards part of the time, while planning draws the other part.

Any suggestions for fun, cheap things to do in Madison in March?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Suspending the Programming

The below post was created for the MNJazzDance Collective blog and newsletter, created and managed by myself and Heather P Westerlund, and found here; www.mnjazzdance.wordpress.com.

“Just as drama asks us for the suspension of our disbelief, jazz asks us for the suspension of our need to program our every moment.” – Seth Colter Walls, Newsweek Dec 21st 2009

Upon first read, this statement grabbed directly at my gut and held on. It is difficult, regardless the subject, to boil down to a few select words the purpose of something that one finds deeply inspiring. In the above statement, Seth Colter Walls has managed to do so with jazz.

In a world with the ability to move faster than ever before, we are all busy people for various different reasons. One thing we all share is the occasional need to stop in our sometimes well-worn tracks, allowing moments to flourish not into what we are asking them to be, but into what they can be. Jazz music and dance invariably are chances to allow moments to come into their own, likely an unrecognized part of why we enjoy them so much.

At the heart of this idea is the concept of improvisation, a mode in which artists are allowed to immerse themselves in the moment and to see where things go. Often equally immersing is the act of witnessing these explorations, but only if we allow it to be. Observing and becoming wrapped up in an improvisation can sometimes be a challenge to modern audiences, who tend to program each moment of their time out of an ever-developing background pressure to get everything done quicker. I am no stranger to this idea; I am sometimes so busy ‘getting things done’ that I forget to indulge in something as simple and necessary as enjoying a meal.

Giving time the chance to suspend at the hands of an enrapturing piece of music or dance, or in the moment of a deeply-connected improvisation, can be just what the body and mind need to become rooted again, and ready to ‘get with the program’ with a renewed sense of purpose.
So do yourself a favor and allow some time for moments to become what they can – put on your favorite tune and do nothing but listen (if you are so moved, get up and dance around your living room), see a show or take a class, and shut off not only your phone, but your mental to do list. On that note, here are some ways to do just that;

DanceBrazil
February 19, 2010 7:30pmOrdway CenterTickets: $25 – $30 651-224-4222, www.ordway.org
For over 30 years this company has celebrated the traditional Afro-Brazilian Dance and Capoeira movement in choreography that blends contemporary dance and sound in stunning performances that echo the traditional movement, spirit and color of Brazil’s rich multicultural influences.

African Dance Workshop with Guest Artist Djeneba Sako
March 7, 2010 5:00-6:30pm, 6:30-8:00pm, Jawaahir Studios, 1940 Hennepin Avenue S, Minneapolis
March 8, 2010 6:00-7:30pm, March 9, 2010 6:30-8:00pm, Sabanthi Community Center, 310 E 38th St,Mpls
Two classes $30, four classes $56, drop-in $17 per class
visit www.duniyadrumanddance.org for details and registration
Learn African dance and rhythms from Mali West Africa. In Mali, performance, music and dance are ways of expression used in education and everyday life. Djeneba Sako, from the Malian Troupe Baden’ya, is a graceful yet powerful master dancer with a unique style that has allowed her to capitalize on the US Malian dance scene as one of the most sought-after dance instructors at conferences and festivals across the nation.

Cheers to getting lost in music and dance!

Erinn Liebhard

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thought of the Day

Force is not fun.

Unless you are a Jedi.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thunder Bay Is a Shithole.

Well, it's true.

Good thing that did not stop me and my partner in crime (also known as me brother, yar) from spending hours of our precious time over the course of two days to drive on up for one soul reason - Tim Hortons. Though this trip prompt our over-use of the word 'awkward' for two days straight, this sort of strangeness can be deemed a virtue in the eyes of us two weirdsmobiles, so we found joy in whatever we could.
Examples:



The country store where we bought home-made sausage and asked for some tin-foil.

The whole-foods co-op where we rocked lunched out hippie-style.



WE HAVE ARRIVED! Canadian greatness at it's best; Tim Hortons.




Thunder Bay's deepest thinker. Pondering breath mints.


A shiny Saturday morning in downtown Thunder Bay.




But despite its rough exteriors, beauty can be found there.






And here, too.



So while the added bonus of Reilly finding a new friend,




And me a new pair of earrings, in addition to our Tim Hortons, may not make this trip seem real valuable . . .


The true joy was found in the long stretch of open road I got to enjoy with my brother.

There's good times, right there.

This Is What You Get

This is what you get for harboring the website passed on to you by the musician you talked to briefly in a coffee shop in May 08, holding on to the info and planning to make a visit, but never getting to it until now;

www.ryanranney.com

The disatisfaction of never knowing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"If You're Gonna Do It, You May As Well Do It Right."

This is a sentiment I hear from a litany of customers each day. This, or at least something very similar. The context of this sentiment is what makes it disturbing, as it refers to the piling on of whip cream, addition of extra chocolate, the use of half and half and whole milk. Often, such a statement is delivered by people who are quite overweight, as if said statement were already not bad enough with its subtle themes of entitlement.

It is an attitude like this, when applied in this way, that gets the aforementioned people to the place where they are now. When seen an entirely different light, there is a certain wisdom to the statement of "If you are gonna do it, do it right." If you are going to live this life, you should do it well by treating your body with respect, so as to enjoy this life for as long as possible. Some people who live their life with the opposite sheen on this statement are among the people that live until 55, thanks to congestive heart failure.

So, do it right, and in the process of respecting your body, you do not have to sacrifice your mind - your mind's desires for chocolate and french fries need to be met every once in awhile. Failure to met these wishes, according to dietary experts and the personal experience of a great many people, results in a spiral toward the other direction. This is simply another example of one of the rules of common sense - everything is best in moderation.

That even goes for exercise. But for now, many of the people coming to my coffee counter could do better applying this idea in order to avoid whip cream overdose.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Closer to the Bone" by Kris Kristofferson

Simple
Honest
Visual (but not in a way that screams 'descriptive poetry')
Floating
Existing
Calm

Musically, there is not much to make this song wildly different from many of it's peers. The soft guitar strumming and banjo picking in the background are things that I have heard before on many occasions. Even the lyrics - very enjoyable, but not wildly different, or pushing of any boundaries, a concept much too revered in much of artistic pursuit these days.

So what, then, makes me want to put this song on repeat, shut my eyes, kick up my feet and float along with it? The person delivering the song. Each person carries their own background and information, and injects it into the way the deliver their craft. The instrumentals and lyrics, however simple and non-revolutionary, carry their own special pull because of the individual experience craftily and honestly poured into the work. I can hear experience in Kristofferson's voice, I can hear the rawness - he is not concealing anything.

In a world full of radicalism for radicalism's sake, a small, simple and honest piece of music such as this is truly refreshing. I can be told time and time again that 'it has been done before,' only to pass of this assertion in favor of being able to listen better. Yes, maybe similar things have been tried before, but locality is what really makes anything. In a world continually globalizing, I am seeing, hearing and feeling the importance of 'think global, act local,' and yes, that even applies to my little music-listening experience.

Seek out all the knowledge you can, as wide-spread as possible. Know what is out there, what is happen. Then, use these things to figure out where you stand and how they can be personal for you, on an individual level. Knowledge may be wide-spread, but experience is not. It happens where you are. Purveyors of virtual entertainment may argue otherwise, but I find it not so. Back to the 'it has been done before,' idea, I offer the idea of contextualization. I have only been on the planet since 1985. 'It' has not happened while I have been around. In addition, 'it' has come out of a whole new set of circumstances, as the way we interact with one another, gather information, live in general, has naturally experienced a whole host of changes, a simple reality of the passing of time, since 'it' first happened. New technologies, political thoughts, sociological structures. To think that a form of art would have the same impact on people now as it did even just 20 years ago is actually entirely ridiculous.

So here is an ode to the experience seekers. I listen to, look at, touch and experience the things that draw me in. Folk music is a new, transformative experience for me. There are legions of people out there for whom jazz dance would be a new, transformative experience. Note the overuse of the word 'experience.' As I see it, the experience delivered is just as, if not more, important than the search for the next most unique and never-seen thing. If this things does not speak to the people observing, what is the point?

Existing.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

My yearly ritual of creating New Year's Resolutions is again complete. Below is the product of my toiling - hope something in here inspires you too!

New Years Resolutions 2010
Set to "Soweto" by Abdullah Ibrahim

CONCRETE
- Dedicate time and resource toward living the way you wish
- Spend more time actually enjoying your senses
- Establish a morning routine
- Personal style = doing what feels good

ABSTRACT
- Allow personal and professional interests to blossom and inform one another
- See life as a fluid stream of happenings that you are both informed by and inform
Trust your instincts
- Be actively present in the world around you
- Embrace change in yourself and others as simply another way in which the world unfolds
- Seek out a sense of groundedness that serves as both a base for adventure and a point of balanced return
- Allow space for moment to become what they will, free of limitation


HAPPY NEW YEAR!