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.