Friday, February 25, 2011

Seeking Alignment; It's a Constant Process

Patterns of figuring take so much time, especially when you feel like you are in them all the time. To a certain extent, you usually are, whether it be in friendship, romance, work, hobbies, finances or fitness. When you think about it, it seems rare that all of these things (or any other major players in time and presence use) line up the ideal way for any given person. Kind of like the analogy of how the stars align; for those glorious moments, everything is in synch, only for those starts to continue rotating. This seems like a good way to come to terms with how life operates (astrology anyone? :)

That being said, it seems key to realize that perfect alignment of all components is in fact rare. While that does not mean that we shouldn't strive for perfect alignment (what, am I teaching a dance class now?), it does mean that it is normal for some amount of shifting to be nearly constant, and not a cause for alarm. I often see it this way; shouldn't I be alarmed if not every single piece of my life is aligned the best way possible? It's seeming more and more like the answer is no. I think I have known deep down that aligning everything in life is a constant process. However, need for a modicum of stability coupled with high expectations has left me trying so hard to force this perfect alignment constantly that it has become difficult for me to enjoy experiences while they are happening. With dancing as a singular exception to this state, I seem to always be looking out for the next thing to better myself.

When I say it this way, it seems perfectly reasonable. Maybe what I need to do is let learning how to enjoy the moment or the task at hand BE at way to better myself.

Proper alignment, here I come . . .

Just don't be surprised if I remain off-kilter here and there. That's what plies are for; to set you up to keep dancin'!

Monday, February 21, 2011

It Costs More Than You Think

Wow, two posts in a row about financial woes.

This text isn't meant to come out as complaint, as I have made a series of conscious choices to be where I am, but simply observations.

Life costs a lot more than one realizes from the offset. I know this isn't news to anyone other than me, rather, it is probably a milestone of adult thought process that all people experience at some point, but it is just hitting me now. Thus, I talk on it.

Snow tires, car repairs, technology replacements, taxes, etc. All the hidden expenses that do not glare out at you when making what you think is a workable budget. Now, I have always been a good saver when the option is there. But when it is not, boy do those hidden costs seem worse. In addition, it always feels like savings are not for those emergency sort of expenses, they are for far loftier things, such as the purchase of a house, travel, or contributing to a retirement account.

This sounds like all the stuffy shit I looked upon as ball and chain for so long, now only to realize that they are truisms that are so because of general common sense. Of course you are going to want a more spacious, permanent living space at some point. This is not a sign of giving up adventure, but more a sign of thanking yourself for putting down roots and cultivating the place where you happen to be. If the choice is to embark to create a different kind of good, that is excellent too, but is probably less often accompanied with a feeling of wanting physical permanence. But I digress.

Of the above- listed things the most important/scary (and therefore formerly most stuffy) is the retirement plan. Why on earth would I want to spend any time thinking about being done with my lifes work when I feel like I have barely begun? I was going to say that I cannot even imagine, yet I can (it's relatively easy) what it would be like to have had a steady, single job for the whole time I have been graduated from college. If that were the case, I am sure that these thought may have crossed my mind more often. Or maybe not. Maybe having those sorts of thoughts would be worth exchanging flexibility and variety in favor of stability. I may even be able to cut out the 'variety' idea, as no job I would imagine myself in would be monotonous. I would not allow it to be so. That is likely why my 'income accessorization' job is driving me nuts. Monotony.

Is it possible for me to have thoughts with out having to write them down? I digress. AGAIN. Back to retirement plans. I read a story in the Saturday Wall Street Journal about how a lot of boomer's retirement plans are coming up less than they expected. Now, I know this is much more complicated than I (or probably most people, which is part of the problem) can understand, but it doesn't stop me from being FREAKING WORRIED about how the hell me and people my age are going to manage when we don't get social security. What the hell!!? It angers me so much to be paying into a system that will not end up benefitting me. I'd be happy to be completely responsible for handling retirement savings myself if I could use the money I am now paying into social security in any way I wish. Then, I'd actually have a sum to put away in my Roth IRA that I responsibly created for myself. But instead, I am putting it all into broken system that won't do SHIT for me. And what can I do about it?

I suppose I could write a letter to my congressmen. I am a true believer in being an engaged citizen, but when lobbying groups that rely on corporate donations have so much standing, what does my little letter do? I'd be happy to support any lobbying group that would work on this cause, but without money or time to donate, just an opinion, what good can I do them?

This is the kind of issue that one can spiral around for many, many hours. I feel like I had better put an end to it because I am not sure it can go anywhere immediately productive. The end for now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Version of Indulgence

To be able to afford speciality foods, music, dance and yoga classes,

Training trips, a new phone should I see it fit,

General travel, to buy a bottle of wine or two a week, to be able to go out to dinner,

to be able to contribute to organizations I admire, to maybe even have the time to volunteer,

to be able to fix my car when it needs fixing and to buy a new one if it breaks

Community of Individuals?

Twisty brain.

Is it good to encourage a community of individuals? I suppose that sounds silly to say without a little context. Yes, of course it is a good thing . . . right?

The doubt comes in when considering big picture. In a community of individuals with no common goal, where do we go?

This is the topic that has been rolling around in my brain, looking for a means to an end, when it comes to my thoughts about how I would like to act as a community organizer for those interested in rhythm and jazz dancing in the Twin Cities. Right now, all the opportunities I can think of will encourage a community of individuals. Let me re-phrase, community of individuals may not be the best way to describe this. What I mean is that it will encourage the development of piece by piece, project by project lifestyle for artists in this medium, and that is exactly what is frustrating me personally these days. I guess if one is not in search of some stability like me, than it wouldn't be as frustrating a lifestyle to live.

But there is imbalance in that statement, too. I say I seek stability, but I do not want to give over the flexibility I currently hold. I can pretty much arrange things to have any day I want free. But what good is that if I cannot finance the kind of activities I want to partake in with that time? It is a balance, much like anything else, it seems.

STability v. FLEXability (sp indeed). What is more valuable? The answer to that question is personal, and different for every person. So what is my answer? How come I cannot just sit down, think about it for a half hour, and solve it like Blues Clues?

Probably because my life is not scripted, like that of Blue the Dog. Disappointing? Awesome? Not entirely sure.

I clearly do not mind working 40 hours a week. I'd just like it to be intelligently flexible. Like me. So I am working toward creating that But I digress.

Maybe I need to find out how people dig their lifestyle as an artist. I want to know if they LIKE being a person who wears five hats, or if not, which hats they would trade in in favor of wearing one that is a little bit bigger than the rest. Or even, gasp, JUST ONE HAT! I cannot even imagine what that kind of mental clarity feels like. It would be really amazing to be able to serve just one purpose. But let's face it; working in non-profit, even in established non-profit, everyone has multiple hats to wear.

So the question; Is it ok to continue encouraging artists to take project by project opportunity, or should our (Rhythmically Speaking's) mission be to work toward supporting artists in a way that allows them to focus on one thing? The more I think about it, the more this seems like I want to be a granting panel or something. I suppose that there are opportunities out there for funding individual artists, they are just so few and far between . . .

Man oh man, there just seems to be no perfect answer to this query. I guess all I can do is ask the people where they see themselves going in the community, and then try to cater to it.

So, where am I going, Dave Matthews? If only I could write a dance about it and get hired to play a bunch of festivals all summer . . .

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Keep It Simple

Indeed, simple I'd like to keep it. It's the motto in my mug. It should be the motto ON my mug too. Another one; 'Focus on the task at hand.' These wiseties are thrown up by people around me who I respect and admire, so taking to these suggestions really does seem like a good idea. So why then, is it so hard?

God-damnit, I am interested in a lot of things. Too many things. Many people say this is good – healthy curiousity, many options. I think this is BAD because I am not interested in any of them enough. Not ANY of them but dance. Jazz and rhythm, and trying to get better at everything that falls into that. And helping everyone else interested in everything that falls into that get better too. Both locating and creating opportunities, taking advantage of them while passing them on. Not being hampered by finance so much that I cannot pursue the kind of training I want to pursue. Wishing that someone would pay for it (ie find me valuable enough to put on a company that will allow me to experience these things). DAMNIT. DJD is the dancing place for me. It could have been the lif-ing place for me. But could haves in the face of reality barriers are pointless. This idea also falls into the ever-larger growing category of 'easier said than done.'

So what can I do with where I am at, what I am good at, what I have access to (apparently I can end sentences in prepositions, so there is a start)? I have realized that I first have to kick back to what I WANT to do, no matter how crazy it might be. So I started a list. A kind different from the usual ones; one that has honesty. I think a lot of the time, my lists are more about what I SHOULD think than what I really do, out of an effort to organize things and keep them simple. The great reality of this is that I'd keep it much more simple if I were just honest with myself about what I want, AFTER that infusing proper amounts of realism to help see myself to some success.

I want to create connections between people who are doing things. I want to do things, but not at the scale on a specific thing that many people want to - 'I want to be a choreographer,' 'I want to run a school,' etc. I want to do all of these things. Just none of them ONLY. How can I help people be where they need to be to get what the want and at the same time get a little piece of it for myself? How does it work to want to do a little bit of a lot of things? I do suppose some 'things' have come to the forefront of my mind as things I want to do more often; serve people, plan and execute events. The two ways to do these things that have had the come to the front of my mind are Rhythmically Speaking and a production company.

The production company would serve the needs of dance performers and choreographers to use their craft as often as possible for acceptable pay while bringing artistic entertainment to audiences that as for it. It would serve audiences that ask for it by providing them artistic entertainment that would elevate their events to new levels of excitement and completeness. I think I could really make something happen here, because I am not trying to serve an audience that is hard to identify. This audience is easily identifiable; corporate events, restaurants. The hard part is getting in touch with them and proving that we are what they are looking for. Additionally, I could make something happen because the first part is ALL to easy; getting together dancers and choreographers looking to share their talents for money. No sweat, no problem. Hell, I could even get groups on this list, groups like Collective (Hip-hop), Duniya and Voice of Culture (African), etc. They are all pursuing and finding corporate gigs, though I guess I am not sure how much they'd want to give a cut to someone when they can find them themselves. But the convenience of someone else doing it sure would be nice! There are people doing this; Universal Dance Destiny does this, but it seems like a lock-down that would not be smart to approach with a 'can I informational interview you (so I can copy what you do)?' I'll straighten that up. I plan to copy no one, but I guess I will be entering into a market that others will not want to share. How would I do it successfully?

Wow, that paragraph above makes it pretty clear that a production company might be a viable way to streamline my interests. I did mention that there are two ways; the other way is Rhythmically Speaking. I KNOW we are on to something here too, but I have a whole chunk of worries that come along with this, the first being; by providing opportunities for a hand-full of choreographers at a time, are we perpetuating the culture of a city that for so many is project by project, with no stability? I have been thinking a whole lot lately about the structure of the dance community in the Twin Cities, and how I'd best fit into it. I have thought for awhile now that it is pretty awesome that you have to be many things to get by; a teacher, a performer, a choreographer, an administrator, etc. For many people who have just one of those things as a focus (other than teacher, of course), this has been a frustration. It has excited me because I love to wear many different hats. While this is great for me, it also provides a problem. Relating back to an earlier statement; 'God-damnit, I am interested in too many things.' The problem that lies here is the fact that the many interests really seem to be keeping me from defined goals. While it is great to do a lot of things, if these lot of things do not add up to some larger impact, what is the point?

I am incredible at juggling a lot of things at once. I am terrible at seeing how they all fit into the bigger picture. Being able to see both small and large perspectives must be what is necessary to be a really effective person. And I want to be that. So I am faced with the need to make all the little chunks fit together into a nice picture.

Back to Rhythmically Speaking; I am concerned because our mission feels too large to be effective. Maybe I just need to spend some time brainstorming. I really want our efforts to be focused in a way that impacts a lot of people in a good way. I am worried that right now, we are doing what WE want to do and not focusing in on offering what OTHERS need. I do not think this is out of selfishness, it really is out of genuine desire. The problem develops when you assume that what you want is what others want to. Maybe this is a larger issue with art in general. Art is a wonderful way for self-therapy, but then why try to get it funded? If it is created really as a way to serve yourself, you have served the mission of that project and it should be done. It seems like the brick wall that the marching band keeps trying to walk through forms itself when a visionary continually insists on trying to fund and execute programming that people do not need or want. But how do you find out what they want? Really? How?

I want to find out what people want and use that to plan programs, because I have no doubt that others and myself have a lot of things in common. But how do I find out what they want? I should probably talk to Zoe, a move that I have already initiated. She probably has some great ideas on finding out what people want. There is always the 'audience survey,' but that is just show specific, and those people are already in the seats. I think what I am trying to say is that we need market research on 'people interested in jazz and rhythm-based dance.' How would we do this? How would we afford this? AHH! Maybe one way is to create survey that go out to our 'stakeholders;' one for participants (choreographers, dancers and educators) and another for audiences (viewers and students?). We can ask them what sort of opportunities they are looking for in order to help bolster their careers/ see and support the kind of dance they enjoy. This survey could go out through our newsletter. Do we need an incentive? I sure do not want to offer a reduced ticket price!

In short, I want to find out what people want, see if it matches with what we want to do, then offer it. This could be any number of things; the yearly showcase, quarterly showcases, touring program (allows these people's work to be seen by more people, they can then pick up on having that artist out for their own show), residency programs (to spread this kind of training to people who would not have had it otherwise), community forums. A larger purpose beyond where the mission is now; fostering an appreciation of jazz and rhythm-based dance forms. If we can do that, people will demand support for and opportunities for seeing this kind of work, and it becomes a perpetuating cycle. Here is another thing; partnering with Jazz88 to offer jazz dance residencies at North that go with their radio programming. Maybe I can even pitch a weekly or bi-weekly half-hour radio program that focuses on the intersection of this kind of music and dance? History, happenings, theory, etc. What a way this would be to continue growing shared interest among musicians and dancers. Programs that collaborate with folk-dance centers? Tapestry classes or at least announcements?

The juices is flowing. Another thought that occurred to me; I cannot make into full-time choreographers people who do not want to be full-time choreographers. I probably wouldn't want that myself (ok, if faced with an opportunity to choreograph full time in the proper setting for more money than I take in now, there is no way I'd say no, but that certainly would not happen without a lot of work, and that is not the direction in which I want to put my work). All we can do is try to figure out what people want, and then support that. Maybe helping people who want to choreograph in the form here and there IS what is needed; to keep a consistent flow of these kind of performance and viewing opportunities, a consistent presence. That certainly would help dispell the 'jazz is dead' bullshit. Alive and kickin, every season! Making the creation of choreography easier for people who are also passionate about educating (or whatever else it is they do? Hell, it could be accounting during the day, with a firey need to also create here and there. That is their perogitive). I just really want to be sure that we are doing what people want.

Another thought; I don't know that our time is best spent looking up information in one place and typing it into another place, like monkeys (ie keeping the events and show section on the site up to date). Our time in that arena would be best spent keeping an updated 'resource' links section, and instructing people to check out the sites of those that look interesting to find out more about what they are offering. All of these people are constantly updating their sites. If we are a support organization, why not send traffic to their sites and save ourselves some precious time to do other things? Keeping 'Resources' and 'Classes' up to date would be great, then using the newsletter as a way to highlight a couple of community happenings, referencing the 'Resources' tab as a way to find out more. Yes. Done.

Feeling the need to go forth and make things happen, and accepting it out of realization that these things cannot be sorted out completely in one bout of typing; it will take many bouts of typing. Good thing I like to write.