Thursday, February 11, 2016


I guess it's not surprising, when I consider it, that many of these posts actually begin as communication with a friend or colleague. I think my best thoughts come out when they are being created for someone specific that I appreciate. The lack of surprise comes from my artistic and personal interest in being social. In letting social context and information inspire my life and my art. I am most certainly an extrovert; I do gain the great majority of my energy from being with others who I appreciate. I DO love my alone time (particularly since I got pretty good at and learned to crave it in grad school), but I definitely prefer people over no people when it comes to recharging my batteries.

This line of thought came from composing a reply to a student who sent an awesome email full of information on sampling after we had a brief discussion after class one day regarding this practice. She sent links to songs and ideas that definitely expanded my grasp on the concept of sampling, and lead me to think a little deeper on it again. It's awesome to realize that one artistic exploration of a concept does not dig it up and leave you with EVERYTHING; there is always more to go back to, and I find this exciting.

I LOVE this Curtis Mayfield tune that my student pointed out, and of course never REALLY knew who did it or what the social context was; in a certain way, I feel certain types of EDM, for some of today's 18-45 set (yes, an intentionally wide range!) serve the same purpose as "Move On Up" and other tunes did for soul lovers in the 70s. I also think it's interesting to take a look at the socio-cultural background of those in question. Soul really was an uplifter for many folks who were of lower socio-economic status and often African American. As soul developed a history and travelled, more folks found value in it.

I am so interested by this conversation; I am horrified by appropriation, yet equally horrified by not being able to enjoy the all cultural products of our beautiful world. To me, the answer has become being informed. That is why I loved getting this email from my student; I think when we get interested in ANYTHING (be it 'from our own identity demographic' or not), we owe it to that thing to dig. Hip-hop, soul, yodeling for god sakes - anything! It makes life so much richer to dig and to be able to give appreciation to originators before running with the material in another potentially as interesting direction :)

In our brief conversation, I had mentioned a documentary I was tipped off to by a visit to my grad school campus by DJ Spooky: I believe it was "Copyright Criminals". That said, I really feel like there was another one too . . . I am sure it is written in an old journal somewhere that is packed for my move this Friday :) Perhaps it was "Sample This"? I just love this conversation: what belongs to who? Should we even talk about it in those terms? When something becomes a part of popular or mass culture on any scale, it becomes really hard to decide these things. I think rather than trying to decide, we should focus on knowing and respecting origins.

I created a piece this past summer I ended up titling Coattails. i.e., riding on those of others. 'The Coattail Effect' is an actual political term for a candidate gaining traction in an election due to side by side exposure with another candidate - Hillary and Bernie, anyone?! I wanted to explore this double-sided coin of sampling. I worked with a live band to link together four different commonly-sampled hooks and breaks, those from "Apache" by the Incredible Bongo Band, "Think" by Lyn Collins and "Amen, Brother" by the Winstons (origin of the Amen break), and the "Funky Drummer" James Brown backbeat pattern as a way to hook them all together. We had jean jackets I attached tails to that I sewed, and I had to reinforce them enough that they'd bear body weight, as we literally rode on each others! It was performed in August, so I suppose I am about due to go back and look at it. Again, there is something really enticing about coming back to something. I have so many pieces I made and then walked away from, and am feeling a real itch to go back and examine them with fresh eyes (ones that have been through grad school and honed their aesthetic slant :)). I definitely think some redux is on it's way . . .

Back to sampling. This line of thinking is just a huge one for me. On a note related by its steeping in socially-generated information, I have been thinking a lot lately about how the skills I want to keep developing for my own choreographic and performance life often do not correspond to taking morning ballet, modern and sometimes even jazz dance classes. I am so interested in social improvisational dance, from a personal and professional standpoint. Professionally, I am interested in how this information can be translated to presentational dance as well as be presented alongside it. That said, it's not often enough that I get out to dance at a funk or house night or to go salsa or swing dancing. I'm always trying to work on this, but my propensity for mornings, partner that will dance but for whom dancing is not the choice activity and life and dance friends who also do not 'go dancing' much, it's tough.

Putting this into words helps me realize that settling on those limiting factors is NOT something I am going to do. The title of this blog sums up my approach: making plans and putting them into motion. It is often planning that really helps me get actionable, so I'm getting planny on this thing. Looks like Wabasha Street Cave's Swing Night is dance lesson at 6pm, live music 7-10. YES! That timing is my jam :) I have been trying to attend a house gathering on Sunday nights at the apartment community studio of a hip-hop practitioner in the cities, but it's often later than works well for me, and I have been down in Winona for the last several Sundays.

Planning. Planning a system . . . Yesterday, I added to my calendar all the Zumba classes I could feasibly attend in a week as a part of a new scholarship project. I think seeing a reminder stare at me on my calendar will help me prioritize the time. I think I am also going to add regular house, swing, and salsa dance nights so they are there staring me in the face when I am met with considering how to work these practices into my life. Systems, planning . . . adding an event on my calendar for each weekday that repeats that says 'Dance Opportunities, ' in which I can list all of that day's regular opportunities in the notes.

Here I go. I LOVE when my thinking leads to actionable things. I just hope that the pathway ends up as thinking . . . planning . . . system . . . use of system :)

Use of system. A sampling of how I progress.