Sunday, November 5, 2017

Making Good On/ Chaos

This weekend, I'm proud that I continued to hold myself accountable to my New Year's Intentions of seeing more shows, going to more classes and writing about it all. Making good on my promises to myself.

In the last week, I had the pleasure of seeing the Rebirth Brass Band play the Turf Club on Halloween, seeing Threads Dance Project's "Uncertain Reality" and attending a tap class and a class with a choreographer whose work is seeped in traditions from both France and Burkina Faso. Rebirth allowed me to celebrate many things I hold dear: sharing a space with strangers and friends alike to be in the moment of hearing improvised music and responding with improvised movement. What else do I need?! It was really awesome to hear them live again after having had the pleasure of catching them at their regular Tuesday night haunt in New Orleans, the Maple Leaf Bar. How inspiring it was to see that so many people of so many different backgrounds wanted to spend their Halloween night experiencing live jazz!

As for Thread's "Uncertain Reality," I have to appreciate a dance show that causes me to take interest in a mathematical and scientific concept. I really appreciate Karen's program note detailing that she has "always found artists in science and science in art." She further stated that she's always found choreographic inspiration in her knowledge of computer science and math. I have always found choreographic inspiration in my knowledge of music, and I do enjoy the moments I find myself feeling and seeing the math in the music I choose and the subsequent movement I make. It's all in there.

I do have to admit that I often found the sections with lyrics to be distracting. It's tough for me to admit that some of the compositional advice I gained in college and that has stuck with me is indeed true, as my irreverent parts want to speak out. There was so much beauty and shared element in the music choices across the whole of the piece that lyrics often invaded the mindscape I was creating for myself.

I found the shuffling section and Betsey's solo with the ring of fabric around her waist alongside the rings projected on the floor to be particularly moving. These and most other sections in the show illuminated the beauty in the connections and happenings that can come as a result of the inherent chaos of the world, and the inherent fact that we do not own control over all that happens to us. Putting this into writing gets me thinking about choreography versus improvisation: can a choreographed sequence speak to chaos theory (at least my bleak understanding of it) as well as an improv score might? I suppose it depends on whether or not the purpose of the action is to experience the concept via participation or observation. To a certain extent, whether it is improvised or choreographed is of no concern to an observer, as they'll see the movements they see. To another extent, and a point I tend to argue, the energies of performing choreographed versus improvised material are always different. What an improvised phrase in dance can have in spontaneity it can lack in performative quality, and that's just one example. Just something this show made me ponder.

Regarding McKnight International Choreographer Fellow Salia Sanou piece, I found my race dialogue to be different from what I had expected from the program notes and my assumptions about what the cast would look like. Combining what I took to be a mostly white cast and the use of Mylar safety blankets, I found myself pondering how we choose to insulate ourselves or open our resources to others. That actually really worked for me, though I found the Billy Holiday and Nina Simone music to be somewhat discordant. That said, that discord could be what made me take away what I did - it made me uncomfortable. Both Sanou and Karen's work were performed beautifully by her versatile crew of dancers.

It was very interesting to take his class the next morning, though not in the way I expected: I was expecting to really be investigating parallels to his choreography, and instead was fascinated by how the class was directed by him in conjugation with a translator. I've never been in a dance class with a translator, and one of the program directors actually mentioned how rare it is that a translator in a dance class would also be a dancer/ dancing through it like in this case. There was a simultaneous immediacy and separation in taking in the information from two different sources: physical information primarily from Salia and verbal information primarily from Emily.

As for the movement itself, I really enjoy it, and found myself wondering how much of it was traditional Bobo ritual (as mentioned in Salia's bio of his early training) and how much of it was from his experience training with African ballets and in France. I found it so interesting to feel so much parallel between the footwork, rhythms and isolations/ initiations we did and my jazz experiences. It was actually pretty profound! I feel really grateful that I live somewhere we are fortunate enough to have guests like him come to us. Perhaps Dana and Mary Ellen will be the recipients of two of my gratitude notes this season. I should stock up on blank cards!

Lastly, the tap class. It was in over my head and knew I would be, so I actually really enjoyed it! I didn't expect to be on top of it all, and expectation management turned out to be key. It actually felt really good to be in a dance space where I felt really challenged, taking what I could and leaving what I couldn't. It was empowering to make decisions about what I'd really try for, to manage myself throughout class and to not feel embarrassed about being at the bottom of the ability level in the class. It was rally good for me as an educator to feel what one of my own students in that position might be feeling. I  can encourage them to take it all in stride, to be proud of themselves for the progress they can manage and to know that good folks will support their being their and putting their best effort forth!

What a great week/ end. I'm gonna keep making good on/ embracing the chaos.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Chill


So many ways to think about this word. I really like this word. Hell, I've named my next show with this word. It's gotten me considering several things, all as a slew together: the subtle ways the weather shifts, the open-minded ways I approach a lot in my choreographic process (unexpected for me, looking in on it), the cools of the tap dancers I saw on Friday night - their chills were also their cools.

Parallels between chill and cool. Cool down. Chill out. In writing these things, my immediate thought was that these sayings are responses to people being "too emotional" or "too fired up." "Too" something. This connotation is somewhat of a bummer to me - I've long been someone who has prided herself on not being afraid to show an emotion or an opinion, and I think there is a valuable place in the self for willingness to react. That said, this observance of self has been shifting: as I continue to embrace the idea that personal identity is ever-changing, I'm thinking of myself as more and more even-keeled, open and interested in considering the grey matter (thanks Kris :) than I've been in the past. Bumped up against my feeling seen as "too cool and collected, needing to let vulnerability burst out" in grad school AND still as hot-headed at times among friends and family who have known me for a long time makes the influence of the perception of others a confusing contribution to self-perception.

Perhaps this is why I feel so surprised when I am so chill about so many things when I am creating: where the arms go, expression at this part . . . That said, there are things I am NOT chill about at all: rhythm in the feet, facings . . . This realization feels sort of like an artistic metaphor for the idea that we are not bound to one side of our Rubix Cube of personality. In actuality, its components are always shifting and creating new options because life is like that - it's a constant state of flux with many options for reaction. How short are we selling ourselves and others when we believe that our sides (choices, ideas, potentials for reaction) are fixed? 

I have to admit that given it's contrast to definite-opinion, always-highly-specific Erinn (ex: rhythmic footwork), chill Erinn's approaches (ex: letting the upper body experience the rhythm in the lower body in a way that feels good and shows individuality) when making art are very exciting! It's just been interesting to realize this contrast and consider how it affects me not only personally, but professionally.

Watching the dancers in the Twin Cities Tap Festival showcase performance continued this loop on chill that I've been considering for the last couple months. Again, part of what drew/ draws me in is the emphasis put on sharing tools (tap shoes, particular rhythms, facings) but using them in entirely different ways according to individual approach (composition of groove in the body, the way it manifests, differences in dynamic). This is the stuff that makes vernacular dance so appealing to me: sharing tools to build community that encourages space for individuality within in it. I felt so inspired to get my tap shoes on, and hope I make good on that on 11/5 by attending Kallie's company's first class!

To close out: that chill in the air. It's a subtlety that causes both minor shifts, like in layers of clothing, and major change, like the setting off of a thunderstorm. Nature's perfect way of encapsulating the idea that maybe such extremes can and do live in harmony with one another, not only in the weather, but in us as well.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Looking Back and In

This last week has seen me looking back and looking in quite a bit, all pushed by live performances.


Coming here to look back and in, it was hard to see that I hadn't written here since Garrett. I guess that processing was all far more private than this might be. Just hard to see that date and think "pre-loss" and "post-loss." I wonder if it'll be that way forever? Probably not. I've lost others, but not like this. I don't have much more to say about that right now.

Beyond this: I came to write a post that reflects on my recent live music and performance experiences, and the above train of thought got me thinking about how I was at the Paul Simon concert at Eaux Claires while it was conspiring. Something felt really tender about that concert. Was it that? Life cycle. Aliveness in live music/ performance. Paired with me pondering WHY it's so important to me to go see live music and performance, it's really hitting home. Aliveness. Feeling the pulsing of the sound waves through your bodies and those around you. Experiencing this sweet sense of being in the moment while simultaneously experiencing the past, being brought there by a reliable soundtrack you've been able to count on at various times in your life. Transcending the weights and feeling weightless for a little while, like what keeps you down doesn't even exist for a bit. That last idea on it's own sounds a little dangerous, like escapism. Perhaps not when coupled with this: at it's best, live music and performance experiences allow you to escape momentarily to renew your juju, giving you a renewed sense of inspiration and purpose.

I definitely feel these things. They are why I keep coming back. They are why I wish that I prioritized seeing live music and performance more. But I'm making good on that. I've joined Setlist.fm as a way to track the live music I've seen, and I think seeing it all listed out like that is really going to be inspirational for me. It will require some work - I've already had to add shows - but I think it'll be worth it.

I think I've actually been having a really good year seeing live performance: music in particular, but I've also been trying to keep myself accountable for seeing more live dance too, which is surprisingly easy to bypass when you are a dancer yourself (well, sometimes it's WHY you end up opting out . . .). It was a New Years Intention for me to get myself back in the game with seeing live music and dance, so I'm glad I'm making good on it. "Don't wait for tomorrow" - thanks for having my back here, Hanson. Why wait? Go see stuff now. It's what I hope people are thinking when they are on the fence about coming to MY shows!

I've been approaching a lot lately with a mindset of "What else would I be doing?" At one point (and I'm likely to cycle through something similar again in my life), this would have been a dangerous outlook: I have a tendency to over-commit and under-enjoy because of that. After well over a year of working to change that, I felt myself go a little too far the other way, sometimes leaving too much time open or bypassing things that would have been awesome, cherish-able experiences in the name of not overextending myself. I guess sometimes it takes over-correction to eventually land in the middle.

I keep looking for that middle. Fortunately, that middle recently landed me seeing both both legendary tapper Savion Glover at local favorite jazz club The Dakota and Hanson at local favorite rock club First Ave in the span of less than a week. I'd had the Hanson tickets since March (the day they went on sale, to be exact), but the Savion show was an excellent last-minute decision. I'm glad I found the middle on that one :)   The details of the Savion show were both expected and unexpected. The set up of the solo musician and dancer, to me, seems like an excellent and obvious pairing. That said, it's not being done. Especially at that caliber. The fact they never took a break was definitely surprising to me, but it really worked. I actually loved being able to get absorbed in the moment without having to re-invest after a break. I do wonder if their stamina and aesthetic choices might have changed more if they had, but stamina at least didn't appear to be an issue. I hope this tour paves the way for more like this - I'm so glad the Dakota took a chance on a music and dance act: seems like it paid out for them too!

Next up: Hanson. I am NEVER disappointed when I go see these guys. After pondering it a bit, I think I've figured out that I've seen them a whopping seven times. And it took me until THIS year to see Radiohead. I guess I'm realizing that Radiohead and Hanson are my top two when it comes to bands. There is something to be said for the history you develop with a set of music: when you've liked a band for 14 and 20 years, respectively, their music comes along with you for major parts of your life, and that's no small thing.


Back to how the show was: again, NEVER disappointed. And I actually don't think much of that has to do with the fact that I've been an in-it-for-the-music fan for at least 16 years (those first four were as much about relationship fantasies as they were the music). It also wasn't just because it was an opportunity to celebrate one of my best friend's birthdays and 20 years of our friendship (kindled over a mutual love of Hanson, of course!). They really just put on a killer show. As somewhat of a music snob, it made me believe in pop music again. It reminded me that great pop-rock-soul music can be just the tonic my spirit needs to keep space for joy (and sometimes pain!).


My behavior post-show also made me wonder what my teens years would have been like with YouTube. As I've told my concert pal, I really don't think we would have gotten anything done! I suppose I have to be glad YouTube didn't hit until I had developed a modicum of skill in self-regulation. Other post-show realizations: it's pretty cool to note that your teenage dreams were just that: teenage dreams. At 13, my ideal life included Taylor Hanson being my boyfriend. Now, I look in on their personal lives and realize that as a pretty liberal gal who has her own dreams and ambitions, many of their values do not match with mine. Sure, I kinda knew this, being that they've always been quite religious and conservative. After a little digging (yes, I watched a whole lot of video and read a whole lot of articles in this post-show, renewed-zeal-for-Hanson moment), I really knew.

In short, I'm glad for my continued zeal (plus some additional perspective gained via age) for not only Hanson in specific, but live music and performance in general. I hope to also continue holding myself to writing about my experiences. It's cathartic.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

WIth or Without

I think I have understood and operated by the idea of 'with or without' for a long time. When given the choice to make something work as is or get something new, I always go with 'if its not broke don't fix it.' As far as I can remember, I have always been quite frugal. That said, I recognize I've had the privilege of choosing to be so. I've never been in a position where I didn't have a support system to help me through if something got bad, which I feel has helped me choose less.

My developing interest in simple living/ minimalism/ intentionality/ mindfulness/ life design/ whatever you want to call it has caused me to think a bit about this, both consciously and subconsciously. Also leading me to write today is the London and Greece trip Kris and I just had the pleasure of taking. I find I always end up pondering and researching cultural differences when I travel to far off lands, and 'with or without' was quite a constant consideration on this trip. We landed in London at a time where they are digging more practically into what 'Brexit' is actually going to look like. We landed in Greece in the midst of more political upheaval over their debt and austerity measures. These travels next to one another did a lot to illuminate 'with and without,' 'have and have not.'

Britain wants out of an alliance created in homage of 'all over one,' and Greece is demonstrating how, despite good intentions, 'all over one' can be very difficult to execute. It was very interesting to have conversations with people from both places IN both places. Part of this is because it made me feel proud that Kris and I work to keep ourselves informed and empathetic and it shows. Most of it was because it gave me an even clearer sense of how nothing is universal, yet there are many ties that bind. More and more so.

My train of thought on this is not sure which station to pull into, so I may let it hang in the air for a bit. Back to the pull-together idea of 'with and without.' A major thing I noticed, particularly in Greece, was space use. Space in aged major metropolitan areas is really at a premium. I again realized, over and over, how truly young the United States is in the grand scope of 'history as we know it.' Standing among remnants of 7000+ year-old civilizations did that to me, even though it was really hard to completely comprehend how ancient the things I was seeing really are. Back to space. Though I have indeed thought about it before, I was struck by how tiny the streets were. No parking lots. More people on the streets. Coming home to big streets and parking lots was both shocking and completely unsurprising.

There is plain surprise for me in how much I actually did crave open space after being in Athens for the last three days of our trip. I really do (and I'm sure I'm not alone) take for granted not only the amount of space we have here, even in the midst of our metro area, but also how clean it is. How our public spaces are in general so well taken-care-of. I found myself realizing that as much as I love travel and adventure in general, I do crave home. Routine/ rhythm. Place.

I wish to think of myself as a constant adventure-seeker. In this, I was sort of disappointed in myself when, four days out from the end of the trip, I started to feel antsy to come home. To get back to work. The more I thought about it, I also realized that the later of those two statements was a large part of why I was ready to 'get back to it.' I love my work. I am fortunate to spend almost all of my time doing things I truly enjoy, and that goes not only for my work, but all components of my life.

Adventure-seeking comes in more forms than just travel. As the result of a lot of personal work in learning to be mindful, I am coming to believe more and more that all the things we choose to experience, should we choose to see them this way, can be adventure. So here's to the adventure of owning a home. Of building my own work in something I care deeply for. In loving my people. In tasting my food.

With/out space. With/out time. With/out energy. Onward.