Progress

After class on Monday a girl who has more performance experience than I do returned a comment of mine with “Thanks! I was jealous of your pirouettes. Sometimes you were just floating.”

Flabbergasted.

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Turns and the Basic Spot

Watching old dance videos with my family there’s a pattern we notice. First, Shawna’s always in her corner (back, stage left). And rarely on camera. But on the rare occasion the camera does catch me, it’s usually followed by me doing a turn. And as though the camera man also couldn’t bear the sight of my off-kilter flailing, there’s a quick pan to some other area of the stage. Aw, Shawna just can’t turn. But that’s ok.

Doing the contemporary style I’ve become most comfortable and happy in now, the turns are different. Gooey, so staying on your leg doesn’t necessarily apply. You’re leaning, using the momentum and falling out of it, not even able to spot because you’re watching your arm or contracting and focusing on the floor. Thing is, in order to consider myself a good dancer I should be able to do something basic like, say, use my core and stay on my leg. Because when pirouettes do make an appearance, that’s kind of key.

Today in class, we did the dreaded cross-out-in-cross-out-down-turn. Those regular across the floors of my childhood. But something was different today. Today Jenni gave me a simple note – she noticed I’m waiting too long to turn my head and therefore, while I’m spotting, I’m killing the momentum and off from where my body is going as we carve around the inside of that imaginary PVC pipe. Loosening my head atop my neck, I tried again. And suddenly, it was so much easier.

There’s still work I need to do, but it’s amazing how much a simple note can cause a giant leap forward. I know one of the main issues I’m having and can feel the difference when it’s addressed. Imagine if that note got to me in high school?

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“There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain.” ― Audrey Hepburn

My kind of sex appeal

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Why Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine?

As many of you now know, I’ve left Mule and embarked on a new journey. I’m taking the summer off to figure out the big changes in my life, travel and see friends, and enjoy simply being a person before I become a student (label alert!) again. Starting in the fall, I’ll be studying integrative medicine, specifically Japanese and Chinese medicine. Many, many different things brought me to this decision. For simplicity’s sake, I’m using as a reference and explanation my admissions essay:

The final lines from Mary Oliver’s poem The Summer Day have stuck with me through the years, challenging me to answer them: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” Until deciding to pursue Oriental Medicine, I felt I was not living up to the possibility of a happy and meaningful life. I’ve learned much from my professional life so far, but have found that while I may gain satisfaction from knowing that my clients’ work and the overall mission of my company may be positive forces in the world, I am not making an impact directly nor am I doing something I love. I believe integrative medicine is the profession that will allow me to make that direct, personal impact in the world while also bringing me joy in the everyday work.

My career to date has been as a communications professional, most recently in the world of web design project management where my approach to client relations is based in empathy and translation. The part of my role I’ve most enjoyed is understanding where the client is coming from and what their needs are in order to advise them on how best we can help them. This requires the daily practice of empathy, a vital state of being to me, as a person and as a professional. Over the past several months I’ve noticed and considered these parts of myself I need to express and I’m setting out on this path now in order to give voice to them. Continue reading

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Back to Knitting

With the whirlwind of the show over (sniff sniff), my life is falling back into the balance it had before. I found that so much dancing was absolutely incredible for one part of my self, but it meant that I wasn’t knitting at all! That was fine for a while, but I’m glad in a way to be back to my little routine. I’ll look forward to the next show, of course, and perhaps be better prepared to make sure I take care of all the little corners of my self in the process.

But there is so much knitting stuff to talk about! This is the year of frogging or finishing unfinished objects for the Yarn Wranglers (the knitting group I belong to), and while I’m not sure I’ll be able to stick to that plan entirely, I’m doing ok so far. I finally (FINALLY) frogged the February Lady Sweater I had in progress that either needed to be restarted or killed. It’s dead. That yarn is all wound up in new balls and will probably be used for Ysolda’s Vine Yoke Cardigan. If I ever get up the nerve to knit a fitted sweater again. I’m considering attacking something more forgiving like Jared Flood’s Inversion. Yummy, cozy, Japanese-inspired drapeyness! Continue reading

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Photos from Context

this is a (costume) testthis is a (costume) testthis is a (costume) testcolor and linescostume idea
Photo shoot!Save the Date! March 21/22 8pmfirst rehearsalfirst rehearsalalbertomarco and sadie
gem suit tildamore costume ideasred tux chickred tux pants womensmore costume ideaswang tux remix
mens latin_tux_pantcumberbun pantsworking at the genius barEvery part of this process is my favoriteHot off the presses.

context, a set by *jenni. on Flickr.

Gathered and in most cases taken by Jenni. Thanks also to Teresa Brazen for taking photos during rehearsal and Seth Bregman for capturing closing night in still images!

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San Francisco Dance Film Festival 2012

This young film festival was one of my favorite events of 2011 so I expanded my scope for visiting this year. Two nights – including opening night this time – while of course revisiting the short program.

There’s something about short films. They’re this little nugget of inspiration. And sometimes the smallest thing about the execution – a particular way of getting off the ground in a solo, the use of music at a particular cue – can stick with you for months if not years. This year’s selections were, I think, a cut above even last year’s (which were exceptional). Here are the clips and in some cases full films of my favorites: Continue reading

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What do I think? What do I like? What do I love? What do I hold in my hands like a wounded bird that I need to pay attention to? What makes me feel like I have teeth? What makes me feel hopeful? What makes me look ugly but feel happy? What don’t you like about me that I would never give up?

That’s what I forget too often, and that’s what you forget too often, and it’s time we remember. Who do we hold up the most over time? Who do we continue to tell stories about and replay and reread and rediscover? It’s the people who risked being disliked. It’s the ones who risk being ugly and inconvenient and selfish to create the life and art they loved the most.

We most see ourselves, the real and meaty complication of our interiors, when we see it in others, those who let those raw bits of themselves out into the wild to see what will happen, and that is the irony that twists what we’ve been trained to do on its head. All of the appealing, appeasing, ingratiating servitude we’ve been trained to see as our being so giving of ourselves is actually the tool that keeps us quiet, controlled, and cut off from each other, cut off from the kind of honest, vulnerable interaction that brings the most joy to people and communities.

The way we’ve been trained to serve often renders us as little more than machines that do given tasks, and it cuts us off from what it is to truly give of ourselves both to our own beings and to others.

Read the whole thing. This is absolutely where I am right now. And it so happens to hearken back to my favorite poem, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Create the life and art you love the most

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Finding Context

Screen Shot from Context Promotional Video

I feel a bit like I’ve grown up and become “a real dancer” in the past few months. In 2010, I tried out for Jenni Bregman’s first Resident Artist Workshop (RAW) project Intimate City. I learned a lot from the audition and felt I did well, but Jenni told me I wasn’t ready. Naturally I was disappointed, but kept working hard and enjoying dancing just for the joy of it. But when Jenni told me in the fall last year that she was remounting Intimate City and working on a new piece in a second RAW, I gathered my courage and asked if I might have improved enough to audition. She surprised me by telling me there were a few dancers who couldn’t do Intimate City this year, so would I like to do that? Um…yes! I assumed I would just be in that piece and not the new one, but that proved not to be the case. The blessings kept piling up. Overwhelmed and excited, I joined this as-yet-unnamed company and found myself working with the friendliest, most patient and giving group of dancers (some of whom do this for a living!).

Fast forward to today and we’re more than halfway through our rehearsal time and the show (including Intimate City and the new piece, Context) goes up March 21 and 22nd at the Garage in San Francisco. I feel that I’m more in control of my movement and more expressive. I feel it deeper and give more. In a way, is this what I was meant to be doing all along?

Learn more about the piece and help us make it come to life by watching the behind the scenes video and supporting us on Kickstarter.

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Solo Snapshot by Matt Haber

Shawna by Matt Haber
Photo by Matt Haber, November 2010

It’s an amazing honor to have someone document where you are in dance at a particular moment, and to have that in perpetuity. – John Doyle (aka The Creep from Girl Walk//All Day*)

I felt the same way in 2009 when I had my first dance photograph taken (by Matthew Kertesz). The feeling hasn’t diminished despite having done this before. I love doing this and love having a shareable record of that. Precisely where I am with that. It feels like the truest expression of who I am.

This photograph and session were for creating promotional materials for a show we’re working on. More on that shortly.

* By the way, Girl Walk//All Day is a must-watch experience. Warning – you will get sucked in. And Shopping Spree is my favorite episode.

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