Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Happy Passover!

What are you celebrating at this time of the year?

I remember being a child and told that Easter is the most important holiday because Christ conquered death and now, believers (Catholics) could live without fear. My small mind was really confused because, although I was brought up in the Church and celebrated Easter, I still had a lot of fear - fear of bad guys, fear of disappointing my parents and teachers, fear of rejection...

"Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." ~from Frank Hebert's Dune

Easter and Spring time are opportunities for reflection, regrowth, and rebuilding. And facing fears.

I've stayed quiet during this journey of Becoming Mom because I've had a lot of fear:

Fear regarding my career.
Fear regarding the availability of reproductive care with the current political climate.
Fear of social rejection.
Fear of my body and how she's changing.
Fear of how my child will grow and grow up.
Fear of how my child will journey into the joys and challenges of being a member of society.
Fear of losing control of how my body looks.
Fear of how the health of my body will change.
Fear of perception - that by being pregnant, I'm somehow less of who I was and have become a vessel instead of an intelligent, functioning, active member of society and my community.
Fear of physical vulnerability.
Fear of the vulnerability of this little life growing inside of me.
Fear of emotional vulnerability - as I become more aware of the human condition through the development of this little new person.
Fear of emotional vulnerability - as I become more aware of the changes occurring in and around me.
Fear of artistic vulnerability - putting myself and this changing body in the public eye.
Fear of artistic vulnerability - as my artistry changes as my awareness changes.
Fear of how this new life will effect the life I've created - professionally, physcially, artistically, socially...
Fear of how my relationships will be challenged, strengthened, and changed.
Fear of admitting I am afraid of all of these things... and some I'm sure I'm not ready to admit.

In the past week, specifically, I've received more honest questions about this process - how am I feeling, really? What's it like to be pregnant and a professional dancer? Will I continue to perform?

And while some people have asked "what happened to you?", in the way that their sarcastic personalities allow them to connect with the world, most of the questions have been genuine curiousities. Because of the courage of the the young women who have bravely asked me these questions in the past week, I realize that it's time to face my fears, let them pass over and through me, and to remain.

I missed the Lenten tradition of giving something up or sacrificing. 1) because I'm not a practicing Catholic and 2) because I've been wrapped up in my world of finding ways to protect myself from my fears. During this Easter season of rebirth, I'm going to spend some time talking, sharing, and listening to this journey with a spirit of renewal. It's my hope that through sharing this vulnerable (and yet completely normal, natural, super-human) and embodied journey, I'll open doors for conversation, education, strength, and compassion. But first, I need to face the fear.

Happy Easter! I look forward to learning more about your journeys, adventures, and experiences of embodying the story of Becoming Mom (or Becoming Dad. Or Becoming You).  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Showers bring...


We're deep into the Philadelphia performance season! Mark your calendars and get your tickets! Here's a quick rundown on what's reigning (raining...?) on the April calendar - and into the summer. (Click on the links for tickets and more info).

April 8th & 9th. Koresh Artist Showcase at Koresh Dance, Philly. April 8th - 6pm & 8pm. April 9th 6pm. We're sharing a new work inspired by the music of Carrington Kay. 

April 8th. Boundaries and Bridges presents Theatrical Bridges. An evening of film and theater inspired by building bridges in Chester, PA. 7pm at Widener University's Alumni Auditorium.

April 13th. KYL/D's Deconstructing ONE - Immortal Game at KYL/D's CHI MAC at 7:30pm. Get a behind-the-scenes look at Kun-Yang Lin's process of creating and reconstructing ONE - Immortal Game.

April 21st & 22nd. Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet's NothingThatIsNotThere presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Science Festival at the Performance Garage. (I'm not performing because I'm deep in the process of Becoming Mom, but I've been a part of Nora's work since 2009. More on Becoming Mom as a contemporary ballet dancer in another post...)

April 23rd. Widener University's Spring Chamber Music and Dance Concert. 3pm at Widener University's Kapelski LC1.

April 27-29th. Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at Prince Theater. Use my artist code: Jessica8 for a special friends and family discount on your tickets! Read author/scholar/artist/incredible person Kimerer LaMothe's article from Deconstructing Santuario in Psychology Today and check out this interview preview I did with my super cool friend and colleague Nikolai McKenzie:

May 12th & 13th. KYL/D's InHale/ ExHale Performance Series at KYL/D's CHI MAC, 7:30pm both nights. More info coming soon! Different artists will be presented each evening, including work by KYL/D's own talented group of creators!

June 9th. The Embodiment Project travels to NYC for the The Moving Beauty Series. 8pm at the Hudson Guild Theatre.

June 28th. The Embodiment Project's back in NYC at Dixon Place for 8 in Show.

Whew! I look forward to seeing you during these adventures! Check back for updates on the performances and process.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Women Owned Businesses

November 18th is/was Women's Entrepreneurship Day. March is/was Women's Month.

To round out Women's Month, below is a list of women owned businesses and services from people who added their voice to a discussion I started on Nov 18th, 2016. I've tried to "categorize" these for an ease of use, but, like each individual woman, the work they/we do is quite unique. In business as in life, we wear many hats. So, under Dance Companies/ Artists you'll find not only choreographers and companies, but women who are also teachers, mentors, lighting designers, music editors, curators, writers, mothers...

I've listed the name of the owner of the business first - without the woman, the business wouldn't exist! Then, a link to their webpage for more information, followed by their primary location. However, if you're really interested in working with Helen Hale and you're in Michigan, give her a call, shoot her an email, look her up! The world is growing smaller and, like Natalie Lovejoy who can teach music lessons through SKYPE, we can be almost anywhere at any time. Distance is no longer an obstacle - it's the personal touch and the humanity of each of these women that I think makes the difference in "business" and "busyness".

This list is by no means comprehensive or curated to suggest and support my most favorite people (although many of the women who participated are my favorite people). It's an element of a much larger conversation. In the mean time, try some yoga with Julie, get a marketing consultation with Angelina, settle in with Kirsten's writing... and add your voice in the comments!

Amy Cuddy - The Art of Power Posing.
Helen Faller - Cultural Copilot. All over! (Grant writing, editing)
Kirsten Kaschock - thINKingDANCE.

Angelina Savage - First Position Communications. All over!

Dance Companies/ Artists
Alex Pobeidzinski - danceETHOS Performance Company. Allentown, PA.
Beth Formica Bender - Dynamic Dance Artist. Philadelphia, PA.
Mishi Castroverde - Mishi Dance. NYC, NY.
Helen Hale - Helen Hale Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Evalina Carbonell - Evalina Carbonell. Philadelphia, PA.
Lauren Putty White - Putty Dance Project. Philadelphia, PA.
Jennifer Yackel - JDY Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Melissa Chisena - Chisena Danza. Philadelphia, PA.
Olive Prince - Olive Prince Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Cassandra Cotta - 5th Digit Dance. NYC, NY.
Madhusmita Bora - Sattriya Dance Company. Philadelphia, PA.
Becca Weber - Somanaut Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Keila Cordova - 3 Pony Show/ Keila Cordova Dances. Philadelphia, PA.
Maria Bauman - MB Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Kate Abernathy & Melissa Cameron - Birds on a Wire. Philadelphia, PA.
Annielille Gavino - MalayaWorks. Philadelphia, PA.
Zornitsa Stoyanova - Here Begin Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Laura Katz - Choreographer, scholar, pedagogue. Philadelphia, PA.
Nora Gibson - Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet. Philadelphia, PA.
Jessica Warchal-King - The Embodiment Project. Philadelphia, PA.

Dance Studios
Melissa Emick Hottenstein - Endless Mountains Dance Center. Towanda, PA.
Muyu Yuan - L & M Dance Studio. Philadelphia, PA.
Victoria Owens - Abundance Center for the Performing Arts. Chester, PA.

Dance Training, Performance Opportunities, & Resources
Angelina Young Savage - Resonance Tap. Pittsburg, PA & all over!
Angelina Young Savage - NETapCo.
Melissa Chisena - Evening of Duets. Philadelphia, PA.
Melissa Chisena - Philly Youth Dance Fest. Philadelphia, PA.
Jessica Marino - JAM Dancer. All over!

Health & Wellness
Kelly Spiece Prentice - Bajia Initiative. Easton, PA. (Shifting the Health Paradigm - Workplace Wellness)
Alyssandra Doherty - Healthy, Fit, & Balanced. Philadelphia, PA.
Kelly Adorno - Movement Source Pilates. Philadelphia, PA.
Julie Weiss - Yoga with Julie.

Lighting Design
Alyssandra Doherty - Lighting Design. Philadelphia, PA
Jimena Alviar - ja Dance Company

Natalie Lovejoy - Natalie Lovejoy Music. NYC, NY. (Teaching, Composing, online distance lessons)

Ellen Rosenberg - Ellen Rosenberg Photography. Philadelphia, PA & New Orleans, LA.
Kaitlin Chow - KChow Studios. Philadelphia, PA.

Becca Ehrilch - Zion Lutheran Church. Clarence Center, NY. (First female Lutheran Pastor)

Lisa Brewer - Salon Bella. Broomall, PA.

Diane Baren - Sadies Place for Veterans. All over!

Visual Artistry and Craft
Beth Formica Bender - Sawdust Siren. Philadelphia, PA.
Tatiana Hassan - Artist.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day.

We only get one day? Internationally? I have a childhood memory of a discussion of why there are specific months or days for specific populations or people - Black History Month. LGBT Pride Month. Hispanic Heritage Month. Polish American Heritage Month. Caregivers Month. V-Day. International Women's Day. Veterans' Day. 

I understand the positive intention of bringing awareness to "minority" populations, but at the same time, by doing so, don't we recognize, encourage, and proliferate those populations remaining in the minority? Why don't "we" (the collective majority?) see these people as special every day? And yes, I recognize this could be true for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, and Valentine's Day,  (or where ever you want to place the apostrophe), Earth Day, International Dance Day, the list goes on... 

Maybe it is important to have these days to pause and reflect on the importance of diversity, service, family, and love. Perhaps, at this point in time, it's most important to bring these values back to the forefront of our awareness and action. 

How did you celebrate International Women's Day?

I'm celebrating by sharing a new truth, a recent journey, and a new path on my adventure. 

I'm in the process of Becoming Mom. 

Becoming Mom is scary to finally admit publicly because I've privately struggled with accepting the changes to my life and my body. 

During this process of Becoming Mom, I've become painfully more aware of how the government is trying to control my access to health care and the way health care providers are responding. 

I've found new friendships and deepened existing relationships with women who have passed into and through this portal of motherhood. 

And I've faced the challenge of a largely patriarchal society that (for many years) has tainted my view of femininity and beauty; questioning not only the aesthetic (and perceived) value of a woman, but the aesthetic value of the mother. 

Many of the challenges I faced in the first few months have specifically brought this question to light. My body is changing and growing and my appearance is changing and growing. Would my dance career be over? Would I need to stop performing? Would I be accepted? Could I still do everything that I've been doing - both in terms of physicality and schedule? 

I'm lucky because the Philadelphia Dance scene is rich with women who are negotiating motherhood and a professional dance career. Here, there is a wealth of knowledge, support, and movement to keep moving. 

I've been told that my pregnant body is aesthetically unappealing for the professional stage and particular work (by men), but I am finding more support in the female community by women who have gained a deeper awareness of self and others and their own artistry through this process.  

Many years ago, a good friend and somatic practitioner told me her "ah-ha" moment in coming to terms with Becoming Mom. She was hesitant to embark on this journey for some of the reasons I mentioned previously; "But," she reflected, "if my work is to embody the human experience and share that experience through art making and movement education, aren't I denying myself a very important part of that experience by resisting Becoming Mom?" She know has two children and continues to be a leader in the community. 

I'll write more on how Becoming Mom is influencing my dance performance, choreography, educational and advocacy practices, but for now, I want to express my gratitude for all of the women who have paved the way for me to talk about and experience this openly. 

As I do, I process through my body and through my dance. Here's a moment from a new work, that is researching the process of Becoming Mom and reflects on sections of Michael Lancaster's poem, Heading Old. 

"...poems tracking generations
long past, generations
deeply forward, life after life
arriving, being, passing to 
life matter: mud, water, new life, 
grasses, birds, fish uncountable, 
crustaceans, shellfish, 
food and life, immortality. 
In consciousness, I am
circular life, yet limning its cadences
in cadences as urgent as life even as
my cadence slows from its 
primal assertion to be my father
miming his pace as I sought his side and 
then strode strongly past succeeding
his dreams immortal in me. 
In time my children and their stream
my immortality in their urgency...."

Photo by Greg Irvin

Photo by Greg Irvin

How are you celebrating International Women's Day? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KYL/D's 31st InHale is Friday

KYL/D's 31st InHale is Friday! 

One thing that's really special about this InHale is that our entire program of featured artists is presenting at InHale for the first time! InHale continues to grow and bring fresh faces and voices, as well of those that are seasoned and well-established, to the Philadelphia area! This performance features artists from Philly, NYC, Washington DC, and Ohio! KYL/D and InHale help to make Philly a cultural destination. (In addition to artists applying and traveling to Philadelphia for KYL/D's InHale from all around the country, KYL/D has also hosted international dancers at the company's auditions). 

I always love the intimacy of the day and the way that KYL/D's CHI MAC becomes a home for more than just the company. Dancers, audience, and community members can chat, collaborate, and get to know more about each other during this time. 

Check out Friday's artists:

Questions? Learn more!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

NACHMO Chester - what's it about?

This weekend is the inaugural weekend of NACHMO Chester!

NACHMO is a national organization designed to give dancers, dance makers, and dance supporters a "choreographic kick in the pants". The challenge (to those who choose to accept it) is to spend January in creative research and possibly share elements of the process in February.

I've been informally participating in NACHMO for several years - following the social media prompts and using the catalyst of the New Year founders to break through the doldrums of winter hibernation - physically and creatively.

With the support of Widener University and The Artist Warehouse, through Boundaries and Bridges (which is in turn supported by the Barra Foundation), I'm sharing NACHMO with Southeastern PA.

So, if you're coming to celebrate dance and the grand opening of the MJ Freed Theater's Dance and Photography studio, here are some questions you might have:

Dance in Chester?
Yeppers! There are a lot of folks in Chester and at Widener University that love and support dance! Philly's just a hop, skip, and a jump away and Philly has a pretty amazing dance scene, so its been easy for dance enthusiasts to just leap over to Philly for classes and performances... not that that's an excuse! Dance everywhere! NACHMO Chester and Boundaries and Bridges provides an opportunity for folks from the Chester, Philly, and other places in Southeastern PA to come together and share resources, dance, and thoughts.

What should I expect to see?
You'll see dance pieces that have been well-rehearsed and polished and others that are in process. Choreographers have been invited to show works in progress to utilize NACHMO and the performance process as an element of their continued research. Much like a chef needs to "try out" a recipie, choreographers often find it helpful to "try out" ideas and get feedback from an audience. (Did you ever "try out" a recipie on close family or friends before making it for a special occasion?)

This sharing is designed to provide a wide range of intention under the umbrella of DANCE. You might see sharings of:
Concert dance (dance with an artistic or abstract intent or focus)
Entertainment dance (dance that is meant to provide enjoyment)
Praise dance (dance with an intent to engage spiritual practice or worship, usually Christian)
Social dance (dance often performed within a communal setting)
Competition dance (dance designed for the intent of being judged by a group of professionals within the field)

In addition, you'll see a broad range of genres under the umbrella of DANCE: ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, hip hop, African...

Of course, these are very broad generalizations and most dance genres can fit into one or many of categories of intention. For example, Hip Hop began as a social dance and is still often performed as such. However, with battles and popular commercial shows like "America's Best Dance Crew" the dances are performed for competition. Rennie Harris, Raphael Xavier, and others take Hip Hop to the concert stage. Again, I'm making broad generalizations for the purpose of understanding that "categorizing" dance is a very complex, and sometimes unnecessary task for a novice (or seasoned) dance enthusiast. But, why is this important? There's an on-going argument of the value of ART vs. ENTERTAINMENT. NACHMO Chester doesn't seek to explore that argument, just the process of making the dances (that might add to the conversation or not).

Can I provide feedback on the works in progress?
YES! We will provide you with paper to write "love notes" to the choreographers. There will also be time to chat with the artists, informally.

How do I give feedback?
Giving feedback is as unique as the person and process is itself. Choreographers may have specific questions they want answered, or they make be looking for general impressions. I suggest going into NACHMO with an open mind and the expectation to have your own notions of dance challenged. That being said, I encourage you to provide feedback beyond "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." Ask yourself "why?" Sometimes the experience of art tells us more about ourselves as a viewer than it does about the intention of the artist...

Here are some prompts for feedback:
What feelings or emotions did the work evoke?
What colors did you see, sounds did you hear, were your other senses engaged? Did these evoke any memories?
Did the work provide a narrative or story for you? What was it?
Did the work give you a sense of place or time?

When is it, again?
Friday, Feb 17th and Saturday, Feb 18th at 7:30pm each night. Each night boasts a different program, so come for both days at the MJ Freed Theater's brand new studio!

I'm presenting two new works in progress. Silence(d) will be shown tonight and Broken Open is being performed tomorrow.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Shelved and sat down: a new soup

I often think of my work as a collage of research and ideas. A choreographic soup, if you will. Time and the heat of performance allow it to simmer and cook. I'm sharing a new work in progress at NACHMO Chester next weekend.

In her book, The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp reveals that she keeps all of her choreographic research in a box - one for each new project or idea. I don't have a box (maybe I should), but I do have a journal, a pintrest page, this blog, and a folder for each project that contain ingredients for the choreographic soup.

(Read more about how I cook a choreographic soup)

In no particular order, here are the ingredients for the soup I'm presenting on Friday night:

1. Working title: Silence(d)

2. A single white chair

3. A long white costume

4. Notes and articles from "real" and "fake" news sources from the past few weeks. (ie, The Washington Post and NY Times)

5. Memories.
Particularly one. About 10 years ago, we were at a community fair and there were several old women in a booth with some very loud (and by any terms obnoxious) callers. The booth was promoting anti-gay ideas and for some reason they became louder when we passed by. Justin (my husband and combat veteran) got really offended. "I've had a lot of friends die so you could stand here and voice your opinion. But they also died so that those people that you're condemming could live peacefully. You don't get to pick and choose which freedoms or rights you have and which ones other people can have. I fought for the freedoms of everyone. That includes you and that includes people who are gay." The women kept screaming and we ended up walking away. That wasn't the first or last time I listened to Justin defend the rights of people to respectfually and authentically think, look, act, believe, live, love, or choose what to do with their bodies without fear or threat of violence. I'm honored and humbled by his model.

6. Veteran, artist, and high school art teacher, Ron Whitehead's "FACADE". Thanks, Ron for allowing me to share this!

"FACADE" by Ron Whitehead

7. The Act of Valor Soundtrack

8. Previous performances and research for the HOMEFRONTLINES series

9. Jim and Lynna Woolsey's "Freedom". Thank you, both, for sharing your artistry and allowing me to share it, as well! Included below is a verson of the song:

The shows are Free and open to the public. Come and share your thoughts and ideas about how dance can be a catalyst for non-violent, positive social change, on many fronts.