Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sensing. Feeling. Perceiving. Responding. Improvisation.

the embodiment project - reflection by Kristine M.

This was originally written in April, 2012, but it took some time to post. Kristine is working in Occupational Therapy with people from a variety of populations. 

"Jessica Warchal-King taught me another method of using my body in a therapeutic way. Working with JCWK helped me to develop my own philosophy on therapy and the use of my body. God gave me a body with no major problems. I believe that I am called to use my body to help others heal their bodies. In this matter, I am just using another modality to praise His name, which is very important to me. Before working with JCWK, I did not realize how many different ways I could do this. I knew about using my voice (as a member of a choir and as a singer), and about using technique I learned in the OT (occupational therapy) classroom. Although these methods are important, they are not everything. I now know how I can use dance and movement to help heal a person's body and soul.

Dance has given me something to be passionate about. I love to sing, but I hate practicing by myself. Since starting to learn dance technique, I find myself dancing everywhere, especially when music is playing. I voluntarily practice on my own, or I get together with friends (who have also danced with JCWK and are very supportive), and we just dance for fun. I find myself wanting to dance all the time."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thank you, Veterans.

To all those who have served and will serve... Thank you.

To all of those who have provided services to our military - through health care, listening to stories, maintaining a sense of normalcy on the home front, hiring veterans, being a pillar of strength when the past gets too strong... Thank you.

"Happy" Veterans' Day.

Thank you for making the ultimate sacrifices so I (and people like me) can live in a land where I (we) can make decisions, dream, vote, change the world, and dance without fear.

Click here to see and purchase the "Angels of Freedom" book:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It Feels Like Home...

Our bodies.

We hold so much Fear. Stress. Tension. in our bodies. I so often hear from students of dance "I'm not comfortable in my body." or something about a specific part of their body. My stomach pooches. My thighs are too big. I'm too tall. (We also hold so much love, joy, and happiness if we allow them to exist).

Andrea Olsen in Body Stories (in collaboration with Caryn McHose, 1998) wrote:
"A good friend, whose parents have both passed away, was speaking of the grieving process. She said that she felt a sense of dissolution of home, even though she was married, owned a house, and had a community of friends. Do you think of your body as your home? I asked."

I feel as if Professor Olsen was speaking directly to me.

Our bodies are our homes. This is where we live. Feel. Share. Engage. Process. Digest. Change. Grow. Die.

In the physical home structure - the apartment, loft, dorm, house, ranch.... We spend a lot of time and energy making our lived space comfortable and beautiful. (If you doubt me, I send you to Our homes are reflective of who we are as an individual, of our dreams, beliefs, aesthetic, and cultures. We choose when to invite people into our homes and invest in keeping our homes safe. We lock our doors and windows. We install alarm systems and gather neighborhood watches. We protect our homes and we make clear decisions about our physical-home-space to make us feel comfortable, happy, and safe.

Our bodies are our true homes. Why do we allow other elements to enter into our home-body-space and violate them? We're fed images and ideas from people who might be experts, but really, what expertise do they have about your (my) body?  (and they might also be just as insecure as they're making us feel. What's their research?) They don't live in your/my home-body-space. They don't know your/my story. (Did they even ask?) They're like designers telling you what color to paint your bedroom. Or your lips. They're telling you what curtains to put up. (or what jeans to wear). Except, when we invite designers into our homes, we can also tell them to leave if we don't like what they're saying or they're disrespecting our space. Why don't we tell people who are disrespecting our bodies to leave? What authority do they have?

Insert a variety of arguments here. My teacher. My parents. My friends. People I love and trust. And sure, that makes things more difficult. Especially when these negative thoughts are ingrained in us from a young age. X is beautiful and Y is ugly. Beautiful is good and ugly is bad.

Quick juxtaposition. I had the opportunity to listen to a very successful entertainment and marking director. He told a very poignant story about representing porn stars. (I don't know what his relationship to the stars was, but that doesn't matter). Another marketing person in the room asked "Why do you call yourself stars?" And the porn star replied, "Honey, we're stars because we say we're stars!" From that, the marketing director instructed his listeners, say what you are. Do it. Be it. Don't let someone else tell you who you are or second guess yourself. Say what you are and then do what you need to to live up to that. He was talking about marketing, but I want everyone who has every told me they're uncomfortable in their bodies to hear this and take action.

My body is my home. My home is sacred. I decide if you're welcome to share my space. If you're lucky enough, I'm clearly inviting you to share yourself and I have a level of respect and trust for you... but if you disrespect my home, get out. No seriously... GET OUT!

The constitution grants that the home is sacred. There have been many recent Supreme Court cases that question at what point the safety of an individual can be investigated or when law enforcement can enter an individual's "private space". And the home space has up until this point, won as sacred.

My body. My home.

I leave you with this song:

(I don't know what advertisement will pop up before the video. I can't control youtube... but please accept, forgive, and laugh at the irony if it's for some anti-winkle lotion or weight loss plan....)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I didn't like it.... on aesthetic

The 2012 Presidential Election is in two days. The country (the world) has heard a lot of arguing over the past several months from the politicians, but also from everyday citizens. Understandably, issues of education and healthcare should bring strong (intelligent) discussion and careful deliberation.

I've been performing and witnessing a lot of art for many years. And I've listened to many people be very passionate about their opinions. I respect that.

But I challenge those people, politicians, artists, audience members, who only hear/ see/ perceive one side of the multidimensional work (issue, discussion). That's the beauty of community. We're all allowed to have different opinions, perspectives, background stories, viewpoints. We bring lived experiences to our current situation and, if everyone can just take a deep breath and create some space, we can better understand each other.

I'm a dancer and an artist, so I speak from my point of view. In performance art, there are many different genres. Some are "traditional." Some are "avant garde." Some are "classic." Some are "experimental." Some are "offensive." Some are "inspiring." The description of the work generally lies in the eye of the beholder. Ask the artist and you might be told something different. Put ten different people in the same audience and you'll get ten different perspectives. The words to describe the work might be synonyms or have similar connotations, but you'll probably receive different interpretations of a shared experience.

That's what I love about art! About Dance! Each artist, dancer, audience member can/ is encouraged to bring themselves into the work and have their own experience.

But this also means that some people won't be happy with "wasting their time" and won't "like" the work. Okay. That's your first reaction. But why didn't you like it? What about the work was unappealing? What about your own personal story makes the work unattractive to you. What are you bringing to the work?

Here is the moment for artistic exchange and dialogue! Perhaps the choreography didn't have clear craft. Perhaps the dancers didn't seem well rehearsed. Perhaps the dancers' technique was lacking. Perhaps the dancers seemed disengaged (or was this a direction of the choreographer which made you feel alienated and therefore you didn't like the work?). What tools did the choreographer use or not use? - These tools are quite simple and we really use them in everyday life whether we realize it or not. Time. Space. Energy. Body. Did you disagree with the costume? (Why? Maybe you hate the color purple because it was the color of your sister's bedroom growing up and the two of you used to fight all of the time. No, I'm not trying to psychoanalyze, just to understand why you think why you do). Which, is what I encourage you to do if you find yourself being drawn into a piece, or being pushed away from it.

Strong choreographers rarely make arbitrary decisions. And if the decisions seem arbitrary  there was probably a clear decision on the part of the choreographer to make it seem that way. As an artist, I have a tendency to over analyze my work. My research is deeply important to the product and my research is executed in many different formats. I've found that many other artists dive as deeply into their work. So, if you're taking the time to see a dance concert or experience art, I beg you to take the time to digest it. Engage with it. Have a conversation with it. Have a conversation with the artist. And have a conversation with yourself.

I'm not asking you to like everything. That would be incredibly boring and we'd all like the same thing or we'd all be wearing the same clothes, eating the same food, executing the same dance choreography. Ew. How uninteresting! But, I am asking you to think about the judgements you make about a piece of work and don't immediately dismiss that you like or don't like something and move onto the next something. Or never go see a dance concert again because your first experience was "weird."

Be passionate. Be bold. Be strong. But also be willing to listen as emphatically as you declare your own opinions.

Yes, there's a lot of "bad" dance out there... but there's an equal amount of "good" dance out there... and you'll need to figure out for yourself what your aesthetic is. And that takes time and patience and practice.

But know that strong dance will have a solid element of craft, technique, and artistry, and even if you don't agree with the message or the intention of the work, there is still something to appreciate. And even a point of entry from which you can begin discussing a work that you didn't "like."

Thank you in advance for taking the time to listen, think, and open your mind and heart to a new, or different perspective. I'll look forward to talking with you after the next concert!

(and maybe if we can begin careful intelligent conversations about art and dance making, maybe we can move in the direction of careful, intelligent conversation about the state of affairs of our larger community... yes, it's my personal goal to heal the world through plies... ::sigh::)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Continuing research - unexpected surprises from unexpected lessons

I'm performing "Notes from Unexpected Lessons" again tonight as part of the Etc. Series Season 6 opener.

The experience upon which the piece reflects occurred over the course of two years, but the lessons continue to reveal themselves to me. Sometimes, I believe that it takes time before we fully understand what we've been taught. There's the initial understanding. Then the period of reflection and germination where the knowledge sits and cooks and bubbles. These bubbles of reflection and distilled knowledge provide surprises of information that relate back to the initial lesson, but the knowledge changes as I change. The lessons keep developing as I'm learning more and growing more.

I have a tree in a small window that I planted when it was just a sprout. It grew leaves, and shoots. The leaves died and new shoots grew. Every few weeks, I think the plant is dying because the leaves are falling off, but it's just growing. It's getting rid of the things that it needed to grow, initially, in order for it to be able to grow more. I got/ get attached to the leaves (and every new set that emerges), but the tree doesn't. Sometimes it cries when I break of the dead leaves and a white sap will flow from the point of extraction. But the point heals and a new sprout grows from somewhere else. New leaves. Interestingly enough, there are no new leaves where the old leaves where. Instead, there are scars on the bark, reminders to me and the tree where it was, and that it's continued on before and will continue on again. The white sap makes me think that the tree feels pain in loss, and that's okay. The pain, the loss, the hardening of the bark, the new sprouts, are all part of its process of growth, change, and development. The new sprouts are exciting and bring me happiness, and the dead leaves and the pain bring me sadness but the tree reminds me that we can't have one without the other.

The beginning - just a small piece of a larger tree.

New growth - you can see where the old growth has hardened
into bark and the old leaves left their scars.

It's grown and transformed so much since its initial planting, but has reminded true to it's original structure. 

This lesson from the tree reinforces the lessons that I've learned over the past two years. The tree, the young dancers, and the lessons continue to surprise me with new information and reminders. With this work, I need to translate these experiences to my audience.

As an artist, I'm challenged and excited by the new information that these lessons continue to bring. And I'm excited to investigate how these new lessons will effect the performance. In rehearsal, I've modified the choreography slightly - clarified it as I'm understanding the work more. Differently. But it's still the same piece, the same lessons. It's my challenge now as an artist to translate that joy and excitement of growth into this performance. This dancing experience.

(More on the artistic experience later.. and what defines an artist and a dancer... and that they aren't different - in my mind).

And I am so grateful that I get to dance because I don't know that I'm articulating what I'm learning in a way that is efficient. The dance will provide the outlet, the medium, the language. I create the poetry, and the art, and the experience.

You can get tickets here:

Dance as Magic Medicine

MB entered the studio frazzled  The trip to the studio was troublesome and the damage from the recent storm made a normally difficult journey worse. MB was shaking. Violently. The medication that the trip delayed was much needed. MB needed the snack brought to class and have some water before taking the medication. The water bounced out of the bottle as the tremors rocked MB.

The body is amazing. And the willpower of the people that I work with who have Parkinson's Disease keep fighting with the disease that has taken over their bodies. I am humbled by their challenge and their determination. I am humbled by their acceptance of the fight and the decision not to allow an external force to take over. even if it means falling and getting back up again. and again. and again. and again. They continue to persevere... to dance.

MB makes the journey to the circle of chairs in the middle of the room.

I turn on the music and about two minutes into our first exercise, the tremors have stopped - almost completely. MB's movements are smooth. Slow (and designed by the exercise). Directed. Familiar to this dancing body.

Dear reader, have you every witnessed a true energetic transformation? I've heard of people "lighting up"... MB's energy changed from something scattered, dark, and clouded to weightless, open, receptive, and bright.

Dance is powerful. Transformative  I am so grateful to share this gift of dance through the Dance for PD program.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Etc. Performance Series performance

I'm performing "Notes from Unexpected Lessons" again this week at the Etc. Performance Series at the CEC Meeting House Theatre. Stay tuned for reflections on the process, but until then, I'll be in the studio working, in preparation...

Here's the information:

Tickets can be purchased here: