Friday, December 28, 2012

Wrapping up 2012?

Whew... As I begin to look toward the new year and try to organize the excitement of 2012, I'm finding that the "wrap up" process is pretty intense. Thank you, to everyone who has been a part of this year!

The Dance Journal created a list of highlights... and I'm grateful to have been included:

In case you missed some updates, listed in the article (in chronological order):

2012 nEW Festival
Choreography by Nora Gibson. Photo by Bill H.

InHale Performance Series, presented by Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers

Choreography by KC Chun-Manning/ Fresh Blood. Photo by Rachel Boscov.

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Beyond the Bones (revisited 2002-2012)

Choreography by Kun-Yang Lin. Photo by Bill H.

ETC Performance Series
Choreography by JCWK. Photo by Bill H.

And... BillH created his annual Year in Review. There's so much dance in Philly! I feel blessed to be a part of this active community. Take a look:

Here's to an eventful 2012!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry, Merry... warm thoughts of peace, light, and dance

Merry, Merry Christmas.
Happy Solstice.
Happy Hanukkah.
Happy Kwanzaa.

In whatever language and religion you celebrate this season of transition from darkness to light, my deepest wishes for peace, happiness, and ease in your journey.

A long, long time ago, my very first dance teacher gave this ornament to me.

This small gift has been a reminder to me that someone, a very long time ago, believed in me, as a person and as a dancer. I am very grateful for the many mentors and teachers in my life who have challenged me, supported me, fought with me, and made me a better person and artist. This small gift also reminds me of the responsibility we have as educators, leaders, and adults to be positive examples for our students and children. I am reminded how a small gesture can impact a lifetime.

And I am grateful for the many opportunities there are to dance, and to experience the transformative power of dance, even in small towns across the country.

May you(we) find light in dancing through the darkness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"... but do you work?" Part 3

More thoughts on the value of dance and the work that we do:

The timing of these conversations is not a coincidence.

Here's another story on WHYY and how artists are struggling to be compensated for the work they/we do:

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Dance. Science. Art.

The Universe provides special gifts.

I found this video and I love how it shows the dancing body. The pained body. And the artistic body.

Thank you.
(excuse the advertisements...)


Ballet Emergency Bag

A few years ago, I came home to a wonderful, very thoughtful surprise. After several weeks of watching me peel tape off of my toes after rehearsal, hours of icing, and going to bed with the smell of Tiger Balm wafting us to sleep, my husband presented me with my very own emergency kit.

Side note, my wonderful husband is very experienced and well-trained in survival situations. He takes the care and preparation of the body, injury prevention, and readiness-for-any-situation very seriously. I was deeply touched at how deeply he thought through this kit, what I do, and my personal needs.

And recently, I received an e-mail from asking for the best dance gifts. Here's a fun DIY post with information on how to make hot/cold compresses, which are so wonderful!

The challenge from inspired this post. And so, I share with you, my Ballet Emergency Bag. (With enough information that this could be your own DIY project and/or gift).

The Players:

1. Tactical bag from My husband is a veteran. After several years participating in my dance practice, he's concluded that dancers are just as hard on their "gear" as Marines. Therefore, the tactical bag is vital to withstand the traveling, usage, and wear that I (we) will expect from it. The bag needs to be as resilient as our bodies. 

2. First comes first aid. I think that losing my toe-nails is normal. So are the floor burns, bruises, blisters, and welts that I randomly find on my body. Justin, though, thought it was pretty gross (even after what he's experienced) and thus, included an extensive first aid supply. So, included are a) a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide to be applied immediately after losing said toe nail, or after the peeling off of tape, with said toe nail attached (I really don't mean to be gross... just honest). b) various sizes of band-aids. c) tape. to be used for taping of toes before pointe, but can also be used to support joints - ankles, knees, metatarsals, wrists... I love tape! but the wide, cloth, athletic kind. c) Tiger Balm. or any kind of topical relief. d) Neosporin. or any type of antibiotic/ pain relieving cream to apply post-class/rehearsal/performance, under the tape or band aids to immediately start the healing process. e) Disposable cold pack. You never know when you're really going to need this and be grateful you have it.... f) alcohol swabs. Easy. Safe. Disinfectant. 

3. Not a second thought, but secondary in terms of survival, as defined by a trainer of survival: Performance. (Personally, as a dancer, I might have put this first, but I acknowledge the difference in thinking....) in no special order: a) hairspray. To be used on hair, but also to stop any fraying of material, running of tights, slipping of shoes off of my/your foot, slipping of shoes on the floor... I could keep going but there are many uses for hairspray! b) emergency chocolate. Enough said. Not too much, but enough. c) point shoe glue. Like hairspray, this is has many alternative purposes, not limited to securing costumes. d) Tissues. refer to emergency chocolate. But these also can be used for last minute padding, in conjunction with the first aid stuff above. e) Stitch kit. I actually didn't know this existed until recently. A less expensive, but still viable option is a needle and dental floss. Both the stitch kit and dental floss have amazing strength and many uses... from sewing broken straps and costumes to getting that little bit of emergency chocolate out of your teeth... f) Smell-good-spray. We've all had those moments where we wish we smelled a bit better... my husband remembered that. It's a self-esteem thing. If you feel good about yourself, you'll perform well. g) Make up and hair stuff! - but the essentials. I've found that I can do wonders with a bit of lipstick (also able to be used as blush), concealer, and mascara. Likewise with a few bobby-pins and/or a hair tie - refer back to hair spray). And I'm lucky enough that my husband knows my emergency tricks. I think every girl has them, and it's always good to be prepared.

4) Swiss Army Knife. Or in this case, Swiss Ballet Knife. My husband actually special-ordered this to say "ballet" and to include nail-clippers. Before this, I used to carry a normal Swiss Army Knife without nail clippers, but with scissors. Both are necessary. He designed this especially with me in mind, but I have a tap-dancer friend who suggested that with a Phillips-Head screw driver, it would be perfect. For the record, it has a knife, scissors, nail clippers, and a nail file.

Yes, all of that does fit into a small 5X7" bag. Easy enough to throw into a purse or dance bag. (I apologize for the strange angle of the pictures... I'm not sure what's going on with the website.)

And one more view, with everything closed, together:

Yes, that's a pointe shoe as a zipper pull.

Some things that weren't included, but still necessary:
Tennis ball

I carry these with me where ever I go...

What's in your emergency bag?

PS... please contact me if you're interested in creating your own emergency bag or interested in having one custom made for you.

Happy (safe and prepared) dancing!

"...but do you work?" part 2

I write this in the spirit of dialogue, engaged conversation, and listening to (and investigating) all sides of an argument.

First, thank you to those who took the time to read "...but do you work?" I'm overwhelmed by your responses!

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." ~Confucius

"Ideally, you are supposed to be 'at play' when you are 'at work'. If you fit this ideal, you are doing something right. Work doesn't have to be depressing..." ~ from a minister

I completely agree! Thanks for responding! 

Yes, I love what I do. I am engaged and challenged physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually. But it still requires hard, difficult work. And no, I don't love every minute of it. Ultimately, what this "...but do you work?" question raises is a much larger topic/challenge/question of what is valued in our society/ culture and how things that are valued are supported and encouraged. 

"those research scientists... i struggle with this everyday... they forget - 'What Artistic and Scientific Experience Have in Common - Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking, and observing, there we enter the realm of Art and Science. If what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the language of logic, we are engaged in science. If it is communicated through forms whose connections are not accessible to the conscious mind but are recognized intuitively as meaningful, then we are engaged in art. Common to both is the loving devotion to that which transcends personal concerns and volition.'~Einstein" ~from a neuro-scientist and dancer

Please, let's keep the conversation going!

(I Google-ed images for "dancing brain", and got some strange findings. Instead of some weird, cartoon-ish brain with arms and legs, I'm leaving you with these images from Ashley Penrod's "Tree Brain". Photos by Bill H.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

...but do you work?

Recently, I was asked by a very intelligent, seemingly sensitive, research scientist at Jefferson University Hospital, "I know you're a dancer... but do you work?"

I paused.

Excuse me.?

Yes, I'm a dancer. I'm a professional dancer. Dancing is my work.

Photo by Brian Mengini
I don't have a lab coat. I have a leotard and tights and several layers of warm ups.

I don't have a sterile lab. I have a studio. That is honestly covered with the sweat, blood, and spit of my colleagues and me.

I don't take blood or urine samples. I give them... in addition to giving my heart and my soul.

I don't ask questions to participants. I actively seek them out. I am the questioner and the subject. I am the analyst and the object.

You've taken my blood. And my heart rate. And the pressure of my heart and lung capacity. And urine. And asked intimate questions.

I've responded honestly because I know that even if the work you're doing doesn't benefit me directly, it will improve the quality of life of someone in this world. Someone will benefit from your work and from my discomfort. Someone will experience his/her day-to-day cycle free from discomfort and worry because of what I am donating to your cause.

But you ask me if I work.

I ask you... when did you last see a live performance? Listen to music? Read poetry - or a book? Watch a movie - or a television drama?

What did it take to produce that performance? music? poetry? book? movie? drama?

It took practice. Patience. Blood. Sweat. Tears. Heart beats. Blood pressure. Urine. Uncomfortable questions and answers that might not have been offered gently.

It took work.

And although your quality of life was improved by your engagement, and enjoyment, of the performance, music, poetry, literature, movie, drama... it took a lot of time, effort, energy, and money to produce.

Just like you're waiting for your research on your experimental drug to be funded. We, the artists that create the moments that you work to attend on your weekends, your vacation, your time off, are also waiting for our funding. We're waiting for our work to be recognized as work.

I deeply appreciate that in the future, my children (or the children of my friends and loved ones) will benefit from the research you are doing and I am glad to be an active participant for you. I value your work for the benefit of the future. Please, value my work, for the benefit that I, and the other artists in this community, provide you on a daily basis.

Yes. I'm a dancer. A professional dancer. And yes. I work. Very, very hard. I put in at least 80 hrs a week, staying in tune with my instrument, finding what's relevant in my field, asking questions, researching, teaching.

(Oh, did I mention that I teach? Throughout Pennsylvania. 'Wow... isn't that a long drive?' Well, yes, but my work is important. 'Oh! (interested body language and tone that gives me a bit of credit from Doctor Jefferson). What do you teach?' Seriously?? (I think, but don't say) I'm a professional dancer. Do you think I teach chemistry? Granted, based upon my performance, education, and pedagogical experiences, I could lead courses in psychology, biology, history, anthropology, philosophy, creative writing/ thinking, and yes, even math and research methods because dance is a completely interdisciplinary field... but really... what do you think I teach? And why do you seem surprised that dance, which encompasses most, if not every, human (and academic - not that being human is different than being academic...) experience would be taught at the university level? I teach dance. Technique. Performance. History. Pedagogy. Diversity. Composition. Direction. Advocacy.)

Yes. I work.

I won't get paid nearly as much as you do, Doctor at Jefferson University Hospital, but my work is as important. Your quality of life directly effects the work you're able to do. And that has a direct effect on the future, as I see it. Therefore, if my work directly effects you, as a whole person, and you, as a whole person, have a direct effect on the health of the future, I directly effect the future, through you. In addition to all of the work I do, personally. As a performer, choreographer, educator, advocate.

So, please think twice next time you ask an artist if (s)he works.

And just in case you think that I'm making this up... please check out these articles. If nothing else, they're an interesting read....

Did you know that dance involves the moving body? And the moving body usually = exercise? Sure... the engagement of the artistry of dance will challenge you, intellectually, but actually moving will make you smarter. Join your local ballet, hip hop, modern dance, or Zumba class and increase your brain power!

"Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door will be opened."
"The all powerful helps those who help themselves"
Think. Figure it out. Find a new way to do something.
Read. Play. Investigate. Dig. (Even if its just in the newspaper or your own backyard. or the library!)

As a dancer, your body is your tool. (Just as a researcher must understand her instrument. A rancher must understand her equipment. A plumber must understand the pipes of a building). As a person, your body is your tool. In order to live an effecient, effective life, you (me, we) must understand your (my, our) body(ies.)

Dear Doctor Jefferson... would you ever ask the Amish if they worked? I admire this population because they truly live their lifestyle. And accept it. And understand it. What is your lifestyle? Is that the truth? Your truth? How do the decisions you make on a day-to-day basis effect your health? happiness? relationships? the surrounding community? the environment? Is what you define your lifestyle to be really your life? (And why is this relevant to dance? I think like a dancer... I am constantly aware of my body in space, of my body in relationship to people around me, of my audience, even if my audience is the person in the car next to me. I am aware of how I feed my body, emotionally and physically. The relationship I have with my body directly effects her performance. Dance = life. Dance = Art. Life = Art. Art reflects life.)

Doctor Jefferson, Yes... I work. And my work is important. It's hard and challenging. But, what's more difficult than actually doing my work is convincing you that it's important... even though you admit that you take it for granted.

Oh.. and by the way... did you reserve your tickets to the Nutcracker, yet? I know you have season tickets to the theatre... you told me. And your children love the tradition...

I'll see you after the performance.

Wait... what?

Sure... I'd be happy to take a picture with your family. Just give me a minute to wipe the sweat from my body.

But don't get out of costume? Okay... you want me in my work clothes... Absolutely. But it's very much not a lab coat...

(Disclaimer: I have also "worked" as a scientific researcher. For a period of time, I was the supervisor for a research institute of a well-known university.)