Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Are we Human or are we Dancers?

Strange song, but it made me laugh the first time I heard it.

I'm working on several projects right now. After one rehearsal, I received a note from one of my dancers, along the lines of, "Jess, I'm sorry. I feel like I wasn't able to be present in rehearsal today. (She was, and she did everything that I asked. We tried a few things, made some mistakes, made adjustments. It's part of the rehearsal process). I have a lot going on and some of the stuff you're digging into really hits home. I'd like it not to effect me, but it is. So, I wanted to apologize."

To which I responded along the lines of, "Dear Dancer, Thank you for being honest. Thank you for being vulnerable in the process. If you're really in it, it is going to gnaw at your heartspace. And you're not going to be able to be in the mindspace of leaving everything at the door because I'm asking you to bring yourself into the studio. I'm asking you to be present in the yuckiness of whatever you're feeling. Our emotional bodies effect our physical bodies and that's what I'm interested in exploring."

The conversation continued with ideas of perfectionism and professionalism. In my opinion, we need to be fully human to be fully dancers and artists. We need to be able to access all of our energies, fully, no matter how exciting, happy, or uncomfortable. We need to feel safe in the studio space to be uncomfortable.

So, we can't be dancers if we're not human, first. But ultimately, we're dancers.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Kinesthetic re-organization

The (my) body is constantly changing. Developing new habits. New pathways. New adjustments.

A constant correction I've received, usually in ballet class, was that my pelvis was anteriorly tilted. This is an issue because it displaces my weight and doesn't allow my pelvis to float effortlessly over my femur heads. My Y-ligament is shortened, as are my hip flexor muscles, which doesn't allow my pelvic muscles to fully support me.

I've attributed this to several anatomical imbalances - we all have them and imbalances are natural and common. I've learned how to negotiate, despite these. But, these imbalances tweek my knee, my metatarsals, and my lumbar spine.

I've been taking Pilates and am enrolled in a Mat Certification. The Pilates training is strenghtening and lengthening my core and abs. I can feel my hip flexors opening and my pelvis being able to slide forward into a more stable position for control and balance. If I can better use my core, I will be more efficient and effective.

So, while all of this new upright-ness is lengthening my lumbar spine and providing me with more support, when I'm asked to allow my torso to float forward and slightly on an angle, in an African-Modern dance class, my muscle memory is confused. And I need to laugh at myself and realize that this new training method is totally messing with the body in which I'm accustomed to dancing. I find it fun and exciting to learn and grow more in this new body, develop new awarenesses, and find new pathways.

And thanks to everyone who came out to Charles's class last Sunday at CHI MAC - what fun!

Happy Father's Day! Happy Mother's Day!

I'm late on both. But, Happy Parent's Day!

Being a mother and/or a father is a crazy important decision. Thank you to the people who make that choice and positively effect our world.

Beneath the surface

Everyday heroes return to their everyday homes after disaster.

I can't imagine what that transition is like for them. Thank you - to all of our everyday heroes who do extraordinary things. Thank you for making those sacrifices that those of us left at home cannot imagine. Thank you for coming home. (And thank you those at home for having patience when our everyday heroes deal with new challenges.)

Refer back to my earlier post Every day Heroes

Pete's returning home, right before Father's Day. As mentioned on his interview, he takes pride in his garden. To welcome him home, we spent some time making sure that the garden was beautiful, which included digging into the dirt and making fun messes!

I reflected on my time as a child, helping my grandmother plant new flowers in our garden. I pulled the growing flower out of its small pot. A net of ugly strings clung to the dirt under the beautiful plant. I beat the net away, not wanting the ugliness under the surface to strangle the beauty that was reaching for the sun.


Now I know better.

Now I know that the dirt isn't gross, but contains vital nutrients to the plant. The "gross" dirt is a warm and safe environment. The ugly net is both beautiful and supportive. It provides a grounding point from which the beauty can grow. It provides life support. It is as much, if not more, of the plant as the green, blue, and yellow above the surface. It's beauty is different, but no less prominent.

Coincidentally - and I do believe in signs (suggested reading - The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho), a friend posted on Facebook the following article that examines how we talk to little girls - what we really say when we begin a conversation and what we're teaching them on which to focus. Which brings me back to my research on beauty. According to Latina Fatale, "fifteen to eighteen percent of girls under twelve now wear mascara, eyeliner, and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and twenty-five percent of young American women would rather win America's next top model than the Nobel Peace Prize."  Check it out for yourself - How to talk to Little Girls

And then - remember that the beauty on the surface requires a net of "ugly" roots underneath, a mound of dirt, lots of sun, and a lot of work.

This is going in my research box.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The intelligent body

Life is experienced through and by the body. We understand our environment by processing through the skin, the bones, the muscles, the nervous system. We make sense of our environment, internal and external, by allowing the body to exist and move through both. We develop a greater sense of self through our dance.

Here are some excerpts from Psychology Today's blog post, Meaning in Motion, written shortly after the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing, by Christina Devereauz, Ph.D., BC-DMT.

"It is important to acknowledge that even those of us who were not direct victims (of the Boston Marathon bombing) or physically present at the event, collectively, were still affected. Our bodies take in these experiences and respond to such events."

"Media broadcasts showing film footage over and over of traumatic events such as the Boston Marathon bombing are not only mental images but they become body memories..."

"Traumatic events can threaten our sense of environmental and bodily safety. These experiences need to be processed through the body. Research advances have emphasized the importance of including the body in treatment of any type of trauma. According to dance/movement therapist Claire Moore,  'the sensations and actions that have become stuck in and after a traumatic event need to be integrated in the treatment process, so that the person can regain a sense of familiarity and efficacy in the body.' "

"So what should you dance? Why would dance be a vehicle to cope with daily stressors or even horrific tragedies...? Perhaps this is based on the specific distinction that dance in itself is innately an expressive art form, not just a physical release of body tension alone."

What story does your body tell?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dance USA Conference 2013

This week the National Dance USA Conference 2013 is being hosted in Philly.

I'm excited to be participating! Thank you, Dance USA Philadelphia aka DanceUP. I was awarded a scholarship to attend the conference.

And - Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and The Nora Gibson Performance Project are both performing.

KYL/D is performing at the Opening Reception at the Barnes Foundation.

NGPP is performing at the Performance Garage. (That's me in the top right of the poster).

"Dance, Dance. Otherwise we are lost!" ~Pina Bausch

Charles O. Anderson

Charles O. Anderson is the founder of Dance Theater X. 

Charles O. Anderson is on the faculty at the University of Austin.

Charles O. Anderson was my mentor at Muhlenberg and for a few years afterward.

Charles O. Anderson laughed at me when I missed his class for an audition in New York. He shook his head and said, "Jessica, you'll do almost anything to dance, won't you?" So? What's wrong with that? "Just be careful. You'll figure it out." Charles O. Anderson always gave me direction, but also always told me that I'd figure it out.

I'm still figuring it out.

Charles O. Anderson is the reason why I moved to Philly. Shortly after my undergarduate career had ended, I found myself alone in a foreign city, teaching, dancing, but completely confused and not happy. In a panic, I contacted those I most trusted. Charles provided me with some suggestions, one of which was to re-locate to Philly. And I'm still figuring the rest out, but I'm grateful for his advice.

Charles O. Anderson is returning to Philly for one day only - tomorrow, Sunday June 9th. He's giving a master class at CHI MAC.

Pre-register here.

Charles O. Anderson

Choreography by Charles O. Anderson, 2005

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Barre is back - and a host of other classes at CHI MAC

The CHI Artists Summer Workshops 2013 begin tomorrow, Monday, June 3rd. We have a really awesome line up of artists leading anyone who wants to come and dance. I really love the summer because in addition to longer sun-shine-filled-days, warm weather, and beach time, it's an opportunity for me to dance every day, meet a lot of new people, and learn from the other fabulous artists in Philly.

I'm leading barre Monday, Wednesday, & Friday from 9:15-10:15am.
Rhonda Moore is leading an intensive core training workout Tuesday & Thursdays from 8:45-10am. She also teaches Monday, Wednesday, & Friday at 6:30am for you early birds, and Sundays at 3:45-5pm.

Each week, Philadelphia Modern Dance Artists lead classes Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10:30am-12pm and Tuesday, Thursday from 5:30pm-7pm.

It's all going down at the CHI Movement Arts Center, home of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at 1316 S 9th Street in Philadelphia - one block south of the cheese steak capital of the world. Visit kunyanglin.org for more info.

Or check this out:

Everyday heroes

Everyday, people do extraordinary things. 

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

What does this have to do with dance? I believe that dance allows the performer to send his/her positive energy into the world. We all have gifts to share. Pete and Judy share their gifts of compassion and healing. Dancers share the gift of movement and non-verbal communication.

PS. Yes, Pete and Judy are also known to me as Dad and Mom. My parents are super stars and I am lucky to have the opportunity to learn from them. 

Small Gifts

A friend sent this to me with the note:

"Blow drying my hair, doing releves, and jamming to this. Jessica, this song makes me think of you and your philosophy of movement and dance."

Thank You, Friend. Sometimes, it's a humbling reminder to see ourselves in the mirror of another's eyes.

From "Take a Minute" by K'NAAN

"How did Mandela get the will to surpass the everyday
When injustice had him caged and trapped in every way?
How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes at all?
Didn't do it to gain power or money if I recall."