Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Weekends of Wellness

 Last weekend, JCWK Dance Lab shared Wellness in a variety of forms. 

We participated in The Heritage of Green Hills Wellness Expo and discovered a new joy in the wings that we've been exploring. 

Watch below: 

On Sunday, we shared Dance for Wellness at Encompass Health. We'll be there a few more times this summer. Here's a bit of the joy: 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Happy Mother's Day!

Who made you the star that you are? 

We made something for you... and for them!  

Mothering takes on many forms. Thank you to all of the people who are mothers to us! 

Friday, April 28, 2023

Performance as Peacemaking

Neurology and psychology teach us that mirror neurons are receptors in the brain that allow us to experience what we see. For example, if you watch a sad scene in a movie, you might cry because you can relate or understand the plight of the characters. Your mirror neurons are at work to allow you to share in the experience. 

In this way, seeing and participating in life performance allows us to connect with ourselves and our communities in a multidimensional way. Seeing joy creates joy. Kindness breeds kindness. Laughter infuses laughter. 

Joy, laughter, and kindness break down barriers and give our stressed-out systems reprieve. 

I'm grateful to be in a place where I can build bridges to experience joy, connection, and wellness through the arts. Tonight, Alvernia University's Fine and Performing Arts Department is presenting "Performance as Peacemaking." Peacemaking is a value of Alvernia. Collegiality is a value of Alvernia. Performance allows us to create both. 

Alvernia's "Performance as Peacemaking" is participating in the local and national Youth Violence Prevention Week. 

I'm also working with Berks4Peace to share dance as a form of community building, self-awareness and development, and individual empowerment. The weather has changed our plans for the culminating event of the week, but, to quote P!NK, "we're never gonna not dance again." 

More info below: 

Performance as Peacemaking click here. 

For Berks4Peace, click here. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Cultural Exchange, Individual Impact

Early in 2023, JCWK Dance Lab was invited to participate in a Cultural Exchange with The Heritage of Green Hills. 

The initial details: 

JCWK Dance Lab would have weekly meetings/ open rehearsals/ concert dance things in the exercise/ dance studio of The Heritage. Residents could come into rehearsals and move with the dance artists or participate in any way they wanted. The intended result was to give the residents an opportunity to engage with high-quality, artistic dance practice and to provide JCWK Dance Lab a creative home. 

What actually happened: 

Movement. Conversations. Story sharing. Questions. Memory generation. Laughter. Tears. Exchange of passion. Listening.

Here's an antidote:

The company just had a performance run. The performance experience is another post, but with the mission of JCWK Dance Lab at the forefront, I called our normal weekly rehearsal. Why? Because if I paused it, I would fill the time and space with something else. I wouldn't follow my own lead of taking a day off by having received a day off. I didn't want to give my dancers that option, too. One cornerstone of JCWK is Wellness - mental and physical. So I called rehearsal, but designated it as a day of discussion and restoration. We debriefed. We planned. We were led in a restorative yoga practice. We talked more. 

A group of "regular friends" (residents of The Heritage) joined us around 6:30. I broke the intimate discussion about the performance the company was unpacking and shifted gears to the restorative movement practice. The dance artists laid on the floor. The residents sat in chairs on the perimeter of the room and said "oh, we just like watching," when invited to participate.

Until I rolled exercise balls to them and the instructor moved to them with cues directed at modifying what the company members were doing on the floor. 

Truth - my knees hurt and I needed my own modifications. I took a ball and modified. I loved the opportunity to invite other people to join in movement and take ownership of the ways we/ they can and do move. The instructor began referring to "the dancers on the floor" and "the dancers with the balls" or "the dancers in the chairs" as she was verbally guiding the practice. 

After the hour practice, many of the participants were ready to go to bed, including members of JCWK Dance Lab, but the company still had some work to do. The sleepy residents left and the artists of JCWK Dance Lab engaged in a conversation about next steps. We had been invited to participate in a performance/ conversation about racial social justice. Lots of conversation ensued. One resident remained behind. 

Time passed. Time ended. 

This one, remaining resident has shared their time and talents with the company in the past. I approached them to chat, maybe about business things, maybe about life. Tonight, this resident had tears in their eyes as they shared with me their own experiences with social injustice, revealing a personal story about Holocaust survivors. 

We sat together for a moment. We held the space of grief and hope. They recounted details of their personal story. I was able to witness. I was able to learn. 


And this is the power of the Exchange. Moments of storytelling. Moments of making connections between past and future. Moments of sharing joy and sadness. Moments of acknowledging that being well is being fully present and being human and showing up to all of the layers of what that might mean. Moments have monumental meaning. 

Thank you, Friends. Until next time... 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Orbit emerges on 32323

 "Orbit" is a collaboration that's been planted and growing for over the past decade. Dr. Mara Parker, Chair of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Widener University, hired me in 2012 to teach dance. I fell in love with the mission of the university, the interests of the students, and the grittiness of the environment - including the city of Chester. During my time at Widener, Dr. Parker, the University dancers, and I collaborated on several projects and performances. I deeply respect(ed) Dr. Parker's dedication to her students and to her own artistry. 

Dr. Parker is a cellist - the cello is one of my favorite instruments! 

I needed to leave Widener in 2019, but Dr. Parker and I remained close. From the first moment I met her, I knew she would be a long-time mentor, colleague, and eventually friend. Over the years, we talked about doing a performance together, where she played solo and I danced solo. But, time passed. 

Until this year. In Fall 2022, emerging from of the pandemic, emerging from a lot of personal challenges, emerging from of a lot of time, Dr. Parker approached me with the idea of a combined solo show. Without fully understanding the details, I said, "YES!"

Dear Reader, you know those few people to whom you'll say "yes" to almost anything, no matter what? Dr. Parker is one of those people for me. 

What I didn't realize I was saying "yes" to was an hour-long show. Of just me dancing and just Dr. Parker playing. I didn't realize I was saying "yes" to an incredible gift of time, movement, investment, and love. 

Dr. Parker will be playing four cello pieces, including the entity of Bach's 1st Cello Suite. I'll be dancing to each of them. 

Read more about the performance on the Philadelphia Dance Journal by clicking here. 

For the performance website, click here. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Milestone of Misa Criolla

 Happy 275th Anniversary, City of Reading, PA! 

Many celebrations are happening this week and I was fortunate enough to catch some of the fireworks lighting the mountaintop tonight. 

One significant, maybe serendipitous, event happens this Sunday, March 19th at 7pm at St. Margaret's Roman Catholic Church in Reading. The Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus are coming together to share Misa Criolla, among other performances. 

This particular event holds a special place in my heart because:

  • Historically (anthropology and story buff here 😁), the Misa Criolla was the first Catholic Mass to be translated from Latin into a vernacular language, less than 100 years ago. It was translated into Spanish and much of the musical score was based on traditional dances. The way I see it, the Church took a huge step to honor the diversity of its congregations and make the religion more accessible (dare I say more inclusive) by translating its texts. And... the Church recognized that dance was integral to the integration of people and spirituality - at least in the relationship to music. Utilizing sounds associated with physical movement, community, and joy were the bridge between a complicated institution and a new connection to a larger group of people. Please, do your own research because I'm just skimming the historical importance of the work.   
  • The Reading/ Berks area has a large Hispanic population. By producing this performance, Alvernia and the Reading Choral Society are acknowledging this. Perhaps, like in times gone by, this performance is an invitation of inclusion and acceptance from large organizations that might seem "off limits" to some folks. Full disclosure, I'm making assumptions from the sidelines here. But, I like to think that we're in a time of community building, joy creation, and positive perspective shifting. These things take time, but without first steps, the journey can't begin. 
  • This is the first collaborative performance between Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus. Again, yay for creating community through artistic collaboration! 
  • I was brought into explore how dance could be incorporated as a visual element to compliment the singing and honor the tradition of folk dances on which the music is based. Time and space didn't allow for a choreographic translation of the mass, but I was invited and encouraged to bring dance into the entity of the event. Thank you! 
I'm in the unique position to be directing an ensemble of adult dance artists working at a professional level (JCWK Dance Lab). I'm also leading a group of younger artists who are craving dance education through experiential learning (Alvernia University Dance Company). To honor the Misa Criolla and the groundwork laid by Reading Choral Society and Alvernia University Chorus, I'm bringing these groups together to share dance as part of the celebration of community building and joy creation through artistic/ embodied experience. 
  • The music choice is specific to the above intentions and to acknowledging our contemporary climate. We're dancing to a familiar tune from a recent, popular movie to acknowledge the Misa Criolla's Latin American heritage and in recognition of the moment this event is occurring. (I checked and we're covered by licensing). And, yes, I fully expect that folks in the audience will sing along. Welcome! Singing is a form of embodied expression - the vocal chords are dancing! 
  • The dancers will be wearing white. This is to acknowledge the pure intention of the collaborations. And, white light reflects all colors. 
  • We've been experimenting with wings. We (the dancers, the singers, the community leaders as I witness them) are literally and metaphorically expanding our wings to try new things. We're going to get tangled up as we practice, learn, perform, and try again. But, we can only learn by doing, by making the mistakes, and making the choices to keep going. In dance, as in life, the show must go on. 
  • Both JCWK Dance Lab and Alvernia Dance Company have a diverse group of dancers. By "diverse," I mean different in age, dance experiences, body type, ethic backgrounds, and personal narratives. In bringing them together, I hope to replicate the model I see from RCS and AUC in invitation and inclusion. I deeply believe this is possible through thoughtful mentorship, leadership, and love. 
There's more, I'm sure. 

These are a few of the elements I've been witness to and hold dear. 

Would you join us? 

For tickets and more information, click here

I'm including some rehearsal shots below. 

Members of Alvernia University Dance Company in rehearsal. 

JCWK Dance Lab artists in rehearsal as part of our
Cultural Exchange with The Heritage of Green Hills.
Photo by Paul Laincz