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.)

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:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Past projects, future adventures

Check out these videos and mark your calendars! There's a lot going on!

With the Nora Gibson Performance Project:
Love this version, too!

The InHale Performance Series is this week! We're in our FIFTH YEAR of presenting emerging and established artists from the local, regional, national, and international scene!
Tickets can be purchased here:

"Angels of Freedom"
Angels is a series created by Brian Mengini dedicated to the fallen military.
Here's a link to the book release party:

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So You Think You Can... Get it RIGHT?

...Get it RIGHT?

I don't know what that means.

But... okay. Try.

Now... wait. Try again. Really. You have to do it more than once. Especially if you just learned it and/or are doing "it" for the first time.

Insert your "it" here. A tendu. A piroutte. An inversion. A time step. A business presentation. A language. A classroom. A Dance. Yes, with a capital "D". (and an A in capitAl. Check out the difference between capital and capitol at )

This post comes after a moment with a young dancer... I had just taught her a new phrase and after a minute or so of experimenting with it, she noticed I was watching her. Almost defensively she stated, "It's not in my body yet."

"Of course not. I just taught it to you. You're figuring it out. That's what you're supposed to be doing. Figure out how your body can negotiate the movement. Make it yours... but you need to spend some time with it... So, keep working."

She looked at me as if I had three heads before nodding and returning to her kinesthetic investigations. (Surprised that I would give her permission to experiment? Be patient? Witness her exploration?)

Later that evening, I was cross-training at the gym. One of the dance competition tv-shows was playing on a big screen next to one of the political conventions. The irony was not lost on me.

Watching both, side by side, I was not shown by the producers the years and years of work, research, sweat, tears, frustrations of these people. I was just shown a brief thirty to ninety seconds of very well rehearsed material. And that was the performance. The product. No wonder my student got defensive in class. Our society is being taught that we only have ninety seconds to impress our audience... whomever that might be.

Granted, first impressions are important in business transactions and social meetings, but when we're looking at education or an artistic process (or running the country), ninety seconds is not enough time to develop an understanding and relationship with a given subject.

Again, I don't know what "getting it right" means. Only that a lot of people are fixed on making sure that other people know what wasn't right. So, please take the time you/I/ we need to research and investigate and question and come up with several different answers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Riding the wave and digging the trenches

I wish I could heal the world through plies.

Or at least really, really. share the power of the understanding of the undercurve.

The undercurve? The bottom part of the kinesphere-ical motion. The bottom of a circle. The digging of the trenches when you're on a swing, trying to stop yourself from going too high or swinging around the bar and becoming inside out. (I'm dating myself with the ancient reference of Nickelodeon's Inside Out Boy. I'm probably dating myself with a reference to Nickelodeon... Google it. Youtube it. He swung over the bar. Something you don't do if you're digging trenches and engaging the undercurve. Total overcurve. with superpowers. But there are super powers in the undercurve.)

As a young dancer, I didn't understand the undercurve. What was the purpose of going down? I was interesting in going UP! Higher. Into the raked audience! Weren't we taught to project even into the nosebleed seats?

But it's not all up. And without the down the up can't be as high.

Again. Dance reflects life. Dance is life. Dance is a way to understand the human experience.

The undercurve and the overcurve. Exact opposites existing in the same sphere. In honestly, one cannot exist without the other. There is no height without the grounding from which to leave. It's a balancing of opposites and an examination of physics. "For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction."

And this serves true in the body of the emotional and psychological world too. We can turn to the physical, dancing body for truth. The lower we can engage the undercurve - the support that may not been seen by the audience; The bottom of the plie; The bottom of the inversion; The bottom of the tendu; The plie before the turn - the leap- the lift - the more fully the overcurve is realized and physicalized (in the flesh and bones body, the emotional body, and the psychological body). These require an intense experience of the opposite before the height of the overcurve can be achieved and explored. Likewise, the "low" points of the emotional and mental state can be experienced and complemented by the overcurve... the "high" points. Each in balance. One exists with the other.

There are many other examples of this. The sprinter's prep before leaving the block.... The 2012 Olympics just closed. What other examples did you see in these tried and true athletes - masters of their bodies and physics?

In this time, I am witness to change.

Change is a constant and the undercurve is followed and complemented by the overcurve. Only to be circulated into another opportunity (necessity) for an undercurve.

Have you ever watched a captive dolphin show? They perform this beautifully. I'm told they jump as they do in the wild... circling down before exploding out of the water. Have you seen this in real life? It's truly magical. (So is the human body. And the plie).

My dear friends and readers. In these times of challenge and change, return to the grounding of the undercurve.

Perhaps this post is more about the relation to dance and life more than it is about dance class or performance itself... but one cannot separate the body from the lived experience. And the body cannot be separated from the dance. Our bodies tell and hold our stories. Dig deeply.

See you at the barre. And in the modern dance class. And the jazz class. (And the tap, hula, West African...) And the performance. Let's investigate in our studio laboratories and report back. What are your research findings?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dancing into the fall

There's a new schedule up at the CHI Movement Arts Center, home of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers for the fall:

I'm going to continue leading barre, but we're shifting it to Fridays from 1:30-2:15pm. "Lunch at the barre"!

I'll also be leading barre on Thursdays in September from 6-6:45pm.

Interested in my teaching?

Several weeks ago I had a wonderful class with MM2 Modern Dance and Katelyn Capato was kind enough to share her reflections:

(One of my personal favorites: "Yes, a ballet class for modern dancers! As modern moving artists, it is still important for us to keep our bodies connected to our core in strong technique." YES!!!!)
photo credit: Steven Weiss

And if you're thinking about coming to barre, but really want to know more about it, you can read Kristen Kaschock's review in thINKingDANCE:

See you in the studio!

PS. The CHI Movement Arts Center (CHI MAC) is located at 1316 S 9th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147. One block south of the cheese steak giants, Pat's and Geno's, between Wharton and Reed. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Notes from Unexpected Lessons and the InHale Performance Series

I love the InHale Performance Series!

I have the opportunity to meet and work with so many amazing artists!

Our July 13th InHale was particularly special to me. We had an unfortunate situation where one of the performances had to drop out at the last minute. Kun-Yang suggested I present my solo.

I was excited at the opportunity to get feedback from my community, but also reluctant because I view InHale as an opportunity for other members of the community. But this was an emergency. And, several of my former students, now friends, for which this piece was created, were running tech. They graciously and bravely accepted the challenge a year ago of learning how to work and produce an evening-length dance concert. Many of them had previous tech and performance experience in the theatre, but dance is a whole different animal.

And I challenged myself - for several months I challenged these young people to explore dance as a lens to view the world. I need to do this work with them here. It was quite special. As I was performing, I received a text message from another former student now taking on a new challenge as an elementary school teacher with a report that her summer-class students had improved exponentially. Together, we're all creating positive energy and change.

Here's the video:

Notes From Unexpected Lessons
Choreography & Performance: Jessica Warchal-King
Music: Tracy Scott Silverman (used with his kind permission)

Here's the review from the Dance Journal:

And here are some previous posts based upon this process:

I an eternally grateful to the individuals who inspired this work and to those who have allowed me to share it.

The Moving Beauty Series August 2012

Here's a video of Cassandra's latest performance of Excavations.  I appreciate her willingness to keep exploring this piece. I learn something more about it with every performance. It's a constant work in progress, but I love seeing how her personal changes are effecting and informing the piece. And I can't wait to get back into the studio with her!

Choreography: Jessica Warchal-King
Performance: Cassandra Cotta

Thanks so much to the Moving Beauty Series gang in NYC for this opportunity!

I'm always interested in feedback... Thanks!

KYLD at the 31st Annual Downtown Dance Festival

Presented by Battery Dance Company

This was in the New York Times... so beautiful!

You can really see Olive and Eiren, but I'm there too... just not my face, but my back! (haha!)

And some more pictures:
Jenn Rose

Jessica Warchal-King

Olive Prince (tech rehearsal)

Jessica Warchal-King, Eiren Shuman, Olive Prince

Photos by Davis Photo Graphics

Dancing in the rain

This is a turbulent time. A new semester has begun for many, and a new school year is often filled with the anxiety of preparation for things yet unknown. Times of growth and change and the unknown are always a bit scary.

Hurricane Isaac is thrashing in the Gulf, seven years after Katrina. Clearly, this is another time of unknown. 

My dear friend Julie reflected on this:

What does this have to do with dance?

Our mental, energetic, and physical bodies are interconnected. Have you ever had an injury or been sick? How does this effect your ability to do mental work? How does this make you feel emotionally? Your physical body effects your mental and energetic body.

Or, what about a time when you were very sad or excited? Were you very tired if you were sad? Were you very bouncy if you were happy? How did this effecting your mind?

Likewise, have you ever studied very hard for a test or worked on a problem for a long time only to discover that you were quite tired after the process had ended? (or quite energized?)

When we're taking a dance class, the state of our mental and emotional bodies effects the freedom and ability to move of our physical body. When we are fully engaged in the dance, our physical bodies, minds, and emotions align. Like the hurricane, we've found our center. It takes time, though, to work through to turbulence  And patience. And acceptance, like Julie writes.

Next time you're struggling with a balance or a turn, notice what else is happening. Are you getting frustrated and therefore raising/ tensing your shoulders? Have you stopped breathing? Both of these actions create a rigidity that restricts movement and, in essence, will be counter productive. Take a minute to be patient and aware and try it again.

Keep showing up to the practice, to all of your bodies, and to the dance. And know that irregardless of the storm, you (we) can trust in the dance. (And maybe even learn to dance in the rain).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Psychoanalysis of a plie - Part 3

The knees slide over the ankles. The toes.

The arches of the feet relax and widen. The joints of the metatarsals open and widen. The feet expand. The ankles soften. The pelvis drops and the tailbone releases into the space between the two pelvic halves. The tailbone pulls the spine to lengthen. The rib cage...

The rib cage?

The rib cage is centered by the heart chakra. And attached to the legs via the iliopsoas.

I hypothisize that there is a relationship between the sacral chakra and the heart chakra. And if one would/ could figure out how to bring these into energetic and physical alignment, the plie would be more effective and efficient. I often see (and find myself) the heart center projected forward, as if the balance comes from the heart center, or from the lungs, or the rib cage. In reality, this increases the curve of the lumbar spine and the "bootie" projects backward. The body counterbalances itself to maintain a sense of stability; irregardless of the counter-intuitiveness of this movement. By releasing the "bootie" and the sacral chakra into the back space, the dancer's hip flexors are shortened and the quads engage to help stabilize the torso. This then restricts the mobility of the lower body and, over time, creates habits and frustrations in the dancer that could be injury-producing.

Transferring my hypothesis to the lab (the studio) requires mental, physical, and emotional work.

What does the space of the heart chakra hold that makes it project forward when vertical at the barre? What might allow it to release?

What does the sacral chakra hold that makes it project into space? What might allow it to release?



Is there a way to bring these two energies into alignment? I believe that by "dropping" the sacral chakra and allowing the lumbar spine to lengthen, the plie will experience greater depths, but the dancer will also experience greater mobility of the body through accessing the spine.

The plie is a grounding element.

I suggest finding a way to align the chakras through energetic practice and the body will align through the physical practice. Body, mind, emotions, spirit, other energies are all connected and are reflected in the beginning practices of the barre. What does your plie say about you? How can you choose to address those imbalances? How can your plie impact your daily life? Are you responsive? Rigid? Fluid? Effortless? Finding the muscular structures? Where is your mental and emotional body when your physical body is engaging in the plie? What are the challenges of your plie? How do they reflect your fay-to-day challenges? What can you do to make both more effective? Sometimes, all you have to do is increase the strength of your rotators or the flexibility of your hip flexors. Sometimes all you have to do is bring breath into your heart space.  Sometimes, it's that "simple." I join you in the challenge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

NYC Performance

Cassandra Cotta will be performing Excavations  in NYC tomorrow. I've been researching this piece for several months and we're experimenting with a new process tomorrow.

Here's the info for the performance:
The Big Theatre of The Secret Theatre
4402 23rd St
Long Island City

Close to the N,W, & R Trains at Queensboro Plaza.

Showtime is 8pm. Tickets are $15.

Here are some rehearsal shots by Bill H:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Students of dance... if you read nothing else...

Read this:

Merilyn Jackson has been a long-time writer of dance in Philly and the larger dance scene. She knows her stuff.

So, when I give your paper back with some suggestions, questions for clarity and grammatical marks, it's not because I don't like you. Writing about dance is hard. Thinking about dance is hard. Dance is hard. But that's why we do what we do.

Keep plugging away... at the barre, on the floor, and at your computers and notebooks. It takes time and practice.

I'll join you.

KYLD at the Downtown Dance Festival

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers will be performing at the Downtown Dance Festival in NYC.

Here's the link for the information:

And a fun video with more information:

See you there! (It's a free performance!)

Performance bliss

Performances always remind me of the magic of dance. The theatre space is transformed. The lighting creates a haunting atmosphere. The dancers jump, jostle, shake for hours to keep their/our bodies in a state of pliability so that when the stage manager says "places" we're ready for whatever needs to happen. Hours and hours of work. Hours and hours of tech rehearsal. And that's just when we get into the theatre. But that's where the magic happens. 

Everything comes together. And for a few suspended minutes, hours, the world is perfect and there are pieces of peace. Nothing else exists. 

Cassie, from "A Chorus Line" had it right...

Here's the song from the original Broadway Cast. There are many fun versions to watch on youtube:
(Go ahead... play it in the background and keep reading!)

Here are a few pictures from tech rehearsal with the Nora Gibson Performance Project at Dance Place in DC. 

Thanks so much to everyone at Dance Place for making our time there so magical!

"Give me somebody to dance for,
Give me somebody to show.
Let me wake up in the morning to find
I have somewhere exciting to go..."

"To have something that I can believe in. 
To have something to be. 
Use me... Choose me. 

God, I'm a dancer,
A dancer dances!

"Give me somebody to dance with. 
Give me a place to fit in. 
Help me return to the world of the living
By showing me how to begin.

"Play me the music. 
Give me the chance to come through.
All I ever needed was the music, and the mirror,
And the chance to dance..." 

Maybe Cassie's a little more dramatic than I am, but she gets the point across... and there's no denying those feelings! 


Recently, Dance Advantage - ran a campaign, asking her readers "Why does dance matter?" 

It blew up! I joined the facebook page and there were so many people, posting so many different things about why dance is important. 
Here's the web link:
And the facebook page so you can read on your own:

Some of my favorites:
"Dance matters because it connects people" ~Elise Butler
"Muscle memory - of joy, care, sadness, surprise, pain, excitement, etc., etc., and on and on -- needs a way to be recounted. Our stories are not only in our head." ~Neil Ellis Orts
"Dance has no discrimination." ~Crystal Markham
"Dance saves inner city children that want to express themselves or escape reality through movement." ~Alexis Anderson

Dance matters because sharing the human experience matters. Performance allows us to do that. 

Dance matters because we often need to be reminded of the beautiful things that exist in our world. We need the beautiful to combat the sad, the scary, and the violent. Dance is beauty. 

During this time at Dance Place, I was reminded what it means to be beautiful. That's a powerful experience.