Thursday, June 28, 2012

"20 seconds of courage" or "I just want to do a dance"

In the past few years, several dancers have approached me with the charge:
Dancer: "I want to do a dance. Will you help me?"
Me: Sure!
Dancer: "Great! (pause) Thanks. Um... when should we start?"
Me: Why do you want to do this?
Dancer: "Um..."
Me: Think about it. Let's meet on....
Me: So, why do you want to do this?
Dancer: .......

I've received many responses to this question. Often times, I'm provided with tears. And that's enough information. There's something unspoken that needs to be communicated. Something that can't be spoken, but needs to be shared. I get it. Okay.

Let's start.

One such dancer provided me with music from the movie "We Bought a Zoo." I had never heard of the movie, but she insisted that it resonated with her. While I'm not a fan of dancing to movie soundtracks, or popular music in general, this was not my dance. So, together, we embarked on a journey of creation.

Disclaimer: I'm human. And I get attached. Many years ago I was filling out one of those "All About Me" books for a friend and one of the questions was "What do you collect?" My friend's response was "Little plastic bags." My response was "Memories and people."

So, when this dancer told me that "We Bought a Zoo" was an important movie, I held onto that. For a long time. And only just recently watched it. (And cried through most of it.... a good cry). Matt Damon's character has several moments when "20 seconds of courage" is "all you need" and can make all of the difference in the next chapter of one's life. This is one of my new prompts... when stepping into a new situation or a familiar one that can still be a little scary because it's important to me. And I sometimes get nervous about things that are important to me. Kun-Yang says that's okay, just not to let the nerves show or get the better of me. Or prohibit me from doing that thing. Enter the 20 seconds of courage.

I appreciate those dancers that suggested I explore "We Bought a Zoo." And I challenge myself and you, dear reader, to really do that thing that you would do within those 20 seconds of courage.

Perhaps that's to make a dance.

RAW "Notes from Unexpected Lessons"

I'm stopping in the middle of my rehearsal process to write this.

Normally, this might have been a journal post. Part of this process is sharing the depth and the strength and the power of this thing we call dance. So, this post is raw. Real. Completely unfiltered. Present.

Notes from Unexpected Lessons is.......

just that. It's a piece created for eight very beautiful people. With material from them... well, from my memories and thoughts and feelings surrounding them. The piece could turn into a 90 minute dance, assuming a structure of 10 minutes for each individual and a short introduction and conclusion... but for now, it's a five and a half minute solo and I'm having enough emotional uprisings with that.

The piece is a whole, but in my creation, there are vignettes. The viewer might not see these and that's okay. They may just see an abstract, interesting dance. Cool.

But the individual pieces are about individual people. So, with the slightly broken, jagged movement and syncopation, I'm calling on Sean. The intra-verted, caved movements that explode into (what I perceived as non-judgmental love) are Kristine. The opening and closing, the encasing and embracing, Pickles. The sharp, precise, carefully placed strikes and  (insert a very pointed movement here as I try to describe in words) pauses, but more than pauses... places to think for a moment... these are Becca. Tom is wind-ey - not wind like the breeze, but twisty, like DNA. Explosive. Compacted. Reaching. Insert a deep sigh, grace, softness... this is Natalie. Circles, directional changes, jumps, this is the complex Rachel. Stillness, volcanic quietness, rippling explosion, deep-seeded understanding and grounding of self... this is Ashley.

(of course, not in that order in my heart or in the piece...)

And yet they are each in the others.

They are all in this dance.

As I rehearse, they come back to me. The piece created over a month ago.. I am afraid to revisit. Them. Us. The work that we did and created. The journeys that we all, individually continue and the power that is created through these adventures.

My heart cries and smiles as I remember each of them and I am strengthened. I remember that this wonderful gift of the dance is not just mine. It is not just me. It is ours. And it is a wonderful way to share the joy of the human experience.

With that. I return to rehearsal. See you on the stage.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Fathers' Day!

Over the years, my father and I have compiled an album's worth of post-performance pictures. This was particularly poignant  (meaningful?, ironic? iconic?) because it was taken after the performance of BBT's 35th Anniversary Gala. Much of the album would be of me growing up at BBT with Dad, usually holding some flowers, still in costume, dreaming about dancing for the rest of my life. Well... this picture is not in costume, not entirely "grown up," but definitely dancing for the rest of my life. Thanks, Dad, and Mom, for your continued love and support of my dreams. (And yes, this is pretty representative of my wonderful relationship with my parents).

Happy Fathers' Day to all dads, whatever form that takes and whatever that means to you. We have so many different family structures and models for love; it takes great strength and courage to be a parent. Thank you!

And since I missed a Mothers' Day post (sorry Mom! I still called and visited...) Here's a picture of my mom and me. I love this one, taken on a very special trip to Becky's wedding (see earlier posts).

Thank you, again, so the very special people who choose to nurture, change, and shape our future though (positive) parenting and love.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Recent events...

Several life times ago, a student asked me, "Why is there a two month gap on your blog?" Yikes. The real answer was because I was too afraid to sit down with myself and my process and write and create; I was honest with her. Now, as I realize there's been another long delay in my posts, I need to make another confession. I've just been busy. (I know, not a fair excuse). I will take some time to reflect in writing, but here are some images and videos from the past month:

April 27 National Dance Week. Random Act of Culture (Non-Violent, Dance "Flash Mob") at 30th Street Station in support of Hope Dances, an organization that brings dance to children with special needs.

One of my favorite moments from this day was when some of the bystanders shouted, "Hey! They're spelling HOPE!" and started learning the dance. Success!

May 4 Alvernia University's Dance Concert.
I had the opportunity to work with traditional university students and members of the Alvernia University Seniors' College, sharing dance with people of all abilities and backgrounds. Here's some footage of the work we did during the course of the semester. All pictures have been taken with permission of the artists and used with permission of the photographers.

I also led the students from Alvernia in several service learning projects. Dance and service learning are new research interests of mine!

May 15 The Moving Beauty Dance Lab in NYC.
Cassandra Cotta performed "Excavations." My choreography. Music by Tracy Scott Silverman.

warming up in the hall...

May 18 InHale Performance Series, Presented by Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at the CHI Movement Arts Center. 
We had an evening of amazing artists. 

May 19 Berks Ballet Theatre's 35th Anniverary Gala at the Miller Center for the Performing Arts in Reading. (There are some corrections to be made in the article, but it's a nice read).

Some of the BBT alumni: (I looked up to these wonderful women as I was growing up)

Kaveh Saidi has graciously allowed me to use his music for this duet. This is a video of the tech rehearsal, so it's still in process, but it's the only video I have right now. I will re-post the performance video once I get that. 
More about Kaveh at

June 4 and beyond...
CHI Artists Summer Workshops... Dance everyday!
There's an incredible line up of master teachers guiding dancers through daily dance practices at the CHI Movement Arts Center. To date, we're heading into our third, very full week. Marcie Mamura and Ellie Goudie-Averill taught the first week and Ellie is teaching June 25-29. Peter DiMuro taught last week and will be guiding further investigations next week. Classes are from 10:30am-12pm, Monday-Friday. For more info:

I'm also continuing to lead ballet barre, M-F from 9:30-10:15am. 

Whew... and those are just the updates... more to come!

Dance for Dreams - upcoming performance

I'm performing "Notes from Unexpected Lessons" with music by Tracy Scott Silverman. Some of the other performers include: Ballet Fleming, Project Moshen Dance Co., Mindy Kendi, Footwerx Tap Company, Allie Parsons, Camille Brown, Emily Teitelbaum, Jennifer Gordon, Lauren and Francis Veyette from the PA Ballet, Sasha & Lise Ramsay, a special piece by the Hope Dances Contemporary class, and more!

Contact: Brian Mengini, 484-744-7436,
More information:

“Dance For Dreams Performance At Ursinus College
To Benefit Hope Dances”

Collegeville, Pa –  May 30, 2012.

WHAT:  Dance For Dreams brings all forms of dance together on one stage to benefit a great cause –Hope Dances. From ballet and tap to hip-hop and contemporary, dancers from across Montgomery County and beyond will provide an entertaining evening of high caliber performances. You may even see a flash mob!  The diverse line-up of performers includes: Project Moshen Dance Company, Footwerx Tap Company, Lauren & Francis Veyette from the Pennsylvania Ballet, Camille A. Brown, local dance students and many more. Hope Dances founder, Brian Mengini explains, “every genre of dance at a high level, for a minimal price, and you help other kids enjoy the gift of dance!This is a unique opportunity for those in the suburbs to experience every genre of dance at a very high level for a minimal price while helping kids to enjoy the gift of dance.”

WHEN:  Saturday, June 30, 2012, 7:30pm -10:00pm.

WHERE: Kaleidoscope Theater, Ursinus College, 601 E. Main Street, Collegeville, PA 19426.

HOW: Tickets are $25.00 and are only available in advance online. Visit: and search Dance For Dreams.

ABOUT: Proceeds benefit Hope Dances, a non-profit outreach program dedicated to bringing the joy of dance to special needs children. Hope Dances hosts engaging, fun and therapeutic dance classes, parties and shows. Founded by dance photographer Brian Mengini, Hope Dances is an outreach initiative of Dominics Dreams named after his son who was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder.  For more information visit