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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2Qt3ORLHoA&feature=relmfu

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?

 (from medicalartlibrary.com)

(from shaktiholistic.com)

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 - http://danceadvantage.net/ 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: http://whydancematters.org/
And the facebook page so you can read on your own: https://www.facebook.com/events/258561160920606/

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.