Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marley's down...

It's really show time when the marley goes down.

It's an extensive process... laying the floor. Taping it down. Ensuring that there are no dangerous bubbles.

Tedious. Time consuming. Important. Here's where the details become so important.

It's not about aesthetic, but it's about the safety of the performers. And so the marley needs to be rolled out in advance. It needs time to settle and breathe. It needs to be laid properly so the performers don't trip or catch a toenail on an uneven edge and bleed all over the stage.

The marley is just the beginning of the "load in" process that makes the performance magic.

But, the marley's been laid. And the performance is about to occur. Here's to the magic...

(Oh... I'm referring to the InHale Performance Series:
InHale Promo Video
InHale tickets
KYL/D presents the InHale Performance Series )

Marley laying requires a lot of attention to detail and precision taping to prevent injuries during performance. rehearsal, or class (ie, lost toe nails, tripping over uneven edges, unstable balances... scary stuff that can easily be prevented. As I remember my father saying "Proper planning prevents poor performance." I think he stole it from a military recruiter, but applied it to many life situation... and to dance.).

The finished product! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

You're the Modern dancer in the bunch...


I have tried very hard to omit labels as such from my own vocabulary after a dear mentor yelled at me for thinking such.

"You're NOT a ballerina! You're NOT a modern dancer! YOU ARE a JESSICA!"


And so, the years ensued, trying to figure out what a JESSICA is.

Apparently, she's a modern dancer, who is also a "post-mod ballerina," who also can tap and execute a mean polka, equipped with Wu-Tang Kung-Fu, and just might dive into a manjini, or a kick ball change and a jazz square, depending on her mood.

I return to the undercurve. (Oh, how I love thee... let me count the ways...) For more info on the undercurve, check out this earlier post: Riding the wave and digging the trenches

In this particular rehearsal, strangely, that's exactly what I needed to access.

The undercurve is part of a transition. Transitions are more than movements from point A to point B, but a real opportunity to dance through those strange places where things might seem a bit uncomfortable (am i still talking about dance here? Dance = Life. Art is a reflection on life.)

And through grounding through the undercurve, the plie, the chasse, the inversion, more ground is transversed. More space embraced. The body grounds so that the overcurve can be that much stronger, more fully realized. For every action there is an equal an opposite reaction.

So even in pointe shoes, it's okay to be "the Modern dance in the bunch" and get down with your undercurve.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Goosebumps are just contractions

It snowed today.

Beautiful! Really. Crisp, white, fresh snow gently blanketed the grass, sidewalks, streets, train tracks... (The transit hour wasn't as beautiful...)

But, snow means cold. In my bones. In my joints. Even after several hours of dancing and several layers of warm-ups and things not intentionally designed to be warm ups for dance...COLD! brrrrrr.... I struggle with finding a full range of motion in this environment that seems much better suited for blankets, fireplaces, soup, tea, and "snuggling down" as my soon-to-be-three-years-old niece would say. My muscles feel like they're hovering intensely close to my bones, my body feels smaller, shrunken. My skin contracts.

My skin contracts. Ha! Despite the frigidity and the weather putting a damper on my ability to get warm (did I mention I don't like being cold?) MY SKIN finds a way to dance! My skin contracts.
Fanny Gombert

(For those of you not familiar with dance history, the contraction is a keystone in the Graham Technique. Martha Graham was one of the founders of Modern Dance).

Of course, with the contraction follows the release. As I realized that my skin (and entire body) was contracting, I experimented with releasing. I was still cold (it's really difficult to heat a large studio effectively for several hours at a time, and the heating process is expensive). But I found a new movement pathway by not fighting. I recognized my body's state and accepted it, and then tried to work with it, instead of against it.

I've often tried to work against my body, as a dancer and performer. I've tried to force her into doing something, looking a certain way, being a certain way. In effect, I'm really fighting myself and creating this whole process of dance much more difficult than it already is. No, when I'm cold, I'm not going to be able to developpe as high as I'd like (there should be an accent over the first and last e's), but if I breathe deeply (see earlier posts), and accept the state I'm in, my body surprisingly releases into exactly what I wanted her to do in the first place. (All this bickering and tension was getting us no where...) Being cold was just that... it was an environmental factor, but it didn't have to be a mind state that in turn effected my physical state. I can/could/did/will continue figuring out how to release into the moment so that the movement can be efficient and effective and therefore, prevent injuries.

Interestingly enough, a fellow dancer expressed the same sentiment to me after a rehearsal. "You know, I think I was so stressed out about being perfect that I couldn't move. I'm feeling more comfortable now and I think I'm getting it. My body is relaxing and I'm able to understand the energy and movement."

Yep... it so often seems that we are our own worst enemies and we create our own tensions. (and therefore, often create our own injuries, headaches, heart aches...)

I'm not saying that the cold is a safe place. It's not. The body needs to be properly warmed up before executing anything challenging or difficult. The body needs to be protected and needs to be kept safe, especially in the current dangerous temperatures, and especially when out-of-doors.

What I am saying is that through this process of working in colder weather, I'm learning how to break habits of tension that could potentially cause me injury. And that release in the face of frustration and tension is what I'm taking away from today's work. I can still move fully and with intention, despite my environmental factors as long as I continue to approach my work with mindfulness, awareness, respect to the situation and to the Work that demands I continue.

(Although this picture seemingly has nothing to do with dance or the cold, I'm sharing it because I love the "release" of the turtle. And it looks like this is a warm, weightless place where one could move free from tension...) 

(On another note... the transit hour was a wonderful opportunity to practice the skill of releasing in times of stress.)

And a Public Service Announcement:
Philly's been in a Code Blue - please take care of those around you who might be suffering from the cold:

Stay safe and warm, friends!

InHale 18!

February 1, 2013 is the 18th InHale Performance Series, presented by Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at the CHI Movement Arts Center.

Here's a line up of the artists... and check out the youtube promo:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

KYL/D at the Mandell Theatre

"For ticket information:
For further press information:
Fleischman Gerber & Associates

Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers makes their Spring Philadelphia appearance at Drexel University’s Mandell Theater on Friday, March 22 at 8 PM and Saturday, March 23 at 3 PM and 8 PM. The program, ONE: Gifts from Afar, features the world premiere of One, an exploration of humankind’s rituals surrounding the drive to win.  Offering contemporary, Zen-inspired works of poetic sensibility, Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers will pair One with the return of its critically acclaimed work Mandala Project which serves as a complementary piece for the new work.  Tickets starting at $27 are available at  Mandell Theater is located at 33rd and Chestnut Streets.

“We are delighted to be performing in University City and introducing new audiences to our work after four consecutive years of sold-out performances at the Painted Bride Art Center,” said Ken Metzner, Executive Director.

A dynamic meditation on the journey from external division to internal oneness, One takes the game of chess as its point of departure.  Chess, like dance, cuts across social, religious and cultural backgrounds.  Similar to dance, the adaptability of chess to local customs and context; the variation in the way it is played in different societies reflects the infinite diversity of humanity.  In addition to its competition aspect, chess, like dance, is a means of bringing people together from all classes, genders, ages and races.  And chess, like choreography, involves balancing and integrating parts and the whole, as well as the arrangement of those
many parts into meaningful patterns.

“One proceeds from an embodied exploration of some of the more obvious parallels between chess and dance to an examination, via the dancing body, of the less apparent but compelling resonances I see, including the utility of both chess and dance as holistic vehicles for the development of an integrated human being, and chess as an art and a practice for living, which is how I conceive of dance,” explained Kun-Yang Lin, choreographer and artistic director of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers. Lin continued: “Just as chess includes, and is not limited to, the pieces, the chess board and the way the pieces are moved on the board, so, too, dance is not confined merely to the shapes, the forms, the space and the bodies that make them.  The totality of each of them is much more than that – it includes the stories communicated or explored on the board/in the space, the personal processes of the players/dancers. The dynamics among them, the politicohistorical context in which the game/dance plays out, and ultimately, in my view, the relationship of all of this to our common humanity.”

Mandala Project, which premiered in spring 2011, was constructed over a two-year period, during which Lin conducted research in the field, with trips to Cambodia, Indonesia, Europe and India, and incorporated these experiences into the body research of the studio.  Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, community, unity and connection.  In Eastern traditions, the mandala is a form of sacred art that depicts the totality of the self as well as the path to a more awakened state of being.  In Mandala Project  the dances enter into conversation with the sacred form of the mandala, examining and challenging it through body, time, space and energy with reverence and wonder for the effects on the mind, experiencing and sharing the potential of
dance as facilitator and inspiration for communication across artistic, generational, cultural and religious boundaries.
The concert features performances by Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers’ Kun-Yang Lin, Jennifer Rose, Olive Prince, Jessica Warchal-King, Shaness Kemp, Duane Lee Holland Jr., Liu Mo, Wally Cain Carbonell, Vuthy Ou, Brandi Ou, Rachael Hart, and Brian Cordova.  Lighting design is by Stephen Petrilli.  Costumes by Heidi Barr.  Original music for One is by Cory Neale .

Taiwan-born Kun-Yang Lin, Artistic Director of Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and Founder of CHI Movement Arts Center, probes at the limits of national identity, drawing upon Eastern philosophy while expanding the perimeter of Western contemporary dance. Lin has been widely recognized in the U.S. for both his dancing and choreography including, in 2002 by Back Stage, which named him “the year’s most promising choreographer in NYC.”  Before moving to the U.S., Lin toured internationally with London’s Transitions Dance Company, working with numerous European, post-modernist choreographers.   In the U.S., Lin performed in iconic American modern dance companies including the Martha Graham Company and worked with post-modernist choreographers including Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown, Lynn Shapiro & Paula Josa-Jones.  Lin’s artistry has been supported by numerous sources including The MidAtlantic Arts Foundation’s USArtists International grant in partnership with the NEA and the Andrew Mellon Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through Dance Advance.  Lin has been on the faculty of The Yard on Martha’s Vineyard, H.B. Actor’s Studio and The Limon Institute and he offers master classes and workshops throughout the U.S. and abroad.  Currently, Lin is Associate Professor of Dance at Temple University.

The mission of Kun Yang Lin/Dancers is to draw upon its unique Asian-American perspective to create work that transcends cultural boundaries and celebrates the ability of dance to integrate body, mind and spirit.  The company has performed internationally and across the United States, including at the Busan International Dance Festival in Busan, Korea, Jogja International Performing Arts Festival in Jogjakarta, Java, Indonesia,  Hsin Chu Cultural Center in Hsin Chu, Taiwan, Festival Internacional de Danza in Queretato, Mexico, the Victoria Theatre in Singapore, the Interlochen Arts Festival in Michigan, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, Columbia Festival of the Arts in Maryland, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, in Philadelphia to sell-out audiences at The Painted Bride Art Center and in New York City at The Japan Society, Queens Theatre in The Park, and the Downtown Dance Festival.
For further information, please call 215-735-7356."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Baby... it's COLD outside!

Even more reason to get into the studio!

But the getting there... the cold sucks out my breath and seeps into my joints. Everything is stiffer than I'd prefer and warming up... well, it takes a bit longer to feel in my body. (Like my joints are well oiled and my muscles are limber and strong, my spine and the muscles surrounding it are ready to twist, undulate, rock, and roll. My body is ready to contract and release, fly and dive without fear of injury and with trusted abandon.)

And you know what really helps? Breathing.

Although I feel like it takes more effort to breath when it's cold outside, directing my breath to certain parts of my body (my low back, for example), allows the space that I need and the time that I need to open up. The movement is gentle (which is what I need as I'm getting older and it's getting colder), but it's preparing me for the most aggressive movements that will follow at the end of class and during rehearsal.

Rewind a few years. I knew breathing was important, but I always would breathe high in my chest. I learned to hold in my lower abs and core, which didn't allow for effective, full-body breathing. I craved gross-motor movement followed by fine-motor movement (give me lots of push-ups, crunches, swings, and tendues!). On a particularly chilly day, in a particular class, I turned to my dear friend Erin (now a beautiful performer/ choreographer/ yoga guru in NYC) and said, frustrated, "Man! I can't get warm! I can't jump now. Aren't you freezing?" Erin, the wise soul that she is said, "No, I'm good. The warm up didn't get me warm, but I really focused on my breath and that did." Erin was ready to fly.

Recently, a new friend who teaches yoga to cancer patients was telling me about the benefits of breath. Each inhale takes in new air, and each exhale removes toxins from the body. This is particularly important for people undergoing severe forms of treatment. But it also makes so much sense!

Tai Chi, Yoga, Kung-Fu, Pilates, and yes, running and gym-related exercises all focus on the breath... not just to warm the body but to aid the body. Release tension and make movement more efficient and effective.

And so does Kun-Yang's process.

Stress, tension, specific training all constrict the breath and without a full body breath, my full body cannot dance. I'm learning that I hold tension in my intercoastal muscles (the muscles of the rib cage) and that allowing those muscles to release and allowing my breath to deepen, I in effect, have more control over my body. Because I have more space. I am longer, wider, more expansive because the breath fills me. Warms me. Creates an ebb and flow from which I am ready to contract and release, fly and dive without fear of injury and with trusted abandon.


Gross-motor movement followed by fine-motor movement has been demonstrated as effective warm-up techniques, so please don't eliminate them or think that I'm discounting them. I still love (airplane) push ups, crunches, swings, and tendues. I'm just sharing new, different, more effective ways to engage the body while being supported. And warm.

And if you're interested in seeing Kun-Yang's work, check out our March home season:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Saturday mornings at the barre

Morning ballet barre returns to the CHI Movement Arts Center in South Philly.

Every Saturday from 11:30-12:15, I lead barre. No shoes required. No leos necessary. No judgements. Just ballet. Focused. Vertical. Intense. Fun!

We began again last Saturday (1/19) and it was so nice to be back in the studio, back at the barre, with so many dancers, from so many backgrounds. Thank you!

(Kun-Yang's CHI Awareness Technique follows barre from 12:30-2pm... so if you come, stay and dance with KYL/D).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

KYL/D is at APAP this weekend

If you're in NYC, stop by for some really amazing FREE dance!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The body isn't bad.

We're taught, especially in many religious contexts, that the body is bad. The body is of this earth and not of the spiritual world. There is a separation between the body and the mind and the spirit.

There is a movement in the West to make this body-mind-spirit connection "cool" (or accessible because there is so much research that supports holistic living), but I (like many others, I would assume) grew up struggling with the teaching that the body was inherently bad. (insert your own experiences here, but mine included denying the body as a form of penitence -ie. fasting, giving up things of enjoyment, multiple repetitions of a seemingly positive action - to my young mind, it seemed almost contrition for having a body).

(BUT! Also insert all of the arguments for the positive effects of yoga, meditation, mindfulness, contemplative practice, centering prayer, dance, physical fitness activities - because I know there are some people who might read this who DO practice fitness as total mind-body-spirit engagement -  here.)

Look to history - the body is controlled by ruling powers. Mutilated, tortured, killed for punishment. Bound for movement restriction and submission. Used as a source of primal entertainment.

Look to today. The body needs to be contorted. Shaved. Darkened. Or lightened. Painted. Enhanced. (Observe, from a cultural anthropologist's perspective of course!, any convince store or grocery store "check out" corridor. Or watch daytime tv...)

No wonder we're so uncomfortable in our bodies!

So, I was thrilled to find this poem by St. Augustine. I don't need permission to dance. I'm going to do it anyway, anywhere. But somewhere in my heart (that read an article by the current Pope that condemned dancing in church or as a form of worship, written before he was Pope and read in a southern Catholic church bulletin, where I immediately felt rejected from a space where I was taught I would always be safe) I am comforted.

I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter and binds 
the isolated to community. 
I praise the dance, which demands everything;
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul. 
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain,
will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person, one who is
firmly anchored in the center of his life, who is
not obsessed by lust for people and things 
and the demon of isolation in his own ego. 
Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrates
with the equipoise of all his powers. 
I praise the dance.
O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven
will not know what to do with you. 
~St. Augustine

Just to be clear, there is a difference between religion and spirituality. The mind-body-spirit connection has nothing to do with subscribing to a philosophy of thought, but rather a way of being, feeling, sensing, perceiving. And please don't read this as me saying one is better than the other. I just think there is room (space, time, energy, and bodies) for many thoughts, many pathways, and many practices.

Dear Readers, I hope you find a practice that allows you to engage and experience holistically, enthusiastically, and with uplifting and positive encounters. (The thesaurus also suggests "stumble upon" but I'm not sure how to make that work grammatically. But... I hope everything you stumble upon is positive, and encourages you to dance - or sing - or draw - or express the depths of your spirit and mind through embodied action.)

And... I write this realizing that excess is not healthy for any body. Excess of food, or lack of food. Excess of entertainment, or excess of denial. Excess of exercise, or excess of sedentary living. Find balance.

Ultimately, I was thrilled to read the poem by St. Augustine and learn that a canonized saint supported total engagement of the mind-body-spirit through dance. I realize that admitting my surprise means opening you, my readers, into a deeply personal part of me. And yes, that vulnerability is scary (I refer you to earlier posts), but our humanness means that we all bleed, we all experience pain, and we all experience joy. Laws of physics (and philosophy) suggest(s) that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction... and so I believe that with sharing my fears, I will also share my (your, our) joy(s).

Thanks for taking a moment with me. I'm interested in your comments and experiences. If you're comfortable, I encourage you to share!

(And really, O, Man, learn how to dance or I won't know what to do with you!)

Project 2013: Attack Beauty.

I'm accepting a challenge from Nachmo! National Choreography Month (Your choreographic kick in the pants).

31 days of dance with an opportunity to show what you've been working on during January in February. 31 days is just the kick I need.

There are two parts to this project, but this is the first aspect of my research. And, although its almost the middle of January, I have been vigilant and been wrestling with this.

In fact, I've been wrestling with this for some tie. Lord Bryon's She Walks in Beauty has been one of my favorite poems for over 15 years.

What makes something beautiful? We hear it often and in different contexts.:
"If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person..."
"That sunset is beautiful"
"Beauty comes from within"

Pinterest is full of pages of images... check them out, yourself:

I found the following story am adding it to my research box:
(Emily Shroder, Rachel Manteuffel, John W. Poole and Tom Shroder contributed to this report")

For those of you not interested in clicking the link, the story tells of an experiment supported by the Washington Post. Joshua Bell performed in the DC metro incognito for 45 minutes, but was ignored by passersby. For the duration, he was tossed a total of $32.17.  He regularly sells out venues where tickets cost $100 or more.
This article asks:
"Do you have time for beauty?" ("Shouldn't you?")
"In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"

"It's an old epistemological debate... Plato weighted in one it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume) or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?"

Does/ can beauty only exist in a frame? And if so, why is it necessary to box it in?

So, here's to a new process... one that I'm sure will be longer than the immediate deadlines I'm giving myself. Stay tuned...

For more info on Joshua Bell:


Monday, January 7, 2013

Back in ballet... (and some thoughts on fear)

... and it feels sooo good!

First ballet class of the new year this morning. Sigh...

I was nervous. Yes, I will admit that even though I LOVE dance and I find that no other activity engages me so deeply physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally... and while I teach and preach that dance is a wonderful way to understand the self, I too, get a bit freaked out when taking the road less traveled. I understand the fears of being judged by others and the scarier fears of judging yourself (myself). There's always a risk of being not accepted when you're (I'm) around other people and that's even scarier when trying something for the first time or returning to something or using your (my) body.

Because our bodies tell our stories. "The truest expression of a people is in its dances and its music. Bodies never lie."~Agnes de Mille.

So, maybe that's the scary part. My heart is revealed when my body dances. Vulnerability. (EEKK!!)

But, dear readers, do you know what?

It's exhilarating!

To open my eyes, but to really see the space with my whole body.
To carve out my kinesphere with my port de bra.
To play with the rhythms of my petit battement within the structure of the music.
To change the consistency of the air around me with my energy and tempo.
To really charge through the space and swallow my pathways.
To feel grounded on my leg as my upper body whips around her central axis in a clean pirouette.
To play with the speed of the transitions...

My analytic mind laughs at myself when I feel my pelvis begin to anteriorly tilt. This is a common mis-adjustment in dancers, as it allows an increase of rotation, but puts an enormous amount of stress on the lower back, reduces the strength and effectiveness of the abdominal muscles (and core) and while it might visually increase rotation in the hips, there is an equal and opposite rotation being experienced in the knees and ankles. Ouch! To prevent this, a dancer must be aware of her natural lumbar curve, engage her abdominal muscles to support her back, and strengthen and engage the muscles around the joints to support proper turn out (rotators, inner thighs, pelvic floor...).


I know all this and aim to keep my core and rotators engaged. But I also carry my stress in my low back. When I'm worried, scared, stressed, (insert other less-than-positive emotion here), the muscles in my lower back tighten (perhaps its the fight or flight response kicking in), causing my pelvis to tilt anteriorly.

In class, I notice my alignment shifting when I'm confused over the sequence or musicality or intention. My lower back is tensing shifting my pelvis and my spine, and if left unattended, setting me up for injury.

To address this, I do take a moment to stretch and give my back a little extra heat (through a gentle massage or extra layers) but, for me, what I really need to do is take a deep breath and calm my heart and my mind (and ask the instructor the question that is causing my body to respond).

Once I've released the stress from my mind, my pelvis returns to its natural alignment - which also allows my rib cage to drop, increasing my lung capacity, and letting the natural curves of my spine exist as they were formed to support my upright (sometimes upside down) position. My (your) body is most efficient and effective in her natural state (which, contrary to what some might think, is not stressed out).

Action follows thought. When my mind is stressed, my body responds. Likewise, when I let myself be in the moment, the movement becomes effortless.

Where do you hold stress? How does it manifest in your body? Pain in your shoulders. Tight low back. Headaches. Weight gain or loss. Exhaustion. How do you address these? Our bodies tell our stories and bodies never lie.

Perhaps that's why it's so scary to dance. Perhaps we're scared of listening to our bodies and what they might say to us.

Graham said:

There's so much passion in the moving body! We see this on stage, but also at the club, the wedding, the prom, the gym, on the street (both with people who are running or walking but also with people who dance wherever they go)... Why should we be scared of that which brings so much joy and togetherness?

I'm sure there are a lot of excuses... (insert yours here). And then I'll see you in class! (or at the club, the wedding, on the street...)

Here's to a New Year full of dance and allowing passion to triumph fear!