Sunday, February 24, 2013

On puppies and Perspective... part two

(I'm not quite sure how to do all this cool technology stuff, so this is part 2 to my Puppies and Perspective post. This is sweet, and is not posted with the intention of endorsing any religion... just a cute reflection. Thanks for stopping by and bringing biscuits!)

On puppies and perspective... "they don't have to stay as long"

I received this from a friend on facebook and I needed to share this story. I don't know from whom the original story came, so if you know, please let me know so I can acknowledge them. Otherwise, please take note:

"Why dogs live less than humans... As Answered by a 6-year-old

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lida, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

(I'm crying as I post this.... ~JCWK)

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly. piped up, "I know why."

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more conformting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life - like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued,

"Well, dogs already know how to do that so they don't have to stay as long."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was a teacher, you'd learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up an opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ECSTASY.
Take naps.
Stretch before rising.
Run. Romp. Play. DAILY.
Thrive on attention and let people touch you. (I love pets!)
Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. (Where ever you find it...)
On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree. (Even if it's on a park bench with some other folks...)
When you're happy, DANCE around and WAG YOUR ENTIRE BODY!
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently."

(Emphasis, italics, and uppercase my own.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Get Up and Dance! (Blog Dialogue 1)

Thank you, Ashleigh for sharing this!

Please check out Ashleigh's blog: 402

Ashleigh suggests several reasons to watch this video, despite any political agenda.

I suggest you watch this video because:

1) It will make you laugh.

2) It will make you want to dance.

3) It will make you realize that no matter how silly you think you look when you dance, feeling silly is okay and dancing isn't a perfect art. (Ever.... not even when you're a professional, even though we really try to make every movement perfect... but that's another post...). Everyone moves. Everyone dances. So I encourage you to watch this video and get over your(my)self! DANCE!

4) Moms rock. Werq!

Work - with an E AND A Q

I stand corrected.

I read today in a Wall Street Journal article that the word sounding like "work" that my student said "with an E" referring to a fierceness of dancing, is actually spelled "WERQ".

All according to the Wall Street Journal, their team of researchers, and the Urban Dictionary. werQ

So, FYI students of academia, although I will appreciate your awareness of pop culture - and the cultural anthropologist in me appreciates your application of contemporary terms in reference to contemporary, critical thinking - if you're going to use the term "werq" please spell it properly. But I recommend actually stating what you really mean and describing the action, without contemporary slang.

Thanks, in advance.

I also refer new readers to my earlier posting on Work with an E.

PS. According to the Urban Dictionary, anything "fierce" is of exceptional quality. Just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rise up and Dance!

Two V-day EVENTS, Two opportunities to DANCE for SOCIAL CHANGE!

This Thursday PARD is hosting a One Billion Rising, 
Break the Chain FLASH MOB!

FREE and open to the PUBLIC 
Thursday February 14, 10-11:30am
PARD, 1720 Mt Vernon Street

The legendary dancer Debbie Allen has choreographed a simple dance sequence to the One Billion Rising anthem “Break the Chain” written by acclaimed songwriter Tena Clark.

Participating is EASY!

1. Show up!!! Come to PARD wearing black & red if you can
2. Warm-up and Learn the Break the Chain dance with Katherine Kiefer Stark
3. Go outside and FLASH MOB!
everyONE counts!
Click HERE to RSVP on the official One Billion Rising site!

Philadelphia Rising: Shout, Speak, Act
FREE and open to the PUBLIC 
Thursday February 14, 12:30pm
Rittenhouse Square
Temple University Bell Tower
Heavenly Hall 4015 Poplar St
Cedar Park 50th & Baltimore
East Falls Train Station

Participating in this 20-minute event is easy!

1. Show up!!! (Wear red and black if you can)
2. Follow Event Leaders in simple movements
everyONE counts!
Click HERE to RSVP on the official One Billion Rising site!

Why are we RISING?
DANCE and shake the planet into a new way of thinking!

1 in 3 women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime
that is ONE BILLION women globally
and 264,00 women HERE in Philadelphia.  

Act locally, be heard globally!  Join the FLASH MOB and PHILADELPHIA RISING and be part of the global event
ONE BILLION RISING on 2.14.13 in which millions of women and men will rise up and DANCE around the world to say, "ENOUGH. The violence ends NOW."

Monday, February 11, 2013

WORK - with an E


My wonderful husband and I have had many conversations on the meaning of this word. When I talk about dance processes or pieces, I always refer to "the work". This confused him, when we were first dating. To him, a boots-on-the-ground-Marine-from-a-ranching-background, "work" meant hard, physical labor. To his credit, he didn't discount dance as hard, physical labor, but was also witness to the heavily intellectual side of dance. And to putting on my makeup and focusing on aesthetic. In the ranching world, cows don't care too much about aesthetic. Fences don't have to be beautiful. And I'm just going to guess, but I assume that the military doesn't include waterproof mascara in their list of necessary gear. (I do... check out the ballet emergency bag)

Work meant sweat. Blood. Physical frustrations.

Not beautiful lines in space and clear artistic intentions.

Fast forward to 2013.

Barring definitions of "work," I was surprised to learn that W-O-R-K could be spelled W-E-R-K and would have a similar, but very different meaning.

Pause (Paws) for background information here.

As a pedagogical practice, I periodically ask my students to "tweet." We form a small circle before class, affectionately known (I learned today) as the "hashtag circle," and I ask them to quickly reflect on something. This something or hashtag could be relevant to the class or just a request for them to acknowledge where they are, presently.

Some previous hashtags I've provided:

In 140 characters, I ask my students to add their "tweet" to the conversation of the day. (Note: I don't actually ask the students to count characters or post anything to a Twitter feed, it's just my way of accessing and engaging social media into the studio setting in a practice of brevity and conciseness.)

The "feed" has consisted of "tweets" including (please know I'm trying to honor Twitter formats in this language  but it's difficult to translate spoken word):  

#(hashtag) homework
RT Stressed
Bio test today
RT Ready2Dance

(for those of you less informed than I, "RT" means re-tweet and is an echo of a previous statement. This much I do know.)

So, I was a bit confused when my first "tweet" of today's class went something like this:
"Work... " (pause - that I now attribute to Monday)
Insert nods, confused faces, and anxieties of Mondays here.  (I'm thinking, 'Yeah, it is at that point in the semester when things get to be a bit crazy).
 and then the student added : "...with and E"

Ensuing a new series of nods and faces.

"Yeeeeessssss!"  "yeeeeeahhhh!" echoed in chorus and body language. I didn't know that work could be spelled wErk and mean something different.

But... I am open to learning.

In my humble understanding, "wErk" refers to an intense attention to detail and being FIERCE in the dance context.

But, you'll have to wait for a full post on what being FIERCE means.

Until then, #werk.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reflections and respect

I am humbled by the following observation and realization. Thank you, Ken.

This reflection is from my husband, Justin, who graciously volunteered to video the InHale Performance Series after one of the crew had an emergency. Because of this, he had some time behind-the-scenes during the last few moments before the house was open.

"You know... Ken's an important person. He's the Executive Director. That's a big deal."
Yeah, I'm really lucky I have the opportunity to learn from Ken and Kun-Yang. They're both such smart people...
"Yeah... but... you probably didn't even notice this. It seemed so normal to the both of you... but Ashley and I noticed it. And neither of us could really believe what we were seeing. It was really amazing."
Hun, I'm confused. What are you talking about? (Ashley is a wonderful, wonderful individual who has graciously and gracefully been stage managing and lighting InHale for the past few performances. A performer herself, she's young, dedicated, and I continue to be impressed by her willingness to learn and her professionalism during the process.)
"You were warming up. Like, completely on the floor. And you and Ken had this whole conversation. And you never stopped warming up. And he even got down on the floor to talk to you so that you didn't have to stop. And it was totally normal for the both of you."
Confused face. Pause.
"Jess. The Executive Director of this really amazing international dance company GOT ON THE FLOOR to talk to you. Your own needs as a performer were so important to him that he GOT ON THE FLOOR so that you wouldn't have to stop warming up to talk to him. Do you know how amazing that is? You probably don't even realize that it was happening. And he acted like it was totally normal. But! It demonstrated how much he respects what you and the rest of the dancers do. How much he values your body, the safety of your body, and how much he understands the importance of what you're doing.... how important the performance is and how important it is for you to warm up properly and get into a certain mindset. Jess. That was really awesome. And it was a really big deal. And Ashley and I couldn't believe it."

I remember the conversation clearly. Ken and I were discussing some space logistics and pre-performance notes. I was on the ground warming up. Ken did lower himself to talk with me, not only to be on my spatial plane, but also so we could talk at a level that would be respectful of the other performers in the space.

Thanks to Justin and Ashley for pointing out something that I did take for granted.

And thank you, Ken, for your commitment and dedication to this art.

After previous posts regarding the lack of respect I've received as an artist - or, perhaps (with patience...), the misunderstandings that people in other professions express concerning what I do for a living - this acknowledgment feels particularly poignant.

Friday, February 8, 2013

thoughts from rehearsal

"Would you relax? It's just dance."
"Yeah... but that's why it's so important."

"Lots of other things in life will let you down, but your technique never will."

(Sometimes moments of exhaustion make the most sense.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Superbowl Sunday

Happy Superbowl Sunday!

In this day of indulgence, family, friends, rivalries, advertisements, and football, my thoughts turn to competition. And of course, dance.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Ed Hirsch - "In the Spirit of Caissa: the Art of Chess" (Kun-Yang gave us this article to read as part of his own research process for One. As a performer, I do my own research, but I also appreciate having an insight into what my choreographer is thinking/ exploring/ observing/ researching.)

"In a deep way, the team of chess units represents different aspects of the whole person, from physical to spiritual: the King represents the self or spirit (which can never be captured, but only bound), the Queen represents the mind (since she makes the most connections on the board), the Bishop represents the emotions (the diagonal being more indirect or subtle), the Knight represents the vitality (being able to jump over pieces) the Rook represented the body (the square symbolizing matter), and the pawns represent the senses (serving as the "feelers"reaching out into the board). (In this respect, the Queening of a pawn represents the senses elevated to the realm of mind.) You will note that the correspondence is not exact, most notably in the exchange value of the Rook, where the physical is worth more than the emotional or vital. This is a matter of geometry: the Rook, moving along the squares, controls more space than the Bishop, for example. Symbolically, this suggests the strong value of the physical on the chess board (the physical dimension).


I love the way Hirsch makes correlations between the game of chess and the lived experience of the game of life.

Enjoy your fruit and veggie trays, cheese dip, potato skins, organic seasoned kale, or whatever your Superbowl traditions are, and the spirit of friendly competition. Happy Superbowl Sunday!

Get your tickets for One: Gifts from Afar