Monday, April 29, 2013

Wow... that's TINY!

I performed as part of Ten Tiny Dances Friday night.
The experience was wonderful and the challenge was met by each of the choreographers.

After a loooonnngggg Friday evening commute in Philly traffic, (after six hours of rehearsal with NGPP) I arrived at the Silk Lounge at the Allentown BrewWorks to discover that the stage was a bit smaller than the dimensions with which I had been rehearsing. Wowsers... this stage was tiny!

(Pause. Here's the moment when I think to myself... I already danced for six hours today. My body was warm, but now I'm cold. And I'm tired. But I need to get warm again. I've been rehearsing all day for a performance in two weeks and I'm performing tonight. Cool. I'm super blessed/persistent/stubborn/really-lucky-to-do-this-for-my-life - minus the whole cost of living and lack of benefits thing. I bow to the powers of the Universe.)

But, that - the whole unexpected super tiny stage thing - is where the true moment of performance comes in. How do I negotiate a stage smaller than I was expecting? (I was expecting small, but this.... wow!).

How do I negotiate a stage that moves with me? Literally... it was sitting on a slippery surface and wasn't very stable. That's okay... I'll still dance! I have beauty that needs to be shown and created in this particular time and space.

How does the integrity of the work I've been rehearsing remain with a whole set of different circumstances? Again, this is my job as a performer to keep the integrity of the work and improvise to negotiate the situation at the same time. And not let anyone know that I'm doing it in the process. (I can disclose this to you, several days later. But in real time, disclosure is not part of the performance process. Show up. Do the work. Tell the story. The space, audience, time, technical issues don't matter.)

It worked - dancing in a tiny space! And I loved seeing the work of other choreographers, who are living in and experiencing a very different region. Congrats!

My favorite comment from a fellow performer: "You totally transformed the space. You couldn't tell that you were dancing on that tiny stage. We totally thought that you were cheating and stepping off of it - but you weren't!"

Performance practice. Energetic practice. Technical practice. I am grateful for these practices.

Super BIG Thank You! to Sarah Carlson/ DANCELINK for putting this performance together!

Here are a few pics from the performance:
How cool... where else do you get to experience live
dance and have a few adult beverages? 

Super tiny stage!

Jeffrey Peterson

Sarah Carlson and Jeffrey Peterson
(Choreography by Sarah Carlson).
love the shadows!

Last dance! Jazz Hands are my fav,
especially when followed by Spirit Fingers

The cast of characters. Thanks so much for sharing this evening!

Come together... right now... Over Philly

Koresh Dance Company is bringing together 27 of Philadelphia's Dance Companies in two weeks of performances.

"Sponsered by PNC Arts Alive and DanceUP, "Come Together" is a nine day long festival showcasing 27 Philadelphian companies in 11 unique performances."

Mark your calendars! May 2-5 and May 8-12 this diverse group of Philly performers comes together:

AJ Garcia-Rameau
Koresh Dance Company
Project Moshen
Alchemy Dance Company
Koresh Youth Ensemble
Putty Dance Project
Koresh School
Raphael Xavier
Brian Sanders' JUNK
Kun-Yang/Lin Dancers
Rennie Harris Pure Movement
Carbon Dance Theatre
Leigha Adduci
Sammy Reyes
Nickerson-Rossi Dance
SHARP Dance Company
Evolution Dance Company
Nora Gibson Performance Project
Tara Madsen Robbins
idiosynCrazy productions
Opus 1 Dance
The Rock School for Dance Education
Jaclyn Dunne
Philly Bratt Pack
Tyger B

Get the program schedule here

AND!!! If you purchase tickets for two performances, you can go see a third for free! Where else can you get this much dance? 

I'm performing with the Nora Gibson Performance Project and Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers. Both companies are performing on May 9th. KYL/D is also performing on May 11th. 

And just because I know you want to dance in your seat: 

Happy International Dance Day!

April 29th is International Dance Day and has been since 1982. The International Theatre Institute and World Organization for the Performing Arts  founded the celebration on the anniversary of French dancer and ballet master, Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810). He is also considered to be the creator of "modern" ballet, and/ or ballet narratives, according to several resources. (Personally, I disagree that modern ballet is still based in narrative, but that was the trend in the late 18th Century through the early Twentith Century.) However, he is credited with 1) focusing training on technique and human anatomy; 2) development of artistry and personality in addition to technique; 3) gesture as dance and storytelling 4) plot development in movement, music, costuming, lighting, set, and all aspects of the performance.

Click here for more on International Dance Day

A few hundred years later, I'm reflecting on the many dances I've performed, created, witnessed, and would like to create. In the spirit of dancing together, I share with you the Black Eyed Peas' One Tribe. I hope it touches you heart, mind, spirit, and body and you're inspired to dance - by yourself or with your community.

We are one people... one tribe, y'all... one dance.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Beauty is (poked) in the eye

I'm showing "Puzzling Pieces" in Allentown this weekend. In the spirit of the research, I couldn't ignore posting this project sponsored by Dove. (I realize that they may have a marketing agenda, but it's honest in that I can at least imagine these being real women and not actors.)

In other performance research, Kun-Yang had us writing our dancing stories during one rehearsal. Although I encourage and demand that my students think of and articulate their own dancing stories, admitting to my own is quite vulnerable and painful. So I began...

"I was never told I was a beautiful dancer until I was 18 and working with a professional modern dance company. The artistic director was setting a solo on me and made a side comment - 'You're such a beautiful dancer....'  there was more to that because he was giving me a note, but I didn't hear anything else. I burst into tears. He was really startled and confused. 'No one's ever said I was a beautiful dancer.' " (Excluding my  parents... they have an understandable bias).

I received a note from a fellow dancer a few days later, "Jess... it made me so sad to hear your story. Please know that you are beautiful, inside and out."


These interviews are interesting. Revealing. Honest. And demand that we re-think our perception of ourselves and the perceptions we allow to exist.

On another, related note... I was listening to a story on NPR's Morning Edition, regarding the role of women in the workplace in developing countries as part of their Special Series: the changing lives of women.

"In India, 11 percent of CEO's of the top companies are female," economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "The figure here (in the US) is 3 percent. In Brazil, 12 percent of CEO's are female. It's also a country with a female head of state. So we have to understand that in some ways, women in these emerging markets are pointing the way....

Hewlett says that what American women need most is a change in the narrative. 'I remember very clearly going to a Wall Street Journal conference, and Andrea Jung, the then-CEO of Avon, was speaking. She's an incredibly impressive person....' Hewlett says. ' instead of talking about the joys of success and what it felt like to be such an admired world leader with extraordinary leverage and influence in the lives of you know, 4 million employees, she chose to talk about what she had given up in terms of being close to her children.... No male leader does that. I feel that many of us are still mired in some of the expectations of the 1950's, that we're expected to be self-sacrificial in our public voice. As so it's unseemly for a woman to glory in power. We need to get over that.'"


Listen/ read the whole story here:  Professional Women in Emerging Markets

And on the third hand, if I had a third hand, I want to acknowledge that there are males that probably feel similarly. Recently, I was having a conversation about "Embedded Layers" and the future of the process. "Would you ever consider including men?" My male counter-part asked. Yes, of course, I responded. But right now, I can only speak from my experiences and I'm a woman. I feel it's important to acknowledge that there are differences between male and female, and differences within those populations in respect to life experiences, maturity, time, age, location, socio-economic status, education, family.... This process, this project (the embodiment project) is a long exploration that's just begun.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ten Tiny Dances - and I'm one!

Sarah Carlson/ DANCELINK is curating a performance new to the Lehigh Valley - Ten Tiny Dances.

Here's more about it:

"Come enjoy a cocktail at the Brew Works sultry Silk Lounge while watching the tinest of dance stages come alive. Ten Tiny Dances challenges choreographers to confine their creativity to a 4x4 platform. Don't think it can be done? Think again ;-)

Check out ten different dances that will transcend normal conventions of space in relation to dance. Featured choreographers include: Sarah Carlson/ DANCELINK, Robin Gerchman, Jackie Kokolus, Tara Madsen Robbins, Jeffrey Peterson, Alexandra Reekie, Angela Sigley, and Jessica Warchal-King.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the door. Cash/ check only please.

Publicity photo by Marco Calderon"

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Artistic learning as citizenship. Dance as life.

I'm a strong advocate for learning to live in our bodies. To really appreciate this element through which we experience... everything.

I try to impart this to my students, when I am teaching, and dancers when I am creating work. I received some feedback from several individuals with whom I work:

From a nursing pre-professional:
"You taught me about my body. I find sometimes as I walk, I'm focusing on the way my foot is hitting the pavement. The way I'm rolling through and how the surface under my foot is effecting my walk."

From a PT pre-professional:
"When I'm sitting, I'm thinking about my spine and how I'm sitting is effecting my breathing and my mood. I observe how my spine effects the rest of my body when I stand up.. and it happens almost unconsciously..."

"The patterns we learn in class have become habits in my body. Like, when I was sleeping, I was in a ball position. Then I rolled to the other side and my arm did an overcurve and then I woke myself up thinking 'did I really just do that?' But it was more efficient movement..."

When we understand our bodies, we have a greater relationship with ourselves. When we understand ourselves, we have a greater capacity for empathy for someone else. Dance demands that we understand our living bodies - the physical body, the emotional body, the spiritual body, the intellectual body. Dance makes us better people.

blossoms outside of the studio

I've said it before, but I'm determined to heal the world through plies. (and other beautiful things... like these trees that are blooming all around Philly).

What's next? Who knows... maybe my nurse is better equipped to do her job now that she has a deeper relationship with her body. My PT might be more understanding of her clients when they enter her office because she can understand their bodies through her own. And, perhaps I don't have the IRB's or the grants to do long term research on this... but I bet that there's a direct correlation between positive care in any given field and collegiate dance training. If anyone's interested in supporting this research, I'll do the work!

Art as Non-violent, Positive Social Change

Thanks to the folks at Jacob's Pillow for sharing this. Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima.
Time to get back into the studio...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Beauty will prevail

In honor of recent events, Dance Spirit, a popular dance magazine created a photographic tribute to Boston with the images of a dear friend and well-known photographer, Brian Mengini. Check out Boston, ballet, and beauty

Thanks, Dance Spirit for the reminder that even in times of tragedy and extreme challenge, we can find moments of peace and elements of beauty.

Widener University Spring Concert this Sunday

Please come and support the work of the students in the Chamber Music and Dance Programs. They've been working diligently all semester and have some incredible work to share!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Congrats Pasion Y Arte & Fresh Blood

Can strength and softness co-exist?

Can a presence command and yet allow space for others to enter into the conversation with the same amount of validation and attention?

Can a body undulate and create a sense of authority, vulnerability, honesty, and pure line all at the same time?

In a time, when the body is "up for political, social, and religious debate" can the physical human form still be sacred?

If "the female body" is inserted in each of these questions, is the answer still the same?

In 1096, the answer to all of these questions is/was a resounding "YES!"

Allow me to include some of the program notes from 1096:
"Spanning pivotal periods throughout women's hirstoy, "1096" is a collaborative work that ultimately creates a unique dialogue between these two diver dance languagee. At it's heart, it is an exploratory and feminist conversation between flamenco artist Elba Hevia y vaca of Padion y Arte and modern dance artist KC Chun-Manning, of Fresh Blood....

Where flamenco has long reflected structure, control, intensity, passion and a celebration of death, Chun-Manning's postmodern technique is built upon release, letting go, experimentation, rule-breaking, inclusiveness, and whimsy  Situated on the opposite side of the spectrum from flamenco's adherence to tradition, modern dance ic concerned with an artistic rebellion against formal Western dance. "1096"serves as a space for Chun-Manning and Hevia y Vaca to negotiate the vernacular of flamenco and modern. The piece introduces and intertwines the two dance genres and histories, which share little in common, allowing a new narrative to come to life which is sudden, present, and independent of either of the two art forms that flow into it." 

The work was presented in an early American church. If you're a reader of my work, you will be familiar with my obsession with the body as sacred. The performance space as sacred. Performing in a church adds another level to that sacredness. The space is historically and socially sacred. The feminine form is historically and socially sacred in many cultures. The dance is historically socially sacred in many cultures. (And when I say historically, I mean that many cultures older than the American culture have revered the female body, the religious space, and the dance. In American concert dance history, the female body is revered ... check out Martha Graham and Doris Humphry...)

Thank you, Elba and KC, for bringing these elements to light in a way that was so relevant. (In a way that only dance can be relevant to the lived experience.)

And yes, dear readers, I know I'm being vague... but sometimes the artistic experience leaves the viewer/participant with only thoughts and feelings. I'll include more descriptions, photos, and reviews.

Until then... thank you for this dynamic display of the range of elements beautiful and feminine.

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts - The first female gynocologist

Friday, April 5, 2013

Majoring in the Performing Arts? Of course! Here's why - part 1

The US is currently in an economic crisis.
Jobs are down. Unemployment is up.
There are lots of reasons to attend a post-secondary institution, whether that be college or another form of advanced training.

What do you want to do when you grow up? The truth is, you're going to figure that out as you go. Do you think that your 40-year-old self is going to be making the same decisions that your 20-year-old self is/did/might make? (Did your 20-year-old self make the same decisions that your 13-year old self did?) Things change, and we change, and that's okay.

My suggestion: Study what you love. Invest in something that's going to propel you into a future where you understand yourself and all of the changes that occur during your lifetime. In understanding yourself, you'll be prepared to face the challenges that are yet unknown. To that, I share with you this article from Backstage:

3 Reasons a Theater Degree is Important by Harvey Young

"2. The business of theater is good preparation for other careers. Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor of Chicago and formerly Chief of Staff to President Obama as well as a Congress man, majored in the Humanities in college with a specialization in dance. "Value" studies would look at Emanuel and identify him as not being successful because he neither works as a professional dancer nor earns income in the field of dance. Instead of adopting this flawed logic, it is important for us to acknowledge that the skills gained through theater apply to other jobs and careers outside of the performing arts. Theater majors frequently become makers and producers of theater but the also (and probably in equal or greater numbers) become lawyers, politicians, management consultants, marketing executives, and community educators to name just a few of the many career paths open to them."