Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy National Dance Day - a day late (oops!)

July 27th is/was National Dance Day! I didn't have a moment to post because I was dancing all day! I hope you found a chance to dance, too! Here's the link for Dizzy Feet Foundation's National Dance Day

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's the end of July & NGPP's on tour

It seems to be a new annual tradition that I get to take a road trip with Nora Gibson and the crew from the Nora Gibson Performance Project at the end of July. Last year, we were in DC. This year, we're at Appel Farm. Nope, it's not open to the public, but it will be a lot of fun! (Sorry you're missing out).

Check out Appel Farm.

Here's some of what we've been working on. It's been really fun revisiting this material.

And a trio that I LOVE <-- a="" click="" here="" it="" pretty="" s="">

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Change starts from within

A few people that I deeply admire independently challenged me to take more time for myself. Sure, some of them meant "relax more, work less" but I think ultimately what they were encouraging me to do was engage in a process of self-discovery in a new and different way. Now, when approached with this challenge, to one individual I responded, "Well, I'm regularly taking class, meditating, reading, and engaging in a self-practice of physical care." She nodded and shrugged that off as if to say, "Yes, you're doing work. And good work. But you can do more, or do different, and do better." I was reminded of my first year seminar undergraduate professor - she gave me a C on a paper. "Jess, yes, this is a good paper. But for you, it's a C paper. You can do better. Make it an A paper." I went back to work. And I got an A. I'll never forget that lesson.

So the challenge was drawn. One of my friends was enrolling in a Power Pilates Mat Certification. I had other friends who had also complete this particular certification and still more who were members of the Pilates Method Alliance. I've practiced Pilates and know that this movement method is a powerful tool for healing and strengthening and developing the body. Okay, I'm up for a challenge. I'm in.

And it's so true!

Initially, I was actually more tired. Change is hard. But, in my first few weeks of concentrated, regular practice, I noticed a difference in my dancing and in my core strength. My center line was more defined. I had a stronger relationship to my body and my center. I was more grounded in myself.

If you tilt your head to the right, the picture is more clear. I'm not sure why the website is uploading it like this. Sorry! 

By the third week, my lower back hurt less, despite all of the traveling I was doing. I attribute this to the spine work focus of Pilates. I used to HATE "Rolling Like a Ball" (an element in the practice). Now that I understand it, I LOVE "Rolling Like a Ball."

After two months, my body is changing and I love it! I understand my dance techniques more deeply. And after completing Power Pilates Mat I & II Certifications, I have a deeper understanding of my own body. I have a deeper understanding of movement pedagogy. (Yes, I am more clear on the exercises of Pilates, but I'm also more clear on the HOW and the WHY of the exercises and how to talk about them.) This, in turn, has also translated to my non-Pilates classes. And I'm super excited to continue developing and exploring this "whole new body." It's been difficult, but I've been working in a new, and different way. It's added to what I already knew and enhanced my practices. Thanks for the challenge! Time for class and rehearsal...

If you tilt your head to the right, the picture is more clear. I'm not sure why the website is uploading it like this. Sorry! 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More research

Many, many years ago, a dear friend shared this piece with me. He had created it for his wife-to-be; it was sung at their wedding. Brian was the accompanist for most of my ballet classes during my undergraduate time at Muhlenberg. His use of humor through his music helped me through some challenging times, especially when I would get down on myself in class (as sometimes happens when you're working for perfection in an imperfect world...).

I don't play piano and have held this close to my heart for some time. My dear friend KC graced me with a little time sight reading and provided this impromptu performance. More research for October's performance of Embedded Layers. 

Movin' & Shakin' & Makin'

Join me tomorrow at Mascher Space Collective for an exciting evening celebrating art and community. I'm performing an excerpt of Puzzling Pieces as part of Throughline Collective's Philly Fringe performance preview Collapse/Intersect. Who else will be there? Colleen Hooper, Julie Johnson, Katherine Kiefer Stark/ The Naked Stark, Barbara Tait, Amy Lynn Barr, Loren Groenendaal, Flandrew Fleisenberg, Jasmin Johnson, Peaches Jones, The Sponges, and a bunch of other super cool artists.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Open your eyes

The CHI Artists Summer Workshops are in full swing and I'm so excited to have the opportunity to take class with so many awesome artists! These posts won't be in any particular order, but I'm compelled to write and share my experiences.

Scott McPheeters taught June 24-28th.
Qualities I admire in Scott include:
Scott has an honest presence when he's performing and dancing.
His spine is supple and articulate.
He's fearless, but attacks everything with a calculated, energetic control. When I'm watching him, his body has a clear understanding of what's happening in the present and what's going to happen in the next few moments; he's prepared to take the risk and gently, gracefully, and graciously return from the result.

Scott McPheeters in motion. Photo by BillH

In class, I softly heard him say, "Jess, open your eyes."

Now, for the record, my eyes were open, but I was admittedly holding a "modern dance gaze". This "look" internally consists of seeing without really seeing. Perceiving but not committing to what is perceived. Sometimes it's called a "soft focus." And, often "soft focus" means different things to different teachers.

What purpose does it serve? In performance, and in life, we can direct attention with our eyes, our visual focus. I've had a lot of students write about facial expressions in performance, although the whole body is engaged. We communicate with our eyes. As a performer, I can direct the audience to look at something if I make eye contact with my audience, "catch them," and then guide their attention to something else in the space. I think the soft focus developed as a way for the performer to guide the audience into themselves and invite the audience to go to an internal place with the performer. Sometimes this is effective. Sometimes I perceive it as the dancer ignoring the audience in favor of an internal place.

I've begun playing with a soft focus as a means to direct my own body to be softer. My early training was in lines and extension - outward presence. Performance was about PERFORMING! I was a smaller person, so I worked really hard at being BIG. EATING THE SPACE with my body.

Now, as I'm maturing, I'm working to contrast that BIGNESS with a softer, smaller(?) energy. But, Scott reminded me that softer does not have to mean smaller. And I can still be BIG without being OVERPOWERING or PERFORMING.

"Jess, open your eyes." See the space. No, really see the space. I don't need to DIRECT attention with my focus, I just need to use my focus to address the space, the other dancers around me, and the audience. See, as in really be present to accept the movement and my body. See, as in be mindful of the dance.

In seeing, I am actually dancing more fuller. I am able to capture the calculated fearlessness that I admire in Scott. I am more honest and more vulnerable.

I have wonderful friends and a supportive community in which I can really explore the nuances that allow me to continue developing my performance practice. Thank you, Scott! And thanks, KYL/D for offering these classes!

Upcoming performance in NYC

Photo by BillH