Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Upcoming Performances and Adventures - Welcome 2015!

2014 certainly was an exciting year in my little dancing world.

I'm grateful to have had opportunities
to deepen my artistry as a performer with Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers, Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet, and Freshblood.
to explore new ideas and creative challenges as a choreographer at Widener University and Alvernia University.
to expand my pedagogical practices as an educator at KYL/D's CHI Movement Arts Center, Muhlenberg College, Widener University, and Alvernia University.
to cultivate scholarship through the National Dance Education Organization.
to grow as a writer through
to develop relationships and creative communication across disciplines with Paul Fejko (music), Brian Mengini (photography), and Nathan Thomas (theatre).

photo by Brian Mengini

Thank you for sharing the journey with me!

The performance calendar for 2015 is quickly filling up! Here's a smattering of what's in store:

January 2nd - KYL/D (Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers) is performing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's "Art After 5". It's FREE with Museum Admission. Check out more info here: KYLD at Art After 5

January 9th - KYL/D is performing at APAP in NYC. We'll be at City Center Studio 4. Check out more info and the schedule of other performances at APAP here: KYLD at APAP

January 30th-31st - KYL/D is performing at Temple University's Faculty Dance Concert at Conwell Dance Theater. More info here: KYLD at TU

February 6th - KYL/D's 24th(!) InHale Performance Series at CHI MAC. (So excited to be in our 6th year!)

February 11th - I'll be teaching a Master Class in Ballet at Franklin & Marshall College.

February 27th-28th - NGCB (Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet) premiers a new work for our annual home season concert at the Performance Garage in Philly. Get your tickets here: NCGB's home season

Whew! And that's just in the first two months of the year! Please join me!

and this... as a reminder for the New Year...

Happy 2015!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

More time to dream - Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is the shortest day of the known history of the world, according to scientists.
Read more - winter solstice 2014

A friend recently confided to me that at this point in the year, all she wants to do is cuddle under a super warm blanket, snuggle a loved one (which might happen to be a puppy), and sit by a fire. Our bodies have a physical reaction to the shortening of the days (if you happen to be in the Northern Hemisphere). But, this physical reaction gives us a real opportunity to reflect on the joys and challenges of the past few months. It's the Universe asking us to take a moment to be quiet. To sit in the stillness of a fire and with a loved one and reflect. We are provided more time to sleep and to dream.

The blog The Mindful Path suggests that fall is a time to "'let go' to make room for something new to emerge". "Winter says, 'welcome the darkness'. What ember inside us wants to become a flame?"

Personally, the fall has been exciting (but like a fire, like life), everything must come to an end. I'm grateful for the beginnings, the middles, and the endings.

As the light fades mid-way into the afternoon, I'm trying to accept the changes that have occurred over the past few months and to create space for more changes. "Change is the only constant" I have often heard.

I appreciate the additional gift of time to dream... but I'm looking forward to embracing the light. As for me, I'm going to leave the brilliant screen of my computer and breathe deeply into the moments of sun that are remaining.

May tonight, the longest night in the history of the world, afford you time to dream so that your ideas will come to fruition in 2015!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

5 Things to Add to your Holiday Check List

In the midst of everything you're doing this season, I challenge you to do 5 more things:

1. Breathe.
Take one intentional breath. (This means that you pay attention to one breath. It may not be a deep breath, especially if you're not used to this practice, but take a moment to notice how you're breathing).

Can you find the full capacity of your lung-space (whatever that means for you, today)? In which part of your body are you breathing?

Try this experiment: Place your hands around your waist and try to breath into them, expanding your front, back, and side bodies. Place your hands around your rib cage and feel the expansion and release of the breath. Place your hands on your sternum. Breathe high into your chest. Is this where most of your breathing is taking place, these days? Holiday performances are opening and closing every weekend. Students and instructors have finals and end of the semester performances and activities. Families have obligations and gatherings. This time of year can be very stressful and we can forget to fully breathe or breathe with intention. Take a moment to allow your breath to drop into your diaphragm and feel the full expansion of your lung capacity, your rib cage, and the muscles of your torso. Allow the wave of your breath to rock within you like the waves of the ocean. Notice that, although those waves may initially seem agitated, with time and attention, they can calm (both the ocean and your breath).

2. Say "Thank you".
If only to the universe... but also to everyone around you. "The past is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift and that's why it's called the present."(~Kung-Fu Panda and other sources)

Thank you... For the opportunity to perform. For the gift of knowledge about the body and dance and science and somatics and how movement is connected to every part of our world. For the support of friends and family, however we define them. For movement - physically, emotionally, or metaphorically.

3. Hydrate.
Where's your water bottle? It's often easy to forget to drink water during this time of lots-of-things-going-on. Schedules are a little different than "normal" and that sometimes effects our nutrition and hydration. Remember to get enough water! Being well hydrated helps prevent fatigue, additional stress, and cramping of muscles after performances and rehearsals. It also aids in helping the body fight stress and normalize kinesthetic (or other body) processes.

4. Rest.
It's okay to be a little extra tired.

During this time, I often have to remind myself that I've experienced a lot in the last few months/ weeks and my body/mind/spirit needs time to rest, reflect, and recover.

Take some extra time to move slowly, take a nap, or meditate.

My body is also reacting to the eARTh's transition and the daylight is shorter - providing less "active time". (Yes, I do spent most of my time in an artificially-lit studio, but I am still sensitive to the ebbs and flows of the natural world. Most of us are, at least physically. It's good for us to realize this and be sensitive to these natural changes.)

5. (but... don't stop moving!) Cross train.
Have you spent the last few weeks only doing arabesques on the right leg? Or only anaerobic activity? Or just running around transporting and supporting your dancers/athletes/family?

This transitional period is a great time to explore some different movement options to balance out the rigor of training and performance. Or training for a specific performance. Or training in a specific way.

Doing something different can also be exciting and give you some motivation to keep experimenting and moving after a stressful period. Here are some helpful articles on different movement practices from Dance Advantage - resources for dancers

6. Remember to enjoy this time! Happy Holidays!
What does that mean for you?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

#whydancematters - community, collaboration, communication, and choreography

At the end of most processes, I ask my dancers to self-reflect.

What have you learned?
What has effected you?
What would you like to share with others about your experience?
What will you take with you, after this process has ended?

I'm including some of these thoughts from the past four months. (With their permission to post publicly).


Friday, December 12, 2014

DanceUP, space, and intangible value

A few weeks ago, Dance UP, the local branch of the national service organization Dance USA, announced that it was closing its doors. My breath caught in my chest and my heart leapt into my throat when I read the announcement. I double checked the calendar to make sure this wasn't an April Fool's joke.

It wasn't.

For the past seven years, Dance UP has provided the Philly Dance Community with an array of programs to support performance, classes, awareness, and advocacy. The organization was a "safe space" for dancers of all backgrounds, genres, walks of life, ages, and stages in career, providing a neutral, physical space for people to gather, in addition to the services they provided out in the community. Some of these services included (this is not a comprehensive list):
  • a website for quick access to local resources (including jobs, grants, performance opportunities, classes, and consultations)
  • a physical library 
  • a physical workstation with computer and internet 
  • a regular eblast that included "Deadlines at a glance," news, and discounts for dancers
  • "DancePass" a membership program that allowed dancers discounted rates for performances, classes, and other professional services (photography, videography, website design)
  • International Artist Exchange programs with Poland and Hungry. Dancers from Philly went there and brought new experiences home. Dancers from there came to Philly and shared their perspectives. 
  • Scholarships. Based on a lottery system, the scholarships helped artists attend classes and conferences and develop their professional training - something that many organizations provide to their employees. Many dancers are self-employed and it is up to the artist to continue their professional development, costing time, money, and limited resources. There is great value in continuing professional development and DanceUP helped reduce the financial strain. 
  • Advocacy. DanceUP provided a voice within the greater Philly community. 
  • New Stages for Dance. A program that provided subsidies to professional companies to produce their work. 
  • Philadelphia is Dancing Wall Calendar. A great gift! A great way to get access to great pictures! And a great way to get to know what's happening in Philly dance and who's around. The Wall Calender included dates of performances and pictures of members of the local scene. 
  • The Portable Dance Floor. A safe way to show dance in any space, Dance UP rented out the portable dance floor to organizations showing dance in "non-traditional" spaces. The portable dance floor was sprung, protecting the health and safety of the dancers. (Why need a portable dance floor? you might ask. Would you ask a professional athlete - baseball, basketball, tennis, to play on solid concrete? No, they need a specific surface on which they can execute their craft. Likewise, dancers need a specific surface - a sprung floor, usually covered in marley - to best perform their craft with regard to their health, execution of performance, and quality of work.)
  • Dance in Public Places. This program provided free rehearsal space to Philly dancers in the Gallery at Market East. 

It's that time of the year when I'm going through files and piles and reflecting and purging. I found this intended post, which I'm sharing now. The programs that DanceUP provided were sometimes intangible, but those benefits are sometimes the most impactful. (I haven't altered my original thoughts in finally uploading this writing)

Changing space as a performance practice
In February 2014, I had the opportunity to perform and rehearse in several different spaces. One of these spaces included Dance USA Philadelphia's Dance in Public Places - at the Gallery at Market Street. This super unique program offered rehearsal space to local dance companies and simultaneously allowed the public to watch the work in progress. The dancing, itself, occurred in a store-front, with large windows and a speaker system that played both in the enclosed storefront and outside to the passersby. A representative from DanceUP stood outside of the storefront to greet and talk with the audience. The dancers and choreographers remained in the store and their process unfolded, undisturbed.

As a viewer, I was allowed the opportunity to see the nitty-gritty process of these dancers and choreographers. Trail and error. Let's try this... and this... and this... It takes so much time to make a dance. In a traditional performance, the audience doesn't see this. A different type of work is being executed. Performing requires a set of skills. Honing the craft requires another set of skills. Here, the audience was allowed the opportunity to see all of those skills in process. 

As an artist, I was afforded the opportunity to experience space on a different scale. We were dancing on a portable, sprung floor on one section of the store front. In a traditional studio, the walls are generally a good marker of the end of the floor space, but in this situation, I needed to develop a different spatial awareness of the edges of the sprung floor, because the edges of the storefront were wider than the floor, itself.

Nora Gibson Performance Project rehearsing as part of Dance in Public Places.
Photo taken from inside the store front.

KYL/D rehearsing as part of Dance in Public Places.
Photo taken from the mall.
Often, dancers are trained to "project to the nosebleed section" referring to the very back of the theatre. We're told this in performance, rehearsal, class, and the practice of all three. But, what if the furthermost audience member is only a few feet away? Or 300 feet away? How does a performer negotiate the audience space? In my experiences as an educator, dancers project to the space in which they're rehearsing. Then when they get into the performance space (usually a week before the show if they're lucky), a new challenge of spatial awareness and depth perception is added to the excitement of nerves and live performance. In this store-front at the Gallery at Market East, I was able to practice my spatial awareness of my audience from many perspectives. I was challenged to make decisions about who my audience was. This was an empowering opportunity, not often afforded to dancers who are the object of seeing. We are the object of the viewer. In this instance, I could make choices on who I saw and how they saw me. 
Did I choose to see the people outside, watching me, or ignore them?
Did I choose to project to the full space of my visual field - past the glass windows, past the stairs, across the vaulted ceiling out into the street beyond the mall- or did I choose to allow my projected, energetic space to be limited to the enclosure? Or to the actual dancing floor space? Or to the building structure?
If I choose to energetically project to a large space, how did I negotiate the reality of the smaller, physical space of the enclosed store-front and the smaller sprung-floor space, through my movement?

I played with these questions in each of my rehearsals, with differing results. I'm grateful to DanceUP for this opportunity to change spaces and challenge my own dance practice of rehearsal and performance - and challenging my own definitions of what each of those can be. Thank you! And thank you to the Knights Arts Foundation for helping to fund the adventure!
(end of original writing)

Intangible Value

In dance - practice, performance, and education - the value of what we do is often not measurable by monetary accounts, but by real-life experiences. The work we do is valuable. The work artists do connects, builds community, and prompts conversation and thought. It encourages dreaming, hoping, believing, creating, and action. It is not measurable by its stock options but by the dancing that occurs in the kitchen at Thanksgiving and the conversation that occurs on the bus because of the mural on the side of the building. It's in the appreciation of the sunrise and how it can be captured in a painting or photograph or poem and how that brings you back to your breath and the moment that you and your grandparent watched it rise together over the ocean. (And how you were so annoyed that you didn't get to sleep in. And the reflection that occurs because of said annoyance, response, and action). 

Art - dance - reminds us to be human. That has a value that cannot be measured. 

Thank you, DanceUP, for everything you'd done for this community. Your presence will be missed, but the values you created will endure. 

Here are some links, resources, and stories related to this post and to DanceUP and it's closing:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Today has been declared "Thank A Dance Teacher Day" by the National Dance Education Organization. (NDEO website)

Have you had a dance teacher that inspired you or changed your perspective on something - dance/ movement related or otherwise?

I've had many people in my life who have provided examples of "making it work" as a dancer and as a person.

Here are some of my memories (there are too many to list, so I'm just including one poignant memory from a few of my mentors):

Karen Dearborn - "There are enough people in the world who are going to tell you 'no'. Don't be one of them."

Charles Anderson - "Things are not as they should be. Things are not as they could be."

Jennifer Kayle - "It's all about the search"

Kun-Yang Lin - "Stay present in the moment."

Nora Gibson - "Keep the technique clean."

I am also so grateful for the dancers who continue to provide examples of being creators, performers, educators, mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, partners, writers, friends, dreamers, seekers, and humble beings who model their dedication to making the world a little more beautiful everyday.

Thank you!