Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kinestetic Story Telling

Our bodies tell our stories.

I limped my way down the stairs. "What's the matter?" One dancer called out to me, almost a flight away. I shrugged my shoulders and rolled my eyes. "Same stuff" I replied, referring to the ligament damage in my ankle that seemed to flair at the same time each year. I modify movement in class, cross training and rehearsals, ice and take anti-inflammitories, and elevate my foot and "rest" when I can. (Yes... While writing. Grading. Reading. Researching. Observing.)

In my travels, I'm reading some fiction and non-fiction work about military life. In joking (?) military friends and I have reflected on the similarities between the dance world and combat training. Have you ever broken a bone? Well, yes, but I didn't realize it at the time. Endured extreme physical and emotional training and discomfort? Yep. "Lived" in your clothing? Yep. Ate limited rations? Yep. Had little sleep? Yep. ...

But. I'm an artist. You are a trained protector. There's a sociological difference. A political difference. But if we sit over a cup of tea and talk real, honest goals and values, we're not so different. You protect life, but realize there is a sacrifice that might come with that. I strive to provide beauty to life and know the personal, physical, economic, and emotional danger. But. We both understand that the body is the place where we experience life - joy, fear, anger, pain, happiness, sadness, excitement...  

As an artist, I might view the world in different colors, but I still see and feel the pain. As a dancer, I ask, "What if we could understand the language of our bodies?"

I've been invited to many non-dance classes to "speak". In an exercise, I ask my attendees to pay attention to the non-verbal movement of a partner when telling a story. I ask the partners to repeat the MOVEMENT of the storytellers. I ask the storytellers to reflect on the movement of the partners. Who is the storyteller... really? What is being said by the body that verbal language can't communicate? How are the perceived mind and perceived body telling the same or different stories? What is the REAL story of the storyteller?

What story does your body tell? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Discount to KYL/D's show - and why you should see it!

KYL/D is performing April 14th-16th at Prince Theater in Philly. Use the code "Jessica5" (without the quotes) for a special discount when you get your tickets:

This show is really special to me because "Autumn Skin" was one of the first KYL/D pieces I learned and performed. I've grown so much as a person and as an artist over the past few years and I carry my reflections and maturity into this new work. I have a deeper understanding of the intention of the piece and the nuances of relationships as I experience them through the movement, but also as I've experienced them in my own life journey. I feel as through the past few months, especially, have allowed me the time and space to shed my own skin and walk into a new path of becoming. If you've been following, you know it's time for me to shed. 

"Dreamscape," "Moments," and "Vertigo" will be new to KYL/D's Philly audience! We received such an enthusiastic response from our new friends in Michigan, when we traveled to Grand Valley State University to perform with The Grand Valley State New Music Orchestra. There's an extra energy that fills the air when live dance and live music can come together. We'll have a live violinist adding to the performances on Saturday. 

I'm grateful for the amount of TIME we've had with each of these pieces and the opportunity to preview them during the year. This practice of returning to the movement over time has allowed me to deepen into the work through understanding my breath and how it influences the nuances of my movement. Time has also allowed me to engage with difference elements of Kun-Yang's CHI Awareness Technique. I have become more aware of my own body in space, my breath in relationship to the other dancers, my own use of energy and tension, and the relationships I can create between the space and the audience. Understanding the breath was such a large part of KYL/D's residency at Grand Valley State University in Michigan that the time between that performance and now has allowed me to reflect and embody what I learned and continue to explore. 

Artist Margi Peterson wrote about this TIME that Grace Stern and I had with the students and faculty at GVSU and how we deepened our own breath practice during this week:

For me, this April performance feels like a culmination of my past and an explosion into something new.  Please join me!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

One day, many events, many stories

Today is International Women's Day. 
Today is National Arts Advocacy Day. 
Today is another day of presidential primaries. 

I wonder what the future political climate will hold for both women and the arts. 

I don't have any answers, and my questions aren't new.

Will there be funding for arts in education?
Will there be funding for cultural ambassadors?
What will the quality of the arts become without support?
How can an intelligent, holistic society exist in the absence of art? Without access to art?
How will the role of women in the workforce change or grow?
Will more women participate in leadership roles in government, in our communities, in businesses? 
How long will the debate over women's health care be an issue? 
When will our society stop talking about domestic violence and begin acting on positive social change? 

There are more questions... And I recognize that steps, no matter how small, are being taken. But as I listened to the commentary from the primaries, I found myself unconsciously gritting my teeth in frustration and holding my breath, as if to protect myself from the radio. (Our bodies tell our stories). 

Our bodies tell our stories and dance has the power to reveal these stories through movement and artistic expression.  

A dear friend once said, "Politicians have platforms. Artists create space to ask questions and create conversation that can then promote change."

In a moment when I ask "what can I do?" I am reminded of the power of art. And the power of women. 

Here's to March 8, 2016 and what lies beyond...