Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Breach: Left Behind. The research gets real! Part 3

In December when the Director of Lafayette Art Galleries and Art Collections, Michiko Okaya, provided me with some of Alison Saar's research and Michiko's own research that she was sharing with the Lafayette community, I questioned how I could insert myself into these stories. Alison's work was based heavily on the Mississippi Floods of 1927-28. Michiko had done additional research on flooding in Easton.

I've been obsessed with water, the ways we're interconnected with our environments, and sustainability, but these and natural disasters are huge topics to tackle. The very specific topics researched by Alison and Michiko are still very large and encompass a number of ways to approach them - economically, historically, psychologically, anthropologically, choreographic-ly, architecturally, socially, environmentally, politically, racially...

What struck me most was that so many people were left behind, seemingly forgotten, or never seen in the first place. Ironically (or maybe not) these types of social injustice are still very prevalent.

And in May, I did experience a dramatic and tragic flood, first hand. If you're reading this for the first time, I encourage you to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Reflection 3, May 2016:
We're all up late watching the news. More of the surrounding areas (a 15-60 mile radius) are being evacuated. The major dam has broken and is flooding the surrounding area. A large chunk of the major highway through this area is gone. The closest town is out of usable water and the next-closest town is a building-story under water. These are the places we visited yesterday to get groceries. These are the people at the stores who were super helpful when I was looking for a pair of jeans that fit; who saved gluten-free supplies for me because I had called a week in advance looking for help. Now, they were out of everything. Mr. Ted has a pantry of several emergency supplies that I never thought he'd need, including peanut butter and water. The six of us could live for a few days on peanut butter and clean water. In truth (as Mr. Ted says), it's starting to get "pretty western" here.

Sky shot over the center of town.
Reflection 4, May 2016:
Mr. Ted was up most of the night watching the water. I slept while he was watching the water rise and gathering supplies just in case we needed to move to higher ground. When I woke, he told me it was just outside of our door. He's taking a short nap today as the rest of us stay awake playing dominoes.

Although we’ve been stuck inside for most of the week, I’m quite enjoying the time to really talk, play dominoes and card games, and learn more about the histories and lives of my family.  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Can you chop these carrots? - defining normalcy in an abnormal world

We're re-visiting "Unspoken: Everyday Hope" and sharing the process with a new dancer. Welcome, Jennifer Yackel and best of luck to Melissa McCarten on her newest little adventure!

In teaching the material to Jenn, I asked Katherine to provide some inside-the-work insight. She said, "It's actually related a lot to what we've been talking about in Left Behind.... It's a lot about mattering, but about the work of the military family mattering in a way that we don't see or talk about."

Bookmarked and The Protected are two solos based on my own experiences as a military wife.
More on the process of Bookmarked

But within the past few weeks, I've been reading more and more about the "matter-ing" of the military family.

I shouldn't need to mention the Khan family or other Gold Star Families and veterans who have been humiliated and insulted in the past few weeks.(.. not to mention years and decades.)

I shouldn't need to mention that military spouses are overlooked and un- or underempolyed in the job market. (A giant shout out to R.Riveter - as seen on Shark Tank - who employs military spouses and allows them to work from any deployment station! Please check them out for super cute and meaningful apparel and accessories!)

But I just did. (mic drop. Keyboard drop? I really just drop my hands onto my lap and stare blankly at the screen as my brain works on overdrive.)

I remember being an undergraduate and freaking out about a paper due in the morning when a friend who had seen combat called. I had a moment of clarity - this f*#$ing paper didn't mean $#!t when real lives were at stake. What normalcy was I experiencing in this abnormal world? What was his normalcy overseas and back "home"?

As a military wife, I've continued to ask the same question.

Unspoken: Everyday Hope is one reflection.
Unspoken - photo by Bill Hebert

In another conversation, one of my family members inquired - tell me about this process, because I really didn't get the piece.

Honestly, that's okay. Because I don't get the idea of this normalcy.

In one part of the piece, the dancers do a series of "high knees". High knees are a crazy cardio workout move that are basically running in place. I use a lot of repetition in the work. The repetition and the crazy cardio moves are metaphors for the going-through-of-the-motions-to-maintain-normalcy. But in combat, nothing is normal. As a military family, nothing is normal.

In military life, nothing is normal. There's a rhythm that becomes a sense of normalcy. But war and isolation are not normal. Both for the military personnel and his/her family. The world they/we have created is abnormal and we're trying to define what normalcy looks, acts, responds, and dances like.

So, "Can you chop these carrots?" the wife asks her husband after he discloses a memory to her.

How else can she respond? She knows the need to provide for her family (stateside). He knows the need to provide for his family (in a war zone). The ways are different but the intention and drive is the same. How do we - veterans, civilizations, families - come together in an abnormal world?

How do we, as civilians and citizens respond? I hope, with support, not condemnation. With patience, not impulse. With listening, not judging. I hope we try to welcome home and support those who have protected and supported us - the military members AND their families.

And, I hope that when we - the ones on the HomeFrontLines - ask "Can you chop these carrots?" or "Could you get the cereal?", you understand that we're also trying to figure out this abnormal world. (Do we really need 1000 kinds of cereal? Isn't that kinda abnormal in and of itself?)

(I have no control over youtube ads)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Whether we can weather the weather

August is a scorcher!

The political atmosphere is heating up along with temperatures in Southeastern PA - record breaking. The sky is literally (and figuratively) falling in the south with the deluge of rain, rioting, and cries of revolution. Our environmental climate mirrors the current political climate. And people are getting hurt.

In rehearsal today, we reflected, again, on mattering. Who matters? How? Why?

As I listen to the onslaught of Trump's attacks, I am reminded that often, the people who are left behind are also denied some sort of access. There's an inequality and a power struggle, but the struggle is not about a critical exchange of ideas and resources. It's a struggle between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.

I wonder... how can American be great again if everyone doesn't have equal access to health care? education? job opportunities? housing? food?

No, we don't have a perfect system, but how can we without the ability to trust our leadership? Can we build from the bottom up without the ability to share resources or have access to the talents of each other?

I don't have any answers... just a lot of questions and a desire to create connections.

I believe we're all interconnected with our environment. I can't help but draw a metaphor between the angry weather patterns across the country and the storm we're in politically, racially, and economically. I'll keep looking for the rainbow...

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Breach: Left Behind -The research gets real! Part 2

In late May, Justin and I traveled to Texas to spend time with family. In Part 1, I shared some of the pictures I took during the flooding of Central Texas when we were there. Parts 2 and 3 contain some of my thoughts...

Reflection 1:
There's a light rain falling. Justin and Mr. Ted went out to check the ranch. I opted to sit under the porch on the swing and watch the water run down the road. It's no less than a river and the running joke of the week is that some people would pay a lot of money for river front property. One of my favorite channels (and Ms. Marsha's too) is HGTV. Mr. Ted and Ms. Marsha also rebuild and remodel houses (in their spare time, which is usually during dusk) in a Chip and Joanna Gains "Fixer Upper" sort of way. They impress and inspire me with their vision, drive, and work ethic.

The water is actually really beautiful. This isn't my world so I don't know all of the trouble that it's causing or that it's going to cause.

Front Porch sittin' - River Front Property?  
Reflection 2:

It's raining again. Ms. Marsha and Mr. Ted are getting phone alerts about flooding in the area. Towns are being evacuated within a 15 mile radius - but that's the closest town. This is the most water some people have seen in their life. The historical records don't specify a need in over 70 years to open the gates and quite frankly, the cities and counties don't know how to because they've never been opened. Whoops... We can't go anywhere because the roads are flooded, but the ranch is a few miles away from the nearest, well, anything including Internet tower. This ability to disconnect is one of the reasons I'm so grateful for the ranch and this time with family. No internet. No cell service. In past visits, Justin and I have driven over 30 minutes to go to a library with Internet. Places like this do exist; but quite honestly, it might just be better if we could all unplug for a few hours. I'm reminded of the importance of being present with the current situation and the people whom I love.  

Big Sky Country - Beauty Follows Destruction

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

KYL/D's 29th InHale, auditions, and goings on...

Whew! When did August arrive? It's an exciting summer!

In addition to my own work - with Left Behind during's In Process residency,
"We as women shall support each other... to survive..." Photo by Ellen Rosenberg Photographer

The Dance and Creative Placemaking Workshop I facilitated though Boundaries and Bridges (the partnership between Widener University and The Artist Warehouse in Chester),
Explaining and listening during the workshop performance
and continuing to develop HomeFrontLines, 
Performance of "Bookmarked" as part of KYL/D's performance at
Philly's West Park Arts Festival
KYL/D's 29th (!) InHale Performance Series is this Friday. Check out the featured artists:

(Shout out to Jill Haley for allowing me to use her music for the video!)

KYL/D's audition-shop was in mid-July. If you missed it, check out some of the highlights:

and, NCGB had a week-long rehearsal intensive. Here are a few pics of the process: