Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Winter Solstice full of Wonder

It's been a while since I've been able to sit down with this blog.

(But I've been writing! Check out my reflections on Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers' Faith Project blog!)

Happy Winter Solstice.
Photo of the 2017 Eclipse by Paul Fejko

How are you? What have been some of your sources of light in 2017?

On this, the shortest day of the year, I'd like to carve out some time to share some of mine...

Tristan Wayland King burst into our world in early June. He's a beacon of joy! In the past few months, he's prompted me to reflect and revisit how and why I'm a dance artist. I've needed to honor my body and my recovery from pregnancy and birth, which has limited my ability to move, to create, and to perform in the capacity that I had. But, this new awareness has taught me to be more empathetic, understanding, and clear with my choreography, my teaching, and my writing.

Tristan encourages me to create the type of world in which I want him to grow, so I've invested in:

CLARITY. The Embodiment Project, LLC is adopting the name JCWK Dance Lab. The letters are my initials, but they also just happen to be the first letters of a lot of words that describe who I am and what I do:
Am I missing any?

CHOREOGRAPHY. Over the summer, JCWK Dance Lab performed in NYC and Philly. Jennifer Yackel, Grace Stern, and Laura Baehr performed One foot in this wonder place, one testing new ground that feels more like home at 8 in Show presented by Dixon Place. The piece was inspired, in part, by Michael Lancaster's poetry, Ellen Rosenberg's Photography, the salt marshes of NJ, and Paul Fejko's music. Keila Perez-Vega and Brian Cordova performed Cloudshapes and Daydreams in NYC at the Moving Beauty Series and in Philly at Koresh Dance Company's Come Together Festival. I created the work from a challenge by Rob Smith of Carrington Kay. I LOVE their music and often use it in my classes. (If you've danced with me, you've heard Wonderful World, Dear Friend, and Ocean Breeze - go ahead. Jump up and dance. I'll wait...) 

Dancing with Alvernia's
Seniors' College.
Pic by Rachel Boscov
CLASSES. Tower Health (Formerly Reading Health Systems) invited me to teach dance classes for people with Parkinson's and other movement challenges. We'll be continuing these classes through January. I'll also be sharing dance with the folks at Alvernia University's Senior College in February.

COMMUNITY. New and exciting projects that connect professional dancers, community members, and students are on the horizon - including NACHMO 2018! NACHMO Chester last year was a huge success and I'm looking forward to 2018. The National Brain-Trust-Team has been hard at work getting ready for the new year. Want to participate? Register at Let me know if you want to help out locally.

Pics of One foot... by Peter Yesley
If you're interested in creating connections through dance and supporting these and the future work of JCWK Dance Lab, please consider making a tax-deductible donation through my Fiscal Sponsor, Fractured Atlas. 

Thanks for taking some time with me today!

What new adventures have filled your journey this year? Let me know. I look forward to continuing this creative conversation!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Veteran's Day 2017

Thank you, Veterans.

Thank you for being the ones to "hold the line".

Thank you for your integrity and honesty as an example in our current state of affairs.

Thank you for standing on the wall.

Thank you for allowing me to create and perform my art.

Thank you for demonstrating honor for my son.

Thank you will never be enough....

But, thank you.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dancing with Parkinson's

Tower Health in Reading, PA has asked me to lead a 10-week piolet class for people with Parkinson's Disease!

Join me!

Who: You! The class is designed specifically with people who have Parkinson's Disease in mind, but isn't limited to people with PD. Some of the dancers have be diagnosed with other challenges in addition to Parkinson's and have asked for additional dance classes addressing those movement concerns. Dancers of all skill levels focus on mobility, strength, flexibilitly, creative thinking, and problem solving during class - all while having fun and building relationships with the other dancers! If you have PD, come dance! If you're a friend, family member or care giver with PD, come dance! If you are interested in exploring dance to facilite other movement challenges, come dance!
What: Dance classes designed for people with Parkinson's Disease (and others!)

Where: Tower Health Rehabilitation Center

When: Every Monday from 11am-12pm in Classroom 1

Why: Because dancing creates joy, builds community, develops awareness of the self, and keeps us moving!

Questions? Let me know!

See you there!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Support Dayspring Homes!

Join us today at Berverly Hills Tavern for the Berks County Parrot Heads Club "Parrot Daze"!

This year, proceeds benefit Dayspring Homes, Inc!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Moments from May

May was full of making memories and moving forward. What made your May memoriable?

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day is for Remembering

Who did you remember today?

Thank you...
... to those who gave their lives for the protection of our country and our freedoms
... to those who continue to sacrifice - through remembering or trauma or service
... to those families who have stayed on the homefront, supporting and serving from a different front line
... to those who respect and honor our freedoms and rights and live the example of remembering through their daily actions and decisions
... to those who will choose to enter into the armed (and unarmed) services

May your memory be a light in times of darkness.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Spirit's Charmers

I continue to dive deeper into Michael Lancaster's poem "Heading Old".

He wrote on Facebook that this was to be his final poem... but he continues to write.

I'm reminded that sometimes endings are not endings, but opportunities for one element to replace another element.

A transition.

A little death that leads to a new birth.

A cycle within a an endless pattern of cycles.

When we started "One foot..." in the fall, I felt as though I was in transition; within the seasons but also within my life.

Paying mindful attention during this pregnancy has reminded me that I/ we am/are constantly in transition, passing not only from one moment to the next, but shedding and regrowing as part of the journey. I marvel at how much I've shed in order to grow and, in reading and reflecting on Michael's "Heading Old", how much more shedding and growing there is to come.


We continue, also, to work with Paul Fejko's music. Another challenge, because his organ improvisations have always sounded so harsh to me. But his is providing a context for this journey and his sound allows us to identify a place-space within the shedding. It feels unfamiliar and yet honest and comforting. Like a new planet - like a new place to call home.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to take this process in pieces as we journey to an ultimate, possibly evening-length work. Each step in the journey allows me the opportunity to situate myself within the layers of Michael's poetry, even as I unravel and rebuild my own cocoon.

The soup of this work contains:
1. Michael Lancaster's "Heading Old" - specifically the lines:
"And now my cadence slows to bird song,
Soft, spare, vulnerable to all,
Mine to teach me a rarer, slower
Exquisite truth, the Spirit's charmers, who
Soar at such speeds as to defy vision,
Who bring passion and beauty as
They companion my slower life."

2. Some of the images that influence his writing:

3. Ellen Rosenberg's images. In these I see time, geometry of the physical body, life-breath, and echos of soft, spare, passion, beauty, companion, slower:

4. Paul Fejko's haunting sound score.

5. Four technically precise dancers.

Join us at KYL/D's InHale/ ExHale Performane Series this weekend

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! Happy Passover!

What are you celebrating at this time of the year?

I remember being a child and told that Easter is the most important holiday because Christ conquered death and now, believers (Catholics) could live without fear. My small mind was really confused because, although I was brought up in the Church and celebrated Easter, I still had a lot of fear - fear of bad guys, fear of disappointing my parents and teachers, fear of rejection...

"Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain." ~from Frank Hebert's Dune

Easter and Spring time are opportunities for reflection, regrowth, and rebuilding. And facing fears.

I've stayed quiet during this journey of Becoming Mom because I've had a lot of fear:

Fear regarding my career.
Fear regarding the availability of reproductive care with the current political climate.
Fear of social rejection.
Fear of my body and how she's changing.
Fear of how my child will grow and grow up.
Fear of how my child will journey into the joys and challenges of being a member of society.
Fear of losing control of how my body looks.
Fear of how the health of my body will change.
Fear of perception - that by being pregnant, I'm somehow less of who I was and have become a vessel instead of an intelligent, functioning, active member of society and my community.
Fear of physical vulnerability.
Fear of the vulnerability of this little life growing inside of me.
Fear of emotional vulnerability - as I become more aware of the human condition through the development of this little new person.
Fear of emotional vulnerability - as I become more aware of the changes occurring in and around me.
Fear of artistic vulnerability - putting myself and this changing body in the public eye.
Fear of artistic vulnerability - as my artistry changes as my awareness changes.
Fear of how this new life will effect the life I've created - professionally, physcially, artistically, socially...
Fear of how my relationships will be challenged, strengthened, and changed.
Fear of admitting I am afraid of all of these things... and some I'm sure I'm not ready to admit.

In the past week, specifically, I've received more honest questions about this process - how am I feeling, really? What's it like to be pregnant and a professional dancer? Will I continue to perform?

And while some people have asked "what happened to you?", in the way that their sarcastic personalities allow them to connect with the world, most of the questions have been genuine curiousities. Because of the courage of the the young women who have bravely asked me these questions in the past week, I realize that it's time to face my fears, let them pass over and through me, and to remain.

I missed the Lenten tradition of giving something up or sacrificing. 1) because I'm not a practicing Catholic and 2) because I've been wrapped up in my world of finding ways to protect myself from my fears. During this Easter season of rebirth, I'm going to spend some time talking, sharing, and listening to this journey with a spirit of renewal. It's my hope that through sharing this vulnerable (and yet completely normal, natural, super-human) and embodied journey, I'll open doors for conversation, education, strength, and compassion. But first, I need to face the fear.

Happy Easter! I look forward to learning more about your journeys, adventures, and experiences of embodying the story of Becoming Mom (or Becoming Dad. Or Becoming You).  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

April Showers bring...


We're deep into the Philadelphia performance season! Mark your calendars and get your tickets! Here's a quick rundown on what's reigning (raining...?) on the April calendar - and into the summer. (Click on the links for tickets and more info).

April 8th & 9th. Koresh Artist Showcase at Koresh Dance, Philly. April 8th - 6pm & 8pm. April 9th 6pm. We're sharing a new work inspired by the music of Carrington Kay. 

April 8th. Boundaries and Bridges presents Theatrical Bridges. An evening of film and theater inspired by building bridges in Chester, PA. 7pm at Widener University's Alumni Auditorium.

April 13th. KYL/D's Deconstructing ONE - Immortal Game at KYL/D's CHI MAC at 7:30pm. Get a behind-the-scenes look at Kun-Yang Lin's process of creating and reconstructing ONE - Immortal Game.

April 21st & 22nd. Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet's NothingThatIsNotThere presented in conjunction with the Philadelphia Science Festival at the Performance Garage. (I'm not performing because I'm deep in the process of Becoming Mom, but I've been a part of Nora's work since 2009. More on Becoming Mom as a contemporary ballet dancer in another post...)

April 23rd. Widener University's Spring Chamber Music and Dance Concert. 3pm at Widener University's Kapelski LC1.

April 27-29th. Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers at Prince Theater. Use my artist code: Jessica8 for a special friends and family discount on your tickets! Read author/scholar/artist/incredible person Kimerer LaMothe's article from Deconstructing Santuario in Psychology Today and check out this interview preview I did with my super cool friend and colleague Nikolai McKenzie:

May 12th & 13th. KYL/D's InHale/ ExHale Performance Series at KYL/D's CHI MAC, 7:30pm both nights. More info coming soon! Different artists will be presented each evening, including work by KYL/D's own talented group of creators!

June 9th. The Embodiment Project travels to NYC for the The Moving Beauty Series. 8pm at the Hudson Guild Theatre.

June 28th. The Embodiment Project's back in NYC at Dixon Place for 8 in Show.

Whew! I look forward to seeing you during these adventures! Check back for updates on the performances and process.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Women Owned Businesses

November 18th is/was Women's Entrepreneurship Day. March is/was Women's Month.

To round out Women's Month, below is a list of women owned businesses and services from people who added their voice to a discussion I started on Nov 18th, 2016. I've tried to "categorize" these for an ease of use, but, like each individual woman, the work they/we do is quite unique. In business as in life, we wear many hats. So, under Dance Companies/ Artists you'll find not only choreographers and companies, but women who are also teachers, mentors, lighting designers, music editors, curators, writers, mothers...

I've listed the name of the owner of the business first - without the woman, the business wouldn't exist! Then, a link to their webpage for more information, followed by their primary location. However, if you're really interested in working with Helen Hale and you're in Michigan, give her a call, shoot her an email, look her up! The world is growing smaller and, like Natalie Lovejoy who can teach music lessons through SKYPE, we can be almost anywhere at any time. Distance is no longer an obstacle - it's the personal touch and the humanity of each of these women that I think makes the difference in "business" and "busyness".

This list is by no means comprehensive or curated to suggest and support my most favorite people (although many of the women who participated are my favorite people). It's an element of a much larger conversation. In the mean time, try some yoga with Julie, get a marketing consultation with Angelina, settle in with Kirsten's writing... and add your voice in the comments!

Amy Cuddy - The Art of Power Posing.
Helen Faller - Cultural Copilot. All over! (Grant writing, editing)
Kirsten Kaschock - thINKingDANCE.

Angelina Savage - First Position Communications. All over!

Dance Companies/ Artists
Alex Pobeidzinski - danceETHOS Performance Company. Allentown, PA.
Beth Formica Bender - Dynamic Dance Artist. Philadelphia, PA.
Mishi Castroverde - Mishi Dance. NYC, NY.
Helen Hale - Helen Hale Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Evalina Carbonell - Evalina Carbonell. Philadelphia, PA.
Lauren Putty White - Putty Dance Project. Philadelphia, PA.
Jennifer Yackel - JDY Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Melissa Chisena - Chisena Danza. Philadelphia, PA.
Olive Prince - Olive Prince Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Cassandra Cotta - 5th Digit Dance. NYC, NY.
Madhusmita Bora - Sattriya Dance Company. Philadelphia, PA.
Becca Weber - Somanaut Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Keila Cordova - 3 Pony Show/ Keila Cordova Dances. Philadelphia, PA.
Maria Bauman - MB Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Kate Abernathy & Melissa Cameron - Birds on a Wire. Philadelphia, PA.
Annielille Gavino - MalayaWorks. Philadelphia, PA.
Zornitsa Stoyanova - Here Begin Dance. Philadelphia, PA.
Laura Katz - Choreographer, scholar, pedagogue. Philadelphia, PA.
Nora Gibson - Nora Gibson Contemporary Ballet. Philadelphia, PA.
Jessica Warchal-King - The Embodiment Project. Philadelphia, PA.

Dance Studios
Melissa Emick Hottenstein - Endless Mountains Dance Center. Towanda, PA.
Muyu Yuan - L & M Dance Studio. Philadelphia, PA.
Victoria Owens - Abundance Center for the Performing Arts. Chester, PA.

Dance Training, Performance Opportunities, & Resources
Angelina Young Savage - Resonance Tap. Pittsburg, PA & all over!
Angelina Young Savage - NETapCo.
Melissa Chisena - Evening of Duets. Philadelphia, PA.
Melissa Chisena - Philly Youth Dance Fest. Philadelphia, PA.
Jessica Marino - JAM Dancer. All over!

Health & Wellness
Kelly Spiece Prentice - Bajia Initiative. Easton, PA. (Shifting the Health Paradigm - Workplace Wellness)
Alyssandra Doherty - Healthy, Fit, & Balanced. Philadelphia, PA.
Kelly Adorno - Movement Source Pilates. Philadelphia, PA.
Julie Weiss - Yoga with Julie.

Lighting Design
Alyssandra Doherty - Lighting Design. Philadelphia, PA
Jimena Alviar - ja Dance Company

Natalie Lovejoy - Natalie Lovejoy Music. NYC, NY. (Teaching, Composing, online distance lessons)

Ellen Rosenberg - Ellen Rosenberg Photography. Philadelphia, PA & New Orleans, LA.
Kaitlin Chow - KChow Studios. Philadelphia, PA.

Becca Ehrilch - Zion Lutheran Church. Clarence Center, NY. (First female Lutheran Pastor)

Lisa Brewer - Salon Bella. Broomall, PA.

Diane Baren - Sadies Place for Veterans. All over!

Visual Artistry and Craft
Beth Formica Bender - Sawdust Siren. Philadelphia, PA.
Tatiana Hassan - Artist.


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day.

We only get one day? Internationally? I have a childhood memory of a discussion of why there are specific months or days for specific populations or people - Black History Month. LGBT Pride Month. Hispanic Heritage Month. Polish American Heritage Month. Caregivers Month. V-Day. International Women's Day. Veterans' Day. 

I understand the positive intention of bringing awareness to "minority" populations, but at the same time, by doing so, don't we recognize, encourage, and proliferate those populations remaining in the minority? Why don't "we" (the collective majority?) see these people as special every day? And yes, I recognize this could be true for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, and Valentine's Day,  (or where ever you want to place the apostrophe), Earth Day, International Dance Day, the list goes on... 

Maybe it is important to have these days to pause and reflect on the importance of diversity, service, family, and love. Perhaps, at this point in time, it's most important to bring these values back to the forefront of our awareness and action. 

How did you celebrate International Women's Day?

I'm celebrating by sharing a new truth, a recent journey, and a new path on my adventure. 

I'm in the process of Becoming Mom. 

Becoming Mom is scary to finally admit publicly because I've privately struggled with accepting the changes to my life and my body. 

During this process of Becoming Mom, I've become painfully more aware of how the government is trying to control my access to health care and the way health care providers are responding. 

I've found new friendships and deepened existing relationships with women who have passed into and through this portal of motherhood. 

And I've faced the challenge of a largely patriarchal society that (for many years) has tainted my view of femininity and beauty; questioning not only the aesthetic (and perceived) value of a woman, but the aesthetic value of the mother. 

Many of the challenges I faced in the first few months have specifically brought this question to light. My body is changing and growing and my appearance is changing and growing. Would my dance career be over? Would I need to stop performing? Would I be accepted? Could I still do everything that I've been doing - both in terms of physicality and schedule? 

I'm lucky because the Philadelphia Dance scene is rich with women who are negotiating motherhood and a professional dance career. Here, there is a wealth of knowledge, support, and movement to keep moving. 

I've been told that my pregnant body is aesthetically unappealing for the professional stage and particular work (by men), but I am finding more support in the female community by women who have gained a deeper awareness of self and others and their own artistry through this process.  

Many years ago, a good friend and somatic practitioner told me her "ah-ha" moment in coming to terms with Becoming Mom. She was hesitant to embark on this journey for some of the reasons I mentioned previously; "But," she reflected, "if my work is to embody the human experience and share that experience through art making and movement education, aren't I denying myself a very important part of that experience by resisting Becoming Mom?" She know has two children and continues to be a leader in the community. 

I'll write more on how Becoming Mom is influencing my dance performance, choreography, educational and advocacy practices, but for now, I want to express my gratitude for all of the women who have paved the way for me to talk about and experience this openly. 

As I do, I process through my body and through my dance. Here's a moment from a new work, that is researching the process of Becoming Mom and reflects on sections of Michael Lancaster's poem, Heading Old. 

"...poems tracking generations
long past, generations
deeply forward, life after life
arriving, being, passing to 
life matter: mud, water, new life, 
grasses, birds, fish uncountable, 
crustaceans, shellfish, 
food and life, immortality. 
In consciousness, I am
circular life, yet limning its cadences
in cadences as urgent as life even as
my cadence slows from its 
primal assertion to be my father
miming his pace as I sought his side and 
then strode strongly past succeeding
his dreams immortal in me. 
In time my children and their stream
my immortality in their urgency...."

Photo by Greg Irvin

Photo by Greg Irvin

How are you celebrating International Women's Day? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

KYL/D's 31st InHale is Friday

KYL/D's 31st InHale is Friday! 

One thing that's really special about this InHale is that our entire program of featured artists is presenting at InHale for the first time! InHale continues to grow and bring fresh faces and voices, as well of those that are seasoned and well-established, to the Philadelphia area! This performance features artists from Philly, NYC, Washington DC, and Ohio! KYL/D and InHale help to make Philly a cultural destination. (In addition to artists applying and traveling to Philadelphia for KYL/D's InHale from all around the country, KYL/D has also hosted international dancers at the company's auditions). 

I always love the intimacy of the day and the way that KYL/D's CHI MAC becomes a home for more than just the company. Dancers, audience, and community members can chat, collaborate, and get to know more about each other during this time. 

Check out Friday's artists:

Questions? Learn more!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

NACHMO Chester - what's it about?

This weekend is the inaugural weekend of NACHMO Chester!

NACHMO is a national organization designed to give dancers, dance makers, and dance supporters a "choreographic kick in the pants". The challenge (to those who choose to accept it) is to spend January in creative research and possibly share elements of the process in February.

I've been informally participating in NACHMO for several years - following the social media prompts and using the catalyst of the New Year founders to break through the doldrums of winter hibernation - physically and creatively.

With the support of Widener University and The Artist Warehouse, through Boundaries and Bridges (which is in turn supported by the Barra Foundation), I'm sharing NACHMO with Southeastern PA.

So, if you're coming to celebrate dance and the grand opening of the MJ Freed Theater's Dance and Photography studio, here are some questions you might have:

Dance in Chester?
Yeppers! There are a lot of folks in Chester and at Widener University that love and support dance! Philly's just a hop, skip, and a jump away and Philly has a pretty amazing dance scene, so its been easy for dance enthusiasts to just leap over to Philly for classes and performances... not that that's an excuse! Dance everywhere! NACHMO Chester and Boundaries and Bridges provides an opportunity for folks from the Chester, Philly, and other places in Southeastern PA to come together and share resources, dance, and thoughts.

What should I expect to see?
You'll see dance pieces that have been well-rehearsed and polished and others that are in process. Choreographers have been invited to show works in progress to utilize NACHMO and the performance process as an element of their continued research. Much like a chef needs to "try out" a recipie, choreographers often find it helpful to "try out" ideas and get feedback from an audience. (Did you ever "try out" a recipie on close family or friends before making it for a special occasion?)

This sharing is designed to provide a wide range of intention under the umbrella of DANCE. You might see sharings of:
Concert dance (dance with an artistic or abstract intent or focus)
Entertainment dance (dance that is meant to provide enjoyment)
Praise dance (dance with an intent to engage spiritual practice or worship, usually Christian)
Social dance (dance often performed within a communal setting)
Competition dance (dance designed for the intent of being judged by a group of professionals within the field)

In addition, you'll see a broad range of genres under the umbrella of DANCE: ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, hip hop, African...

Of course, these are very broad generalizations and most dance genres can fit into one or many of categories of intention. For example, Hip Hop began as a social dance and is still often performed as such. However, with battles and popular commercial shows like "America's Best Dance Crew" the dances are performed for competition. Rennie Harris, Raphael Xavier, and others take Hip Hop to the concert stage. Again, I'm making broad generalizations for the purpose of understanding that "categorizing" dance is a very complex, and sometimes unnecessary task for a novice (or seasoned) dance enthusiast. But, why is this important? There's an on-going argument of the value of ART vs. ENTERTAINMENT. NACHMO Chester doesn't seek to explore that argument, just the process of making the dances (that might add to the conversation or not).

Can I provide feedback on the works in progress?
YES! We will provide you with paper to write "love notes" to the choreographers. There will also be time to chat with the artists, informally.

How do I give feedback?
Giving feedback is as unique as the person and process is itself. Choreographers may have specific questions they want answered, or they make be looking for general impressions. I suggest going into NACHMO with an open mind and the expectation to have your own notions of dance challenged. That being said, I encourage you to provide feedback beyond "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." Ask yourself "why?" Sometimes the experience of art tells us more about ourselves as a viewer than it does about the intention of the artist...

Here are some prompts for feedback:
What feelings or emotions did the work evoke?
What colors did you see, sounds did you hear, were your other senses engaged? Did these evoke any memories?
Did the work provide a narrative or story for you? What was it?
Did the work give you a sense of place or time?

When is it, again?
Friday, Feb 17th and Saturday, Feb 18th at 7:30pm each night. Each night boasts a different program, so come for both days at the MJ Freed Theater's brand new studio!

I'm presenting two new works in progress. Silence(d) will be shown tonight and Broken Open is being performed tomorrow.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Shelved and sat down: a new soup

I often think of my work as a collage of research and ideas. A choreographic soup, if you will. Time and the heat of performance allow it to simmer and cook. I'm sharing a new work in progress at NACHMO Chester next weekend.

In her book, The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp reveals that she keeps all of her choreographic research in a box - one for each new project or idea. I don't have a box (maybe I should), but I do have a journal, a pintrest page, this blog, and a folder for each project that contain ingredients for the choreographic soup.

(Read more about how I cook a choreographic soup)

In no particular order, here are the ingredients for the soup I'm presenting on Friday night:

1. Working title: Silence(d)

2. A single white chair

3. A long white costume

4. Notes and articles from "real" and "fake" news sources from the past few weeks. (ie, The Washington Post and NY Times)

5. Memories.
Particularly one. About 10 years ago, we were at a community fair and there were several old women in a booth with some very loud (and by any terms obnoxious) callers. The booth was promoting anti-gay ideas and for some reason they became louder when we passed by. Justin (my husband and combat veteran) got really offended. "I've had a lot of friends die so you could stand here and voice your opinion. But they also died so that those people that you're condemming could live peacefully. You don't get to pick and choose which freedoms or rights you have and which ones other people can have. I fought for the freedoms of everyone. That includes you and that includes people who are gay." The women kept screaming and we ended up walking away. That wasn't the first or last time I listened to Justin defend the rights of people to respectfually and authentically think, look, act, believe, live, love, or choose what to do with their bodies without fear or threat of violence. I'm honored and humbled by his model.

6. Veteran, artist, and high school art teacher, Ron Whitehead's "FACADE". Thanks, Ron for allowing me to share this!

"FACADE" by Ron Whitehead

7. The Act of Valor Soundtrack

8. Previous performances and research for the HOMEFRONTLINES series

9. Jim and Lynna Woolsey's "Freedom". Thank you, both, for sharing your artistry and allowing me to share it, as well! Included below is a verson of the song:

The shows are Free and open to the public. Come and share your thoughts and ideas about how dance can be a catalyst for non-violent, positive social change, on many fronts.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

National Freedom Day

And all of a sudden, it's February.

Michael, a dear friend whose poetry you've read here, informed me that today was National Freedom Day. I'd like to take a moment (because I am free to do so) and reflect on some of the wonderful things that have happened because of the freedoms I experience in the US.

January 18th The Embodiment Project presented "Deshong's Chester: Left Behind", an iteration of the Left Behind series supported by Boundaries and Bridges - a collaboration between Widener University and The Artist Warehouse in Chester to build community through the arts. After the show, one audience member wrote, "Brava to Jessica Warchal-King and dancers for their moving piece exploring what it might mean for a city... a community... ourselves to be 'left behind'. The 'movement mandala' capped off the piece perfectly - a wonderful way to build community through the power of the art."

With an audience of over 30 in a very small space, we traveled together, saw each other, felt each other, and moved together. As it has always happened in the number of times I've led the Movement Mandala, strangers came together and created something. I am grateful for the freedom to create art and build community in a "safe" environment. I put safe in quotes because art making is not and should not be safe. It is a place for taking risks and failing and growing; challenging and being challenged and becoming a more developed and whole person and artist from those experiences. It's about the messy process of creation and unknown and fear and perseverance and trial. It's downright unsafe and scary - but it's the art and the artist that reveal the power and the beauty in being honestly human. It's "safe" because in art making, sharing and experiencing, there is an opportunity to be vulnerable that might be foreign to everyday life.

On January 22nd, the Philadelphia Dance community celebrated "The Rockys".

"The Rocky Awards celebrate outstanding achievement in a production, a performance, set design, or other accomplishment in Greater Philadelphia's dance community. There are no categories, committees or ballots. Each recipient wins the honor of selecting a 'champion' to receive a Rocky Award in the subsequent year. The Rocky Awards are presented in collaboration with FringeArts with support from DanceUSA/ Philadelphia." - from DanceUSA/ Philadelphia's website.

I received a Rocky from last year's awardee, Cory Neale. Cory has watched me grow and develop as a performer, choreographer, artist, advocate, and educator over the past several years. I am grateful for his tenacious dedication to art making - through music composition and performance, architecture, and visual art - and the beacon of light he shines through this model.

Philly's dance community truly is and continues to be a "Rocky story". It's a little gritty and a bit of the underdog but sustains and even thrives despite an undercurrent of trying times. And like the "Rocky" series, I can always count on Philadelphia artists to be "face to face, out in the heat/ hanging tough staying hungry/ They stack the odds still we take to the street/ for the kill with the skill to survive/ it's the eye of the tiger/ it's the thrill of the fight/ rising up to the challenge of our rival/ and the last known survivor / stalks his prey in the night/ and he's watching us all with the eeeeyyyyyeeee of the tiger..."

(Come on, I know that's what you were thinking... go ahead and belt it out. I'll wait... we (still) have the freedom to sing and shout and gather and disagree and challenge and "don't lose your grip on the dreams of the past/ you must fight just to keep them alive...")

Dancing for non-violent, positive social change.

Dancing for community.

Dancing to bring awareness to violence against women.

Valentine's Day, Feb 14th is also V-Day/ One Billion Rising. Communities all over the world participate by performing the Vagina Monologues, dancing together, and joining thousands of others across the globe using art to bring awareness to violence against women. My students at Widener are excited to be a part of this movement.

And the following weekend (Feb 17th &18th), is NACHMO Chester's sharing of dance and community. NACHMO is a national organization designed to be your "choreographic kick in the pants". I'm the Regional Director for Southeastern PA and excited to launch this new project in Chester. Interested in participating as a mover, a collaborator, or audience member? Check out our site and apply!

What are some of the freedoms you hold dear? How are you ensuring their survival, and yours?

In addition to making the calls, participation in marches, and being a pillar of support for those being oppressed in your community, here are three examples of how people I respect are exercising their freedoms of humanity:

1) S.T.O.P. for Kindness
2) Gather Philly
3) Hugs and High5's

And because I hope it makes you smile... (and I know it's in your head now...)

Monday, January 16, 2017

We cannot remain silent

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I spent a lot of time in the quiet space of Widener University last week - the week before school starts and the students and staff return. I silently drove through Chester, PA, the city in which Widener exists, observing the near-empty streets. Like much of what I experience these days, the area seems to exist in a world of contrasts.

Wednesday we'll perform Deshong's Chester: Left Behind, the latest research in the Left Behind series. The performance is sandwiched between today, MLK Jr. Day - a national day of service - and Friday's inauguration. The enormity of this week and this performance is not lost on me.

Katherine Kiefer Stark, Jennifer Yackel, and Laura Baehr have been on The Embodiment Project's journey with me for almost a year. We'll be joined by community members Marcy Morris, Victoria Archer-Owens, Mafalda Thomas-Bouzy, and Caroline O'Brien for this performance.

Throughout last week, we've been meeting and sharing stories of being and feeling left behind. What's special and different about this performance is that Chester really is a place that's been left behind... but it's reemerging.

I first walked into the Widener University Art Gallery housing Alfred O. Deshong's collection last year and was overwhelmed by the beauty and opulence of the artwork and the frames in which they lived. I felt as though I needed to step away from the art work - that it was too rich for my blood, in a sense. The quiet sense of awe, respect, and wealth overwhelmed me and I wondered about the connection between the Chester of the past and the Chester of the present.

Who was Alfred O. Deshong? How could an environment where this artwork was held in a residence be the same place that people were afraid to walk after dark? What happened?

In conversations with the community members both performing in this project and others that I encountered on my silent journeys, I learned that for about 100 years, Chester was a wealthy city; a giant ship-building and industrial community that boasted several cultural centers, including music and dance studios. The Deshong family was prominent in the community and active philanthropists.

I learned that, as happened in so many US communities, the manufacturing industries left quickly, leaving behind a workforce with nothing to create. I've also been told that there are political issues surrounding the low-income status of the community and racial tensions that can prevent conversation.

Enter Boundaries and Bridges, a collaboration between Widener University and The Artist Warehouse in Chester to rebuild one of the main streets through the arts. AWESOME! Boundaries and Bridges is sponsoring Deshong's Chester: Left Behind.

The project has allowed me to build a bridge between the University and the community in several ways:

Sharing stories
1) Each of the community dancers participating has a story to tell about their experience with the Deshong Museum, now closed and abandoned. The Museum held much of the artwork that is in the Art Gallery at Widener.
2) I'm hoping that the community will feel welcomed in the new gallery with the familiar artwork, on the University's campus.
3) I'm raising awareness of concert dance in the Widener community and the Chester community while simultaneously raising awareness of Chester's artistic rebuilding process to the Philly (dance) community.
4) By inviting stories of being "left behind" and "mattering" I create a connection between people who otherwise might not have been connected. What I'm learning is that many, if not all of us, hold a story of being "left behind" or feeling like we didn't matter. Through dance, and the Left Behind series, I'm hoping to reveal the humanity in sharing these stories, connecting through a common feeling, and bridging together to take action.

In my initial research of Left Behind, I discovered that the work was also exploring grief. According to psychological research, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through Deshong's Chester: Left Behind, I'm finding that there is a space after grief that involves action and rebuilding.

It is my dream that this week, we'll not only grieve what has been, and could be lost, but we'll also take action and rebuild to move forward - as individuals in our own personal journeys, as communities, and as a country.

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Come see Deshong's Chester: Left Behind Wednesday, at 7:30pm in the Widener Art Gallery in the University Center. 

Program info:

Deshong's Chester: Left Behind
Choreography: Jessica Warchal-King
Performance: Victoria Archer-Owens, Laura Baehr, Caroline O'Brien, Katherine Kiefer Stark, Marcy Morris, Mafalda Thomas-Bouzy, Jessica Warchal-King, Jennifer Yackel
Music: Paul Fejko

Dancers from EVERY community find themselves at home, warming up on the floor!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In other news...

I've been sharing my performance practice and experiences with KYL/D on the company's blog.

"Kun-Yang invited the audience to share their thoughts, questions, and reflections after we performed... The comments from the audience reminded me that HOME/ S 9th St is not just about story-telling, but is also a call to action to listen to members of our communities, share common space, and work together to build a more beautiful world..." Read more of my reflection from Kaatsbaan International Dance Center

"Traveling to NYC's City Center shortly after the New Year begins feels like a homecoming.... It's overwhelming for a dancer and a participant, but so much fun!... I'm reminded that the dance community is so very intimate, but so very vast..." Read more of my reflections on the benefit of APAP and KYL/D. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cyber Sharing Week 4 - horseshoe crabs and things unnoticed

Thanks so much to everyone who participated in The Embodiment Project's first Cyber Sharing! It's been great to get your feedback and share so much of the work with you!

Week 4 took a look at the (in)visible veins project - inspired by horseshoe crabs and the things we choose to pay attention to - or not.

Here are two brief clips of variations the performance: