Monday, June 27, 2011

Closing Show

The close of a show is always an experience. Each production provides a different rush. Like its own roller coaster, with highs and lows that are never predictable and unique to only that performance. So, "8 Piece Legs and Thighs" has closed at the Hollywood Fringe, and I find myself in a mess of emotions as I was left with a somewhat anti-climatic ending.

I love this show. It is by far the show in which I have invested the most of myself and my understanding of the human experience. I also love performing the show. Each performance is a pure treat because of the amazing dancers I work with. They inspire me and push me to be a better dance and each show is like a party where we get to hang out and have fun dancing. But performing in an ensemble is more than just having fun, it is sharing the dance experience as a whole with people you love and respect deeply.

Erin Riddle, Karissa Smith, Geneva De Palma and Elyse Villa are not just dancers, they are they type of people who make my creative, artistic experience worthwhile and meaningful. I cannot express what a blessing it is to have such an amazingly talented, sensitive and generous group of dancers with which to work.

But, with all these positive aspects to the show, or perhaps due to these wonderful aspects of the performance and the performing experience, I could not help but feel sadness when we performed night after night for a smattering of audience members (although wonderful and appreciative and greatly appreciated by me and the girls!). The challenges of making a piece of art are so great. Each venture demands you lay your heart out on the line, that you open yourself to the world and risk everything you value as an artist. Having spent over a year on this project, I admit that in the deepest corner of my heart I had hoped to see our audience numbers grow into something reflective of both the high performance quality of the performance as well as the work and passion we put into the show.

Especially with a performing art, the audience response is inherently important, and I was admittedly crushed when even our final house was less than half filled. But, I cried the tears, mourned the close of this experience. The grief marked the end of a rocky chapter. But my tears were also, spilled out of relief. My efforts are spent, I am exhausted of these particular set of challenges. This roller coaster ride has come back into the station. And, now I will take moment to breathe and gather myself up before I get in line for the next ride.

And, knowing my relentless love for making dances, there will be a next one. And, again, I will willingly open myself up to the risks of heartbreak and greatness in turn. Because, being an artist is first and foremost about making the art.

I make dances. I tell stories. I reveal what I know of the world and I will continue to do so, true to the blessing and curse of being an artist.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Review

Tonight I hope to sleep. Jaw much relaxed and throat feeling better. Coincidence? Or is it because my voice took the risk here in this blog? Either way, tomorrow is a big day because it is the day Backstage will come out with Neal Weaver's review of my show "8 Piece Legs and Thighs" from the Hollywood Fringe.

Of course, this prompts me to respond to the review before I see it (perhaps a practice most artists should uphold), so I can make my statement about the nature of art and critique without being shaded by whatever Mr. Weaver says. You see, now that I have, for the moment, come to terms with my dance and art making, I now am forced to explain my view on the relationship between my work and the audience/ critic before I actually have to face the review of my audience and critique of Mr. Weaver.

I admittedly do this because, I know that I am not impervious to criticism and tomorrow may have a much different tone despite my budding buddhist desires of detachment and equanimity. (I am still a dancer after all-- emotional by nature I think).

I want to make dances that are accessible, entertaining, thought provoking, charming, and insightful. Now, is that too much to ask? I don't think so. Therefore, as an audience member I naturally want Herr Weaver to respond in kind. Of course, his opinion counts because he is an audience member. But let's face the facts, he will influence others with his words whether good or bad. In general I do want my work to reach a large audience because I feel that I represent a untapped niche in the dance theater world and hope those who see it will be so moved to see more. So, of course I want a good review.

If I want my voice heard I want people to feel like it and further share the art and the ideas behind the art with those around them. Basically, I don't want to make dance in a vacuum (too windy and small).

I got a lovely response to my opening blog from a friend and fellow poetess Maggie Westland. She shared her following poems with me that address some of these issues beautifully.


To create a future
That had not been there
But for my framing of it

To leave a path
Of futures
For those
Who follow.

- Maggie Westland

Has she been reading my mind? Perhaps.

The key here is that I am still fragile, and while a poor review will not stop be from making me work, it will stop and make me rethink my work. And, it is a blessing to receive feedback from an unattached observer. But, I can't have my work depend on the feedback, nor (due to my own aesthetic goals) be overtly disliked. Because, then I would have failed in my mission of being one or more of the following things I set out to be: accessible, entertaining, thought provoking, charming, and insightful. Well, I guess he could hate it and it still be successfully though provoking. But, I want dance to illicit joy and if not joy, reflection and growth that is not angst ridden, but a spiritual unfolding.

I don't subscribe to the dance of outrageous physical demands, virtuosity and flooded emotions of aggression or confrontation. Nor do I make work that is apathetic, detached and purely movement just for the hell of it. I want to tell stories, and I want to share lessons and reflections of the world that can prompt those who see it to continue on their path of personal growth and development. Dance is thus like a meditation rather than a sporting match. Dance can thus be an anchor and catapult into self reflection.

I will end with two more of Maggie's lovely poems. Thank you Maggie for sharing them so generously.


I want to be

I want to do
What my heart sings
Unleashing feelings
Wearing colors

I want to have

- Maggie Westland

And, this last one with imagery so perfect for the dancer and dance maker.


Where am I on my journey?
Near the end of one
On my way to the next
Always transiting,
Verbs of action
Into multiple futures
Calling me to sea
Listening to waves
Erasing the sand sounds
Into the eternal know.
It’s fun
Riding down
Or up.
The move itself
Is what matters….
- Maggie Westland


As you can see due to my posting time. I am having trouble sleeping. My jaw hurts and I have a sore throat. My massage therapist had asked me if I had something I needed to say to someone that I am holding in. I said no. And, I was honest. I tell my parents that I love them frequently. My sister and I have a great relationship. My fiance is perhaps the sweetest man alive and I am on summer vacation. What is there to keep me up? What could I possibly have to say?

But, I discovered that there is plenty. Not the least of which is an underlying artistic, creative, (dare I say) spiritual issue that I have been sorting through for the past few weeks. I want to write and I want to make dances, but for the past few weeks, I have been torturing myself with the question, why? It seems as the rest of my life was settling into place beautifully, I finally had the time to question myself as an artist. Oh joy.

Art making has always been a given in my life and there was no need to justify it to myself or anyone else. Ask me the meaning of the humanities in the world and I had an answer! Dancing was at my core and it was the solace amongst much other suffering.

So, now that I have the stability of a tenure position teaching dance, a lovely living space on a beautiful property and rewarding relationships with my family and soon to be husband, I opened a can of worms.

Why was a creating? Dances, poems, whatever. Was it just self doubt and a need to validation? Or was there something more to it? Do I really have something to say? And if so, what?

My reluctance to start this blog begins with my personal view on the culture of online sharing. I see the way that people self advertise through online social networking and blog sites like this. It seems everyone has something to say and they are compelled to say it, as if it were a testimony to their lives that validates their existence. Each day my Facebook Most Recent news column is filled with both claims of "I love my life" and "the world is against me". And, it is often charming and fun, but at other times I wonder whether these quips don't clog our communication or personal search that happens in more than 150 characters. (I'm certainly not the first to think this. But this is a precursor to why I am writing. so bear with me just a moment longer. . .)

The bottom line after much hemming and hawing, is that I honestly feel I have something to share. Perhaps my flounderings and personal challenges with depression, art making, and spiritual/existential searching give me an edge on the market. Or perhaps I am just as normal and mundane as the next. Either way, I didn't want to blog because I didn't want to clog up the world with my thoughts if they weren't meaningful or useful to the reader. Nor, did I want to start writing out of the need to validate what I am experiencing. I spent the last three weeks wondering if I write and make dances because I should, or because I can.

I decided, for the moment, that I must do both because I have to. Clearly my jaw and throat are speaking to me. For better or worse, I am wired to look at the world and wonder. It has caused my many years of depression and pain. I am also wired in such a way that I must teach and must share, an attribute inherited from a family of teacher and performers. I started teaching dance at 14 and have never stopped. The joy of student discovery is a treasure I cherish, and I am dedicated to continually improving myself so I can best serve them in their quests.

I am nervous, that my writing in this blog won't live up to my own standards of what should go out to the world. But, I believe that I mean only good and with that intention, I hope I will be able to serve others as I have been served and guided in my path.

And in so doing, I will be honest that this will be self serving as well. Because it not only forces me to solidify my zooming thoughts, but challenges me to continue growing so I may reflect the world and its many nuances and quirks with the greatest accuracy and insight possible. For this I am grateful to you.