Friday, September 30, 2011

eMegill: Hire a friend, grass roots employment

eMegill: Hire a friend, grass roots employment

I think we might be onto something here!

Married Life

Now that I have been married nearly a month, I get the "how is married life" question about once or twice in a day. It is sweet; my friends and coleagues want to make sure I am ok and happy in my new marital status.

The good news is: I am. In fact, I have been "happier" in general for the past 2 years I have known Dan. And, I do attribute it largely to the grounding elements in my relationship. On my wedding day my sister approached my new hubby and thanked him because "Now when my sister calls me, she has happy things to share instead of sadness." It's true. I can't think of the last time I called her crying-- which was a normal occurrence in former years. Heck, during the entirety of my adult life.

I have a vivid memory from only about three years ago, just before I met Dan. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot at school (where I teach) and crying to Heather because I didn't know how I was going to pull myself together for my next class. It was a seriously depressed moment, but not uncommon in my experience. She prompted me on how I could take a back seat in the class and still give the students a valuable learning experience by working in groups. I did it. It was rough, but I did it. Thank you Heather.

But, those moments in which I have been really down have become less a part of my daily life. Instead, my biggest worry is a wilting tomato plant or an achy back. I haven't fallen into the depths of despair for a while, and it has been a welcome relief.

Dan's role in all of this is indirect. I would say his presence more than anything is what gives me solace. He is grounded, stable, relaxed, playful and joyous. He is a hard worker, but never gets too riled up when things get harried. And, when my artistic temperament flares and I spaz out, he still loves me. I think MBA spouses are good for artists. But, Dan is particularly Buddha like.

In reflecting on my new life style, I realized just how much time I had been spending on relationships in the past. I was always busy, busy either finding one, maintaining one, suffering through one, or ending one. It seems society's general view of relationships is that they are work, so I didn't think twice that I was working really hard at them. And, I am a hard worker. I don't give up so easily. But, now I am in a relationship that isn't hard work at all. It is easy and makes the rest of my life easier and more enjoyable. Imagine that.

Now, I am free of the mental, emotional, and energetic burdens of difficult relationships, and as a result, I am more balanced, more energetic and more lively. Married life is great! But, it isn't being married, it is being with the right person. The person who not only allows me to be who I am but celebrates and encourages who I am. "Should I go to meditation tonight?" Yes, he responds emphatically. "Should I go to yoga?" Yes! "Want to go for a walk tonight?" Yes! "I have rehearsal today." Great!

For once I am not stifled, nor cramped, nor dragged down. I don't have to compromise. Or at least it doesn't feel that way. It makes sense and feels natural. So, now I am doing more (not less) in my life. I can commit to things because I have a foundation to stand on. I feel more productive and more accomplished. And, I am happy.

What, you might ask, does he get in return?

Showers and showers of affection and love.

It works.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anecdote on Pastoral Living

This entry has absolutely nothing to do with either dance nor poetry. But it is a recent experience that I would be remiss not to include in this blog because it deserves to be written down so it will not be forgotten.

This past weekend I went on a lovely little hike with my friend Lesa. We hiked a commonly hiked path behind my house on a special property called the Brandeis-Bardin Campus of AJU (American Jewish University). We started the hike passing a field of hay that had been harvested and cleared over a month before. The goats had been let into the field to munch away any and all of the residual growth so the field can be fully tilled and replanted in the next season. The goats looked at us with their floppy ears like velvet, framing their brown and white faces as if made just for this portrait of pastoral life. The next field housed a cow and her growing calf and they didn't pause or even look up as we passed along the fence within feet of them. They too were busy feasting on the forgotten grasses and weeds. It had already been an unforgettable hike and we hadn't even gone a half mile.

We continued into the hills along a path that follows a dry creek bed. The creek had rushed with water earlier this year, feet high in March when the rains had saturated the hills so fully that the run off rushed down in rivulets before gathering in this creek that goes through the entire property and dumps into the Arroyo wash of Simi Valley. Now the creek bed was dusty and dry, and it was a wonder any water had passed there at all. The seasonal wild plants have long dried up, left to the sun in light browns and tans, violet and grey at their most exotic. These hills are a study in subtle tones and hues, perhaps Monet would have enjoyed painting them in the afternoon light before it dropped behind the hills.

My friend and I chatted away as we watched lizards skitter across our path and into the safety of holes and dried shrubs. But, the real magic began as our conversation halted when we noticed a group of 1, 2. . . 4 no. . . 6 horses before us, unbridled and looking wild, standing right on the path where the dry creek crossed our path. The tall reddish brown one looked up first, having heard our voices. Then one by one they all looked up at us. Curious and calm. The sun edged their backs and manes in halos of light.

We watched. They watched. I knew these horses were from the property, let out on the hills to graze in their off season when there were no programs and riders. I see them most mornings outside of my kitchen window on the hill across the field. So, I knew they were not wild, but still not knowing how they would respond to the likes of two chatting women encroaching on their afternoon of they grazing was unknown. My friend and I weren't going to risk it. We decided to watch for a moment before then turning back. But no sooner had we decided our plan of action, that the red headed leader started toward us. Slow and calm. We stood uncertain. If they spooked we knew we couldn't out run them. There were no immediate climbable trees. So, we stood still and waited, letting them take the lead.

They approached in a line following the red horse's lead. I started to get nervous as I realized they weren't just walking past but aiming toward us. Toward me. We stood on the side of the path where there was a mound of dirt which gave us a little more height. The animals were beautiful and big. The leader came right up to me. I didn't dare reach out. I felt its soft nose against my arm and its warm breath in short bursts as it sniffed me and probably smelled the salt that had collected on my skin from dancing earlier that morning and the hike so far. It wished I had a treat to give it. It probably wondered why this human wasn't sharing an apple, carrot or something yummy like humans tend to do. I could have petted its nose, but not sure what that would lead to left it alone. After she determined I was treatless and harmless, she continued on the path where we had just come from. The others came next in single file: light blonde, black and white speckled, another darker brunette. . . They each approached me smelled my skin and clothes briefly before following the leader in a slow walk, one after the other.

It was incredible. Magical. Unreal. I felt like I had just experienced the wild world in a way that that has become obsolete, as we sit in our cement houses situated on streets and blocks lined with stucco houses. For just a moment I was experiencing the world unbridled and free. Calm and peaceful. Exciting but safe.

We reached the farthest point of our hike at a destination called Old Well. The entrance to the small camping area was blocked by a large tree branch that had recently fallen. The branch was dead and bare. It had clearly died on the tree then having lost its tensile strength collapsed into the path. But, the way it fell, it became an archway, a gate into the camping area and we were able to walk between the branches at nearly full height. It was as if it were meant to be there. A reminder that this world is sacred and beautiful. Our time precious and finite. We stood for a moment in the shade before starting back.

Lesa and I enjoyed more stories with each other as we returned along the path curious if we would meet the horses again. Which we did half way back at another place where the dry creek crosses the path. This time the group of horses just watched as we passed. Unconcerned. We continued past them and were surprised to then hear their footsteps behind us. Following us slowly. My friend got nervous. I didn't mind. I only felt bad that I didn't have water and an an apple to share. We didn't change our pace and they stayed a good 10 yards behind us. We passed the gate where we climbed through easily, but it was there that the horses had to stop.

I couldn't help but feel a bit sad as I saw them collected at the gate behind us. In that moment I loved them. I still love them. And, this magical memory will not fade. I cannot let it fade because it was so pure and sweet, wild and free. An unexpected blessing and a reminder of all that is precious in the world.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

New Reminders of Old Loves

Last night I attended the last weekend of the NOW festival at RedCat in Downtown LA. The three week festival is sponsored by Cal Arts and this evening of performance was no exception to my impression of the CAl Arts performance aesthetic.

Thank God, there are still artists who are not giving in to the commercial aesthetic. I was getting worried. It was so refreshing to see two dance works that required patience, taking time for intellectual and emotional investment from the audience. To think that I have been considered "out of the box" in asking my students and dancers to do performance based pieces that border on theater as well as movement, is ludicrous in the light of where other choreographers are going. This evening, including works by Michel Kauka?? and (my favorite of the night) Victoria Marks, was conceptual yet non-pretentious and it reminded me of why I fell in love with choreography in the first place.

How had I ventured so far away from my choreographic center? Over time and through the repetition of "serving" my students with the basics of dance, I had severed my cord to new ways of moving and designing dance from the "Ursprung" (the origin). I have been creating pieces for pedagogy, sacrificing the artistry in order to give the pedagogical experience I believed in so thoroughly. But, putting the physical experience first I have been creating dances that keep the dancers' emotions at bay. I was giving them physical challenges, like an obstacle course and not getting them to connect internally first. While my heart wants to give them the emotional connection, two things stop me. First I am aware of the dancer's fear and in order to keep as many of them engaged as possible I give them more of what they want (a physical challenge) in order to give them what they need (a taste of internal connection). Second, I am scare too. I am scared of alienating the dancers or revealing more of my creative struggle when the experience is NOT about me but about them and their growth. As a result, I have become a proficient craftsman. I have proven myself effective in creating marginally entertaining and pedagogically sounds pieces of choreography. Well done! I say to myself. But, this leaves me with two concerns.

1. When do I create the dance I want and need to create?

2. How can I let go of my fear of creating new dances that surprise even me when it puts me in a vulnerable place that I have essentially trained out of myself?

I realize that my disconnect is partially due to a disconnect I feel within myself. In trying to find balance in my life and stay physically and mentally healthy, I have had to incorporate more rest into my life. This leaves little time for me to participate in physical/ dance experiences that push me both creatively and physically. In feeling so taxed I am drawn to more recuperative physical experiences, but in those situations creativity is not always invited to the party. Yoga is great example for this. It ground me and keeps me healthy, but it is a system that is meditative and recuperative rather than creative and intellectually or creatively inspiring.

So, where to go from here?

Gratitude. Thank you to these choreographers who woke me up and reminded me of my primary love of dance as an art. I will do my best not to forget again.

I am ready to tackle "Being Blue" with new eyes and a connected heart.