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.


  1. I feel like this post borders on the type of posts I don't like-- half new age-- half self propaganda. But it couldn't figure out a better way to say it. So please overlook any of that you may see. I just wanted to fill you in on how amazed I was to find myself so changed after years of micro-changes in my own artistic practices and teaching. It was a good wake up call.

  2. Can I thank you times a million for starting this blog? I am working on a piece for my school's student show and I have rehearsal in the morning and I am so horribly stuck. I stumbled upon this and it really made my night. I know that you were offering up solutions to choreographic problems but you very eloquently addressed the questions that every artist (especially choreographers) should be asking themselves. This just further solidifies my claim that you are the most inspiring teacher I have ever had. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Even more than I admire your work, ( and I LOVE your work) I admire your humble and open approach to your art. In a industry FULL of ego and pretense this is so refreshing and EXACTLY why you are so good at what you do.

    Okay, I'll stop fawning over you, because I could probably go on for a lot longer. But seriously, Beth Megill, you are the raddest. I hope I get the chance to see some new stuff from you soon! Much love!

  3. Yeah! Jana, I am go glad to hear this was helpful. It is so difficult to grow and change and shift as an artist. And, the impressions and pressures from the external world are real and affect us deeply. I mean, we aren't at Walden Pond. It is good to get perspective every once in a while.

    How is your piece going? I would love to see video and I really do hope to see you in person one of these days!

  4. lavieboeheme123,
    You are so sweet to read and share your thoughts. We as artists have no other obligation than to share what we have inside of us. It is scary, but it is necessary. I wasn't always so sure about that. But now I can believe it. Again.