Tuesday, February 26, 2013

So, What is "Ah! That's my dance body!" all about?

Well. . . 
 "Ah! That's My Dance Body!" 

A few friends requested that I write a little something about the origins of Megill & Company's newest dance theater work, called "Ah! That's My Dance Body!", so this blog entry is for them and others who are interested in learning more about where this whole Dance Body idea came from!

Unfortunately, I can't take credit for the idea of a "Dance Body."  This came from two MeCo members.  Elyse and Nathan, who took a challenging ballet class together in college and managed their way through the rigorous semester by justifying their overwhelmingly uncomfortable  experience by blaming their "Dance Bodies". 

For instance:

"I don't know what happened to my Dance Body today! It must be tired"
"I can't pirouette today, because I forgot my Dance body at home."

"Look at that girl's Dance Body! She's like a robot dance machine."
"Why doesn't my Dance Body look like that?"

So, a Dance Body started as a coping mechanism.  Because, let's be honest, it sucks  for a dancers to struggle in a dance class. It's like saying "Here is the one thing you love more than anything in the world, and you will never be good enough at it!).  Madness!  A dancer is continually faced with the unattainable hope for perfection.   And, rather than get down on yourself, it is a heck of a lot easier to blame it on your "Dance Body," or lack there of!

Thus, a Dance Body was born!

So, in true MeCo fashion, Nathan and Elyse shared their Dance Body findings in rehearsal, and I jumped at the idea to create a piece highlighting the concept in a satirical dance-theater work.  Of course!  That's what I do!

Here is a great rehearsal pic of Nathan and Elyse "trying out their dance bodies" in the show. 

The craziest part about the show is that as brutal as the "Mrs. Doctor-Professor of Dance" character is in the our show (played by me in a lab coat *sexy!*), she really says nothing that hasn't been said to a real dancer at some point. For instance: the diet of carrots, caffeine and cigarettes is all too real in the dance world where the (in my opinion mistakenly) ideal body shape is a job requirement. 

In our current world where dance and competition are virtually synonymous (aka So You Think You Can Dance) being a dancer is not easy.  Dancers and dance teachers SAY we should dance like no one is watching, but in fact dancers are glued to their mirror images all day long. Perhaps, no one else may be watching, but they are. . . And criticizing (and often berating) themselves as they are prone to do.  The dance world is now completely segregated, Dance Bodies and Non-Dance Bodies.  And, 95% of us are on the wrong side.

But being a dance body isn't just about how one looks, it is about the dancer's flexibility, coordination and athleticism.  The lack of any one of which can destroy a dancer's self esteem and hopes for a professional future in dance. 

Since when did dance become a privilege?  Dance began as a social tool, like the other performing arts and folk traditions, intended for everyone in the community to practice as a means of supporting the network of the social fabric. However, now, even "social" and ballroom dance has turned commercial in its competition (Dancing with the Stars). 

I believe, Dance can be for everyBODY! But, in order for that to happen, the dance world needs to change its tune.  What are we dancing for? A medal? Applause? Approval?  Acceptance?

When we return to dancing for the health of our human spirit, as a celebration of our imperfections and humanity, then we will have succeeded.  Because, Megill & Company doesn't see a line between the dancer in the studio and the dancer in the club.  We only see dance and the joy found through human movement and soulful expression. 

So, that is really what  "Ah! That's My Dance Body!"  is all about. 

Changing the world one dance at a time.  And, getting a laugh while your at it makes it extra sweet.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Rogue Festival Picks 2013

So, going to a Fringe-type festival like the Rogue Festival Fresno can be overwhelming because there are so many options and everyone is pretty darn good at making their show sound like the best thing since sliced bread. So what is an audience member to do?

Well, this will be my 6th year attending and performing in Fresno's Rogue and I thought you might enjoy my selections for this year and a recommended schedule for the "movement minded".  Granted, I could easily call this "The Dance Lover's Guide to Rogue" but there is more than dance on this list and I will explain why!

First the Plan:

Friday March 1st
Pizzicato Porno $8 5:00pm at Broken Leg Theater
The Chaser, a one-man, vaudeville musical $10 7:00pm Starline
Secrets $8 8:30pm Severance
NOCO $9 10pm Severance

Reasoning:  Pizzicato Porno has a kick-ass promo image. She is clearly beautiful, and she is from Texas, so I am sure she will appreciate the support early in her run.  The Chaser guy is bald with a joker like smile, I am taking a risk on him, but he is also and out of towner and "vaudeville" is my middle name so I have to go.  Secrets is performed by Martha Kelly Fierro's dance group Altered Modalities, her dancers are brilliant and I have seen her choreography mature and blossom over the last few years in a way a deeply appreciate artistically.  NOCO is the face of the Rogue.  How can you not go? 

Saturday March 2nd
Magical Mystery Detour $10 2:00pm Severance
Ah! That's My Dance Body (MeCo) $10 4:00 pm Severance
Apocalypse Clown $10 5:30pm Starline
CDE at Rogue $10 7:00pm Severance

Reasoning:  The Magical Gemma Wilcox has won Best of Fest 9x. I have yet to see her, and I plan to remedy that.  Ah! That's My Dance Body!  Well clearly I will be there since it is my show.  But you should some to this one because it is our Premier! Then Apocalypse Clown, not far away so we can definitely make it after our show and MeCo loves clowning.  Then return to Severance for CDE another dancr show with the budding talent from Fresno State's Dance dept.

Sunday March 3rd
Master Class with Megill & Company (MeCo) 1:00pm at Cal Arts Academy (Blackstone)
Ah! That's My Dance Body (MeCo) $10 5:30pm Severance

Reasoning:  Need I state the obvious?  MeCo master classes are always a good time.  Meant for everyBODY who wants to enjoy the full experience of dance.

Monday-Thursday:  RECOVER

Friday March 8th
The Bike Trip $10 5:30pm Tower Lounge
A Secret History of the World  7:00pm $10 Dianna's North
A Hole in my Bucket $5 8:00pm Broken Leg Theater
Ah! That's My Dance Body (MeCo) $10 10:00pm Severance

Reasoning: This Bike Trip guy seems pretty charismatic, and I am hoping for a Brooklyn accent. Secret History is a product of one of two clowns/ physical theater artists from last year's show Poe and Mathews, I'm pretty much one of their biggest fans (even though they don't know me).  Then, Hole in my Bucket, because it is dance and references dixieland jazz both of which are a must for me.  Then back to Severance for our show!

Saturday March 9th
Ah! That's My Dance Body (MeCo) $10 1:00pm Severance
What Jazz Can Be $8 4:00pm bloo
Gary Has a Date $10 5:30pm Dianna's North
Ah! That's My Dance Body (MeCo) $10 7:00pm Severance
Rogue Jazz $10 10:00pm Severance

Final day of Rogue! And, it goes so fast!  After our matinee, I plan to head over to see my former FCC colleagues Andre Bush (with guest Mike Dana also from FCC).  They are great musicians and great music educators.  Then back to the realm of physical theater with Gary Has a Date with Emily Winder who plays funny, uptight male characters so very well.  And, after our closing show, we hit the bar for a celebratory drink and head back to Severance for Rogue Jazz. Maybe if I 'm real nice, they will let me tap dance on a tune.  

Total cost:  $128 (FYI I didn't double check the math-- so you should)
Total # of Shows: 14
Total # of Venues: 6
Total amount of Fun: Priceless! (ok, that was dorky, but seriously you are going to have one awesome Rogue Fest.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Being a better Over-Achiever

(Please note: I don't really consider myself an overachiever, but many of the people surrounding me tell me that I am, so, for the purposes of this post I am going with it. )

What I do consider myself is a "chronic over-scheduler/ double-booker."  I proved this again just yesterday when I had promised to help out two friends at the same time by guest teaching in two places at once.  I tell you it is nice to feel wanted, but it feels terrible to let people down.

One would think that proper calendar management would solve this problem, but, I am here to argue that something else is at the root of this: A complete misunderstanding of time. 

I just figured out that "flexible time" is NOT "free time."  Gasp!

In other words, I suffer from the misperception that having hours in the day that are "flexible" means that I have hours that are "free."  So, I tend to operate under the misunderstanding that I can say "yes" to anything that comes along during those time frames, when in fact those hours may be needed for other things (or are already spoken for).  

Now, I know that there are those of you out there who are thinking "Why doesn't she just look at her calendar?" "She must not be organized."  " This seems like such an easy fix." I envy you, because if I thought like you I wouldn't have this problem in the first place.  I have use a calendar, I tried to be organized, but still I let this happen.

I have experienced this over-scheduling, super busy, running-around-like-crazy, double-booking lifestyle over and over again.  And, I believe it is because I THINK I have more time than I do and therefore don't feel the immediate need to reserve my flexible time, to make it un-free.

I am very fortunate to have a stable job teaching dance full time. And, if I ONLY taught my classes then I would have a lot of truly "free" time.  But, I also wouldn't be fulfilled personally, and I would quickly become stale as an instructor who is not active in the art making process.  So, I commit, commit, commit. I get honestly excited by the possibilities and opportunities in research, choreography, dancing, guest lecturing, presenting at conferences, writing online courses. . . the list goes on and on.  But, it lands me in this wretched place of overcommitment time and time again.

After much thinking on the issue: Here are the goals I have developed in attempt to remedy this problem:

1.  Learn to reserve at least a 2 hr block of time for organization (email, grading, planning, follow up).

2.  Ask all commitment inquiries to be emailed to me (no exceptions!) so I can immediately check my computer calendar and see if in fact I am "free" AND whether it does not infringe on my 2 hour block of time for the day.  (This email idea is courtesy of my sister in law, also artist and teacher).

3.  Accept the reality that I simply cannot do it all. (I can achieve but not overachieve! I am only human.)

I will start there.  But, still all of this depends on my ability to mentally accept and differentiate between the nature of having a flexible schedule and a free schedule.  I have to see the open spaces on my calendar differently.  I have to protect them even when it means disappointing someone I admire or care for.  Maybe it sounds silly, but maybe there are some of you out there who feel the same way, always running around and often feeling like you are having to let people down because either, you didn't have time, didn't schedule properly or are just too stressed and tired to do a good job.

I am so ready to learn this lesson.

So, I have to get going, it is time to put this into practice.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I see you.

I made an unexpected and somewhat impulsive decision today. 

I decided on a whim to call my students.  Specifically those students in my online Dance Appreciation class who have not signed into the course for over 1 or 2 weeks. 

There were 7 students total (out of 47).  Not a terrible number. 

1 had a disconnected/wrong number
1 rang but didn't go to voicemail
2 received friendly messages from me
and 3 picked up.

I don't know what I expected, but it seems that those 3 people with whom I connected were totally shocked that I cared enough to call.  I realize now that they expected to be invisible. That they expected to be insignificant to me. One even said she was flattered that I took the time to call which she agreed was totally unconventional. 

Each expressed gratitude. Each asked if they could still finish the class.  Each needed the encouragement. And, each needed to be seen.

Well, I see you.

I see you.  I care.  And, I want you to be successful. 

I see you, and you are not insignificant. You are not invisible.  You matter.  Your presence is noticed, and it matters. 

I realize now just how important it is to let the people in our lives know this.  To remind them that their presence is important.  To see them. And, let them know you are there for them. 

I am glad I took the unconventional route. People so often don't need a stick but a carrot to motivate them. 

And, I prefer carrots too.