Friday, May 31, 2013

Review: A Poet, a Musician and A Dancer Walk into a Coffeehouse. . .

This Friday night (the first Friday I have had available in what seems like an eternity), I got into my little gold Nissan Sentra, Google-mapped the Kaldi Coffee Shop and headed out of suburbia and into the city for a performance produced by Keith Glassman Dance and Performance

I had taken a Glassman movement class once a couple years back at the Annenberg House.  I knew he liked working with diverse dancers and even "non-dancers," and since that is right up my alley, I thought the adventure, costing only gas and the price of my Matcha Latte, was well worth it. 

The performance space was a typical small coffee shop, hip with organic teas, vegan cookies, and decorative cactus.  The show started with a poet, Santa Perversa, a Chicana poet who specializes in erotic poetry and bilingual poems.  The acoustics of the shop were less than ideal, so I missed much of her wordsmithing, which was a little frustrating. However, she hit her stride in her self love/ erotic series in which her performance carried the words effortlessly through the space.  This reminded me how the sentiment and delivery can make communication so easy in difficult performances spaces.

The second segment of the show was a duet choreographed by Keith Glassman in collaboration with the two performers.  The female performer, Klyda Mahoney is a stately performer, at ease in her skin.  I was not surprised that she is a mature dancer (I found out online that she is an impressive septuagenarian).  And, I bring up her age in celebration of the dancer. I loved seeing this beautiful woman moving through the space, clad in a brown tie dyed skirt, hip wrap, ankle rattle and painted red palms.  Her simple movement vocabulary was rich with references to tribal and folk dance forms, often traveling with rhythmic steps: small, patient, elegant, purposeful. 

The piece started with a recorded spoken word piece (which I couldn't make out very well because of the recording and the coffee shop noise).  What I did manage to capture were clear references to light and dark, white (man?) and black.  After her initial circling around the audience, she surprised the audience with a beautifully sung, blues-based scat.  Her voice was clear and vibrant.  She was then joined by a fantastic saxophonist, Charles Sharp (whose circular breathing was quite impressive to me-- How do they do that??).  Thus began the duet, an exchange of movement, gesture and sound.  Sharp moved as well (while continuing to play) even laying down at one point and sitting back up with no aural indication of his effort.  Mahoney, then sang her blues scat again, painting her dark skin with white paint, reinforcing the tribal references both Native American, but also perhaps Australian Aboriginal. But, the blues harmonics kept me glued into the African American story as well. It seemed a dance of loss, mourning, power and solidarity.  I am sure if I heard the opening spoken word again I would have more context for the work, but as it was, even without a title or a context, the piece was a successful celebration of pairing music and movement in time and space.

The last segment of the hour long show was a Jazz trio including Charles Sharp on saxophone as well and a finessed drummer and technically savvy bassist.  If you have never heard avant garde jazz, their style may have been a surprise, but for those who thrive off of the avant garde jazz style, this trio is for you.  The first piece started off with a thick and harried texture, frenetic on all accounts, as each musician rallied their energy in bursts of activity.  The piece settled into a groovy swing  that was then extra satisfying after the quite shocking opening section.  The second piece was more atmospheric in tone, allowing more space and laying out a horizon of sound that for me as a choreographer was very inviting. 

I had to leave at that point, my parking meter had run out because the show had started a bit late so I needed to get going.  But, the adventure overall gets a thumbs up. My favorite points being:

1.  Shared stage time with words, dance and music
2.  A beautiful mature dancer who exemplified fearlessness
3.  Avant garde jazz (which I haven't enjoyed live in ages)
4. Dance in an unexpected and untraditional space

The audience (some unsuspecting) got a taste of the performing arts that are gritty and gusty in that Post Modern, make-a-statement kind of way.  In a time when dancing on TV has become so popular, these informal, unglittered performances are the real gems.  They challenge how we view the arts, why we view the arts and just how far we are willing to take ourselves away from the feel good commercialized world to discover something new about ourselves and the world around us. 

Conclusion: See more live arts! And, be prepared for the unexpected.

They have two more performances in this series: Click Here for info.

Note: I am sorry I didn't get the names of the two other musicians, they really were excellent. So please, if you know their names, share it with the other readers in a comment below (and I will update the blog post as well)

Did you see the performance? What did you think?  What shocked, surprised, impressed you?  What did it get you thinking about? What did you order at the counter?

The UpsandDowns of Performing/Producing

How do you prep for the post show let down? 
Note: When I bring up the idea of performance, I bring it up not just for fine art performers, but for all people in all "life-performance" situations. 

(Written 5/25/13)
It's 1am on the night after the MeCo (Megill & Company) performance, and I am wondering with all theadrenalinestillgoingthroughmybody how do I not crash from post show let down.

Deep down I know:  The answer lies with not getting so far up that you have to crash and burn afterward.

But, when it is rally time, you rally. Right? When it is go time, you go. Right? At least that is what I try to do, mean to do, hope to do. Sometimes the natural stressors in life combined with our chosen stressors lead us to these moments of crisis. But, then what? We survive them to what end?

I don't know how I will feel tomorrow, or the next day or the next. My brain chemistry is already wobbly, so something like this can really send me into a tailspin. But this is the first year, the first show, the first time in my life really that during my adrenaline high, I am considering the next step, considering the after effect, considering what I can do to not crash, to not have post show depression.

The good news is the show was a success; the audience loved it; the guest artist were fantastic; the raffle prizes were a hit. I personally had a great time today. And, I mean the whole day, even leading up to the show. I was funny, fun and generally relaxed. Meaning, I didn't stress up or break down. I tried to delegate where I could and help as I was needed, not fretting about the things that couldn't be helped. I was trying to stay as mellow as possible.

So, just having a better more balanced day is a good start to avoiding the emotional rollercoaster of performance. Great start really. The performance was fantastic. How was my performance? It was about 85% as I hoped it would be.  Overall, I had a great time on stage.

I did my best. I had many successes. As a performer I succeeded in dancing (after my recent history of injuries, this was big). A year ago I left the stage with a pretty tight and unforgiving back. Progress can only be made so quickly. I am making big strides. I shared my message and got the word out. In all of these aspects I have mission accomplished.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
(Written 5/31/13)
I wrote the last bit in bed the night of the performance (I edited, but the sentiments are the same).  I couldn't sleep because I couldn't quite calm my nervous system down. 

Now, a week later, I am sitting on my porch at Brandeis after a week of the rollercoaster I was trying so hard to avoid.  The day ofter the show, I was exhausted and spend the day doing CFR (brain based movement therapy). The next day I was back in the studio rehearsing then crafting to keep my mind busy. The day after that was when I hit bottom.  A foul mood.  Tired, agitated, ugly. Nothing to "do" and feeling gross.  It took me hitting this bottom for me to mellow out and find balance again.  I wish it wasn't like that, because in the end I love putting on performances, I love performing and I love producing dance.  So, how am I going to change?

The flow of life is such that we have peaks and troughs in energy.  And, navigating them is no easy task.  When we first take on a huge task, we are often incredibly unskillful in most aspects, and we discover that it is hard and painful and usually ends in either tears or a some other breakdown. At least, that is how I experienced it.

Then we try again.  And again. And, in my case we try every year.  But, the learning can only happen once a year so the learning is slow going.  Yes, I crashed again this time, but not quite as hard and not quite so cathartic.

The learning I will take away is:

1. Detach, detach detach: It is so hard not to identify with the popular or financial success of the show.  Keep the art about the message and let go of all responses, good or bad.  Detach from the need to be a success.

2.  Keep what I already learned: I prepared much better than I have in the past and it made me feel more at ease with the process. I had more reasonable expectations that were more easily met.

3.  Be selfish much earlier:  This goes for my personal performance.  If I am going to dance, then I need to force myself to practice more for myself. This will be the hardest lesson to implement next time because that means I need to leave enough time and energy to actually do the work long before the performance date. Then at least I can feel good about the dancing. 

4.  Meditate everyday the week of the show!  Meditate everyday period!  My mind and nervous system had run of my body that whole week, and the only thing I could do was succumb to their agendas. I was usurped by my mind.  Not a surprise. 

I don't know if this post is very good, It seems kind of boring as I am writing it, but perhaps that is because this isn't an exciting "ah ha! lesson."  It is the work.  It is the work that needs to be done in order to navigate life with greater awareness and skill.  The work is not always bright and shiny and pretty. More often than not it is just how it is here: simple, dry, and obvious.  But, that makes the work no less challenging, no less potent and no less important. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Finding Success

I have been studying dance since I was 3, I have been teaching dance since I was 14 and have been making my living as a full time college dance instructor for 9 years. By most people's definition I am successful within my career.  Then why do I feel this constant need to "prove myself"?

I am still relatively young in my career.  Of course as a dancer I am by definition "old."  At 33, my future resume does not likely include "commercial dancer."  I never even wanted that route. I was all about education, choreography and dance studies all along.  Perhaps you also had a clear path to your current career-profession.  Or, perhaps you meandered and changed a lot...

The point is. . or rather the question is: when do you stop and realize that you have arrived and you don't have to keep proving yourself to the world?  When do you look down and realize that the grass is green right where you are, and the neighbor's lawn may be beautiful but that doesn't mean you should want it or have it?

As young (dance) professionals, we are trained to achieve, to grow our presence in the world and keep "climbing the ladder" so to speak.  We want our students to be higher achieving, our companies to be more widely recognized, ourselves to be in demand as choreographers and instructors.  We want the fame, the glory, the recognition that we have made it!

Except it isn't about what we are doing or what we achieve at all.  Life is about recognizing where we are, following our life's "purpose" and accepting that we are enough just as we are.  I have been a sort of "natural" leader my whole life (I think in part because I am tall and use a lot of expressive gestures).  But, leadership is not the only success to be found in the world, and just because I have been in leadership roles doesn't meant it is the only way for me "succeed."  

And, I am starting to see more clearly how I don't need to compete for a leadership position. I am already in one. In many!  I may not be world recognized, but does that really matter?  At what point will I say I have achieved success.  When I achieve world domination?  Yes! 

No! Obviously not. World domination isn't my goal.  So, what is?  To lead on a school level, on a city level, on a state level, on a national level, on an international level, on a galactic level?!? This is crazy! I am crazy!!  There will always be someone more well known, with more twitter followers and more blog readers.  I am realizing that I have been mislead by my own misunderstanding of success and leadership. 

The good news is that I am connecting the dots; they seem obvious as I write them, but to really believe them on a heart and even cellular level is tougher than it seems.  I am realizing that I am already doing the work. I am already shaping the world around me. But the coolest part is, I am shaping it not only as a "leader/teacher/choreographer/director" but as a supporter!

I am finding wonderful reward in supporting those around me who are doing amazing and wonderful things. I see more clearly than ever that this is a world of abundance and part of my role is to support those around me who are doing the work I believe in.  Being a busy leader is a lonely place, and I want balance and community.  No more competition "to the top" (whatever that is supposed to mean!)

There is no top! There are only those whom we encounter each and everyday.  And, giving more to them and supporting them is making my green lawn a wonderful place for everyone to play!

How do you support people you believe in?  Are you a "leader"? And, what does that mean to you? Are you a supporter?  Which gives you more satisfaction?