"Do I dare disturb the universe?"
~T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Twelve Years Ago

Twelve years ago, a 13 year old girl had a piece of her innocent view of the world torn apart as she watched the towers fall live.  She was a freshman in high school, and believing in all things idealistic and optimistic, she broke down when her world ceased to turn.  She watched in the fine arts wing of her highschool with her band, choir, and orchestra mates, as concrete turned to rubble, as computers, printers, millions of sheets of paper, and humans....turned to ash.  Our major symphony turned minor....eerie...dissonant.

That night, the girl went to her safe place, the studio.  The language was the French vocabulary of ballet, but the metaphor was a powerful one--the real and human connection of movement.

Twelve years ago, some other children, not more than five years old, toddled around their living rooms, confused why their parents were glued to the television, ashen-faced, or picking up the telephone with tense, hushed voices.

Twelve years later--today--the worlds of the girl and these children collided.  In the no-long-children's eyes, she sees a bit of same teenage innocence she possessed.  They inspire her and remind her why it's okay to still believe in the goodness in the world, to live every second.  The beauty is there, in our steps and in our voices. "I want to walk into the sun and be unapologetic," they say.  I believe we will.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Final Gaga Experiences

More than a week later, I say shalom again, where we have since had one more week of sweating, grooving, and floating as part of the Gaga intensive.  It was an experience I won't forget, and it was amazing to work with Ohad Naharin and amazing Batsheva masters.

Much of the week was a bit challenging for me personally because I was sick some of the time--I contracted either food poisoning or a stomach virus of some kind that caused on/off pains from Sunday-Wednesday.  I'm writing this/sparing unpleasant details not to be dramatic but because of what it revealed about my dancing.  This was a new realm for me--working through through injury is not unfamiliar to me (for better or for worse), as well as dancing when simply feeling "under the weather". This was a bit different than these usual ailments.  But I found surprisingly that if I had the strength to actually push really hard, the ache usually eased up for a bit.  Don't get me wrong, there were times I admit I was lazy in class.  But if I had the guts to push, I felt like the heat and subsequent sweat was a healing power.  By the last two days I was feeling better.  It was a big bummer (to use really intellectual vocabulary) that it had to happen during the workshop--but now I feel like I can push through anything. :)

It was incredible to have the opportunity to have Ohad, specifically, so many times, and to hear his reactions in our final discussion.  Behind a disposition that once intimidated me (or still does a bit actually), he is a very humble man who concerns himself not with the fame of his work or the acclaim of his company, but rather with spreading the joy of movement to all people.  In our final discussion, someone asked him about the fame of Gaga and Batsheva, and he said that it does not matter much to him--all that matters is that his dancers and students are doing something out of joy and making art that feels right.

Another interesting thing is that I found out he calls Gaga a "movement language," not a technique.  After two weeks of studying this, I understand that it really is a language that you can use to enhance your vocabulary and influence your own...dialect of movement.

It was also amazing how many dancers came from around the world—the number of languages I heard spoken (real ones, that is, amongst the Gaga language :) ), the number of people who flock to Tel Aviv for dance (and definitely not all, or maybe even not even most are Jewish!)—is incredible.  The complex weavings of Israeli historical and religious significance is just a secondary aspect for which the main purpose for the pilgrimage is dance.  I met some special people with whom I hope to be in touch.

I’ve been thinking a lot of what I can take from this workshop.  I feel like this time around studying Gaga, I have gained even more knowledge that is applicable to dance technique and my teaching style.  When I studied in Tel Aviv in 2008, it was an incredible experience, but I realize in hindsight it was truly only an introduction to Gaga.  Now that I have participated in an in-depth workshop that applies the technique to Batsheva repertoire, I realize its scope of influence, and how technique seems more free and flexibility is more available.  As I move on to student teaching in just a couple weeks, I hope that the Gaga language will help me speak about dance in a way that will excite young dancers.  Something I’ve always loved about Gaga and has drawn me to it since the beginning is its life, joy, and movement-affirming qualities.  Our teachers at this workshop—maybe Ohad more than anyone else—see movement as an ultimate blessing and healing power.  I hope I can take this joy and transmit it in my passion for teaching.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Gaga technique revealed

I admit, I have a hard time describing Gaga, especially to non-dancers.  How can I describe this physical, energetic, effortful but feel-good form without sounding obscure and abstract?  At the risk of confusing my audience even more, I will describe it as such:  a movement technique developed by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin that uses improvisation as a tool for heightening body awareness, expanding range and strength, and opening to more possibilities for texture and artistic aesthetic.  The teacher provides images (the idea of floating in water is central to Gaga) to achieve these goals, and the dancers find what they call "form" (i.e. ballet technique/positions) amidst the free movement.  Batsheva uses Gaga as their primary training technique in the way that most other companies use ballet or modern.

Over the past week I have delved even more deeply into Gaga in this workshop in Tel Aviv, where we have Gaga-Dancers classes (more dancer-specific as opposed to Gaga People classes that are also offered to the general public) and apply the ideas to Batsheva repertoire.  When I was here in 2008, I was taking mainly Gaga People classes (they had not yet fully developed Gaga Dancers, at least for drop-in classes), and have only had a few dancer-specific classes with repertoire.  This has been a really awesome time to delve deeper into the technique and learn how to apply it to my other dancing and teaching. Some of the main ideas I've taken so far are finding length in my spine by feeling energy running through its whole length and finding the separation from ribs and belly button (easing the lordosis I normally have in my lower back), finding that a strong, thick texture can coexist with softness, keeping port de bras moving and floating as opposed to being a stuck position, and "hiding the beginnings," an idea where you are always available to explode into sudden movement without needing a preparation.  I am also working on the idea of "letting go," which I think is about finding a compromise between loose and held muscles, especially abdominals.  There is a way to find power and move from your center (the "lena," they call it) but without gripping, and in fact, there needs to be a softness there in order to find the above-mentioned feeling of letting go.  Some of it is theoretical and still abstract, but over the last week I have been learning more about these fundamentals and understanding them more with each class.

A main technique I train with at home is Ronn Stewart's MoPed technqiue, which is also based in improvisation and is partially influenced by Gaga.  I am immensely excited to go home at find these elements in Moped and also see how they will influence the way I see ballet, modern, and other forms.

Oh and no.  Lady Gaga has nothing to do with it.  Never has, never will.

On a more fun note, a bunch of us in the intensive and other people in the dance/gaga community saw a performance of short works with a subsequent dance party afterwards.  The night was called Summer Portraits, and is apparently timed with the Gaga workshop, and coordinated by Batsheva and other Tel Aviv dance-scene people.  It was a fantastic night of light works, and the dance party afterwards was fantastic.  It was kindof wild to be grooving with Batsheva people, but after a bit it seemed natural.  All of us just gaga-ing around the dance floor....it was a great party and fun moving with all these artsy, open, fun-loving people!

And with that...Shabbat Shalom from Tel Aviv! :)  Next week starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gaga workshop

Hey readers!  I'm at the Gaga intensive and Tel Aviv, and will begin blogging about it soon!  For now, all I can say is it's a shaking, quaking, floating heck of a time.  More details to come soon...:)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013


I'm realizing that nothing has ever been easy for me.  Nothing has been handed to me.  Academically and professionally I have gone through more rejection than acceptance and have had more reneged than kept promises.  Does that make me stronger?  Does it make me more brave?  Willing to take to take risks?  Ability to be flexible, a team player, a fighter to the end?  Under the clouds of no's and maybes it's hard to see clearly, but I think the answers are yes, yes....an undeniable yes.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

An (un)expected Journey...

This is a night for reviving my blog from the depths of hibernation.  I feel like sometimes, whenever I am involved in a really intense, deep experience (training in Israel, teaching at Interlochen, etc.) I have a direction in which to write, and my words and reflection upon the experience keeps flowing due to something like inertia.  But when I come to a stop, it’s hard to get momentum going again.

This is not to say that this fall has been a sleepy time; on the contrary, I’ve been wildly busy.  For years now, I have been trying to decide on a supplementary career path in addition to (mainly freelance thus far) dancing, these either being the route of pursuing a degree in physical therapy, or achieve a public school teaching certificate.  I have chosen the path of teaching (or perhaps, shall we say, it chose me?) and just completed my first of three semesters of a post-baccalaureate program through UW-Milwaukee to achieve a Dance Education PreK-12 certification.  Getting back into the swing of school again has been challenging (my brain is out of practice at focusing on a paper/assignment for long periods of time, working multiple jobs simultaneously is a bit overwhelming, and I must commute to Milwaukee once-twice a week).  However, I think the program is extremely worth it, and I’m feeling a new sense of purpose and decisiveness about my choices.  To be honest, I wish I could skip ahead to the endorsement tests and have my certificate in hand.  Next semester is about to be crazy, as I will be taking enough credit hours to be considered a full-time student as I push to cram all of my classes, observations, and Elementary student teaching in (Secondary—my personal focus/main enjoyment—will be in the Fall).

I have written before about how I unexpectedly was drawn to teaching when I decided to get a subbing certificate and began subbing and choreographing at my former high school.  Since then, I have fallen in love with teaching, sharing, educating, and experiencing along with my students—young dancers—from whom I am all not that far removed in terms of years.  I truly cannot wait to be well on my way to my high school student teaching and begin my job hunt.

I believe so fiercely in arts education.  I think—no, I know—that art has the power to change people.  To lift up those who are sick or in need of healing (a topic close to home right now, for my family).  To feel compassion.  To choose diplomacy instead of violence (Would things have been different if Adam Lanza’s mother had collected musical instruments rather than guns?  I would argue yes, again and again, though it is tragically too late to pose a case study...).  To inspire a different way of thinking.  To connect to another person.  I believe it like a religion, so it only makes sense that I would go into this field about which I am so passionate.

Even though I’m feeling excitement and relief at choosing a path, I still have conflicting emotions regarding leaving my job in physical therapy behind (I am currently somewhat phasing-out of my job at Athletico.  I expect/hope to still receive odd hours here and there, but mostly not, to make more room for school, studying, dancing, and teaching).  When I think about it, as a close third to dance and music, physical therapy has been a very stable, sustaining, and positive source in my life, since I was a teenager.  After about a year of ankle pain and difficulty dancing, especially en pointe, from age 16-17, I had ligament reconstruction surgery to correct ankle instability.  I was introduced to Athletico as a patient, my mom driving me to Evanston twice or more times a week to see an AMAZING performing arts-certified physical therapist at the clinic there, Sarah (At this time, there were fewer performing arts PTs than there are now, as it is a growing field…so we made the half-an-hour-to-45-min commute).  My time in rehab was not only successful, but my PTs and the aides I worked with made it enjoyable and exciting.  Various summers in college, I found myself back for therapy with Sarah.  And recently, I went back for a couple more month of therapy in Evanston when I had a reoccurrence of inflammation in the same ankle.  Again, Sarah proved to brilliant when she figured out that malalignment in my knee was the root cause of my ankle irritation.   So that’s me as a patient.  My relationship with Athletico as an employee began in July 2009, about two months out of college.  I have worked at my “home” clinic of Bannockburn since then, working with an amazing team of PTs, aides, office staff, and massage therapist.  At times when I have needed more work, I have acted as a “floater” working at other northern clinics.  I absolutely love working with patients, most especially high school-college/20’s athletes.  Seeing young people who are motivated and excited to get back to their game is always so fun, inspiring and reciprocally motivating.  In more ways than one, Athletico is equated in my mind with sustenance, resilience, and forward motion.

I don’t want or like to think that I am leaving the field of physical therapy behind as I move forward with my plans to teach.  I know that I will continue to incorporate safe teaching practices and injury prevention in my classes.  But I do wonder if I can ever achieve anything more than that.  I sometimes still think I may eventually go back to school—perhaps not for a DPT—but maybe for a PTA (assistant).  As far as I understand it, PTA’s have less school and can practice most of the same skills as PTs do except they are not allowed to evaluate patients for the first time.  If I am eventually able to achieve a PTA, my dream would be to continue working in a high school but with a greater connection to the athletic trainer and knowledge to work with dancers with injuries.

Well, I suppose I wrote this blog entry as an introduction to further entries, so that, for people who follow, if I mention “school,” you might know what I’m talking about.  However, sometimes I wonder WHO actually reads this. (??)  I know that when I blogged in Israel, I attracted many followers who were also interested in the contemporary dance scene in Israel, Gaga class, Batsheva and KCDC, travel abroad, etc, and also wrote some of my entries with publication in mind. When I wrote at Interlochen, other alums read and reminisced through my blog. When I wrote about the sad and sudden death of a friend, it was a way for me to grieve and memoralize him, and it turned out his friends and family loved hearing a friend's perspective. That being said...however...with an entry like this, sometimes I wonder….excuse my language but…. “Who the **** actually cares?”  I feel slightly narcissistic, writing about myself and putting it onto the open forum that is the internet, and if there’s anything I don’t want to be, it’s a narcissist. So, if you are a reader of blogs or a fellow blogger, can you lend me some insight?   I do gain a cathartic release and pleasure in writing, and I have a huge appreciation for language as an artistic tool.  In addition, if I want to work on my writing skills for future possible publication, practice is necessary.  However I could easily keep that to myself in a journal, not post it online, for all to see.  So….what is the point of all of these ramblings?  Why does anyone write a blog?  If you can answer this in a way that makes plain sense, I owe you much respect!

Until next time….Good night, on this beautiful, crisp, wintry evening....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interlochen wrap

I got a bit behind on writing about my Interlochen experience, but here I am at home, and I'm beginning to fully process by time there in the "land of the stately pine."

Starting in the second week of camp, my schedule became insane, as I was working on a couple pieces for our faculty concert.  I choreographed a piece inspired by the song made famous by Alison Krauss, "Down to the River to Pray."  I intended it to have a feminist tinge to it, using all females and changing the lyrics to only refer to women..."mothers," "daughters," "sisters," etc.  It's awesome how at Interlochen, you can find live musicians anywhere.  I sent out a facebook message to a couple people I had met, and instantly I found myself a singer. Because of scheduling, the first time we got together for a full cast rehearsal with Leah Pulatie, our awesome vocalist, was just a couple days before the show.  She blew me away though....her mezzo range was deep, thick, and soulful.  Just beautiful.  Because most of the Dance Department faculty was busy by the time I decided to make a piece, I used a cast of counselors/dancers around campus who wanted an opportunity to dance and perform.  I ended up with a piece that was really meaningful that received really nice, positive feedback.  Partially because of time-constraints, I used a different methodology of composition....I used a fairly simple verse-chorus pattern, with movement becoming larger or slightly altered each time.  I think the result was better than I even anticipated....clean, clear and easy to follow.  I think I am often guilty of over-choreographing and making things too complex.  I'm liking this trend...

I also performed a solo choreographed by one of fellow faculty members, Matt Lindstrom.  I mentioned the piece a bit in my previous entry, so I won't completely repeat myself, but the piece represented a struggle between outward beauty/calm and inward danger/calamity.  A friend passed away in the middle of the session (see previous entry), having taken his own life.  So this these really resonated with me, and the idea of these emotional complexities was on the forefront of my mind.  It was very meaningful to perform something I dedicated in my mind to this friend.  On another note regarding the piece, Matt worked quite quickly when teaching me the choreography.  I am not the fasted-study, and picking up sequences is sometimes a struggle.  Particularly with his movement, it didn't really follow much of a pattern, or if it did, it would suddenly change.  I confess I was incredibly nervous I would blank out and screw up during the show.  However....all was well, and Matt said it was the best run I ever did.  It felt great.

I'm finding that Interlochen was pure fuel for my desire to teach, and has completely influenced my decision to move forward in my plans to start school in the fall to obtain a teaching certificate.  I was on the fence about this because it involves commuting twice a week to Milwaukee; after Interlochen, I feel inspired to pursue teaching.  It was reciprocally inspiring to see kids so enthusiastic about learning dance....to see their faces light up with an "I got it!!" or to see excitement and pride for having learned and memorized a minute-long combination.  In the third week, I had my favorite high school kids for their last rotation of "general dance," so I did Jazz with them.  Well, I've had a lot of awesome experiences with high school kids, but this is definitely up there as one of the absolute best.  They were so incredibly enthusiastic and grateful...it honestly made my day to hear them thank me after class and say "I love your class so much."  I couldn't ask for anything better.  In the last couple days, I opened the class up to anyone on campus who wanted to take it, so some staff and counselors came to jazz-ify with us.  I did a totally melodramatic/musical-theatre-style combination to Fun.'s "Some Nights," and they loved it (some of these counselors are actually studying MT in college, so I think they got a kick out of it).  When your students ask to stay after class is over to do the combination one more time....that's when you know you're doing something right.

It was really hard to leave at the end of the session....a lot of the dance faculty is only one session or another, so most of us were leaving.  We had many goodbyes, hugs, and a few tears.  The accompanists with whom I had begun to develop close relationships stay on for second session, so they were saying goodbyes in order to soon meet new teachers.  It's kindof incredible how close you can become with someone in 3 weeks.  You share your space....sweat and tears included....with these people, share your life's stories, your anxieties, anticipations, failures and successes...and then all of a sudden you don't see these people anymore.  I suppose it was even worse after the KCDC program in MASA where we lived and worked together for 5 months.  But still.  Something about knowing that we only have 3 1/2 weeks seemed to speed up and intensify things in a way, forming bonds quickly.  And when Jason passed, there was a wave of compassion that rushed up toward me.

I don't want to get ahead of myself, but hope I can return to Interlochen next summer.  It really is an amazing place, a haven where inspiration is the very soil from where art springs.