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

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.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

In memorium for Jason Lindahl

Lately I’ve been a little out of sorts and feeling a bit multiple-personalitied, not because of anything related to Interlochen, but due to an unrelated tragedy regarding friend.

I found out on Friday at a friend who was very dear to me in college passed, having taken his own life.  His name was Jason Lindahl, and he was a Theatre-Lighting Design major at U of I.  He most-recenly lived in New York and worked lighting and video-projections on Broadway (the most well-known project being Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark).  I first met him when on crew for November Playhouse Dance my freshman year, his junior year.  He taught me how to.....basically run an efficient gel crew, shifting, operate spotlights, and the basics of lighting design.  I developed an intense crush on his incredibly nerd-tastic and adorable self, and I’m pretty sure I stalked Krannert Level 2 in hopes of just running into him there.  We continued to become close friends throughout the next year, working on multiple student and theatre/dance department shows together—He designed an absolutely brilliant Bernstein’s Mass, and I took a bit of personal pride in being a part of the production and just “being friends with that awesome lighting designer.”  When we talked together, our conversations were filled with laughter and smiles, and we got each other because we would talk geekily of quantum physics, science and art, being band nerds (formerly, or for me, current), and theatre or dance lingo.

We continued to be in close touch when he graduated and moved to New York, and when our mutual affection became clear, we briefly dated, attempting a pseudo long-distance….not official relationship but something or another.  He was the kind of person who had an amazingly beautiful heart, a good and kind person to the depths of his soul.  I felt very deeply for him, but it became clear that distance wasn’t going to work.  When I moved on, I still always remembered our time together with no bitterness--nothing but fondness.

This is how I remember him
I was able to become and maintain friends with the woman he chose for his too-short life, Ya-han, a beautiful, talented young woman who we both had known at U of I as well. I realized how perfect they were for each other, and felt true happiness that they could be together in New York.  I am saddened and feel awful that I was not in great touch with Jason minus a few texts or facebook messages here and there, for the last two years or so, not for any particular reason, but just living in different places and having different, busy lives.  I was actually probably in better touch with Ya-han than I was with Jason (perhaps because she was on facebook often).  They married last year, I believe while I was in Israel, and their engagement and wedding photos filled me with joy.  I was so happy that they found each other and were able to provide for each other in a way that was so loving, fitting and beautiful.  Their beautiful baby Arya who was born last year is the most gorgeous of infants, seeming like Ya-han in her eyes, Jason in her baby face and smile….It seemed from the outside like they could be poster children for the perfect, artistic melting pot of a new American family.

I cannot begin to grasp what happened, why, or how suddenly this beautiful portrait shattered.  Next thing we all know, we are reading email threads and news reports that his body was found washed up by the Hudson river.  It is incomprehensible and unreal.

I’ve been in touch both on the phone and through various online communications with friends from U of I.  It’s a comfort to realize we are all going through similar emotions that seem to change every 10 minutes.  One moment just numb with shock and disbelief, another just very sad, and the next, guilty or angry.  Being here at Interlochen, my classes and rehearsals must go on, and I’ve been extremely busy at almost every hour of the day from 9-5.  Sometimes I put this out of my mind for half an hour or an hour, but when I remember it, it hits me in the gut, sometimes even worse than the preceding hours.

I actually just spoke to Ya-han on the phone, and she is amazingly put-together.  I don’t know how she does it.  She is a strong, beautiful, loving, and admirable woman.

I said to one of my friends/co-workers, Patty, something like “It’s weird that this is happening to me here.”  Here, at Interlochen where things are so beautiful, where I think of it as a peaceful haven, and now that peace is being wrecked with death and sadness.  She said, “well maybe it’s good that it’s happening here, of all places, where people are connected to emotions and compassion.” I’ve been realizing what she meant.  My kids that I teach have been amazing.  They cheer me up in unbelievable ways, and even though I only told one of my classes (the one that I had to teach right after finding out), I feel like all of my classes have come together in a place of more intense bonding, and they have been open with their warmth and affection toward me and their enthusiasm toward dancing.

I’ve been attending band, orchestra, and choir concerts as refuge.  (I’m reminded of how on September 11, 2001, I was in band and choir class when the towers fell, and how the bond of musicians provided me some comfort—this idea of comfort through music has been fresh on my mind because I recently delivered an alumni speech at DHS with this main point)  Here, I feel it’s the same.  The arts are healing, and are helping to buoy me up even when I feel like my head is spinning into a downward spiral of sadness.  I only wish that Jason had felt the same comfort….

And even when I feel like sitting at home and wallowing in melancholy, I’ve forced myself to go out with my coworkers and appreciate our time together.  Whether we are going out for a drink or just sitting in the staff office together, my fellow staff and musicians have given me many hugs and gentle touches along the way.  Even just a light squeeze touch on the shoulder can mean so much.  I appreciate them immensely, and am grateful for their support.

I am performing in a piece in the faculty concert next Thursday, choreographed by Matt Lindstrom, to the song Tornado, by Jonsi.  The song and the choreography reflect what Matt called “being so beautiful on the outside but destructive on the inside.”  It’s a completely coincidence that this lines up so perfectly, thematically.  Personally, I am dedicating my performance to him, wishing I could have provided him some shelter from the storm.

If you are one of the people here that has lent a hand during the past few days, I cannot thank you enough.  Your support helped me hold everything together so I could continue to be a good teacher for the kids, and continually reaffirms that Interlochen continues to be a house of healing.   I am dancing and making my art for the rest of my time here in memory of Jason and all things light and colorful.

"Glass shines--brighter--When it's--broken..."-Bernstein's Mass.

With our friend Annah at a theatre/tech theatre gathering in Urbana
Under some kind of art structure in NYC

Monday, July 2, 2012

One week of dancing at Interlochen, come and gone

Yesterday and today, I finally got to breathe for the first time in about 8 days, since Interlochen weekends are Sunday and Monday (don't ask me why).  It's been a heck of a week getting into the swing of my classes, and each day is physical and full of activity, which means I pretty much am crashed by the end of the night. It's exhausting but incredibly fulfilling.  I was honestly quite stressed and seriously nervous before the start of classes, but I've found myself actually almost surprised at how well it's been going (or at least, I can put on a facade of confidence that may actually be blending with true, real confidence, building each day.)

My class of juniors was the most challenging--these kids are 8-12, and they are all studying other disciplines as their concentration, or doing a general arts study.  I've worked more extensively with kids both younger and older than this range, so this provided me with a new challenge.  I also had two classes of Intermediate kids, which were also general or non-dance majors.  Intermediates are about age...13-16 or so, which is my more preferred age group.  I was able to work more dance technique into class with these groups, teaching them the basics of modern dance (prances, contractions, high releases, triplets, double-stag leaps...) and classic choreographer movements (from Graham and Humphrey). Especially my afternoon class was honestly a blast--I had the more advanced kids (whereas my other two classes were the lower groups), and not only were they more skilled dancers (which doesn't matter to me much, I have loved working with beginners before), but they were more enthusiastic students who really wanted to learn.  They were seriously such a joy to work with, and I'm sad that we are switching next week--they go on to the ballet portion of the rotation, and I get a new set of kids.  On Saturday, our last day, I took them outside for the last 15 minutes of class, where they danced the final combination we had been working on the lawn in front of the Bowl, and our percussionist joined us as well.  Ah, how awesome it is to see kids be so receptive and passionate!

I've also jammed with the accompanists a couple times on horn for the Improv class, which has been seriously great.  I was pretty wary of joining them at first, because I hadn't played horn in a year 1/2, and though I used to play for improv sometimes in college, I never really knew what I was doing or had a huge grasp on music theory/harmonizing, etc.  I realized here though that improvising musically is really no different from dance, and as long as you are aware of what is going on around you and are creating something that jives and compliments, you are golden.  And though my chops give out much faster than they used to, and my range isn't complete....I'm really not quite as rusty as I imagined I would be. :)  Also, maybe it's because I'm older now, but at U of I there was part of me that was always a bit embarrassed to be seen with my horn.  Maybe it was because the dance department was so intense and I felt guilty for devoting some of my precious time to something else.  Or also because I was still concerned about appearances and being in band was definitely revealing my ultra-nerd.  But here at Interlochen, the kids seem to actually think it's really awesome that I have this unique skill, and they applaud and thank me for my talent.  Everyone's a nerd here, so if you play an instrument in addition to whatever you're focusing on....it seems to kindof bump your status as an uber-nerd, which is actually making you cooler...in an extremely geeky way that only Interlochen can be. :-)

Next week my schedule will get even busier, as I add a high school class (which I'm very excited about, I love working with high schoolers!) and will have some rehearsals for a faculty concert.  So I'm not sure if I'll have a ton of time for extra classes I've been doing (not just the accompanying, but I've been doing ballet barre every day).  We shall see....there's an awesome coffee stand on campus that I've been spending too much money at but is often my saving grace.

Last night was the first WYSO (World Youth Symphony Orchestra, the top orchestra here) concert of the season, and it was beautiful.  It featured work of American composers, including the two famous Olympic fanfares (Arnaud was the orignal, now the NBC theme, and John Williams'), which highlighted awesome brass, and Barber's Adagio for Strings, which was expressive and beautiful.  The last piece always played (or sung) at any music concert is the Interlochen Theme by Howard Hanson.  I confess I got seriously choked up and was crying at the end.  It's almost as if I couldn't fully believe I was here on this campus until that moment, when I heard the haunting horn melody....at the end, the house lights rise and the stage lights dim, and as per tradition there is no applause at the end, the last notes hanging in the air to linger on into the night.