Tag Archives: art

I miss “being in my body”…

I never really understood what it meant to be “in my body” until I spent almost 12 weeks entirely stationary. Without even realizing, I became one of those other people—one of those people who simply observes others moving.

I became a patron of dance. Gross.

I’ve been sitting at a desk all day, six days a week—and until a recent series of yoga classes, I forgot what it felt like to use my muscles intentionally-to sweat on purpose-to feel my system totally engaged. It felt great, and for the first time maybe ever, I understood what it meant to be truly in my body.

Nirvana bliss…like actually. The boost of serotonin, probably.

(I wonder if it’s possible to become immune to the mood-lifting benefits of physical activity? I say this because I honestly can’t remember a time before this summer when I felt so great from just an hour of stretching and breathing—things I’ve been doing on the reg for years…when the thought of sitting down for even 10 minutes sounded like a glorious, laughable daydream…I don’t remember having this feeling concurrently…) 

I remember realizing a few months ago how important it is for dancers to maintain a practice, essentially understanding, preparing, and then establishing a routine that supports a physically rigorous schedule. What I didn’t realize at the time however, probably because I was entirely immersed in a highly structured environment of class and rehearsal, was that there are a million other ways to engage my body that don’t include tendus. Engaging in activity beyond a technique class may actually supplement the activity of a technique class (not actually mind-blowing).

I realized that part of establishing a practice for life beyond the walls of academia, is realizing how important it is to find balance. Maybe I need to take two yoga classes a week so that I feel present or even interested in taking any sort of dance class –maybe I need to be coached through breathing exercises twice a week so that when I’m x-rolling across the floor, I can find the purest/safest/most efficient level of engagement on my own.

Here’s the dilemma in this not so impressive realization: after exchanging messages with a friend (a fellow Brockport dance alum) via Facebook, she pointed out how sometimes taking a step away from the studio for a bit can actually draw you back to the studio in a serious way. It’s sort of like in any twisted relationship, you never truly realize what you had until it’s gone—and sometimes you have to take the risk of letting it go so that you can eventually have it back forever.

The problem is the lack of dance classes offered now that we’re out of school. There are actually 78965 yoga studios in Rochester, but maybe 2.75 dance classes (if that—worth attending…) offered to adults.

No thank you, jazzercise…zumba, I’m even looking at you. I don’t want to bouncy step-touch while shimmying to the right and then to the left, just to say I’ve “danced” this week.

I want to feel my organs slosh around… and all those other imagery-related activities that sort of piss me off…I WANT TO DANCE.

After spending years being told that I had to take x amount of classes each week, it eventually became an obligation—now that there’s a lack of classes even available, it’s all I want to do.

(Note: I also don’t want to be in a mom’s tap class. I am not old enough to want to Boot Scootin Boogie around the stage in black slacks and a white t-shirt…)

So I guess there are two morals to this post.

  1. Find a supplemental practice that allows you to feel your body in ways that dance can’t. Trust me, it’s great.
  2. Where the hell are all you adults dancing? Help…
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you want me to eat my food off of a plate???

How many times have you heard in your life, “integrate X-activity into your practice”…

Mmmmmm by practice…do you mean…show up two minutes before class starts with just enough time to take my shoes off…and then run out of the room right after class finishes to not think about any of it again until…the next class two days later?—oh, while also making sure to eat an abundance of Fritos and chocolate truffles while running to and from the studio?

Yes? No?…wait, really…No?

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t until VERY recently that I started to figure what all this “practice” hoopla is about…and through pragmatic research, I’ve decided that it’s not in fact a hypothetical thing that artsy-artists just say as one more way of isolating you from feeling legitimate. In fact, how many times have those artsy-artists made you feel like the biggest fraud ever for not actually understanding what it means to feel connected into the earth?

Ummm the floor is in the way, guys. I don’t care how hard you practice, the floor is definitely in the way…

So I say…screw the artsy-artists, I’m here to tell you from one Dyva to another, that you too can have a real-life, legitimate practice. You (yes, you!) can regularly engage in a series of activities that not only make you feel confident to throw glitter all over your kinesphere, but you can engage in activities that actually prepare you to go ham with your glitter without ever having to risk pulling a hammy (did you actually follow that logic?). Sounds like a win-win, yes? Yes.

As my performance opportunities have increased in the past few months, I’ve really started to identify what I need from my body to feel available and prepared for a successful performance. I can eventually find a comfortable groove to live in once I’ve hit the stage, as long as I know that I’ve primed both my mind and my body–especially when I’m nervous (as I seem to turn into a clammy mess of emotions).

Performing with Red Dirt Dance

Performing with Red Dirt Dance

For me, my practice starts first thing in the morning; I know that if I don’t sit down at the kitchen table and eat my breakfast off of a plate, that the rest of my day is a lost cause. If I can’t slow down long enough to feed myself like a human being, then all sense of balance follows suit, and I can pretty much kiss a grounded performance goodbye.

Other things I need?

  • Healthy food that doesn’t make me feel bloated (I’m looking at you, dairy!)
  • A good plank and a downward dog
  • Some leg-swings
  • Several plies
  • Lots of standing roll-downs (…the official name, I’m sure)

…and finally…

**I MUST balance on releve on either foot while singing, “Whistle” by Flo-Rida. I do not step on stage without this final exercise being accomplished successfully. I have never been so serious in my life. (…please excuse the crude lyrics and images…I can’t really explain the appeal…it just is what it is…)

So that’s my list for performance needs, but even for class I require a little maintenance. Attending class regularly is a practice in itself, but my curiosities should always be alive to be truly invested and engaged in the material (even when I’m not in the studio under the guidance of a teacher and their syllabus).

Technique class is my version of a scientist’s lab, blow shit up and don’t worry about being on good behavior until the science fair eventually rolls around.

I think one of the most important parts of engaging in a practice is to first allow yourself to be humble. Practice makes perfect is a grossly summarized version of my mantra…or at least what I want it to be:

Practice makes failure. Failure makes progress. Progress is perfect.

Until the next science fair rolls around (or lets say, my next performance in April), I’ve got to stay committed to taking unapologetic risks in class. Not succeeding one day doesn’t mean I fail forever, it just means that I have a new goal to work towards. That’s exciting.

What do I need to feel successful in technique class?

  • I can’t be too hungry or too full.
  • KapDaddy must visit the potty. I know I’ll have to pee, I always do.
  • I’ve got to turn off all technology at least 20 minutes before class so that I can focus my energy away from the distraction of social media and back in towards my body.

Seriously though, who can concentrate on undercurves with a raging case of FOMO? Not this Dyva.

I hate to say it, but *knowing that I have a practice and then *owning that I have a practice sort of makes me feel like an artsy-artist. But don’t worry, not the annoying kind…the floor is definitely still an issue…

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happy one year anny

So ummmm, well….HAPPY ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!

I cannot believe it’s been an entire year since This is Major started filling your inbox, cray-zay!!! Thank you all for reading my posts every week, thank you for all of your honest feedback, and thank you all for joining the Dyva-army!

I feel like now’s an appropriate time to share a little insight into why I started this blog in the first place…a year in, I guess it’s about time I put out

Note: most of this has nothing to do with dance…some of it does…uhmmm enjoy!

So it was around this time last year that I became obsessed with reading blogs, my favorite blog was The Life & Lessons of Rachel Wilkerson (now inactive), a fellow Spartan that I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts. I found such a home in her random stories, as they felt so familiar to life I was living in Brockport (…my version was just a little more G-rated…), and in my weakest moments, I found solace in knowing that my path wasn’t necessarily unique—I wasn’t actually alone.

Similar to Rachel, I struggled with my weight for most of my life; when I graduated high school and then again from Michigan State University, I weighed close to 200 pounds, and I could fluctuate up or down 30 pounds any given year…not healthy…

hey me.

hey me.

As we’ve talked about before, my days as a dancer are spent standing in front of a full-length mirror just trying to get better; with this being said, most of my life was also spent under the bribe that if I lost ten pounds (when I actually had 60 to lose), some desired dance-reward would follow.

If you lose ten pounds, you could win a platinum medal at the next dance competition.
If you lose ten pounds, you could even place first overall.
If you lose ten pounds, you could be accepted at x-university.
If you lose ten pounds, awesome-choreographer will cast you in their next piece.
If you lose ten pounds, you’ll get a job with x-company.

Holy hell…why couldn’t I just lose those frickin ten pounds!?!?!??

Well I’ve lost about 50 pounds in total thus far, but so much more than the size of my dance pants has transformed; I finally found my voice.

Hey me, again!

Hey me, again!

Ok, yay for me…let’s bring things full circle, shall we?

I was spending hours of my life reading Rachel’s blog, feeling like we were meant to be best friends…but in reality, this chick didn’t actually know I exist ( and still doesn’t), yet I was changing my life because of her words (…initially…). I started thinking, if this girl could have such an impact on my life, why couldn’t I do the same for some stranger that I would never meet?

We’ve already established that I’m an attention whore…I WANT TO CHANGE SOMEBODY’S LIFE!!!

I wanted to create a blog that was written for my people, people who were experiencing the same things I was experiencing on a daily basis. I wanted to form a network where people from the dance community could not only connect with one another, but with outsiders as well; I aspire(d) to serve as the liaison between our world of concert dance and everyone else. I believe in dance advocacy (I know, I just blew your mind), and I love knowing that my dad can relate to what I’m talking about without actually knowing what I’m talking about (“I’m a modern dancer…I’m a kumquat!”) But seriously, how cool would it be if my review of Jonah Bokaer’s show inspires Ordinary Person to purchase tickets for his next performance at the Joyce?

That would be pretty cool.

So in conclusion, I’ve spent this past year writing posts that are based on real events from my dance life, hoping that something (anything) resonates with your life…even if it’s just the title. I love connecting with people and I hope that at some point you’ve realized through reading my blog that even when you feel the most alone, you’re never actually. Again, I appreciate your support throughout these past 365 days—through the ups and the downs (…sorry about last week…), and I’m ecstatic to see where we go in the next 365!

Happy Holidays! (we survived the apocalypse!!!)

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my milkshake…yours too

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking (again) about body image–but less about what I look like and more about how I feel in the studio.

As dancers, we spend our days standing in front of mirrors just trying to GET BETTER for hours at a time. There’s always room to improve as an artist, new styles, better efficiency, etc. etc. etc, but what other profession do you know promotes such a vain mission statement? I propose an addendum, I think there’s a second part missing that needs to plastered on the walls of every dance studio in the world:

GET BETTER within the potential of your own facility…nobody else’s.

I feel like a lot of us grow up with this image of what a dancer should be, but the thing is, that dancer doesn’t actually exist. The posters that lined the walls of my room as a little girl, (and probably yours too) were posed bodies that may or may not be stunning dancers when they’re not sitting in a pile of rose petals pointing their beautifully arched feet. It was my own thoughts that made her the dancer I strived to become for so many years.

what I think I look like (…not really…sort of…)

In real life I’m normal sized, in the studio however I’m a little bit thicker than what you’d probably imagine a ‘dancer’ should look like, mostly because I have curves…

My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…but no, you can’t touch my humps.

…I said it…

I will never be that dancer wearing pointe shoes in a rose petal extravaganza, I will however be the dancer athletically moving in and out of the floor faster than you can say “unrealistic ideals”. It took me a while to realize that I still win.

me in real life…winning.
photo: Rebecca Puretz

We assign importance to certain ideas or images based on our own personal value sets, and devalue others without giving much thought to where our own bodies fit into that spectrum of extremes. If we work to create an environment where our individual quirks are looked at as positive idiosyncrasies rather than stepping-stones that take us further away from perfection, then we no longer have to hate ourselves for failing.

Being healthy is more than just eating by the guidelines of the food pyramid; you have to think healthily before the rest can follow.

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Flecks of Inspiration

I’m in serious need of some inspiration this week, here’s what’s on my mind lately:

1.

Nothing like the male gaze through a thick phallic lens to kick of your Monday, huh? I have Mr. Oklahoma to thank for this one, I’ll never look at ballet the same. This woman is insanely talented, while this man is definitely reaping the benefits of her presence…if you know what I mean

2.

It’s hard to look right at you baby..

Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.

This may be the next “Friday” epidemic, but I’m pretty sure I just spent the entire weekend wailing this song at the top of my lungs at/with my boyfriend…

Quality lyrics, folks. If this song doesn’t inspire you to get up and boogie, I’m not sure what will.

3. Finally, on a more academic note, this article by Thomas F. DeFrantz really shook me up last week in my history class. While critical theory isn’t necessarily my thing, hip hop is (as you know), and I have never been so abruptly faced with my position of “white privilege” like this, ever in my life. The good news is, if you make it all the way to page 19, you’ll notice that DeFrantz suggests:

“mastery can be achieved by any dancer–not only by black bodies–willing to investigate their powerful communicative potential. Ultimately these dances generate a physical statement of pleasure, inextricably bound up with the political frames of race continually surrounding modes of black performance in America.”

As I engage in my own research of hip-hop dance as it relates to the curriculum of higher education, this was a lot to swallow. After reading this article, I was extremely discouraged with my position within the hip-hop community, and I was once again, questioning the credibility of my upbringing in studio dance. I might actually be the definition of “vanilla suburbs”, but after a brief discussion with Mr. Oklahama and Dumbledore, I realized that my upbringing was what it was, and is nothing to apologize for. Because of this article, I’ve found this intense motivation to do my homework with even more enthusiasm, if I’m going to be a successful liaison for the hip-hop community, it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m offering something valid, well-rounded and legitimate. Watch out world, here comes vanilla suburbs!!!

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Jonah Bokaer

Two weeks ago, Jonah visited Brockport for a week-long residency; he taught three intermediate/advanced technique classes (what up Cunningham?!??!) and some media-workshops (that I couldn’t attend because I had class…boo hiss).

His style is so streamlined and precise, it was a little intimidating how in control and effortless he made his spinal articulations appear, and the arches of his feet are like right-angles…something that stood out to me, a dancer with wide-ass pancake feet.

To conclude his stay at Brockport Thursday and Friday evening, Jonah and his close-knit team of collaborators performed a Brockport-version of Replica. To be honest, based on his technique class alone (which was so codified and straight forward), I was expecting this performance to be really cut and dry, black and white, clean lines with a minimalist aesthetic, etc. And it was…but only kind of…

Replica was originally created to be site-specific, and as far as I could tell, it worked great on Hartwell’s tiny-little stage. (According to the program…) Replica “…explores memory loss, movement pattern recognition, and perceptual faculties in relationship to space”.  I sat in on a pre-performance discussion earlier in the week and learned that an additional concept for the piece was considering what would happen if everything collapsed inwards? So that the “wings”, the place of rest for the performers actually lived on stage…

Trippy.

Immediately following my last rehearsal on Friday, I showered faster than I have ever showered in my life (I hate showering…), and then ran back to the theater to wait in line for the spectacle that was rumored to be crazy-innovative; I was ready to have my mind blown.

Side Note: The hard part about holding a performance on a college campus is that you get a lot of students who don’t actually want to be there. Half of the audience was in attendance merely because they had to be for class credit, so aside from the laughing and obnoxious clapping at inappropriate times (at least the texting was at a minimum), the performance was intense from the moment it started to the moment it finished.

The concert began with Jonah and his partner, CC walking downstage, they rested on top of each other while a video was projected onto this crazy box-like sculpture behind them. So maybe the concert actually began the second I walked in the door, when I saw this big white boxy-thing nonchalantly hanging out in the center of the space? (Picture a cube where one corner is facing front, and the two adjacent sides are splitting center; each side looks like it’s been cracked…like a windshield after a rock gets the best of it). I’m already intrigued.

the box-thing…not at Brockport

The first video was actually in reverse (…retrograde?) where we watched Jonah and CC climb through a hole in a wall….and then later another man (I assume his visual designer, Daniel Arsham) appeared, and ultimately was the one who destroyed the wall with a sledge-hammer.

Wait, was the thing on stage “the wall”?? Now I’m confused, but you haven’t lost me yet, Mr. Bokaer.

Upon completion of the video, Jonah and CC began a duet with some interesting partnering. Except for a few key moments of clear interaction, I couldn’t decipher clear story between the two of bodies, and while they look nothing alike, it was almost like watching gender-less clones perform side by side. Several phrases were repeated and referenced to (ok memory loss and pattern recognition, I feel you…) in and between each dancer’s solo.

Jonah surprised me by his subtle performance-quality. He’s not a super-loud person in class, but you definitely feel his presence when he walks in the room; he knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. It’s like getting stung by a bee without ever hearing or seeing the bee in the first place. On stage however, I didn’t feel the same presence; it was like he had a secret that he was only willing to share so much of, I had to take the initiative to lean in and pull the rest out of him.

Playing hard to get, I see.

CC on the other hand was an animal. You know when you watch a video in fast-forward and the quality gets all F’d up… it kind of looks cool because it’s all choppy, but you can still see what’s going on? That was CC’s movement dynamic, she is CRAZY fierce. Her solos couldn’t last long enough in my opinion, and anytime she took the stage alone, I couldn’t tell if what I was seeing from this Gap-kids sized body was real-life… or if I was losing it. I still can’t figure out where she was putting her dynamic emphasis–the beginning, middle, or end of her phrasing, or maybe all three simultaneously? It wasn’t human. I don’t know, maybe I was so pulled in because she gave no alternative.

CC…not so hard to get.

Media was intermittently projected onto the box-thing, and eventually Mr. Arsham made a live appearance on stage, he busted out of one side and then eventually busted back through the other. In between his projects of mass-destruction, he would hide behind the wall (and CC too for that matter)…

….wait, I get it now…the wings were collapsed in…clever…hat’s off to you, team!

The collaboration between the performers (Jonah, CC, and Daniel), the original-music score (ARP/Alexis Georgopoulos), the set design (Timothy Stanley), the light design and use of shadows (Aaron Copp), and the video editing (Nicoletta Massignani), this performance truly was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

While I’m not sure I “got it” as I was sitting there in the theater (it started to feel a little long at times), the more I thought about the performance and discussed it afterwards, the more inspired and thought-provoking I began to remember it; this was definitely a piece that I’d pay to see again. It’s similar to a mystery movie where once you find out who the killer actually is, you have to go back a second time to pick up on all of the subtle clues you missed…

Side Note (again): Ok, so I’ll give credit to the not-so interested students who were sitting there; it was a crazy-deep performance, and an extremely challenging first-time experience. On the other hand, nobody said breaking your performance-cherry was going to be easy…

Mr. Bokaer (and team), job well done.

Overall I’d rate this performance 4½ rhinestones out of 5

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