Home Soup

Tonight I talked with a friend about my new project that I mentioned in my last post - it explores the personal narratives and complex social and political issues around human migration and immigration. Obviously a very dense subject matter that I am trying to get my head around and find different pathways into. Currently I am thinking alot about home because it seems to me that for someone to immigrate or leave, one must have some place to leave from.That leaving is often exciting or an act of emerging, other times it is an act of regret or sadness. I would assume often it is both, and sometimes neither. Again tonight the question came up if home is even really a place, or instead a feeling or a sense of connections. Can anywhere be a home as long as I am surrounded by certain people? Possibly. Yet there are many people - I'm thinking of refugees - who are with their family but where they are is not home, nor even a home.

Right now I feel like I am searching for the right questions to ask about home. There are obvious ones - "define home.", "where do you consider home?", etc... - but I feel like there are more interesting questions that I will find as I continue. One came up tonight from my friend, "When you die, where would you like to be buried?", or "When you die, where would you like to be?". I think these are interesting questions because for some people their answers would very clearly point to where they consider home. For others, maybe not ("I want to die on top of Mount Everest..."). Just starting this process, but the juices are starting to groove - and it certainly helps to have good friends to get the mind jump started.


Today's Rehearsal/Immigration

Today's rehearsal was a little harder to get going than the other rehearsal's I've had so far. Tomorrow we have a showing in our composition class and I was working on that material and itl is just at the beginning. It needs some time to brew before I have any clarity with it; so sometimes it is hard to show it or even work on it at this stage. Often it is very helpful for me to leave it alone for a while and then return to it and it just flows easily. But, since we have a showing tomorrow I had to move it along, as it were.

I am working on 2 different pieces this summer, but both are going to be apart of a larger work that I'm developing that explores personal narratives and the political and societal challenges with human migration and immigration. Just a couple of moments ago I read short personal stories around immigration from different web sites. One, "What's your immigration story?", shows actual postcards from people who've sent in their stories. Another site from the New York City Library lists immigrations stories in literature. And a last site is a personal story from a man who moved from Viet Nam. All very interesting and, at times, overwhelming.


Inhibition, the good kind

This morning in my Alexander Technique (AT) class we talked about Inhibition from the AT point of view, which is different from a Freudian perspective. In AT, as per my understanding, Inhibition is pausing before you do something so that you can inhibit your habitual response and be open to a new possibility in this moment. For example, if you always crunch your neck as you stand up from a chair you would pause before you get up, inhibit the crunching and then proceed to stand up with a new possibility. In the Freudian sense, or at least how I normally think about inhibition is that it is about stopping something you want to do, or stopping what comes naturally. I usually think of inhibition as a negative, but in AT Inhibition is about getting your habits out of the way so that what is natural or more efficient is possible. It is certainly an interesting idea and I am curious how we will continue to explore and develop the idea as we go along.

After class my roommate and long time friend, K., took me on a long walk and made me walk up and down these steep stairs what felt like a thousand times. She likes to work out, alot.

Choreography: 4 definitions

For Dance Composition 1 we're reading an article by Susan Leigh Foster titled "Choreographies and Choreographers: Four Definitions of the Terms" which defines what the word "choreography" has meant over the last couple of hundred years. What follows is the briefest of outline of the article and some interesting ideas.

Dance as Documenting
• Choreography actually meant writing down the dances so that they could be taught and repeated easily. Louis XIV had his principle Dance Master, Pierre Beauchamps create a system for writing down the floor patterns, rhythm and movements of the legs and feet.
• Through this written form much, if not all, the locality and variations of the different dances was removed. Each dance got water-down because they now had to all conform to this written form.
Dance as Testifying
• For the first time Choreography was taught in the 1930s at a summer festival at Bennington College.
• During this time the idea of the choreographer as a genius who created works of art that could address universal issues became prevalent.
• Also during this time many African-American and non-white choreographers were pigeon holed as "natural movers" and not given the same credit as their white counterparts.
• This second idea of choreography secured the idea of individual authorship while excluding group authored dance - popular or social forms of dance, for example.

Dance as Making
• During the 1960s many choreographers began to refer to themselves as directors, or use phrases like "conceived by" or "arranged by" to remove this idea of choreographer as genius and replace it with choreographer as craftsperson.
• During this time, again, technique was reevaluated, but during this period technique was also often discounted all together.
• During this time many white choreographers were drawing inspiration from Asian artistic and religious forms, but, again, Asian artists were pigeon holed doing traditional forms.

Dance as Collaboration
• In the 1980s Choreographers began working more collaboratively with their dancers - asking them to create movement, help with designing costumes and other elements of a performance.
• Brought back popular and folk forms of dance onto the concert stage in the same work as modern or post-modern vocabulary.
• Started more intensely working with artists from other art forms in true collaborative projects.

I find these categories interesting, but it seems it misses some other possible areas - like Dance as Spectacle or Dance as Ritual - there's probably more.


a first viewpoint

We stared Improvisation 1 today - a class I was/am alittle worried about because I don't want to be going back over the ABCs. Today was a good start in that the teacher, R., picked a number of exercises that worked well for beginners and more experienced improvisers.

The first exercise consisted of dividing up into three groups and each group getting a box that had stuff inside of it. After first examining the box we opened and saw a collection of things - paper clips, rocks, action figures, broach, many different things - then R. asked us to do different actions with our stuff. "Make a pattern." "Put like things together." "Make musical notation." "Make a narrative." We each got turns doing different directions - it was playful, silly and snuck in a number of ideas about composition, arrangements and such. We got to look at the different "narratives" that the groups made and each one had such a different feel - one seemed like a literal narrative, another surreal and my group's was symbolic-ish. Quite a nice way to get the group working together through fun.

It will be interesting to see how this develops and whether the differences in experience will become more obvious.


Today We Begin Again

Today we started what will be our schedule for the rest of the summer - more or less. In Comp I we worked on spacial pathways by way of a Bob Dunn excercise. It was rather simple - though the variations on the theme that each choreographer came up with was quite interesting. This first day seems alittle simple, but I'm curious where J. (our teacher) will go with it.

We also stared another one week workshop today - a technique class by a guess teacher. The teacher is quite well known and I was really looking forward to the workshop - unfortunately today was alittle bit of a disappointment. B. (the teacher) seemed alittle under the weather or out of sorts in a way, and had the energy of a wet dish rag. At the beginning of class she wasn't sure how to introduce her self or how she wanted us to introduce ourselves to her. The first hour was disjointed and confusing. During the second 45 minutes she seemed more focused and we began to dig in alittle to the work. This workshop is optional and I won't be surprised if some people don't come back - but I'll go because the theory is really interesting and I'm hoping with alittle rest she will be at least alittle more energized tomorrow.


Walking in 5s

For my new solo I am going to being to be doing a simple walking, shifting pattern that crosses the stage - maybe over and back. I decided to actually choreograph this pattern (I know, a total shock!) and also decided to do it in 5s. Often dance is choreographed in 8s - meaning each phrase is basically 8 beats long. Sometimes it's choreographed in 3s or 4s - I, in fact, usually don't use counts...well, I usually don't choreograph at all, but only improvise. But, for this section I decided that having a recognizable pattern would be very effective, except I didn't want it too even - that's why I'm using 5 beats per measure.

To start experimenting I simply walked across the studio in 5s, stepping on each count. Then, to mix it up, I would not step on one of the beats - first I stepped 1, 2, 3, 4, but then paused on 5 and repeated this. I continued this with pauses on each beat. Following this I did combinations - step 1, 2, pause 3, step 4, pause 5, etc... It was so interesting how different each combination felt. At one point I was pausing on the 1 & 2 and it felt like I was sneaking up on something, other times I would step on the 1 & 2 and it felt like I was rushing forward. At this point I'm not exactly sure how this will work out, but I am finding these different emotional tones that connect with different rhythmic patterns fascinating.


Home in the Studio

This morning I had my first rehearsal for my next project, post-Ocean. I'm currently researching human migration and immigration - not just in the U.S., but as a world wide phenomenon. There is so much information, points of view, issues and potentials with human migration that it can certainly be overwhelming. So, for this solo, which will be apart of the larger work, I've decided to bring it down to examine the idea of home - which everyone must leave to migrate. What is home? How do we define it and find it? It is especially pertinent right now for me as I am away from home for 7 weeks while I'm here at school (since I've temporarily migrated here). To reflect on my thoughts about home I did some writing, here's an excerpt:
Home is where I live.
Home is where I know my way around.
Home is familiar.
Home is a nest.
Home is yield.
Home is bare feet, ratty clothes and messy hair.
Home is my body.
Home is my daughter's breath.
Home is family.
Home is refugee.


Talkers and Movers

Today was the last day of our first week workshop from which I've been posting stuff. We spent the week looking closely at Modern Dance Pedagogy and how we find our unique voice. As always, it has been so helpful to reflect, get feedback, try things out and re-think our assumptions. I'm looking forward to the fall when I get an opportunity to teach some technique classes and put this into practice - it does seem alittle long to wait.

One of the best parts of the week was getting to know the other students. For this workshop all the students (first, second & third years) were in the workshop together. One thing that became clear over the week was that my class (the first years) think and talk alot. At the bar tonight one of the second year students commented that you could tell what year students were by noting how much they talked - the third years some, the second years barely, the first years alot. I'm excited about my class, which is a nice relief, because we do seem like a group of thinkers and talks, as well as some really nice movers.

This coming weekend we don't have much home work, but I've got 2 rehearsals and will be beginning work on a solo for my new project. Yea!

Newest Teaching Philosophy

We've been working on this all week - here is one that is very different than the one I posted earlier this week:

We start small by addressing the subtle awareness that comes from attending to our breath, rolling our head, waiting. Gradually expanding our movements, our attention, our felt experience. We begin to move into space with articulation, presence, clarity and authority. We come back to ourselves and go further. We arrive at a idiosyncratic movement voice that is authentic, subtle and athletic.

This is the practice of becoming.

We start with ourselves. Closing our eyes we dig in deep and spill out. We allow it. We welcome it. We bring the inner to the outer with vitality and acceptance. With no judge, no censor. Feelings and thoughts become integrated into body, into movement.

This is the practice of expressing.

We start by researching our interests, our passions. We learn about space, time, quality. We build phrases alone and with others. We acquire a tool bag full of choreography, of improvisation. Our interests and passions become questions, statements and images. From this we make work that is thoughtful, complex and visceral.

This is the practice of creating.

I start with Judson, Cunningham, Improvisation and Feldenkrais. Adding in Laban, Bartineiff and Developmental Movement. I continue with Contact Improvisation and Authentic Movement. Challenged but not overwhelmed, the students and I explore the material as a community from multiple perspectives. Empowered by a potent environment, combined with rigor and accountability, the students are challenged and inspired.

This is my practice of teaching.


Pushing, Shoving, Dancing

Today J. started by giving us information that she finds essential in her teaching - mostly infant developmental work through Body Mind Centering that included "Yield to Push", "Reach to Pull", Homologous, Homolateral & Contralateral. From there she taught us exercises that she does with her class that incorporates these ideas. Alot of it was wonderful movement sequences that taught these concepts without being didactic, some of which I will most certainly be using in the future. And it was nice to get the blood flowing and feeling like we really got to dance. It is funny that often in academic setting you talk about the thing more than you do the thing - we've been talking about dance and how to teach dance for three days and only today did we really get moving. It is, of course, because you need to learn the theory and possible strategies before you plunge ahead into the thing.

In our discussion after the movement segment I asked if J. was proposing that we teach from a "concept based" approach. And, after some hemming and hawing, she said, "yes, I am!". The idea here is that each class you teach is based around a concept or a group of concepts that are continually highlighted through out the class. For example, if for today's class the concept was speed than in each exercise you would emphasis moving fast or slow or changes of speed. This enables the student to grasp the concept and integrate it more fully into his or her dancing. Of course, while you're highlighting speed there are many other concepts present - quality, alignment, joint articulation, etc... - these are being slipped in the back door, in a way. Another day you might choose to highlight alignment as the concept for a class. This approach really does produce exciting classes that engage students - it, of course, is also more of a challenge for the teacher because it takes quite a bit of forethought and preparation.

Tomorrow we discuss how to organize material over the course of a class, semester or year.


Teaching Philosophy

Today we worked more on our teaching philosophy, specifically for modern-based dance classes. Yesterday I wrote something that I was ok with, but it was alittle dry. Today (and yesterday, I think) J. told us that we could be as creative with this as we wanted. So, this is what I wrote today and just sent into her.


Start small.

Gradually expand.

Move into space with clarity.

Acute articulation embedded with presence.

Challenge norms, expand possibilities, athleticism.

Say yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

360ยบ dancing, release, engage, sequential, simultaneous, daring.





Authentic Movement.


I'm also funny.


This Beginning

This is the beginning of a new blog in which I will be doing a number of things, including describing my first year in an MFA in dance program, reflect on the development of a new work and ruminate on general questions about dance, creativity, art and such. Please respond and let me know your thoughts on the things that I propose, describe, or present.

For this first entry I'm going to touch upon my experiences today in this new MFA program I've just entered. Today we started a week long intensive on "Modern Dance Pedagogy", though the material we are working with could be applied to many forms of dance. Today we started with working on articulating our personal philosophy in regards to dance and teaching dance. Our teacher, J., lectured some, but very quickly asked us to do a quick, spontaneous writing assignment to answer to sets of questions -
1. Write about your dance ancestors - what did you learn from your teachers that you continue to embrace and what have you let go?
2. Why is dance important to you at this time? Why is it important to the world?

Yea, big questions. Here is my response to the second set of questions:
Dance is important to me because
1. it increases self-awareness/self-discover
2. in creating new work I discover new connections about issues in the world I care about
3. it gives me a sense of community - my company, my colleagues, the field in general
4. it is how my creativity expresses itself.
5. is something that I feel I am good at.
Dance is important to the world because it
1. helps people re-connect to their body/become embodied
2. teaches people to value non-verbal knowing
3. engage the intuitive, imaginative and creative
4. is gets people moving - physical activity/fitness

From there we "made an object" that expresses our connection to dance using paper, string, glue, markers, etc... - yea, kind of like craft time. This was such an interesting part of the process because then we got people's impressions of the "objects" and so often the comments were right on target. People said my object was "orderly, intentional, rhythmic, multiplicity, intuitive, combined micro & macro, personal & abstract, grounding", and reminded one person of a spine. All of which I think (at least I like to think) at least partly describe my approach to making and teaching dance. Now, tonight we have to write a 2-3 page philosophy of dance that we'll share with some classmates tomorrow. Should be very interesting - I'll share some of that writing when I'm done with it.