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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: dance

Day 105: Empowering Kids

After yesterday’s post about education and creativity a la Sir Ken Robinson, my mom clued me into this really cool program that provides free weekly dance classes to kids.

Everybody Dance Now! was founded by by 14-year-old Jackie Rotman in 2005, in an effort to bring dance to kids who couldn’t afford expensive studio classes in Santa Barbara, California.

Seven years later, she has expanded Everybody Dance Now! into eleven cities across the county. In each city, the program is directed by local high school and college students. They mobilize teachers, connect with schools and organizations, and bring empowering and fun dance classes to students who may not otherwise have access to dance instruction.

I love this program. Aside from the incredible educational and brain-health benefits of dance (see Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk), teaching kids to dance helps them develop confidence, self esteem, respect for their bodies, and appreciation for all of the different cultures of people who inhabit this planet.

And the program is run by youth. Amazing.

Chicago Public Media station WBEZ interviewed the young Chicago coordinators yesterday. You can listen to it below (to get straight to the interview, you may want to start about one minute in).

Day 99: Dance Rights

A little over a year ago, German choreographer Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker told a Danish blog that she had not been asked permission for her choreography to appear in Beyonce’s new Countdown video. The controversy unearthed a great discussion about dance art and who owns the rights to it. Once a movement is out in the world, can anyone use it, reframe it and call it their own? What if the original costumes and setting are used for “inspiration” as well? How far is too far?

Dance is a little harder to pin down than music, which has more rules and regulations about what constitutes plagiarism.

Whether Beyonce’s choreography team was right to appropriate the work or not, I’d like to share the video of the works side by side. At the very least, I think it’s wonderful to see brilliant modern dance make its way through pop culture channels.

Day 93: Advice for Artists

Towards the end of my graduate school career, I was well-prepared to create meaningful work, teach at the university level, articulate the vital connections between dance and societal growth, make the world a better place through art, and push the boundaries of collaboration between dance, technology, cultural studies, philosophy, science and a host of other fields.

But I didn’t know how to make a living.

Lois Welk, Director of Dance USA, came to my Producing Dance class during my final semester and gave the class some wonderful advice. I recently dug up my notes from her visit and think all artists (all humans, really) could benefit from her logic.

She drew a quadrant on the board that looked something like this:

Quadrants

She then told us to view every opportunity in terms of those quadrants. In gig + money terms, here’s how the opportunities shake out:

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 6.59.04 PM

What became immediately apparent to my class of uber-smart dance academics is that we should not pursue opportunities that don’t whet our artistic appetites or pay for sandwiches (in graphic terms, we should stay away from the lower left quadrant). This should have been obvious before Lois came to visit, but most of us had been saying yes to everything. Every show, every choreography request, every plea for an extra stage hand—all in the name of serving the dance community and increasing our personal visibility.

Lois addressed our misguided actions by reminding us that we continuously brand ourselves based on the decisions we make. Consistently agreeing to do mundane work for free would let the community know that we do mundane work for free (duh). Eventually, we’d all be flat broke and faced with more mundane, low-paying opportunities than we could handle.

Conversely, she gave us a life-long challenge to only consider opportunities that:

  • stimulate our brains and pay well
  • stimulate our brains but don’t pay well (or at all)
  • don’t stimulate our brains but enable us to buy food, pay bills, and rent apartments and rehearsal space

In terms of job and artistic growth, nothing else is worth pursuing.

Day 91: Mom Dancing

My sister shared this with me this morning and I had to spread it around.

Politics aside, here are three reasons you should watch this video:

  • It’s dancing. Dancing is always awesome.
  • It encourages parents to get up and dance with their kids. Kids are the most fun, creative and unselfconscious dancers out there. If I were a parent, I’d have a weekly dance night with my kids at minimum. 
  • Moms come up with some really unique moves.

And now I present Evolution of Mom Dancing with Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama:

Day 88: Walking is Hard

I’m currently rehearsing for a dance show that requires me to walk.

Yes, walk. And that’s it. I walk.

But it’s not just any old walking. It’s slow and steady walking that is deliberately quiet, grounded and light. I’m supposed to walk my whole body forward—my heart, my brain, my belly, the space behind my shoulders, the back of my head, my legs, and all of my tissues and skin cells. It requires a kind of presence that is completely absent of ego. In short, it’s hardcore.

Tonight in rehearsal, I sucked at it. I got distracted by my shoes and kept scrunching up my face when I looked at the stage lights. I’m supposed to look forward and walk in a straight line, but somehow I looked sideways and walked in an arch. While half of my brain focused on being extremely cold, the other half reprimanded the cold half for not investing more in the walking (“Pay attention! Walking makes you warmer!”).

But, there it is. Sometimes walking is hard.

And sometimes other, much more complicated stuff is hard. Like knowing where you want to be but not how you should get there. Or wanting to save the whales and the trees but feeling like Earth is too big and you are too small.

Those complicated hard things become easier when they’re broken down into steps. Meeting a life goal? Step one: update your resume. Saving the planet? Step one: bring a reusable bag to the grocery store this week.

Aptly, walking becomes easier when broken down into steps as well. Step one: take a step.

Tomorrow, I will take some really good steps. And hopefully by this weekend, I’ll be walking.