Bridge Project 2016: thoughts on process

(i'm one of 4 choreographers for Velocity's Bridge Project this year. i made a piece called Doin' it Right. here for you is a slice of my brain, transcribed in English.)

I walked into the studio the first day of rehearsal and flat out told the dancers (there's 5 of them Katie Thompson, Kate Pope, Britt Gaudette, Liz Houlton, and Lindsey Palmquist), that Hi, Welcome, and I have no idea what this piece is about. I knew something about my approach to it, working with language and the idea of text, subtext and supertext. But I had no idea what I wanted to say with this piece. Which, maybe for someone who isn't me, this wouldn't be that big a deal but pretty much every piece I've made up till now I've know, with varying degrees of certainty, what the piece was about. And that informed what happened on stage. Whether it was a straight narrative piece with still images, or a voice over'd piece with movement along with it. My work has a very strong storytelling element to it. Well, not just element, it's like the whole molecule. That's kind of the driving force behind my art. And so to walk in day one and not have a story to start with, I was like, well. . . let's see what happens.

It wasn't until about 2.5 weeks into the almost 4 week process that I figured out what this piece is about, for me. And I'm not gonna tell you what that is here, you have to come to the show to find out. But, sneak peek, it turned out to be a lot about a specific ongoing experience and that in turn really made it about process. Just following the movement, a lot of exploring, finding what it is that moves me, what it is that moves my dancers, on an unspoken level, and building from there. And it turns out the story was there the whole time, it just took us a little playing around to find it.

Side note, I've never been more thrilled to go to rehearsal in my life. Well, I mean, I've had good rehearsals in my life, they were fun, but this one took it to the next level somehow. Like, I've never felt more alive in a rehearsal process in such a consistent way. And I was telling my dancers that the difference between me alone in the studio, and me in the studio with all them, was dialog. I love dialog. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love to monologue, but there's something extra special with dialog. With conversation specifically. This piece has been an incredibly collaborative process. I feel really, like, fuck yeah! to have had time with these five people to just open up the process, this creative process and get to know one another in order to figure out answers- What are we doing? Why are we here? Why do we move? What moves us? On like a physical level, yeah, but on a mental, spiritual, emotional level as well. Those things to me are just as important, or, have equal importance, rather, because for me the movement comes from those other levels, from that emotion, from those feelings, those thoughts. That's what movement is for me. Or at least, that's the interesting part for me of movement. I mean, yeah, there's dance vocabulary, great, and you can say a lot with dance and these dancers are super fluent and articulate in that language, but I'm like, as a writer, as a human, as as an artist, as a relative newcomer to dance as a mode of expression, I'm, like, well, that's fine and all, but What are you trying to say??? What are you telling me??

And for me this goes back to this other influence: this core observation that when we talk, we move our bodies, some people more than others, of course, and some of that is cultural, some is personal, but there's all these hand gestures and shrugs and eyebrow arching and we're not even really conscious about that but more interestingly, these movements are not exactly necessary to move the story along, to say what you wanna say. So if they aren't necessary, then why do it? And then the other question that comes up for me, is like, well shit, are words inadequate by themselves? I mean, that would explain the use of all caps and bold and italics. And why my text messages get so misinterpreted sometimes.

So this idea of movement as communication. And not that it's compensating for, like, a lack in just pain text, but the idea of What if they are inseparable, movement and language? That you can't, that you can't, that, that words alone don't tell the full story, and that dance alone doesn't tell the full story. I mean it can, yes, in both cases, you just fill in the blanks with your own story. But yeah, this is just my opinion. I just don't think you can separate the two. For me they are in intrinsically linked. I mean, all the elements of performance are, if you think about it. the music, the setting, what time of day it's happening, who you are sitting next to, what you did 10 minutes before walking thru that door, it's all part of it. And so it's taking this like, I don't know, bigger picture approach, or something. Or not even, I mean, noting that for sure, but I think it just boils down to: I'm just really interested in this connection between writing – both the written and spoken word – and movement and dance. I've been calling it Dance Narrative, and so yeah, I made a Dance Narrative piece. With 5 dancers. And i'm not in it. Oops! Spoiler alert! Ha! Yeah, I'm not in it. Well, not physically, at least.  

come check out the show: velocity dance center, jan 29, 30 and 31, 8pm

this dandy's going to India

[since i will be on a plane during the superbowl this year while Team is 4th Quarter Winning, i am choosing show my support for Team by waiting till the final hours before i leave for india to blog and pack. for the win. #pullingaseahawks #fareastmode]

'oh my god how exciting!' you may find yourself saying upon learning of my impending world travel. yes. . . i'm going to india. . . exciting. . . but. . . .ok, Real Talk? i'm terrified. of what? of The Dirty. and the detritusy beachy part of india that my travel guru is sending instsphotos of, appears to be not short on it.  

'well, that's poverty' my roommate, wise in their non gender specific pronoun ways said. well, yes. but it's not the poverty i fear (tho i will be the first to embrace, in spite of my independent wealth status, my run of the mill scarcity thoughts about money), it's The Dirty. specifically, the thought of getting The Dirty on me. 

now, hear me out in my hygienic complexities. i write this wearing the same outfit i've been wearing for the past oh i dunno 5 or 6 days (socks and unders did undergo a change of guard, thank you very much). so making The Dirty apparently is not the issue. it's being plopped down into The Dirty that ice baths my gut. and this is not just a foreign country induced idiosyncrasy, mind you.

rewind 30ish years to: Little ilvs in a frilly blue dress bawling her eyes out, screaming 'SUCIO!! SUCIO!!' at Mother who had just, after placing Sister in the sand box to play, placed her in the sand box next to Sister to play with Sister. SUCIO, for those who did not have espanol as their first language but then grew up speaking so much english that their comprehension and speaking skills of the mother tongue have digressed to sand box level, means DIRTY. i, dapper-ish still in my ruffles and patent leather shoes, was brought to tantruamatic tears over The Dirty, perceived and otherwise, that i found myself sitting in. 

fast forward those 30ish years minus 1ish week to dance class where, after cutting the rugs modernly, we were asked to pair up with a fellow dancer in the room. having been in this class before, it was safe to presume that this partnering up would lead to touching of said partner. i glanced quickly to the closest person to me and my internals froze when it became apparent that i was to be better halfed with My Friend. which, in and of itself, is not a problem, he is a gentleman and a scholar. except he also holds the title of SWEATIEST MAN EVER TO WEAR A LOW CUT TANK TOP. 

sweaty man = The Dirty. 

The Dirty + ilvs' bare hands = ilvs on the verge of tears.

as it turned out, our partnering time together started with just standing and staring into each other's eyes. so. i stood there. and stared at him. and he stared back. and tears rolled down my face for the entirety of our face off. the beauty of the moment (and his kindness as witness) was not lost on me. despite the overlying strata of discomfort that was demanding my full attention. 

'you also don't have to go.' again with the wise words from the roommie! or should i say 'rumi'. true. . .pause. . . but i want to. and i'm excited for new life experiences and amazing adventures and challenging challenges. . . that, and i'm getting picked up to go to the airport in like 5 hours. also, it should be noted that after my cry session in class, i felt a lot better. i washed my hands immediately after, but i totally felt totally better. so, it only follows that after befriending The Dirty from far away lands, this Dandy is going to be OK. after a long sesh of standing on a sunny warm sandy beach, peppered with cows and debris, weeping at the unkempt beauty of it all, of course.

ok, i should really go pack. see you in a few weeks!



i am proud new possessor of a baby raptor/i joined a gym

disclaimer: i scribbled the following at 3:30am the other morning. or evening, depending on your temporal constitution. read at your own discretion.

sweet merciful mary mother of baby jesus, i had no idea this was a, uh, a 'perk' to signing up. it's not in the bold print, or fine print even, of the paper work, but rather nestled in the 'meh, they'll figure it out soon enough' section of the 'hey thanks for joining your local y' sign up paperwork. this being this: included in my pool access (a privilege that i will probs never take them up on because i'm not keen on swimsuits (you call that a suit?!)) (also, interestingly enough, there is not an official APA approved term for swimsuit anxiety) (at least, nothing that came up in my .44 second google search) (ugh, why is my internet so slow???) (and my preferred alternative, public nude bathing, partial or otherwise, is only cool on certain lake washington beaches, weather permitting), locker room access (apparently there's a sauna somewhere in the nether parts of the women's locker room. i know this from having stepped into the first 20 square feet of said locker room long enough to change and overhear that one enthused lady in nary a towel exalting the virtues of tight quarters steamy rooms with only one entrance/exit, and i quote, 'yeow!'), and gym access (again, have yet to cross that threshold for the ludicrous reason of not having yet found the workout buddy who matches my idea of what a workout buddy would look like, which has everything to do with having an outfit to match mine and a venereally witty sense of humor to compliment mine that is only activated by close proximity to squat machines), they sent me home with a baby raptor, henceforth referred to as BabyRaptor, which is code/literary metaphor for 'when you go from not really exercising beyond the weekly modern dance move and bike commuting the 1.2 miles from home to work (uphill both ways!), to taking intense group workout classes with benignly deceptive names such as 'cardio&strength', there's gonna be a period of adjustment, ie yr gonna wake up starving - not literally malnutritioned to the point of eternal rest, but more of a figurative Now I See Where The Phrase I Could Eat A Horse comes from. 

and so, my new to me BabyRaptor decided, after a handful of classes peppered over the past two weeks, to make her formal introduction to me at the wee hours of the night. unbeknownst to me, baby raptors sleep with one eye open. or so it seems by the needlepoint sharpness of their innate ENT faculties at any and all hours of the day/night, which were triggered to level defcon 1 alert by the stray nocturnal pitter patter of 4 tiny feet that was Upstairs Neighbor Cat 1 or 2 chasing something while being invariably cute. mistaking the noise of the feline for FoodMealNowSnack, BabyRaptor began climbing the freaking walls of my cozy, sparsely furnished room, chasing the phantom footsteps in a tazmanian whirlwind of sharp claws, an irrational zest for life that includes the termination of other life forms, and ballistic Prehistoric Animal Just Trying To Get Her Basic Needs Met behavior. this, for the record, is a bit difficult, nay, impossible, to sleep through. coupled with the fact that BabyRaptor was not to be talked down from this imminent feast to end all feasts that had become her soul purpose in life, i begrudgingly threw back the covers, extracted my tiny warm self from my tiny warm bed and made my way to the East Wing of my sweet digs where the kitchen is located. 

time was of the essence in this situation and after a quick survey of feast options, my heart simultaneously sank and skipped a beat at the realization that the only thing that was ready to go now was Still In The Now Cold Rice Cooker cooked millet. now, trying to quell a baby raptor's AliveSnack gastro itch with cereal grain is akin to Sharpie drawing a pizza on a piece of damp cardboard, bringing it to a 5yr old's My Favorite Food Is Pizza pizza birthday party and calling it good. a hyper 5yr old. made of pure muscle, razor sharp teeth and a flight or fight response set to NowKillNow. nonetheless, i persevered.

'chew slowly,' i cooed, flavor-shy millet particles tumbling from the heaping fork as it traveled it's trajectory from tiny bowl, past trembling lizard (ok, ok, bird) lips, into DangerZone mouth with teeth area, 'it brings out the nutty, earthy flavor of the grain. . .' 

and so, Upstairs Neighbor Cat 1 or 2 was spared the unfortunate position of being reappointed Midnight Snack 1 or 2, ravenous extinct beast was gently lowered into the daintiest of food comas, and yours truly got a few more hours of sleep before getting up, having somehow not been dissuaded from the idea that joining the y was still a pretty good idea that i'll stick out for three months at least. 


as fortune would have it, yesterday i was able to make amends to BabyRaptor with half a cooked bird, a third a flank of fish, several a soft cooked egg, something that passed as bacon, and, for old time's sake, a waffle made of plain cooked millet. yes i may have some difficulty in convincing BabyRaptor that holidays are special because of their Not Every Frickin Day status, but that conversation is somewhere still in the future. ie whenever she awakens from her vegetative digestive state.


excuse me, tiny dancer, but where are you from?

today in advanced/professional modern dance class, i had what some might call. . . thoughts. while staring at the Wade Madsen, standing completely motionless and open mouthed, doing my best to graph his spiraling about the front of the room thru the cartesian coordinate grid i mentally superimposed around him, a small stream of information trickled in and dispersed itself through my body. while this stream made its gurgly way around the rocks and bones of my still dry from the evening sleep self, a thought in the form of a very large, benevolent bird of prey (the kind that look like they're wearing feather sweat pants) swooped through my field of vision with the announcement that: i don't really know this language very well. (figuratively, now, though for sure there's a definite parallel here with my relationship to the spanish language). i'm seeing this language called dance, and seeing all the other students speak it back to Wade in jealousy inducing fluency. i'm like a foreigner, or ESL person out of their element. but, well, i speak the language, and i understand it on more than just a fundamental level, but my vocabulary is pretty rudimentary. my sentences come out clunky and sometimes awkward, and sometimes spot on, and for sure at some point i've totally sounded out a swear word on accident. 

frustrating? yes. 

enough to keep me from coming to class? almost.

but i keep coming back. 

partially influenced by the dry fact that this is class and last i checked class is for people to learn something they have little to no previous knowledge of.

partially influenced by the 'eh, fuck it' voice pulling my dance pants up over my hips and pushing me out toward the nearest back corner of the room. 

oh, and i do get a kick out of it, dancing. it feels good, this weird language. even though my brain hurts from sometimes from the concentration and try as i might, i can't shake the accent. 

and then i started really thinking and came to the conclusion that if how i move can be likened to speaking with a heavy accent, then all might not be lost. 

even though i grew up around strong accents, and carried a slight accent growing up (a small mouthful of words still escape my mouth with the subtlest twinge of foreign), i am a bona fide individualistic individual born and raised in the continental us of a, and think that accents are one of the most crush worthy circumstantial character traits a person can have (with maybe one or two exceptions that i can't think of off the top of my head but would know it from the second i heard the first syllabic utterance of it). me thinks i am not alone in this affinity. i mean, come on, the mystery! the intrigue! the borderline fetishization of other cultures! to hear those familiar to the point of disappearing into the gross aural scenery phonemes spit shined and carefully held up to the light is such a refreshing wash of sensation, who wouldn't be charmed? 

now, i suppose if you live somewhere where culture crossings form a interesting lattice structure and not just a lonely x or single hashtag, or if you grow up with accents around you, or coming out of you, you may or may not be immune to said weakness. but probably not. and even if you are irked by one accent, there are 6,500ish in the world (googled it), so yr still not impervious to the allure of an alien lilt, or mis-accented syllable. 

so now, if all that holds true, which it does, we who came to dance at a late age (relatively speaking) can step ball chain with ease knowing that if our physicalized soliloquy feels or is perceived by others as ungainly, or dare i say, graceless, however grammatically sound, it is actually, logically, a work of art that is nothing short of, como se dice. . . exotic.