four decades of dance

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You know how I’ve been complaining for the past year about how busy I’ve been? Well friends, I wrote a book.

What started as a simple chronicle of Festival Ballet’s 40 years became a thorough narrative not only encapsulating the history of the company, but showcasing photos and memorabilia that had since been lost in the depths of the archives. I spent many an afternoon elbow-deep in the chaotic filing cabinets that keep Festival’s past, riffling through playbills from the ’80s, checking facts and faces as I went. Many summer days spent sweating in the little conference room at 825 Hope, choosing fonts, resizing photos, playing graphic designer…

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I am a perfectionist. I am rarely happy with my work. For the first time in what feels like a long time, I am truly pleased. I have so many people to thank for their assistance and mentorship along the way. But here, in this special little piece of webspace where I can open myself up, I will say: I am proud.

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Stay tuned for the final version of the book, and information on how to order it, if you’re interested. For now, I’ll just remain unabashedly tickled. :)

 

photos of me by Michael Collins, cover photo by Jacob Hoover.

a collaborative dancing diary

Why do we dance?  Why are we drawn to watch?  What is it that elevates flesh and bone into displays of heartstopping beauty?IMG_9510

Two days ago, when it was May but the weather wailed JULY!, I sat under the wisteria-covered trellis on the airy patio of my beloved Seven Stars Bakery with a cold drink (iced green tea, splash of lemonade) and The Emma Press Anthology of Dance.  Much like its internal observations of the waltzing world around us, the book itself seems to rattle and shake, pages exploding with figures (by the book’s editor herself, Ms. Emma Wright) whose loosely sketched limbs flutter from one line to the next.

We are introduced first, and again throughout, to the universality of dance through the eyes of animals, the flailing bodies of the uncoordinated, the intoxicated, the lush from love who swagger in kitchens and on side streets.  Clare Dyer’s On The Sand describes the dancing of a buzzing beach, and suddenly I am noticing the gentle whirling of the wisteria above me and the erratic foxtrot of the tiny finches underfoot.

The tone shifts now from chirpy humor to one I know a bit more intimately.  With Hilary Gilmore’s Ballerina of The Night Pool, we meet the mysteriously elegant “statue drowned mid-pirouette”, constantly evading the authors shy advances to “dance pas de deux with her reflections”, as minxy stone ballerinas often do.  Rachel Piercey’s The corps is a musing even more familiar, singing the secret successes of the corps de ballet, “parabola arms exactly / chalked onto the air”, “half known and half felt: / the precise, unfurling / geometry of cells.”  The flawless harmony of a well-oiled corps, despite each dancer’s yearning for spotlight, our final stanza puts it perfectly: “the acute longing / to be set apart, / the charm of belonging.”  A double-edged sword that every ballet dancer will wield in the onset of their careers.

As the anthology progresses, so too does the strangely relatable introspectivity of each poem.  From finding your own footing in Rosie Sandler’s Breathing Underwater, to escaping by means of dancing down the page of a notebook in Catherine Smith’s My Dancers, to the impossible stashing of a step like “the stapling of motion on a sheet” (what a great line!) found in Richard O’Brien’s Dansmuseet, the apex of this anthology is an explorative one.  We discover the fleeting nature of dance, the joy in hearing dance when it is not able to be seen, and perhaps the most poignant point of all:

“We dance to learn about a part of ourselves books can’t teach.”

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The Emma Press Anthology of Dance C/O The Emma Press.

the pooh way

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Remember how I said I read an entire book the other day?  Well, per the expert recommendation of a close friend, I quickly made my way through Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh.  I found its teachings so interesting, I wanted to share them with you.

This light-hearted book explains the ideals of Taoism to its readers in terms any child, or child at heart, can not only understand, but appreciate and enjoy as well…the Pooh way!  Using the classic Winnie-the-Pooh characters, the otherwise slightly complicated principles of Taoism are illustrated clearly and with style- emphasis on the illustrations!

This easy read has got me really thinking about what Taoism teaches and the way of life that Pooh, as the ultimate definition of Taoism according to this book, practices daily.  According to the author, Taoism is perfectly demonstrated by Pooh every time he makes the decision to just be.  With Rabbit’s cleverness always guiding him to the next pointless task, Owl’s wisdom robbing him of any actual life experience, Piglet’s fear of the world keeping him from Pooh’s effortlessly happy lifestyle, Eeyore’s cynism defying any chance of inner nature, and Tigger’s attempts to be the best at everything standing in his way of realizing his own truths, Pooh is the only animal in all of the Hundred Acre Wood who can truly be considered a Taoist.  When Pooh doesn’t know what to do, he does what he wants.  He sits in a nice spot and thinks.  Or heads to the kitchen to eat some Honey.  Or walks around the whole forest just to say hello to each of his friends and wish them a Happy Thursday.  Because he is just “That Kind of Bear”.  Pooh realizes that things are the way they are.  Instead of thinking of complicated ways to fix problems, Pooh does the obvious.  He sees a situation in front of him, and takes the most blatant straightforward approach to solving it.  And you know what?  He succeeds.  That’s why in the end, everyone is always giving “three cheers for Poohbear!”

What do you think of this “pure happiness” approach to life?  Do you really think it’s possible to simply choose happiness and feel happy?  Studying a little of the logic behind this theory really did open my eyes to the idea of it…I’ve decided to try and think of Pooh when I’m feeling lost or frustrated by this injury.  What would Pooh do?  I mean, it can’t hurt, right?