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Yes as a child, like many, I was told, “Don’t do that!” For instance when attempting, rather absentmindedly, to touch a hot stove. I was also pretty notorious for NEVER looking bo…

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Motivated by Fear

So it happened!

Only six weeks after graduating from my M.F.A. I helped produce a performance, create an online profile for media relations, design programs for the show, and choreographed three new pieces.

When I had originally agreed to take on this task in March I seriously thought I would not be able to accomplish these goals. Mostly, I worried  if I could pull this off financially; but I also worried about being creative enough to come up with “good” material, and the thought that I would be too tired to take on the task. (What is “good” material anyway though?).

These thoughts ran through my head as the director asked if I would be interested. But low and behold without even a moments pause I said, “Yes, I would love to!” Then my internal monologue exploded!

I didn’t have a cast

I didn’t know what dancers would be around over the summer

I didn’t know how much the project would cost

And… although I have the notebook of choreography that I have carried with me for years and years, I had only scattered ideas or one sentence bursts of inspiration

I didn’t have anything concrete

I didn’t have anything solid

I had no answers and yet…

It happened.

My dancers were simply stunning and although with most arts endeavors I took a financial hit, I realized that creating the work and being, “in it” (meaning the creative process not actually in my pieces) was more important to me – at this stage – than any of the other reservations I had. I don’t say this for sympathy, I say this because it was my genuine observation. I was so utterly inspired not only by the creation of my work but also by the other choreographers and the dancers. I thought, “This is it! This is why I chose this profession.”

I am in a precarious position right now having graduated and looking for a job that will both fulfill my artistic and financial needs; but I was completely affirmed in doing this project, just like I was when I decided that physical therapy was not going to be my path. This performance shone a light on my future that looks like, at least from where I am standing now, will be full of “Yes, I would love to’s,” without actually having a lot of answers because I am… wait for it… MOTIVATED BY FEAR! There I said it!

There’s this GREAT book, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland. I read it for one of my graduate course. I was recently reminded of it’s significance when I was tolling through FaceBook in an article called:

Why You Should Aim for
100 Rejections a Year

In it, the author switches the desired outcome of applying for jobs, fellowships, publications etc. Instead of hoping for acceptance the author advises to look for rejections. Essentially it applies the old adage that practice makes perfect, If you set your goal aiming for 100 rejections a year you are sure to have at least one acceptance because well geez you practice the application process A LOT!

The article was gifted to me during an incredible bout of insomnia this week probably due to feeling lost without a project. The performance had ended and I had nowhere to put my creative juices. And while reading this article it hit me, FEAR.

Fear can be this crippling, debilitating, insufferable thing. BUT it doesn’t have to be. It can be this freeing, motivating, albeit challenging experience. Add to that a motivation of rejection as opposed to acceptance and really the outcome of fear is release. Release from the expectations that we put out on ourselves and others. Release from worrying about the future and instead being in the moment. Release from the fact that really… we have no idea where we’ll end up and discovering that it doesn’t matter.

It’s in the journey, not the destination. It’s empowering. It’s enlightening. And to think that my insomnia related to fear granted me the opportunity to read this article and be reminded of an important book with good lessons to keep with me.

Look, it’s not like I’ve discovered this new zen-like way of living where nothing frightens me and I am free of fear. I’m still so unbelievably afraid but I no longer want to allow that fear to consume me. I don’t want to allow it to wash over me in a sea of depression and anxiety. Instead, I want fear to challenge me, to invoke inspiration and creativity.

So yeah… that’s where I am today. And I’d say that’s a pretty good place to be. Dancing post grad school is frightening but it sure taught me that I can do this for the long haul! The lessons are a little tougher to understand because they feel very nebulous to me but they’re there to be experienced and learned from. And you never know… with a touch of fear as motivation I’m prepared to take on Australia in a little over a week! Here we go!

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1 Month

It occurred to me this morning upon waking up to a text message from a dear dear friend of mine that in one month I will be headed to Australia to study at the One Body, One Career Intensive in Melbourne. Excited? You bet! But there’s an added layer here.

See for me this travel isn’t just about heading to the land down under. It has some serious significance for me because well… when I graduated from undergrad and wasn’t clear on where a dance degree would take me, it ended up taking me to Australia. And, as I sit here having graduated 1 month and 2 days ago I’m struck with the fact that I’m at a similar point in my life 13 years later, I’m unclear where this additional dance degree will take me but know unequivocally I’m going back to Australia. Seems cyclical and serendipitous and a little about fate and faith.

So while I’ve been applying for positions, and choreographing new material, and readying for a new performance, and unclear of what will happen next; I’m sitting just waiting, not necessarily patiently, but I’m waiting for something. But I’m also settled. I’m settled when I really really let myself meditate and calm the negative thoughts in my mind that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

FAITH

Australia put me on a wonderful journey the last time so why wouldn’t it do it again?

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During my first tour in Australia a LOT happened. My aunt passed away and I wasn’t able to head home for the funeral, there were issues with contract negotiations, and I was a replacement cast member which meant learning and learning very very quickly. And while I won’t be in Australia for nearly as long this time I am aware of the changes that will come from traveling. The people I’ll meet and the dancing I’ll do will have an impact on me and I am so open and ready to explore! I have faith that this journey will be as fulfilling as the last because fate put me right here, right now.

And here’s to a little walk down memory lane to show me where the next adventure begins!

 

And the Inspiration Continues

Just shy of 1 month since my graduation for the M.F.A. program and I am still completely inspired and ready to create work. At the end of June I will be presenting three new works and while I had some fear that I would need a little longer of a break in order to recover from my intense two years as a graduate student I find that really, I wanted to make these works. I’m sure that I am not the only choreographer who occasionally suffers from bouts of insomnia or waking up in the middle of the night needing to quickly jot down some idea that I may have dreamt up. But these episodes come more frequently now since I have slowed down a bit. Although it may seem to be somewhat of an annoying  nuisance, to me it’s a great feeling! It’s a great feeling because I am at a point in my life where I can really listen where I can really find time to suss out the details and work through phrase work and decide what I need to work on, what I can leave behind etc. I recently re-read an article since going through my paperwork from grad school. The article, “Do choreographers need editors?” was originally printed in The Guardian. Here’s the link.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/dance-blog/2014/nov/26/why-dance-choreographers-need-editors

It is no secret that José Limón used Doris Humphrey in this capacity and additional choreographers have also had similar relationships. I love that now I have the time to look at my work and edit, play, and manipulate, send it to colleagues and mentors or their thoughts and ideas. This is really where the fun begins! Here’s a little advertisement for the show and if you’re in Tucson I do hope you can make it!

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Long Time No See

While I look back on the obligatory blog entries I had to write last year for the Dance in Paris study abroad program through Florida State University, which I then continued during my self-directed summer studies, I am reminded that I really did want to continue to write during my last year as an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Arizona because it was a way to reflect on my experiences and look back with a smile from ear to ear knowing that I had something to show for them.

Almost a year later and no blog to show for it, I’m disappointed and slightly annoyed. But the echoes of my last blog post ring true even now, “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.” And so, setting disappointment aside, I have decided to pick up the blog again.

When I made the decision to do so I felt kind of inadequate and a little ridiculous with all the time that had passed. I even thought I should wait for the one-year blog silence anniversary, to reveal something powerful and meaningful and inspiring. This way it would be worth the year of silence and I would mark the occasion. But really? Screw that. I felt the need to write, not the guilt to write. I chucked out the self-aggrandizing and here I am on no particularly eventful day at 5 in the morning on a Wednesday writing this entry.

In looking at the title of this blog, “Pourquoi pas danser le monde?” I realize that while I’ve been dancing in the desert for almost two years, I have been dancing in a part of the world that two years ago was completely foreign to me, save for the time I came to audition for the program. And yet here I am a newly minted Master of Fine Art still feeling as though I’m somewhere foreign. It’s important to note here that I am forever grateful for the experiences that I have had here in Tucson, I would never EVER change a single outcome because, well, they have me sitting here today writing this damn thing. My last year of grad school was filled with ups and downs, ins and outs, rights and wrongs, and ultimately an incredible venture that proved to be an amazing journey of artistic immersion and creative collaboration. It would be impossible at this point to give you a run down of my entire year because of the amount of work that went into my studies. Suffice it to say that as I reflect on my last year at the University of Arizona I am thankful for all of the experiences that will now illuminate my path as a master in dance.

As a graduate, I am now charged with the task of finding my way outside the university. I am faced with that age-old question all graduates ask themselves upon disembarking their studies, “What do I do now?” and while all students go through this plight, I strongly believe it is heightened with the study of Fine Arts. In fact, when I gave the closing address at commencement I discussed this very issue.

Good evening Faculty, Family, Friends, Staff, and Fellow Graduates. It is truly an honor to be standing here before each and every one of you today as the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant for the College of Fine Arts. An honor I know that is hard to come by and deserved by every Graduate Teaching Assistant in this room.

I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because we have chosen to study Fine Arts. We have chosen to study our passion and attempt to make it our livelihood, a feat that comes with its pitfalls, disappointments, insecurities, and challenges but whose rewards are unparalleled.

Having been told that I would be standing here upon my Masters graduation 17 years ago, I might have chuckled and rattle off some off beat, incredibly sarcastic comment with a few choice words that would have prompted my father to reply in his Jersey accent, “Danielle…it might be true; but tone it down a bit!” The same comment would have prompted my mother to say, “Way to go girl!”

I would have said this because my high school guidance counselor told me that she couldn’t announce my major upon graduation because I would ruin their quota at their precious school so instead I would be attending university as an undecided major. I would have said this because one of my ballet teachers at the time told me, “You’re really smart are you sure you want to dance?”  I would have said this because growing up dance wasn’t an acceptable profession to those who had no idea the drive, dedication, and personal responsibility it instilled in me.

Still I consider myself one of the lucky ones who had parents and many many mentors who did support my dreams. They were my examples. They were my leaders. They were the ones who taught me to fight, stand up, and never take no for an answer. They taught me to unlock doors and if they wouldn’t open, how to kick them in. You know the grand battement is useful in more situations than class and stage.

And so I stand here before you today humbled and honored that I share the study of Fine Arts with likeminded individuals who are not strangers to hard work, who are happy to continue to hone their craft and dedicate their existence to their art. Who understand that there are only 24hours in a day and would happily spend every waking moment of that 24hour period drawing, playing, dancing, singing, acting, filming, and creating so that they might touch the lives of those around them. I’d like to comment on the courage that it takes us to proceed with our studies. I’d like to commend us for our stick-to-it-tivness. Courage is our most trusted friend when we think our art is worthless or this path is futile. Courage is what got us here today and will keep us going tomorrow.

I can’t know what drew each of you to your study of Fine Arts. I haven’t quite grasped the concept of telepathy, although as a dancer I’m pretty close to discovering levitation. For me I was drawn to the ephemeral quality of dance, that it is there and then at a click of the clock’s turn it dissipates. It taught me so much about the fleeting moments in life that we should learn to hold them near and dear and close to our hearts. It taught me about the ability to say so many things without saying anything at all. Don’t worry this isn’t the part where I break into an interpretive dance. It is the part however where I challenge us to continue drawing, playing, dancing, singing, acting, filming, and creating so that we can inspire the next generation of artist. It is the part where I stand firm in the belief that the Fine Arts have ability to leave no child behind. It is the part where I heed the warning that we should band together with one large voice to let students and future artists know that our studies can move mountains, can change the world, can breed acceptance, and can bring humanity together. It is the part where I thank my high school guidance counselor and former ballet teacher because they were instrumental in discovering that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. And finally it is the part where I pray that our courage never waver, that our artistry continue to develop, and that our minds never tire of discovering our individual expression for a collective voice.

And with that I am reminded of this quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” As we graduate today there are so many changes that lie ahead. Some of us may even be asking ourselves, “Why did I major in this? What do I do now?” And to that I ask that you remember the fire that evokes your passion for this study and I challenge you to find the courage you had upon embarking on the journey of your graduate studies. It’s there. And if you can’t seem to find it, run don’t walk to the nearest artist. They are probably sitting next to you. They are there to remind you because they were once there too. Thank you. I am humbled to have received this award and I share it with each and every one of you. In dance we say, “merde” instead of “break a leg” for obvious reasons, so merde to our next chapter. Thank you.

And re-reading this I am reminded of my courage and the need to surround myself with other artists because, “they were once there too.” Which is exactly what I did two days! The taste of my own medicine here went down pretty smoothly! Thanks Magda!

See, while at the University, immersion into my studies was a task I took on tenfold! I love school, I love learning, and I love the idea of self-betterment to become the best student and artist one can be. And now I’m figuring out how to continue to do that outside of school. I’m figuring out how to make the city I currently live in less foreign to me. I’m allowing it to become familiar and making connections within the community. I’m blessed. I have my prospects and some very exciting plans ahead including showcasing new works of choreography at ZUZI! Theater, studying in Melbourne, Australia with Anouk van Dijk’s One Body, One Career Intensives, and presenting a movement session at the National Dance Education Conference back on the east coast. And while I realize almost too deeply that this will be difficult I’m also excited to see where the experiences will take me. Yesterday I created choreography for the upcoming performance and edited music. So see I’m slowly making my way.

 

 

“Back to life, Back to Reality” Soul to Soul    

This seems highly appropriate!

So after 3 plane rides and a 5 289-mile journey from Heathrow, I have returned to Tucson, AZ for my final year of graduate school as an MFA Candidate at the University of Arizona. To say it has been a whirlwind of a journey would be an understatement. I haven’t even begun to take in that my European trek is over and it’s hard to imagine 95days going like the snap of a Bob Fosse gloved hand. I do think that I will eventually get to a blogpost where I sum up, conclude, and take in everything that has happened. But for now it’s back to the grind as I head into my final year.

I clearly had some really good karma stocked up because, all things considered, two of my three flights were on time, my luggage wasn’t overweight, and myself and my luggage arrived at the final destination safe and secure. The last flight could certainly be misinterpreted as bad karma because of its 3.5-hour delay but considering there was a FAA computer meltdown, that our flight actually took off, and that it wasn’t canceled tells me that good karma was on my side. Not to mention the fact that I actually flew into Phoenix and my friend was happy to wait for me to get in before making the last 110-mile ride. Thank you immensely! I got in about 1:45am for a total 28-hour voyage.

Although I’ve never suffered from jetlag, this 8-hour time difference has proved to be troublesome this time around. I’m not sure if it’s the excitement of getting back, the sadness from leaving, or the nervousness of embarking on a thesis concert that is so incredibly near and dear to my soul that I’m not entirely sure if I can actually do it justice. Whatever the case, I’ve been hitting the ground running. I managed to get most of my syllabi for the two courses I will be teaching this semester completed over the summer. And our cohort also began a Google doc this summer to begin discussing our desires as MFA students for our final thesis projects. So I felt ahead of the game. Kind of!

Since being back, we’ve had a face-to-face cohort meeting about our concert and set a date for our next meeting. We’ve scheduled a meeting with our advisors and technical staff for our concert, and we’re in the midst of getting our audition date approved for said concert. We’ve had orientation, caught up on our summers with faculty and alumni, met the first year grads; and set a date and time for a little get together with the first years. We’ve scheduled a meeting with last years Co-Director for Jazz in AZ because two of us will need to be trained for this year. We’ve emailed about our second computer in the grad office not working. I’ve set up a meeting with my advisor to go over my schedule, pickup a paper from last semester, and discuss anything else that might need to be dealt with. I’ve handed over rehearsal assistant materials to the new rehearsal assistant. I’ve made copies of the Non-Majors Showings to do list and distributed them. I’ve contacted one of the first years to give her an example of my syllabus. I’ve peer reviewed a letter for one of my colleagues. I’ve begun to put together our concert’s audition notice. I’ve made notes for a meeting where I will be presenting information about the online grading and course material system we have at the university. I’ve shared posts of our MFA Dance Facebook page to get more momentum in the community. Check it out here! Yes-shameless plug!

http://www.facebook.com/MFA2016ThesisConcert

I’ve created movement material for the Non-Majors Dance Audition this coming Saturday August 19th. I’ve scanned and digitized material from last year. I’ve made a doctors and dentist appointment, went grocery shopping, inventoried what we might need in the apartment, ordered necessities on Amazon Prime, cleaned the apartment, did laundry, went to the gym, picked up 5 packages from the mail room (with plenty more to come), ordered new dance clothes, bought my streetcar pass, set-up their app, renewed my yoga teacher certification, fixed a glitch in the transcript request for my study abroad in Paris, called my mom, made it to happy hour (once), and made giant daily to do lists before school starts. My favorite item on those lists is to make homemade gazpacho for my fiancé when he gets home from picking up our turtle, Hammy Stew, in Seattle.

And still the lists continue, in fact in 2.5-hours our cohort is meeting to discuss the presentations that we will be giving at the National Dance and Education Organization Conference in Phoenix, AZ in October of this year. I would like to finish my proposal for my Candidacy Project and set up my online classroom before Sunday if time permits and this jet lag keeps up. No rest for the weary!

I wouldn’t change a thing. The time is busy and the work is hard but it’s truly what I love. I’ve been thinking a lot about my career and my life so far and wonder how I got so far away from who I was when attempting to head back to school for a DPT in Physical Therapy. Although I am incredibly passionate about somatics and how it applies in a dance class the notion of quitting dance altogether seems insane to me now. I’m definitely not knocking anyone who has decided this path and honestly I commend you. I would love to discuss how you did it! For me, it seemed like I was cutting off a vital part of me that needed to create, to move, and to dance. I had the visceral reaction of panic attacks and insomnia. So perhaps that’s the biggest lesson I learned this summer is that you are who you are.

Fellow Canadian Michael J Fox said, “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.” And Jessica Lange wrote, “Acceptance and tolerance and forgiveness, those are life-altering lessons.” I never knew that I needed to forgive myself for the decision to walk away from dance, even if it was but for a brief moment. I just told myself that that was stupid and moved on. Which brings me to negative self-talk, why are we so keen on putting ourselves down instead of building ourselves up? Yes we can surround ourselves with positive and happy people but that won’t stop the voices from telling us that we’re no good. It needs to come from within. It needs to be homegrown. So I forgive me for making that decision and I’m thankful you did because I wouldn’t be writing this blog here and now, today.

Last Stop London Town and a Flood of Memories: Here’s to the Future

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London Town was my second to last stop before heading back to the good ole’ USA. We left Nice painfully early in the morning and headed north. I was so sad but also very excited because I was going to see one of my best friends who I hadn’t seen in two years. We came to an agreement that that was simply too long a time to go without seeing each other and that we had to find a way to somehow make it like it used to be, at least once a year. Of course, in the two years we hadn’t seen each other huge life changes occurred. I got engaged, moved 2,407 miles away from the already gapping distance across the pond, and started grad school. She also moved house, started a new career and well loads and loads more. So in fairness life happens but what I love about REALLY good friends is that not a beat missed, not a second gone by, and that it was as though we could pick up like we had seen each other the night before.

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Of course before seeing her bright and shinning face, we stopped over in London and although we were only there for two days we managed to pack it in. We went to the British Library where they had an exhibit showcasing the original Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. That those documents could influence the Women’s Rights Movement, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Human Rights Act to name a few sent chills down my spine. After 800 years, the Magan Carta continues to be a pillar when discussing freedom in the world and the unfortunate lack thereof that continues in the world. It was a fantastic exhibit worthy of its title Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

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The following day I took class at Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden. I was disappointed that the class would only run for an hour but I was pleased that I found a fellow Canadian to take class from Lukas McFarlane. I was intrigued by how the class would be run being that the usual 30min was missing. But he set the class up nicely by coming in and getting right to work. Ideally, I would have liked the music to be lower because the cues were very difficult to hear. When stretching we couldn’t identify what was asked of us and because of the volume were unable to decipher what he wanted us to do. The odd thing I found was that we didn’t pay the front desk. Instead, we paid the teacher directly, which took sometime away from the already shortened class. But wow was he efficient. It seemed like there was very little time wasted. The material in the combination was great! I loved the expressiveness of his movement and the attention to detail. I particularly enjoyed that he didn’t want dancers who danced like him but instead encouraged us to find our own meaning and intent. The students adored him and I could definitely see why! He was genuine and really wanted the students to dance, not perform a string of steps, or come to take a fitness class, but really and truly dance, make-up a story as to why they were inhaling and exhaling. It was great to get to dance in one last country before heading home.

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That evening we headed to a fringe show at Southwark Playhouse. Grand Hotel was playing at the tiny theater. It was a great show. A throwback to old time musicals when the music was grand, the love between characters was immense, and the relationships created on stage we’re palpable. I didn’t know much about the show except that I had heard the song, “I Want to go to Hollywood” before and liked it’s dynamic. The show was great! And the lack of space gave the director, Tom Sutherland and choreographer, Lee Proud an interesting use of the space that worked so seamlessly I almost forgot that I wasn’t actually inside a Berlin hotel. My favorite was Otto Kringelin played by George Rae. Although I read a review that states he, “appeared too young to be ideal casting,” I thought he played the role with conviction and his age didn’t enter into the equation for me. After all, death doesn’t escape the young or old, male or female. He was excellent! One casting choice that I didn’t buy was Christine Grimaldi as Elizaveta Grushinskaya a former Prima Ballerina with the Paris Opera Ballet. Grimaldi’s movements did not suit the fictional past and she seemed more to be playing the role of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. The music however was a delight, I wondered so much where they could possibly fit the orchestra and this immediately reminded me of the small spaces our orchestra would fit into on the cruise ships. I noticed a monitor for the actors to reference when signing which certainly helped in the inability to see the conductor. All in all the performance was a delight and I was glad to have experienced the theater in London. If you’d like to read more about Grand Hotel at Southwark Playhouse here is there website and the aforementioned review.

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REVIEW: Grand Hotel, Southwark Playhouse ✭✭✭

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Our last stop was Weybridge, Surrey with day trips to Brighton Beach and Petworth, where I finally was reunited with my friend.

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We caught up as though we had seen each other yesterday and watched DVDs of our times dancing on ships together. It was delightful and as soon as we changed the aspect ratio on the TV I felt a whole lot better. We talked about times we had running back to the ship and memories that will continue to last a lifetime. We flipped through my computer and her photo album with pictures from around the world and we laughed.

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It was an incredible way to end my time in Europe, reminiscing about my dancing past and looking to my dancing future with this final year of grad school. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion and here’s to not waiting another two years before we see each other starshine!

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