I don’t know if it’s too much yoga and not enough dance, but I can’t seem to find the inspiration to write much lately. Personal blogs are interesting that way; they do tend to come and go, ebb and flow with the whims of the writer. Similarly, my blogroll changes as blogs I follow change or fall into inactivity. Not that I’ve been reading many blogs lately either. But here are a few that I enjoy following lately.

Apartment Therapy – If you live in a small space like me, those lavish spreads in traditional design magazines and blogs are hard to relate to. Apartment Therapy is a blog/web magazine that gives inspiration to those of us who don’t want to sacrifice style in tight quarters. From inspiring color schemes to unique ways to jazz up an entryway (or the wall by your door if you don’t technically have an “entryway”), I have gotten many ideas from this blog that I’ve been able to apply to my own living space.

This is Why You’re Fat – Only in America… Bacon, deep frying, and food-on-a-stick feature prominently on this blog of all culinary creations obscene. Yes, it’s an offensive name, but let’s face it– if you ate stuff like this on a regular basis, I don’t see how you could be skinny (or healthy).  I dare you to look through such creations as The Bacone (A bacon cone filled with scrambled eggs and country gravy topped with a biscuit) or the Fat Sam (Cheesesteak sandwich with chicken fingers, french fries, mozzarella sticks, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and topped with egg and hot sauce) without giggling just a little bit.

Jodi’s Blog – I always enjoy following my friend, the talented artist Jodi Hoover’s blog. But never have I enjoyed it more than in the last few days as she blogs The World Beard and Moustache Championships. Jodi’s husband Mickey proudly represented Maryland with his full face of hair. I can’t tell you how entertained I have been reading about the Parade of Beards, and the politics of the World Beard and Moustache Association, and The Beards, an Australian band that, as Jodi explains, “They sing songs about beards for people with beards.”

On Friday I reach the end of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the yoga program that has been a big part of my life for the past 6 weeks (read all about it here). As I come out of this incredible experience, I reflect on how I will move forward from here.

The “revolution” part of the 40 days was not what I thought it would be. Basically, I’d had this vague idea that I would lose a lot of weight and get totally buff, all while becoming a more chilled out person in the process– pretty much in that order. As for the weight, I haven’t lost any. Not one pound. Not one-half of a pound. As for the buffness, I am happy to report that this expectation has come to fruition. I have some pretty nice tone and defininition around my shoulders, upper arms, and back that I have never had before. And if I poke my finger through the thick layer of fat on my derriere, there’s a nice solid gluteus maximus in there.

As for the chill factor, that two has happened, but in much more specific ways than I could have ever predicted. Having a new relaxation and centering tool (meditation) is a great new tool in my arsenal for getting through difficult moments or fending off anxiety. On a more global level, my priorities have shifted a little. I no longer feel like I have to do it all. If  I miss out on something ‘extra’ in favor of spending time chatting with a friend, visiting family, or just relaxing with a book or enjoying the weather outside, so be it. I see the benefit of not being so overscheduled and I appreciate that taking time to enjoy these little, yet most important things in life, enrich my life much more than that extra class or workshop or seminar or networking event ever could.

As I come out of the program, I will come back to dance. But things will be different. I will continue to do yoga more frequently (probably 3-4 days a week rather than the 6 I have been doing), while gradually re-integrating dance into my life. I will probably pick up a little on the blogging, but I will not feel pressure to write any more often than comes naturally to me. This blog is not a means to an end. It is simply an outlet for me to process and share the thoughts and joys that dance brings to me. Rather than “moving on” with my life, I am simply moving forward, taking with me the additional gifts I have been given.

In honor of wordpress enabling the embedding of TED videos, here are some amazing moves from Kenichi Ebina, a guy who has no skeleton.

I have taken a brief sabbatical from dance. Earlier this spring, I decided that it was time to get my life into greater balance. At the beginning of the year, I committed to taking better care of myself and to slowing down a little. So the timing was perfect when my yoga studio opened registration for 40 Days to Personal Revolution, a program created by Baron Baptiste (of Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga, the style that I practice).

I consulted Mr. P and some close friends to see if I was crazy to consider doing yoga for 40 days straight. Everyone seemed to think it was a good idea as long as I was willing to making it a priority in my life. I would have to step back from a lot of my usual pastimes and commitments for the duration of the program. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got about it, so I registered away. I told my family and friends I was going to do it, and increased the frequency of my yoga practices to gear up for it.

Then, on what was supposed to be day 1, I got a call from the studio: only five people had registered for the program, not enough to go through with it, and they were rescheduling it to early summer. Did I want to go ahead and wait, or just get my money back? I was crestfallen. I had been so excited about doing this, and was incredibly committed to seeing it through; there was no telling where my life would be in two months. After sleeping on an idea from Mr. P I called the studio and asked them if I could still have the discounted rate on the unlimited yoga classes and do the program on my own (which they agreed to). Yay me!

The way the program works (I am following Baptiste’s book to structure the program as I do it solo) is you do yoga six days a week with one day off. You meditate every day, journal,  and bring more balance into your diet. I had never meditated before, and luckily you start off gradually, with just five minutes the first week, and working up to thirty in five minute increments by the sixth and final week. The diet portion is not too prescriptive, with just a page or two each week reminding you to incorporate more fruits, veggies and whole ingredients into your diet. Nothing too “out there,” save the three-day fruit fast in week four (more on that later).

So here I am on day 24– how am I faring? Read the rest of this entry »

The NYT’s ArtsBeat Blog asked artists to comment on how the recession is affecting them. It is a fascinating read.

Common themes:

  • Artists are poor to begin with so they didn’t have much to lose.
  • Recessions are good for lesser known artists because the focus on high-priced works produced for rich patrons has decreased. People buy what they can afford and artists produce less for the sake of pandering.
  • For-profit creative industries (i.e., graphic designers, vs independent artists) are being hurt the most.
  • Those that have a day job are counting their blessings.
  • The NYT Arts Beat Blog is a great place for self promotion (just look at all the website links and full names people signed their comments with).
credit: J-Rad, flickr

credit: J-Rad, flickr

Now I want to know from you: How is the recession affecting dance? The economic impact on companies is evident, but how is the down turn affecting the creative process?

My dear regular readers, you may be asking, “Speaking of the recession, what’s up with your blog? does the lack of posts in the last bunch of weeks mean you’re being affected by the downturn as well?” First of all, we are a volunteer operation here so nope, no impact. If I were unemployed, you can bet I’d be posting a lot more! There are two factors at play:

  • I am grateful for my secure job and perhaps because of that– and an increased workload– have been spending more time and effort on it.
  • I am participating in a 40 day yoga program (today is day 24), so I’ve been dancing very little. I’m halfway done with a post about the experience, so stay tuned!

It’s nice to know we have had so many dance movies in the past few years that it is time for a parody:

Preview for Dance Flick

Tonight I took a master class with a dancer from the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at the Kennedy Center. The Kennedy Center has started offering these master classes just this year and it is really a wonderful opportunity to learn technique from some of the most influential dancers today.

The ticket said the class would take place in the rehearsal hall, where I had never been before. As I entered the Kennedy Center from the shuttle bus area, there was a small table set up with a woman taking tickets. We were instructed to wait there until we were escorted up to the rehearsal hall. We were taken through a back hallway and up several floors in a freight elevator. Then we wound our way through a warren of cramped, windowless cubicles (the idea of working at the KC doesn’t seem that cool anymore after seeing the working conditions), before coming upon a moderate sized dance studio. It was interesting to get a chance to see the bowels of the KC.

The class was taught by a woman named Leah from the company. We started out with a floor sequence before moving on to standing warmup combinations and finishing with some choreography from a new piece the company is working on. As with any new instructor or style, I had to constantly remind myself during the course of the class to keep and open mind and be patient with myself. It can be frustrating to move in a way that is not familiar or to memorize new combinations when it does not feel natural. In the end, things did click for me and I came away from the class with some new insights.

Leah talked about Jones’ approach as task based movement. It took me the whole class, plus a conversation with Leah after class to fully grasp what this means. Essentially, task based movement is about fully describing a movement, rather than just showing it or giving it a shorthand name. This allows the dancer to embody and put thought into each moment of the movement. The word precisionwas used quite a bit, but in the context of task based movement, this means more how you do something than exactly how it should look. One example of this was the directive to swing the right leg up and make contact at three points– each hand with the ankle. How high the leg was or the line of the leg was of less consequence than the sequence of movement, where you’re going, and what you have to do to get there. As we repeated the combination, we were constantly exhorted to thing about the process of completing each movement task. After many repetitions, the list of tasks became less of a burden and more of a guide. Another “script” we were given was to sing during one of the standing warmups (a tendu/degage sequence). We were to make up our own rhythmic tune to hum as we went through the sequence. This did help me get out of my head and feel more at one with the pattern.

I am able to see applications of task based movement for my own dancing as a tool for picking up choreography (something I am not very good at) more quickly. Creating a running narrative, rather than relying on muscle memory or my mediocre knowledge of ballet vocabulary, creates an additional script to guide the reproduction of a sequence.

The choreography itself was enjoyable to do. The quality of the movement felt natural, employing a lot of the momentum and catch/release we do in Helanius’ class.

So much of what bloggers do often involves repurposing material found elsewhere on the internet. In the best case, this consists of quoting a few sentences from an article or sharing a photo or video as the starting point for an original post. I have done this many times myself as I am often inspired to write about things that I find in online publications and blogs.

According to this article by Brian Stelter in the Herald Tribune, copyright infringement lawsuits against bloggers is on the rise. The article raises some interesting considerations that raised some questions for me.

My main question is, where is the line? Is it okay to quote a sentence? Two sentences? Three? A whole paragraph? And when it comes to dance, we share so many videos– it is safe to assume that if it’s on YouTube, it’s okay to share? What about other video sharing sites? I would not use someone else’s work– text, video, audio or otherwise, without crediting my source. But do I have a responsibility to get permission to cite them? If I do not have advertising or any other sources of revenue related to my blog is the standard different than for someone whose blog is an income-generator?

I’m curious to know folks’ thoughts on this, and any knowledge you have about legal precedents in this area.

In honor of the lovely spring day we are getting, here is some lovely ballet to brighten you ballet– an appearance by Suzanne Farrell on Sesame Street.

In which Miss Farrell takes little steps and big steps:

In which the Count counts Miss Farrell’s turns:

Attention all DC dance peeps:  I was ever so pleased to read in today’s Joy of Motion email newsletter that they have set up an on-line scheduler. They’re using the Mind Body Online platform, which is something I’m familiar with from my yoga studio. It appears that at this time, you can only sign up for enrollment and performance classes online. The full drop-in schedule is there, and I find it quite user-friendly compared to their old webpage, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to sign up for a drop-in yet. They have promised further updates to the website so I am hopeful.

When you purchase a multi-class card at JOM (which is so worth it because of the discount and speed of sign in), they give you a flimsy little paper card. I am always in terror that my 30 class card, which I paid almost $400 for. will flutter out of my wallet at any moment. Yes, they have a replacement system, but you have to remember which of the five studios you bought it at and they deduct a class per week that you’ve had it, which could work in your favor if you average more than one class per week, or against you if you go less frequently.

I hope the day is close at hand when a computer network at all locations keeps track of my classes for me.

You can visit the scheduler here. Big kudos to JOM for finally taking this step!!

It’s a snowy, dreary day.  And to boot, you’ve got a case of the Mondays. Where is spring? Where did all this white stuff come from? Here’s a little something to get your week off to a happier start: a salsa dance-off between Tropical Gem and Utribe.

America’s Best Dance Crew is down to its top two crews. Voting is going on this week and the winner will be announced at the finale show this Thursday.

I find it interesting to see the type of web presence each crew– Beat Freaks and Quest Crew has. Does it have any bearing on their dancing? No. But this show is not just about dancing; it is a popularity contest as well. Fan votes will ultimately determine who wins, and the web has become an important additional factor in rallying their bases.

Beat Freaks

Beat Freaks have fully utilized the social networking tools at their disposal. They are doing a good job of engaging their fans. None of it– aside from the Freak the Vote site– is anything that you can’t make for free. This is the underdog group in the sense that they don’t have the same recognition as Quest Crew. They

They have a wordpress blog with a populist feel to it. Lots of fan appreciation and interaction. It is frequently updated and pulls in youtube videos and fan submissions.

There is also a facebook fan page

A FREAK THE VOTE website– this looks like the official site. It is a professionally created and hosted site with voting information. It has a retrospective of their performances if you want a quick refresher. I initially thought the crew had engaged a publicist to create and maintain this page for them. Then, I noticed something on their blog that says: “FREAK THE VOTE! is a 3 month movement strategy to create awareness of the BEAT FREAKS participation on Mtv’s America’s Best Dance Crew.  We are a pro-bono, non-profit grassroots movement of Fans.”

A YouTube channel featuring professional-quality interviews with each crew member, and favorited videos of them and other dancers.

A fan created MySpace page that aggregates a lot of information about the crew and has things such as fan-submitted dance videos.

BeatFreaks on Twitter. Very actively used to notify followers of new videos, blog posts, and of course, how to vote.

Quest Crew

I had to giggle when I saw their official website, which includes member bios, photos, videos, and booking information. Mr. P said the other day that he thought Quest sounded more like a corporation than a dance crew. The source of the giggle was the mission statement on their website. Yes, mission statement. And a very corporate sounding one at that (excerpt: “to provide awareness of the facility that remains a viable resource of knowledge and growth for the community” tell me how this appeals to the average ABDC viewer).

The group has a MySpace page though they haven’t used it much to promote themselves for the show.

There is a Facebook page, but likewise it is not very active nor has it been used much in the service of the show.

I searched for, and was unable to fine, a blog or a twitter feed.

With So You Think You Can Dance alums Hok, Dominic, and Ryan on Quest crew, it’s no surprise they have a more established feel on the web. The slick official website definitely has a publicist behind it. Is this a good thing for a popularity contest? Not so sure. On one hand, I’m more drawn to the populist feel of Beat Freaks. It makes me feel like my vote is more appreciated. In fact, most of the existing web content for Quest Crew appears to pre-date America’s Best Dance Crew. There’s something to be said for branding, but this is pretty static.

In the contest for best web content and best use of social networking to mobilize support, there is no contest, the Beat Freaks win. Now, let’s see who wins the dance and popularity contest on Thursday. This is a pretty equal contest in terms of originality and dance prowess. Could web presence play a part?

What did you think of America’s Best Dance Crew last night?

Though I haven’t written much about it, I have been following the show on and off this season. I think there is some amazing dancing on this show, which really showcases the diversity of hip hop. I love that they had a clogging group and I love that they made it as far as they did. I also love that female groups did as well as they did this season, outnumbering the men 2:1 in the top three.

Ultimately, Fly Khicks, the female group from Miami, was eliminated, leaving the Beat Freaks and Quest Crew (which Mr P thinks sounds like a rather corporate name) heading into the finale. I think this is a good top two. Strikers All-Stars, the step crew from Florida would have also merited a place at the top. Ultimately, it came down to the two groups with the most physical prowess and the most unique flavor.

I just love what the Beat Freaks have done, showing that women can go head to head with men in some of the craziest, most difficult moves such as head spins and threading. They have upper body strength and control that even most men can only dream about.

Quest Crew has some familiar faces– Dominic (or D Tricks as he’s calling himself on this show) and Hok– from So You Think You Can Dance. That gave them a familiarity advantage in the beginning, but they truly belong at the top.

I have no idea who deserves to win. I think that Quest did slightly better last night in terms of leaving their mark than Beat Freaks, but I’m going to have to review videos from the season before I can figure out who deserves to win.

I don’t often dance at home, beyond a little freestyle grooving simply because of my space constraints. Mr P and I live in an 800 square foot one’bedroom apartment. If you do anything involving a fast-moving extended appendage, you are bound to get hurt.

I found this out the hard way when I dislocated my big toe last year, and because of that I have been very reticent to dance at home. Which is a shame, because today I was moved to dance at home again and really enjoyed it. I treated my space constraints as part of the challenge, so although I was improvising, one of my rules was that I had to stay within a rather narrow box.

After getting warmed up, I decided to videotape myself improvising as I have not done so in a while and was curious to see what I looked like. There are certain areas of my technique where I am feeling much more secure. I have a much better handle on my center, so things like back attitude turns are getting easier for me. This also increased my sense of security in terms of controlling my movements and not hitting furniture.

After reviewing the tape and being both appalled and impressed by certain moments, I took out pen and paper and wrote down the things that I liked and the areas where I should improve. I’m happy to report that the number things I like far outweighed the things I didn’t. The areas for improvement tended to be more general, such as mastering better control over the line of my arms and hands and getting a little more graceful against gravity. The things I liked tended to be certain sequences of moves and qualities of movement. Overall that tells me that my technique is finally starting to get to a place where I can admire the overall outcome rather than saying, “well at least I had good balance on that releve.”

This exercise also inspired me to think about trying my hand at choreography again. It’s amazing the beautiful things my body can do when I’m not thinking about it. When I just let myself go and interpret the music, allowing my body to follow in new and interesting ways, lovely things come out.

The US Mint will be releasing a new set of quarters that will feature America’s national treasures. Did you know that Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts, an important venue for dance and the other performing arts in our nation, is a national historic landmark?

Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts, is giving the public a chance to vote on which Massachusetts national  treasure will be featured on the quarter.

Vote for Jacob’s Pillow here. It is the third item under Berkshire County, the second bolded listing.

Wouldn’t it be great to have one of the most important venues in America’s dance heritage immortalized on a quarter? You can submit your vote as many times as you wish, so vote often!

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