September 30, 2005
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the car lately. Between the dance studios and the creative movement classes I’m teaching, there is a lot of in and out of that vehicle, and it’s come to give me a certain appeasement. It’s hard for me to sit in one place for a long time, which is why this method of work for me has been good. But last week as I drove through the backroads of Newton, and took that quick right on to Christina Street, I was thinking about how unsustainable the business of physical freelance work is.
Last night I had a dream that the gas stations were all backed up, reminiscent of the images I’ve seen from the gas crisis of the 1970s. I think it sprang from the 10 0′clock news, where there was a shot of a trucker filling up his rig. The balance was upwards to $350. It goes back to 2 months ago when two of my housemates and I sat dreaming about the future, and the prophecies of survival came to the surface. It will be steam engine trains and the internet that enables our livelihood when other methods of physical transportation are no longer feasible for so many. It goes back to Katrina, and the crises that emerged. The backlash for the Northeast may have been rising gas prices, but the reality of it all was so much bigger. Lack of physical transportation was a significant factor in people’s survival, or lack there of.
It hit me hard this morning after a brisk walk through the crisp streets of Cambridge. With a 24 oz. Great One in my right hand, and a Pall Mall filter in the other, I floated through and past the jackhammers, traffic, and the Spanish speaking woman yelling at a man in his black Mercedes. All was right in the world, and my high from the Autumn air was in full effect. I turned on the tv when I got home to get my Friday morning dose of human voice interaction and VH1 was interviewing celebrities, asking “What’s the most important thing that someone could give to Katrina victims?” When Pepa started talking about hot roll curlers and and lip gloss I started to cry.
My two housemates and I went to Magnolia, a Southern restaurant, last night in Inman square. Louisiana homestyle cooking serving up Crawfish, Grits, et al. I felt uncomfortable basking in the glory of this Louisiana tradition, while I knew that the places to have spawned things like Glorious BBQ Chicken, and Fiery Jambalaya was in ruins. It’s a silly thought to feel bad for enjoying something, but it was all of this combined with the rest of the things going on in that realm that just brought it to the surface.
The dinner wasn’t about the that though. Being with Eliot and Ari last night felt really good, and it was one of those ‘kiss-the-ground-you-walk-on’ nights where everything feels like a blessing. It’s like Billie Holiday says, “I’m inclined to be a little on the sentimental side.”
September 28, 2005
It’s been years since I’ve taken the chance to flush out any thoughts on this here blog. My world has been spinning, like a neon colored top the past couple of weeks. I’ve estimated that the amount of new names logged to my brain is roughly 73, maybe 86. These names are important, considering these little buggers are all under the age of 5. Oh wait, little Alastair turned 5 on Monday. What a thing. A lot of the time that I teaching is spent thinking about what these kids will go on to do, to be, to say, to feel. It’s amazing how much character shows through someone’s face and words at such a young age.
I watched bits and pieces of No Direction Home, the Scorsece-directed Bob Dylan special, shown exclusively on PBS, our good Northeast public broadcasting friend. Last night, in part I he said that we aren’t built on our past, something to the degree that we are only what is happening now. What’s happening now is all we know.
This thought in some ways is admirable, but I instinctively feel something differently. Maybe it’s just a thought, inside my own head, but I feel very built on my past. I feel like I can give something to what will someday be a child’s past. Without carrying the risk of a self-absorbed “teacher” teacher, I feel like I am moving towards something when I work with the munchkins. If nothing else, I’m teaching about the magic of movement. It’s a special thing to appreciate the bodies we are and the mobility we have.
A nice little boy joined my class at the JCC last week. His mother was a little weary of a class of 7 girls dressed in pink tutus. Don’t get me started. This whole “boy” thing in dance class is getting ridiculous. There are teachers who have really just reinforced and pounded in this feminine ideal in to dance. During registrationg at Center Stage a woman came in with 3 kids. Here youngest was a 4 year old boy who really wanted to take a dance class. He had grown up seeing his sisters going to their recitals…what little sibling wouldn’t want to be a part of the magic?
She came to our studio because she heard, “we have boys”. This is true, we have 3 boys in our studio, which is 3 more than a lot of the studios in surrounding areas. But she didn’t sign him up because there weren’t any other boys in the class he’d fit in to. I work hard at making my classes non-gender specific. What is dancing all about? As I’ve hinted, it’s about using our natural mobility and maxing it out to make shapes, ideas, and concepts. So, little boy L at the JCC had a great class. We jumped, and meowed, and made flowers, suns and triangles with our bodies. He wants to dance like a beaver next week. I’m going to take some time to learn about the movement of beavers for our dear little L. Maybe I should bring in some logs…
September 14, 2005
Richard Landes the Great runs the Center for Millenial Studies at BU. Why is Millenialism such a hot topic? He says….
“Western culture is especially interested (one might even say obsessed) with timekeeping. The tradition of commemorations held in honor of a chronologically round number (e.g. the bicentennial) is more widespread here than in any culture in world history. So large a number leads many, often completely secular, people to reflect on the previous and the coming era, an activity one cannot do without some thinking.”
We are obsessed with time, but any sane person would be. I often feel a race against time, my list of tasks continues to grow, and as I cross one off, 5 more tend to appear. This is my engine fuel, and sometimes it is expensive, but because I am learning to use organically grown energy more efficiently, my time is becoming less of a threat.
Some fear aging, and the time lost in one’s life to experience the beauty of living. This is the beauty for me, and sure one has to sit down and ask the question, “What am I doing this for?” sometimes, but if you’ve truly got your belt on straight, you will know what you’re doing and why you are doing it.
I start teaching in Lexington tonight. I’ve made some serious decisions regarding the quality and content of my dance classes this season. It may be idealistic, but I want to establish a trust fund of sorts. I’m going to bring in a jar and little pieces of paper on the second week of classes. (This week there are too many logistics to figure out.). Each student has the opporunity to drop a note or thought in the jar every week. The first week I am going to ask them to write down one thing that defines them as a person. I can develop a better sense of my students from this, and even form some curriculum ideas based on them as individual human beings, and not just bodies to be trained in a technique.
As time goes on, they can use the jar to express a thought, concern, desire, or issue they might be having with something in our class. Last year I had my students write down their goal for the year in dance class, and I formulated my class curriculums based on the things my students really wanted to achieve that year. It was very great, and at the end of the year I reminded them of their goals. Aside from physical attributes (like a child with a hip bone structure that doesn’t allow them to ever reach their toes), everyone achieved their goals in some form or another.
Teaching dance to me is no longer about the technique, or the precision. For a long time I quoted Matt Mattox to my students. He is one of the founders of technique-based jazz dance, trained by Jack Cole, danced with Bob Fosse, and the greats. He once said, “The body is like an instrument to be fine tuned.” He was not talking about fitness (though this is inherent), but rather the technique that should be formed when a dancer is trained in ballet and jazz.
Without going in to a diatribe about ballet and its indigenous values to the world we live in and our bodies in general, I will just say this. Our bodies are not built to be constricted, tightened, and warped in to complete horizontal planes. We walk on two legs, and we swing our arms in opposition for momentum and balance. My training for my students this year will be a reversal of values. A re-evaluation of the way our bodies move. Let’s work with our natural inclinations to move and expand on them.
It’s getting late, and I have a lot of preparing to do. While the sun beats down on this hot September 14th, I will only remind you of the rare and unique neon green and electric pink grasshopper (about .25′ long) that graced me this morning on the back porch with my coffee and cigarette. He visited my 15.4 inch widescreen, and lingered for a good 2 minutes. I’ve never seen anything like it before. If anyone has any information on this insect, some input would be greatly appreciated. So far, I haven’t come up with anything.
September 8, 2005
Today I must have acquired atleast 32 megabytes of cell phone bandwidth in my dome. My ping was off the charts. It all started with a call to the JCC, my new job teaching 3, 4, and 5 year-old minituars. Settle one thing, move on to another, and I started mapping out my weekly schedule on a sheet of looseleaf. The tight squeeze gives me all the vitamin C I need to move swiftly.
CSDS had its last day of open house registration today. It was very busy, and we acquired many new students and some returning ones also. There seems to be an influx of 7 year old munchkins who are completely in love with dance class. Taking 3, sometimes 4 classes a piece! This is a good thing for children, especially those with Cystic Fibrosis.
My phone started ringing about 4:30pm. It was my new employer, stating that nobody had shown up to a preschool in Jamaica Plain to teach their weekly “Infant Yoga” class. I pressed #1 on the keypad. “Did she really just say Infant Yoga?” It’s becoming to sound more familiar to me now, but at the time I was baffled. What in the world is this? Well, apparently it’s a popular thing with the XL33tY generation. Baby Om. I can go along with this. After 3 or so phonecalls many apologies were made, and a crisis was averted.
The solution lay in the low-talking Restauran Equipment Salesman coming to the studio to drop of a “load of equipment.” In my mind this would include CDs, musical instruments, maybe a parachute or two. Boy, was I wrong. Being led down this dark tunnel that is called Jump For Joy, I’ve entered in to a realm of triangular squishies (8′ x 4′), atleast 1500 hula hoops, and many strange tubular cylinders which may be used for….holding the lung tract open while babies conduct Infant Yoga???
I’m officially self-employed people. It’s about high time I jump for joy. Cambridge may be flat, but the road ahead holds many hills!
September 7, 2005
After many hours, and back-and-forthing with the intricate world of CSS, I’m finally publishing this little piece of me. Don’t get too attached, because it might just change. You never know when the Fairy will come and “boom!”, you’re on the machine, trying to make your dream come true.
It’s been a long day, looking at the screen, talking on the phone with various colleagues and employers. My newest employer (one of the many), has given me free reign on this dance program I will be managing in the Massachusetts area. I have a lot of work cut out for me, but it’s a rush right now. She’s easy to talk to, she likes my ideas. And I am dressed to impress! We talked about the gas prices. I’ll be hiring preschool dance teachers to teach this curriculum to munchkins across the state, and preferably teacher’s should have a car. There’s a lot of equipment involved. Sometimes a Boombox, Hula-Hoops, Musical Instruments. The teacher really should have a car.
And so a topic that I’ve been discussing with many friends as of late came up again today while talking with my employer. Do we offer a higher teaching salary to compensate for the rising gas prices? Driving in your car for many people is not the carefree mission it once was. I said, “A good teacher is invaluable, and should we find someone really amazing, we give them what they want.” She’s a bit of a penny-pincher, so we’ll see where this one goes.
My thoughts are not too steady right now. I’m being pulled in a lot of directions right now with preparing for the near future. I have 3, maybe 4, part-time jobs at the moment. It’s overwhelming to think that in one-week my schedule will fit in to tiny little boxes, will only about 2px worth of padding on each side.
Things will worth themselves out, as things tend to do in this life. Sitting on the outside of this back-to-school rush I feel a true calmness in knowing that life will lead us where it may, and the further you stray from the madness of institutions, the more you trust getting to know the truth.