Dunhman Tech

This semester has been a difficult one in grad school and I’m very much looking forward to the last day of class. However, dance has been a pivotal part of my semester but in a way I didn’t expect and/or anticipate. My research methods class is centered around ethnography. Therefore I’m doing an ethnographic project this semester where I’m coperforming with deaf dancers in a Katherine Dunham Tech class at ODC. I’ve been attending classes with Antoine Hunter off and on for two years and its been a real pleasure being in his class. He is possibly one of the most motivating teachers I’ve ever had. So I’m just writing to say I’m thankful for a place like Antoine’s class to call upon the parts of my self that are left unused and wanting to be moved, strengthened, and lengthened. Dance awakens my spirit and soul.

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IT TAKES 6 MONTHS TO LEARN ANYTHING

Last summer my friend Mallory asked me to join her for brunch at Mama Royal Café. Mallory would be the only person I’d know at this gathering but this place is delicious so I figured if her friends weren’t as awesome as she said they were at least the food was good (and I love their diner coffee). It was confirmed that Mallory spoke truth and her friends were indeed awesome, brilliant, quick witted, and funny. I said something silly while I tried to keep up with their amazing stories, experiences, and careers. This thing I said was a ridiculous thought I’d kept to myself. For whatever reason I decided this brunch was a well-suited situation for me to share this thing I’d rather have kept to myself. These ladies were not in the least bit unwelcoming; they were admirable and I was feeling vulnerable and made a rash statement.

I said I would be auditioning for So You Think You Can Dance and I had six months to make it happen. I made a precarious statement to make room for myself in this table of wondrous women. To anyone who was listening to what I just said, they might have interpreted the following: I was going to audition to become a contestant on reality TV show about dancing. And they would be right because that is exactly how it sounded. Thankfully, these ladies knew I was spitting a false game. After confessing this rather embarrassing thought of mine to a group of strangers, I questioned this real desire I had to audition for SYTYCD. Was I going to audition for SYTYCD? Sure.

This was all part of this insane notion I believed that anyone can master a skill in six months. Especially if you want something bad enough. The idea plays in my mind like the scene in Clueless where Cher’s dad is telling her to get home in twenty minutes saying “Everywhere in L.A. takes 20 minutes!”, only in my mind the character playing her dad is saying “You can learn anything in six months!” Do I still believe this to be true? No. Do I entertain the thought? Of course.

Taking the statement into context I did say I would audition for SYTYCD which is very different from being on SYTYCD. All I needed to do is show up at the audition location (city & venue), at the right time, and sign in to participate in the preliminary auditions. Easy peasy. I don’t like to do anything half fast so it’s not that simple for me. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl. I certainly needed to be better than most but I wasn’t looking to be the best in the room. The fact that I had this thought lacked a certain amount of humility and an overwhelming amount of self confidence that seemed false and forced to me. However delusional these thoughts might have been, I concluded this was audition would happen.  The outcomes seemed bearable; be a tiny clip in the blooper montage, be completely unmemorable and not appear on the show, or by some intervention from God make it on to the show as a contestant or finalist. Realistically, none of these scenarios would happen.

I try to make honest attempts not to act on my thoughts as quickly as I’ve done in prior situations and many times I fail. I’m impulsive; it’s a defect and an asset which gets me into trouble. When I took a step back, I realized this is one of those times where I can learn more about myself and how I react when I want something. In my moment of pause I read the SYTYCD audition guidelines and found out that my age exceeds the eligibility requirements; so there’s that.

It’s was done. I didn’t have to entertain the idea any further because it turns out I’m too old for this sh** and that’s okay. I was reminded that I’m a human who says inane stuff sometimes. I can do better and will keep practicing humility until it comes more naturally because vanity is goon that can respectfully eat my shorts.

On Sunday, almost a year to the day that I said I’d audition for SYTYCD, I just danced. Tanisha (SYTYCD Season 11, Top 10) was at Alonzo King LINES in San Francisco teaching a workshop. I signed up and showed up, and considered the workshop to be a healthy substitute to my notions of dancing on SYTYCD. Dancing with Tanisha was challenging, fun, and delightful. She was a welcoming person and a sweet dancer. When she extended her arms to me for a big hug at the end of class, I got little emotional. Here I was dancing with someone who openly shares and expresses her love for dance in the same way I intend to do. What I considered at first to be a consolation prize for my SYTYCD ambitions was actually the thing I wanted and needed.

The Science of Dance and Stuff

This month has been full of difficult (first world) choices. I’ve had to reassess my school ambitions, be open to criticism (constructive or other), accept change, and let go of some things that are important to me in order to keep myself emotionally and physically healthy. I also lost a dear co-worker this week. Hard month and dealing with stuff, yuck.

One thing I’ve had to do is completely rearrange my fall schedule. My hope was to be a teaching associate by next semester but this will have to be put on hold until fall 2016. Attending graduate school is my main priority though it feels like my financial insecurity won’t allow me to take on more student loan debit to be a full-time student. Instead I’m working full-time to dance and go to graduate school. By giving up the teaching associate position, I will have to take another class that I’m not particularly psyched about taking. I’ll do it but it doesn’t mean I have to pretend to enjoy it. Here is something that is totally new to me; graduate advisors or college advisors in general. In a very crazy way, I finished my undergraduate degree with no counseling whatsoever. It showed at the end of my last term when I didn’t get a diploma in the mail but a letter saying I had to take another dance class in order to obtain full credit for my diploma. I’m so grateful for the graduate advisor I have now. She and I have talked three times this summer. I really feel supported by the faculty already and I haven’t even taken a class yet!

Thing Two: I had to give up two dance workshops I was enrolled in this summer. This broke my heart at first. Yes, I’ve gotten over it however little the upset might have been. They were a Contemporary workshop and ASL Jazz Dance workshop. When offered a position in the dance company and accepting, I was committing to two nights a week for intense rehearsals. There are other things that have to come before everything else in order for me to do anything in my life; my spiritual practice. My life guru (life advisor or Yoda) had to lay down some truths about how my spiritual practice was going by the way side and how I needed to make more time for it. I realized I had no time set aside for this connection I need in order to be the best me. So the Friday night contemporary class was the first to go followed by the jazz workshop due to the long hours per day I was committing to participate.

Criticism. I mean, yeah, not fun. I’ve been standing next to the choreographer at company rehearsals to get a better view of his movements and mimic him the best I can. The closer you are to the instructor the closer you are to their vision, and closer you are to the instructor the more you’re corrected. This is just science. However many times I try to remind myself that this is the only way I’ll get better, it still feels pretty crappy to get corrected more than the other dancers. I will not pull to the back just yet. I still have a lot to learn and dance is still saving me. I look forward to rehearsals and getting into my body. When I’m in my body I’m safe and powerful and free.

The last part of this month’s journey was accepting change and grief. With my co-worker passing away, everything will change in the dynamics with this particular part of my job. I’m going to miss her emails and her phone calls. I will miss her bright beautiful smile and caring nature.

The month has help me appreciate my life. I’m still gratefully happy and dancing. This video has been my source of inspiration this month and I’d like to share it with you. Enjoy.