Sunday, November 28, 2010

The meek shall inherit the Earth!

One of the movies I've been looking forward to seeing this season is Morning Glory. I was worried that it wouldn't be as good as the trailer made it out to be, but OHMAGOD. I'm overjoyed to report that it was SO. DAMN. GOOD. It was hysterical and attention-grabbing and inspiring. I am officially obsessed with Rachel McAdams' character, Becky. She's my new hero. While she's ambitious and hard-working, she's also sort of meek and scattered and awkward. But manages to completely kick ass. She keeps people in line and commands respect, but not in a way that's that she's in charge but still meek and awkward at the same time. Which is pretty much exactly how I want to be. I honestly liked the movie so much that I almost saw it AGAIN after I got back to Mesa tonight. But ended up feeling pretty worn out from not sleeping well last night and dealing with complete a-holes on the freeway. Plus I desperately wanted to spend some quality time with my kitty. :) So maybe I'll see it again tomorrow instead! (Ooh, and as an added bonus, Patrick Wilson is only a tiny part of the movie. Which is delightful because I CAN'T STAND HIM.)

Being in Tucson for Thanksgiving was nice, but I'm really happy to be back here. It was so great to see my family, especially siblings I hadn't seen in awhile! (Even though I was stupidly antisocial and kind of felt like a deadbeat family member sometimes.) Ooh, and I went through my bookshelves and plucked out a whole bunch of books that I'd bought years ago but either never got around to reading or just gave up on them halfway through. I've been ravenously devouring books recently, and I'm excited to dive into all these. But despite all that, I'm so happy to be back in Mesa. I missed my big bed, the kitties, fast internet, midnight bowls of Cocoa Puffs, and...I don't know, just being HERE. With all my familiar things. And with FREEWAYS. I can't remember how I used to function without freeways. As much as I love Tucson, there's just no way I'd ever be able to move back. Even visits longer than two days feel like moving backward. And I really just want to move forward now.

Monday, November 15, 2010


I feel like I walk around all day with duct tape permanently over my mouth. Then I have recurring dreams where I scream at people.

My always-shut mouth is the one thing that will always keep me from being who I want to be. And no amount of therapy and pill-popping is going to change it. I can't talk, I can't stand up for myself, I can't move forward. I so badly want to say what's on my mind, but something always shuts me up. I don't know if it's insecurity, shyness, or crippling fear. Whatever it is, it has me locked up tight.

After Sweet Charity, I decided to stop choreographing shows for awhile. Until I can stand up to the assholes who make doing my job unnecessarily difficult, there's just no point in working. Every show would just be more and more disastrous. Sweet Charity was the ultimate disaster, and working on an artistic team where no one could fully take control showed me that. I could go on and on about how not everything about disastrous shows was directly my fault...Sure, it's hard to do the best job possible when the constant stress of working with micromanagers or disgustingly megalomaniac board members pretty much renders me creatively empty. But the fact is, the common denominator in every difficult show is ME. If I wasn't so meek, maybe things could have been a little bit different. Because the reality of working in the arts is that there are ALWAYS going to be those assholes who make the job harder. And then there will be assholes who make the former assholes seem downright pleasant in comparison. And so on, ad nauseam. I have to learn how to deal with that. I have to open up my stupid mouth. I have to be brave enough to cut out malignancies instead of allowing them to infect the entire process.

But I just can't.

And it's not just in theater. It's my entire life.

I can't take the quiet anymore. I really can't. But I don't know what to do.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Artist After My Own Heart.

Batsheva Dance Company in Ohad Naharin’s Project 5

The first time I learned about Ohad Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company was in an article called "A Conversation with Ohad," published in the October 2006 issue of Dance Magazine. It was an in-depth interview between Naharin and Dance Magazine Editor-in-Chief Wendy Perron, which covered his background, his artistic influences, and his work with Batsheva. I remember being intrigued by his signature "Gaga" movement technique, and I was especially drawn to his rejection of using mirrors in dance studios. One thing in particular that he said on that topic really hit home with me:

"Abolish mirrors; break your mirrors in all studios. They spoil the soul and prevent you from getting in touch with the elements and multidimensional movements and abstract thinking, and knowing where you are at all times without looking at yourself. Dance is about sensations, not about an image of yourself."

At the time, I was going through a phase in my dance training where I had pretty much had it with mirrors and began ignoring them whenever possible. After I read that article, and especially that incredible anecdote on mirrors, I knew this man was an artist after my own heart! Since then, I have followed Naharin and the Batsheva Dance Company very closely. Seeing as the company never comes anywhere near Arizona, my only way of experiencing Naharin’s work was through YouTube, magazine articles, and a blog called Dance In Israel written by dance scholar Deborah Friedes. When I found out that Batsheva was going to have an engagement at the Joyce Theater in New York City, I knew that I had to take advantage of this rare opportunity to experience them live!

Project 5, the evening-length work that was brought to the Joyce, originally premiered in 2008. It was initially set on five female dancers to commemorate their promotion from the Batsheva Ensemble to the Batsheva Dance Company, and includes choreography from past Naharin works as well as material created specifically for the five female dancers. This year, Naharin chose to set the piece on a cast of five male dancers as well, and each cast performed on alternate nights. While I would have loved to see both shows, I was only in New York City long enough to see the male cast. But I am indescribably grateful that I was able to go at all, because seeing Project 5 and experiencing the incomparable energy of Naharin’s choreography and his dancers was a truly incredible night of dance that I will never forget.

Five tall, lithe men wearing cropped, high-waisted black trousers with matching black bolero-style cropped blazers walk onto a stripped-down, bare stage and begin to move. Project 5 opens with George & Zalman (2006), set to an audio recording of Batsheva dancer Bobbi Smith reading the Charles Bukowski poem "Making It" laid on top of melancholy music by Arvo Part. The choreography reflects the repetitive, building style of the Bukowski poem. The dancers frequently return to base poses, and repeat the same movement sequences over and over, adding a little bit more on with each pass through. As Bobbi Smith softly tells us to ignore all possible concepts and possibilities – ignore Beethoven, the spider, the damnation of Faust – just make it, babe, make it, the dancers seamlessly move from one extreme movement dynamic to another; going from vibratory rocking, to audible slaps on their abdomens, to moments of unwavering stillness danced with such precise facility that it looked as if some outside being had pressed the PAUSE button. The hypnotizing repetitive structure was interlaced with dynamic solos for each dancer, marked with intricate details and disarming use of focus.

George & Zalman is followed by the captivating duet B/olero (2008). This section was the "only [one] created in 2008 for members of the original Project 5 cast" (Friedes) and is set to a quirky electronic arrangement of Ravel’s Bolero. One of the things that I found myself immediately blown away by was the impeccable timing. The choreography included numerous moments of subtle canon, and was executed with flawless specificity by the dancers. It was incredible to watch! The choreography is also marked by many different dichotomies. The duo would alternate between rhythmic movement that evoked the perfect steadiness of the music, and jarring arrhythmic movement that didn’t match the music at all, yet somehow just made sense anyway. They would repeatedly go from being completely separate and ignorant of each other to having sudden moments of either physical connection or eye contact. Their facial expressions alternated throughout the duet as well, randomly transforming from blank to expressive. These constant switches between various dichotomies, combined with the aforementioned impeccable timing made it impossible for the audience to tear our eyes away from the stage. I saw a vivid story unfold as well; I felt as though I was watching two people caught in an ad nauseam cycle of behaviors and habits, and were both eerily content and completely furious with their situation. I have seen a few different interpretations of this classic Ravel piece, and I was completely underwhelmed and bored by all of them. When I saw B/olero, I wanted to stand up and scream, "THAT!! THAT is how you choreograph to Bolero!"

In "Park," an excerpt from the piece Moshe (1999), three dancers enter upstage, and begin to move downstage gradually and methodically. They move with an indescribable sense of both urgency and hesitation, which elicited an unsettling tone of foreboding. Once they arrived downstage (practically at the edge), microphones were brought on, and the trio used them to rhythmically yell various words and phrases--which I am assuming were in Hebrew. This added another surreal layer to the already surreal atmosphere. At one point, one of the dancers abandoned his microphone, broke out of the line, and began yelling into the audience, seemingly screaming for help before being sucked back into the trio. When they were at their microphones, the choreography consisted primarily of tiny, isolated movement executed with deliberate strength. When they broke away from the microphones and moved further upstage, the choreography was huge, sweeping, pendular, and harshly powerful. Their limbs flew everywhere. They would fall into breathtaking hinges where their shoulders nearly touched the floor and their rib cages practically split open. Watching this alluring trio was nothing short of thrilling!

After a five-minute pause(1), Project 5 came to an end with the haunting and athletic Black Milk (1985). The cast had changed out of their peculiar black suits and into baggy pants made of flowing, off-white linen. One by one, each dancer sits at a silver pail and smears a dark, muddy substance onto their face and chest while pulsing marimba music plays. They move swiftly back and forth across the stage, running and jumping in steady canon. Multiple times throughout Black Milk, the quintet would settle into a rhythmic triplet step in unison; I found myself comforted by this steady, cyclical movement (my boyfriend, on the other hand, said he found it very annoying). The movement, staging, and pace all felt very ritualistic, and it seemed as though the mud they had smeared on themselves gave them a sense of camaraderie and belonging. All of a sudden, one of the dancers rushes back to the silver pail, and frantically washes the mud off of his face and chest with water. And in a chilling turn of events, the remaining four dancers turn on the defector, aggressively attacking and dragging him around. It was slightly disturbing, yet so mesmerizing that I was unable to look away.

Overall, Project 5 seemed to explicitly explore the idea of conformity. Themes of feeling the pressure to conform, feeling both content and frustrated with conforming, and dealing with the consequences of non-conformity were all analyzed in depth throughout the evening. The consistent use of repetition appeared comforting or unsettling (or a surreal combination of the two) depending on the context of each section. It is somewhat ironic that Naharin chose to investigate conformity, since he is one of the most unique contemporary choreographers in the world. His work is anything but conformist! Which made Project 5 all the more fascinating to watch. And I still just can’t get over that genuine originality of Ohad Naharin’s choreography. I honestly don’t think I saw one unoriginal movement throughout the entire piece! Even common steps like leg extensions all had an idiosyncratic twist to them, which turned a seemingly mundane motion into something completely different. Seeing the dancers of Batsheva perform live is totally different from watching them on video! They are fiercely elegant, with an energy that is palpable and infectious. I was so honored to be able to observe artistry at this level, and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to see the company in person again.

As if witnessing the brilliance of Project 5 wasn’t amazing enough, the cherry on top of a perfect evening of dance was spotting Ohad Naharin from across the room in the lobby after the show! I felt like a little kid who had just seen Santa Claus! I would have loved to meet him, but unfortunately he was in the downstairs section of the lobby (which was roped off) and about to head back through the stage door. However, experiencing his ingenious work firsthand and seeing him in the lobby afterward was incredible enough for now--and I just know that I will have the opportunity to learn from him in person someday.

"I think that once you stop concentrating on the choreographed steps and look at human behavior, that’s when the dance touches you."
--Ohad Naharin

(1) Footnote: The pause consisted of a pre-recorded video of the dancers lying prostrate on a studio floor before squirming out of the frame was projected onto a screen onstage. A creative way of keeping the audience entertained!

Works Cited:
Friedes, Deborah. "Batsheva Dance Company: Ohad Naharin’s Project 5." Web log post. Dance In Israel. 19 Jan. 2010. Web. 03 Nov. 2010. .

Perron, Wendy. "A Conversation With Ohad." Dance Magazine Oct. 2006. Print.


Recap of My Boston/NYC Trip

I actually wrote this as soon as I got back last month, but forgot to post it on here, 'cause I fail.

Here's a basic overview of my trip. With some verbose tangents thrown in, because I am me.

  • Packed up my supercute weekender bag.
  • Realized upon arriving at the airport that the weekender bag may be supercute, but it's no fun dragging around (it doesn't have wheels or a shoulder strap). However, it's perfect for trips that don't involve air travel. Live and learn. Anytime I fly, I'm sticking with my favorite wheelie suitcases. Had a bit of frustration at security, since it was my first time not checking baggage. I knew about the fluids in 3 oz bottles thing, but I thought putting them all in the same toiletry bag would suffice. Nope. They have to be in a separate plastic bag or some shit. The security guy made me feel like a supreme dumbass. Oh, well. Live and learn, part II.
  • Red-eye flight to Newark. Of COURSE the only time I'm not out like a light on an airplane is on a red-eye flight! Meh. I think I was just too excited to sleep.
  • Realized what a bullshit joke airplanes are. I think we've all just slipped into complacency about airplanes, when really we should revolt. Seriously, they're so cramped and uncomfortable and oppressive. And all to squeeze as many people (meaning people's money) on there at once. STUPID. We should have an airplane revolution.
  • We landed through a huge rainstorm. The rain was horizontal as we flew through it; I've never seen anything like that! Pretty to watch.
  • Unfortunately, the pretty rain delayed my flight for 3 hours. UGH. Finally started feeling sleepy, so those 3 hours were spent in uncomfortable sleeping positions in the waiting area.
  • FINALLY took off for Boston in the tiny tin can of a commuter jet. Immediately fell asleep, which was a blessing. The flight was EXTREMELY turbulent, but I was too exhausted to feel scared.
  • Landed in Boston. My shuttle driver got lost trying to find the Hampton Inn I was staying at. Aghh.
  • Immediately upon entering my room, I stripped off all my clothes and sank into a tub of hot water while watching Julie & Julia. Bliss. It's easy to forget how hard travel is on your body! This was followed by a long nap.
  • The cab driver kept misunderstanding everything that came out of my mouth; mistaking "Arrow St" for "Amory St," then misspelling "Arrow" on the GPS. But somehow I made it to the Oberon Theater for...
  • CABARET!!!! Which was absolutely incredible! After the show I met Steven Mitchell Wright (the choreographer/movement director), and also met AMANDA FUCKING PALMER herself. More on all this soon. I was shaking the whole night.
  • Took a train from Boston to New York City. The train was so roomy, comfortable and quiet. I slept most of the time, and watched Gilmore Girls on my laptop. The last stop before Penn Station was in New Rochelle! Which made me giggle because I'm a giant nerd, and made Ragtime stuck in my head for a bit.
  • Met up with Steve at Penn Station!!!! So happyyyyyyy!
  • We went back to his apartment in Brooklyn. His neighborhood is so pretty, it's practically out of a damn movie! Brownstones and tree-lined sidewalks. Ridiculously pretty.
  • Batsheva Dance Company at the Joyce Theater! Pretty much a religious experience! I've been obsessed with them for so long, and was so happy to finally see them in person. I totally spotted artistic director/choreographer/BAMF Ohad Naharin from across the room after the show!!!! I couldn't actually meet him, because he was downstairs at the backstage entrance next to the lounge area, and I had spotted him from the lobby upstairs. But that's okay. I know I will meet him someday. But just seeing him from across the room was basically like seeing Santa Claus!!! No joke.
  • Dinner with Steve at Stuzzicheria, the tiny and delicious Italian restaurant where he works. Our meal was huuuuge and SO SO SO GOOD. Holy delicious. Go there if you're ever in NYC. I got to meet all his co-workers, too, which was nice.
  • Barhopping at his favorite places after dinner. Tribeca Tavern where they have Delerium Tremons on tap and a really cool bartender named Will, and the Reade Street Pub.
  • Brunch at Centro Vinoteca, where I got to meet Steve's brother as well as his sister-in-law and adorable baby nephew. It was great--and a little scary--to finally meet some of his family! They were really nice. I hope that they liked me, and I hope that I didn't come off as ditzy. Sometimes when I try to be more outgoing, I tend to just sound like a ditz. Centro Vinoteca had more of a savory brunch menu (is savory the right word? I don't know). I got these perfect poached eggs on top of a delicious beef bolognese sauce and polenta, with a glass of white wine, coffee, and various tasty appetizers.
  • Back to Steve's apartment for a post-brunch nap before I got in a cab for JFK and Steve headed to work (he had to cover someone's shift at the last minute). Tears in the cab and began missing him already. Remembered how JFK is basically the worst airport in the history of airports and how I never have pleasant experiences there. Last time I was there a couple years ago, my flight was delayed for 8 hours. So what better place to be kicked while I was down than the unaccommodating overcrowded hellhole known as JFK?? (Tangent Time: I think it's just archaic and stupid for airports to a) charge for wi-fi and b) not provide travelers with a sufficient amount of working outlets or charging stations to charge their phones/laptops, etc. I mean, SERIOUSLY. If Starbucks stopped charging for wi-fi, I think airports can suck it up, too. Such a rip-off, and just ridiculous given the rapidly more technological society we're living in. I honestly equate paying for wi-fi and not being able to charge one's laptop with the archaic-ness of dial-up internet. GET IT TOGETHER, AIRPORTS.)
  • Long, uneventful flight back to PHX. Felt very bittersweet, given the amazing few days I just had. And I was sad because it went by so fast, and I really have no idea when I'll get to see Steve in person again. :/ But a quick trip is better than no trip at all.