Thursday, July 31, 2008

1940s Fashion and Attitude

The last month I have been completely absorbed by the “line” of 1940s clothing. I have been pouring over images from vintage Sears Catalogues. A couple weeks ago I went shopping at Old Navy and TJ Maxx, looking at modern day dress for any resemblance of WWII clothing. Women’s blouses currently look remarkably similar—sleeves have the slight puff on the shoulder, the shirt is fitted for the torso. Slacks, however, couldn’t be more different with the waistband way down on the hip bones instead of up near the ribs.

I am laughing at myself, getting so immersed in “fashion”. I am thinking fondly of my dear friend Cheryl from high school who went off to get a degree in fashion design and how more often than not, I am caught in “sweaty dance clothes” from taking class, teaching class, or coming from rehearsal. The other day, I enjoyed pulling out my sewing machine (wishing it was my grandmother’s vintage machine that I used to sew on before inheriting my mother’s more modern one) to mend borrowed vintage dresses for our photo shoot. (Mendana Productions photo by lola a. katie)

There is something about the 1940s women that captures my imagination more than other decades in history. I am drawn to the stories of independent and self-sufficient women of the time, perhaps because I am continually surprised to find them, even though there are so many! Somewhere in my growing up, I got the notion that women were not independent and self-sufficient until the liberation movements of the 1960s.

On Monday this week, Theron and I took our bicycles to SF to ride along the Embarcadero to look for any of the “tall ships” leftover from the weekend’s extravaganza we missed. I watched the bicycles while Theron went inside to get us some dinner. A young woman in fatigues walked into the restaurant. I have discovered/realized that I am intimidated by anyone in a military uniform. So, I worked up my courage to try to get her attention when she left. When she came out of the restaurant, I said, “Excuse me”, but she had her headphones on and didn’t hear me. As I watched her walk away, I wondered “Where did she grow up? How did she decide to join the military? Has she been in combat? Has she had to do things she wished she didn’t have to do? What music is she listening to? What brings her to the San Francisco waterfront on this cold windy evening?” I desperately wanted to hear her story, yet did nothing to try harder to get her attention.

Creating art is a learning process. It is about asking questions and looking for answers, whether or not the answers get found. I am learning the creative process does not necessarily help me to make sense of the world as much as it reinforces again and again the complexity of the human race.

Love, Joy, Greed, Selflessness, Selfishness, Sorrow, Doubt, Confidence, Pride, Arrogance, Humility, Righteousness, Compassion

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Reflections on "The Goose Girl"

In the novel “The Goose Girl” by Shannon Hale there are three gifts:*

People-speaking—Many people listen to them, and believe them, and love them.
Animal-speaking—These people feel more comfortable near the mountains, among the trees and places where animals are not in cages. Others are suspicious of those who can speak with wild things.
Nature speaking—The third is lost or rare. Someday, someone will discover how to hear it again.

The main character of this novel does not have the gift of people-speaking. Words get caught in her throat and she struggles to defend her perspective/experience. I find myself relating well to this character, as my primary language is that of movement and words challenge me at every turn.

Right now (or, at least at the moment I closed the book this afternoon) the main character finds herself desperate to stop an imminent war between two nations. Yet she wonders how can she compete with those who have the gift of people-speaking who desire the confrontation.

I began thinking about my current choreography project, gathering and presenting the stories of women of WWII. “Why WWII?” some ask. “There is already too much out there about it.” Well…yes…and, no. Others ask, “Why WWII when there is a war in Iraq right now?” That is true. It is also true that there are military regimes and fighting in so many places in the world right now.

This evening I rode my bicycle, looking at the sun sparkling on the waves in the San Francisco Bay and watching the fog blanket the hills on the peninsula across the water. People are laughing and playing in the sand and walking their dogs and flying kites. The very concept of war feels distant and difficult to comprehend in this moment.

When I go for a walk or ride my bicycle, I feel my muscles contracting and releasing, I feel my heart beating, I feel the trickle of sweat, and words seem to come easily in my mind. I plan grand essays and speeches on the most important aspects of life! As soon as I sit in front of the computer or open my mouth to converse… the words flitter away leaving me feeling flustered, flabbergasted, and frustrated.

And so, as with any skill, if I want to get better, to find more ease and confidence with language, I must practice. And that is my goal with this blog: to strive to articulate my inspirations, instigations, ambitions, aspirations, and passions. I may not always be eloquent, but I will strive to relay in words the musings of my spirit.

*above I have paraphrased the descriptions of the gifts which can be found with more details in Chapter 1 of Hale’s book. I highly recommend reading this novel!