Thursday, December 17, 2009

"How Have You Changed As A Performer?"

This week I taught my final InterPlay Performance Technique class. (The class will continue with the awesome leadership of Gretchen Wegner! Read more about our last class and our F-ing Great Art.) As Gretchen and I took some time to reflect on the past three years of teaching this class together, she asked me, "How has InterPlay changed you as a performer?" What a great and profound question! Several answers came to mind fairly quickly:

1) InterPlay has given me access to a full range of expression. I used to be scared to death to talk or use my voice in front of people. Ask me to move? No problem! I could do that for hours. I did not know at the time that I wanted more possibilities than that. But now that I have those possibities, I can't imagine dance-making without it! This has come in handy specifically when performing with Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theatre and when I played the role of Miranda in Shakespeare's Tempest.

2) InterPlay has awakened a passion for integrating story and choreography. When I first moved to San Francisco in 2002, I choreographed a solo as a response to my overwhelm with homelessness and panhandling. I had never lived anywhere with so many homeless people. The dance was abstract and perhaps a little indulgent (debatable, I'm sure) and I did NOT speak onstage. In 2008, I interviewed female WWII veterans to use their stories and their words as inspiration and as text for In Remembrance Of. All of the dancers (me included) sang, spoke, and danced our hearts out onstage.

3) I have new visions of gathering stories from the street, partnering with some organizations that are helping people on the margins, and creating more dance theatre--not about indulging my desire to express my overwhelm, but truly trying to bridge a gap in our society. Ambitious--I know! InterPlay has unlocked some big visions. There will definitely be some smaller projects along the way to fruition. This one could take a few years.

4) Through the InterPlay community, I received so much affirmation and validation of myself as an artist and the art that I create. I feel a little squeamish admitting this one. I shouldn't need external validation to claim myself as an artist, right? But in a little way, I do. I need to hear, every once in awhile, that what I am creating or what I am offering the world is valid and valued. I have the deepest gratitude to the InterPlay community and to the co-founders, Cynthia Winton-Henry and Phil Porter, for their continued support and affirmations.

Thank you, Gretchen, for asking. And thank you for being such an incredible co-teacher. Thank you to all of the individuals who have been "regulars" to this class at various times.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Small Art

Art Every Day Month

Last night T and I visited our friend Gretchen Wegner.  She pulled out her collection of simple art supplies, recently purchased while visiting Leah--founder of Art Every Day Month, and we made small art.  In this case, small=2 1/2" X 3 1/2".  So fun to sit in her new living room, chatting and creating things together!  We talked about art tools and feeling intimidated by not knowing how to use them. With permission to create Bad Art, I tried a new-to-me tool: watercolor crayons. I love how the colors smear and mingle as I add water to the paper. And then Gretchen pulled out some glitter glue. I am not ashamed to admit that I LOVE glitter! For some inexplicable reason, I feel so satisfied with my two little pieces of art and I have no idea what to do with them now.

Art Every Day Month has turned into Art On Some Days Month. My original vision was to commit an hour a day to art every day, and that worked for the first few days. But then my Pilates certification process began and I took a trip to Seattle and I said yes to working on the tech crew for Smuin Ballet for their Christmas season... I feel a life lesson lurking in here somewhere.  Perhaps my vision was too big to sustain and I could practice in smaller incremental ways. Or, perhaps, I could learn something about prioritizing and if I want to accomplish big art visions, I need to not take on so many other activities. Both could be valid lessons for me to learn!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Painting with Light

Art Every Day Month Day 12

A lighting designer paints the stage and the dancers with color, light, and shadows. I love this quote by lighting designer Jean Rosenthall:

Dancers live in light as fish live in water. The stage space in which they move is their aquarium, their portion of the sea.

I spent 10 hours at the theatre today in tech and dress rehearsal for Shared Space 3. The choreographers, Todd Eckert and Nol Simonse, are two of the best artists to work with. Their creative vision is inspiring and they are incredibly great individuals. Who wouldn't want to spend the day with these guys?

The show includes a Greek myth, love stories, and a wake. The lighting is simple yet evocative--at least I think so. I enjoyed playing with deep saturated color to evoke Hades and hell. The love stories are accompanied by gorgeous operatic music and crisp clear light. The last piece feels dreamy and I played with different blues and purples for the various sections.

Today's images are captured with my oh-so-consumer level camera.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Art Every Day Month--Nov 11th

Ack! The month began to slip by without documenting my art making!

A quick recap of the last few days:

Nov 7--I performed with WING IT! Performance Ensemble for our InterPlay celebration and fundraising event. I had a friend take some video for me during the event, but then lost the camera on my way home. Nothing to post. :-(

Nov 8--I spent the day at my Pilates training, met up with friends for Tiki drinks, met up with other friends for a late night cup of tea. The tiki drinks were very creative! Does that count even though I didn't make them?

Nov 9--I spent the day in the theatre hanging lights for Shared Space 3. I am designing the lighting for this dance show this week. If you are in San Francisco this weekend, I highly recommend coming to see it!

Nov 10--Spent the day working in the InterPlay office and then taught my InterPlay class. We practiced different vocal techniques for storytelling. We did some small mini performances at the end--Three sentence stories to be exact.

Nov 11--TODAY! Well, you can see I finally went back to painting again. I felt a little out of the groove and am not satisfied with the final product. Maybe I will revisit it again in a few days and see if I feel inspired to alter it then.

And there you have my series of Three Sentence Stories covering the missing days of art making on this blog!

Friday, November 6, 2009


On Monday evening of this week, I went to a performance by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. (Spoken Word artist--incredibly inspiring to say the least!) During the Q&A after the show, Bamuthi answered a question about creative blocks by saying "Be kind to yourself." I have been reflecting on these words a lot this week. I have been hearing this message from others as well over the past month. "Be kind to yourself."

This morning, two words popped into my head: Nurture and Challenge. This became my abstract mantra for the day. I have recently started going to Yoga classes on Friday mornings. It is challenging for me--physically and mentally. I am a dancer, yet the yoga postures require a different kind of muscle use than dance classes. My brain tells me that after 30 years of dancing, I SHOULD be able to do it. "Be kind to yourself."

For my Art Every Day project, I tried something new again. I took paper and pastels to Julie's Tea Garden, ordered a cup of coffee, and made art, right there in public. I sat at the table right next to the entrance not realizing initially that everyone walking in and out of the cafe would watch my art unfold. Ack! This is my first pastel drawing and I can't draw and I'm letting all these people see that I can't draw!!!! "Be kind to yourself."

Feeling inspired by Chris Zydel's process of letting the painting lead her, and with nothing more than the word "Nurture" to guide me, I let the image reveal itself.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Creative Sailing

This afternoon I played hooky and went sailing in Berkeley. Sailing on a small dinghy is exhilarating and terrifying for me.  I can't quite explain why. I am not usually a scaredy-cat. Often quite the opposite! (Well, I was a LITTLE scared during the white out on Mt Rainier last year.) Put me out on the water and all my edges get tested!

I love how fearless I feel jumping into Art Every Day Month. I realized that this is the first time I have made art just for me. My whole life has been making art as a career. All of my dance classes and degrees and supplemental training has been single focused on being a performer, creating art for others to enjoy. And I love that! Making art for myself (painting, photography, collage so far) is something new and different.

Here are some images from the pier. My attempt at documenting nature's art.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Creative Space

I dream someday of having my own creative space in my home. Living in a shared apartment, space (like time) is a hot commodity. So far for Art Every Day Month, I have taken over the kitchen table and we have been preparing and eating our meals on top of and around my art works and supplies. This is OK given that it is only for a finite amount of time. The rest of my life, I have unfinished projects stuffed in boxes, nooks, and crannies without the space to leave something out to work on it over a lengthy period of time. My unfinished quilt moves from basket in bedroom, to couch in living room, to frame in corner of bedroom, back to couch in living room. It always feels in the way. Once I finish it, it can live on my bed and be beautiful and be in its place. Until then...

I was a little stuck today on what to do for the Creative Space theme. After cooking a very creative and scrumptious dinner, I decided to pick one area of my home to make beautiful--my dresser. My dresser has been an easy dumping place for papers out of my purse or backpack and all kinds of random small items. It has been a mess since I moved into this apartment over two years ago. Until tonight! I took everything off, dusted the top, cleaned my little mirror (a gift when I was three years old), put a fabric (gift from Africa) over the top and then just put the beautiful items I want to keep there back on top (like the jewlery box that belonged to my grandmther). My earring and necklace storage could use a little beautification in the future, but for now, it is a beautiful and calm corner of my home (aka Creative Space).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bad Art Day!

Something was unlocked today! Invite a perfectionist to make bad art, and she strives to outdo everyone else. "Bad Art" began in my InterPlay class tonight where I growled and made faces and swore to the group I would not create anything beautiful for the whole class.

Throughout the day, I visited some blogs of other artists participating in this Art Every Day Month. I thought to myself, "Their art isn't very bad. Self, you can do better than that!"

When I got home tonight, I grabbed all the wine corks out of the drawer that I have been saving "for some art project someday", grabbed my art box that has mostly beading supplies, but some other very gaudy items that I didn't have the heart to throw away because "I might use them someday for an art project," as well as a piece of cardboard from the pile of art sized pieces of cardboard guessed it..."I might use for an art project someday."

I turned on some "Bad Art making" music and set to work. So much fun!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Art Every Day Month--Nov 2nd

Today is Day of the Dead.  Upon completion, this image reminds me of the marigolds I saw in the Mission District in SF this morning. It wasn't my conscious intention while painting to create a marigold, but it seems like that is what came out of it!

I tried to attach some small thin ribbons to the painting during the process to make it more textured and to have a more 3-D quality. But then the inner critic yelled, "That looks stupid!" so I took it off. What was it I wrote yesterday about not needing the art to be perfect or even good?  Oh well. More collage-ness on another day. That's one of the great things about this Art Every Day Month project! Whatever idea I don't use today, I can use tomorrow or the next day!

Yesterday I made a false claim that these paintings are 3x3. They are actually 4x4. I know there are no art police out there to catch me in this misprint, but I just wanted to make right. :-) I do also have some 3x3 canvases to use this month.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Art Every Day Month--Nov 1st

The challenge has begun! I am participating in Art Every Day Month hosted by Leah Piken Kolidas. I am committing to making art every day for the month of November. It won't be perfect. It may not be any good. However, I am committing to the creative process. I am secretly hoping for new inspiration from this process to infiltrate my dance making and storytelling. Shhhhh!

Movement has been my primary language since before I could speak. (See some videos of recent choreography.) I will probably dance some this month as part of this challenge. (Watch for some video postings.) But I am really excited to try new things. Like today! Today's project is my first ever painting (except for whatever I did in school growing up).  This piece is 3"x3" and I used Acrylic paint. I haven't given it a title and I haven't signed it yet. These just add to the imperfection of it all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

It's not about being perfect.

On Monday this week, I went sailing at the Cal Sailing Club in Berkeley. The wind was calm enough that Theron recommended I try first time at the tiller! The wind was so calm that the boat barely responded to my steering. All of a sudden, a gust came out of nowhere (apparently very common behavior on fall evenings on the San Francisco Bay). I completely freaked out! 3 seconds of sheer terror at maybe 8 knots. The wind subsided just as quickly and then I was completely embarrassed by my level of fear.

I am taking great comfort in the phrase "It's not about being perfect, it's about being human."(My perfectionist could use this reminder on a daily basis!) Phil Porter said this to describe what we do in WING IT! We dance, we tell stories, we sing songs, all made up in the moment and out of the content of our lives. As a performance company, we're not perfect, we're human.

Part of my intention for the Art Every Day Month in November is to try new styles of artistic expression. This is a great way for me to practice new things with their own gusts of wind! With my heart racing, I went to the art store and bought acrylic paints and some small square canvases (ranging from 3" to 6"). I have never used acrylic paints before. I have not made two dimensional visual art since junior high! Perhaps these pieces of art will live on my wall. Perhaps they will be Christmas presents. Or, perhaps they will go in the box to give to Goodwill.

Another favorite WING IT! phrase is "Get on. Get off. Get over it!" Perfect for improvisation. Start something, mess with it, end, move on to the next thing.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Improvisational Performance

On Tuesday evenings, Gretchen Wegner and I teach a performance skills class based on the improvisational system of InterPlay. I love the integration of voice and movement, of personal content with group expression. I find that InterPlay provides a unique system for ensemble creativity.

In last week's class, I explored internal inspiration alongside external connection. Tuning in without checking out. It's challenging to pay attention to my internal impulses while paying attention to the greater whole of what I am creating with my partner! And yet, I find those moments of group body and group mind so satisfying when they occur.

This week I am performing with the WING IT! Performance Ensemble. The company is celebrating 20 years of ensemble improvisation. Wow! I have now been in the company for 7 years. Before I joined this group, I was scared to death to use my voice in front of an audience. The use of the InterPlay technique has helped me to integrate my voice and my movement. It has been an inspiration for the dance-theatre work I do with my dance company, Mendana Productions.

For anyone in the Oakland vicinity, here are the details for the show:

Oct 23-25, 2009
Friday & Saturday 7:30 pm
at InterPlayce
2273 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Art Every Day

Last week I signed up for the Art Every Day Challenge in a split second decision. It felt rash in the moment. "I am not going to deliberate about this decision. I am just going to do it!" And then I realized that it is still early in October and the challenge does not begin until November. Oh well. Now I am thinking about how to prepare my space for making art everyday. My apartment is already crowded without many clear surfaces on which to work and without a large open space in which to dance. But this is why it is a challenge!

I have signed up for this endeavor with the intention of trying out new artistic expressions and with the hope that these creative days will inspire my dance making. I feel the need to try some new things to get those creative juices flowing. This blog will be the venue for sharing some images and videos and thoughts along the way.