Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome Home

We made it. T and I bought a house and moved in! It's been a little lonely, moving to yet another new community. But something has shifted for me this week. Just today, I was bringing in the mail, the trash can, the recycling bins, the sky is overcast and the air is breezy and chilly, and I was looking out at our forest, thinking "This is home." It has been very windy over the last week and our forest has dropped most of its leaves. Lots of tall alder trees with bare branches. I spent a little time in town today, browsing at the local artisans' shop, checking out home repair books from the library, and eating an amazing scone while sipping fantastic coffee at The Monkey Tree, which, by the way, will be closing for good on December 27. I have only been in there three times now, but I am so sad that such an amazing bakery is closing its doors and before my father-in-law will ever get to try its goodness! Two nights ago, T and I finished putting together our dining room table. We obtained this beautiful piece of furniture off Craigslist for free. The legs were a little unstable, so we filled the holes with wood putty, re-drilled, and put them back together. Such a small project that fills us with a sense of accomplishment! I am looking forward to serving our first Thanksgiving meal in our new home on our beautiful table. Today I feel hopeful and grateful to live in this home and to be part of the Vashon Island community.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Finding a place called home

I am in the process of thinking about developing a new choreography. One that explores themes of displacement. Many people around the world are displaced from their homes by war, natural disasters, foreclosures, or by choice. What do we cling to when we are displaced? What gives us a sense of who we are and where we belong? How do we make “home” when we are immersed somewhere else? I want to explore ideas of belonging, determination, persistence, coping, longing.

I am inspired by my recent research on refugees in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as my own relocation from San Francisco to Seattle. Their displacement is much more violent than my own. Yet there are some human similarities: yearning for familiar routines, familiar surroundings, familiar faces. In no way is my displacement by choice the same as their displacement by war. Yet can we find common emotions in our disparate circumstances? I am interested in the themes that link disparate people, using the language of movement to express our common humanity.

Do you have a story of displacement or relocation in your life? How do you answer the above questions for yourself?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Welcoming

Since moving to Seattle, I have been out and about taking in as much dance performance as I can stand. In the last week I have seen about 16 Seattle modern dance choreographers. The breadth of style and diversity of expression is exciting and energizing! I am astounded by how much the modern dance community has grown since I moved away ten years ago. Last weekend I went to Northwest New Works at On The Boards and I have been going to Beyond the Threshold: Seattle International Dance Festival all week. My brain is buzzing when I get home each night processing all of the images and ideas I have just seen.

Last night in particular. Cyrus Khambatta (festival artistic director), Eva Stone, and Donald Byrd had a Q&A or Talk Back after the show. Each of them curated an evening of Seattle choreographers this week and they talked about their intentions in creating these evenings. What stays with me the most from that discussion is Byrd's articulation of the value he places on diversity of expression and the need as a dance community to foster and nurture those voices. The attitude I heard coming from him is the more dance the better! He exudes openness and acceptance and support for dance artists at all points along their professional journey. Both Byrd and Stone were incredibly approachable after the show.  Neither of them has ever seen my work nor seen me dance, but they welcomed me to town as if I were a long lost friend. And that kind of welcome makes me more excited then ever to start choreographing and presenting work here.

Thank you Cyrus, Eva, and Donald for your generous welcoming of me last night. Thank you to all of the Seattle choreographers presenting work over the last week for your evocative images and tenacious creativity.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The other day I read Gretchen Wegner's blog post entitled "How to be a Sensuality Slut" and it started a chain reaction thought process about my current transitional phase. If I may dare to sum up her post in my own words, it was about slowing down and taking time to appreciate life. (As a coffee enthusiast, I love to appreciate the smell and the ritual of it and love that Gretchen took time to notice the steam coming off her morning cup!) Then, for some reason, I began to contemplate my own definition of productivity.

In my life in San Francisco, productive meant running around to three different jobs in a day plus managing to squeeze in a household chore and a little computer time to work out logistics for upcoming gigs.

That's part of the reason for this transition, this relocation from the Bay Area to Seattle. Whether or not it's true, my perception of life in Seattle is that the pace is more manageable (already I notice I can get places in 15 min instead of an hour!), the cost of living slightly lower so that I don't have to run around like a maniac, and I can take more time to enjoy the sensory experiences of life. Like sitting in a friend's living room on soft lambskin rugs listening to the gentle fall of light rain and writing in a journal.

In choreography, the transitions are the key to the flow of a piece. When I make a dance, I know this in my core. As a dancer, when the transitions are awkward, I feel disjointed from the piece. And so, here I am, in a transition between the dance of life in San Francisco and discovering the dance of life in Seattle. Some times it's hard to have faith that the transition will work itself out. Yet, as a choreographer, I know I need to give the transition it's due time and not rush the next idea.

Transitions are the brewing pot for the next great idea. Give the tea time to steep, the coffee time to percolate. Listen to the spring rain, and lest I be too cliche, stop and smell the lilacs.

(Pictured: Liz Fong and Elizabeth Mendana in Trolley Dances 2008. Choreography by Kim Epiphano. Photo by James Frye)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I can talk about...

I can talk about backpacking with my sister-in-law, Hilary Shaw.

In InterPlay settings, we practice a form called "I can talk about..." We don't actually talk about the subjects we list, we just list topics we could talk about at some future time. It is a great form for conjuring ideas when, perhaps, I think that I don't have anything to say.

I can talk about being inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert over breakfast this morning.

I can talk about auditions, how similar it is for me to audition as a pilates instructor and as a dancer.

I can talk about my impromptu trip to Bainbridge Island for the first time last night.

I can talk about my current struggle to structure my transition time.

I can talk about my coffee shop choreography idea.

I can talk about some of the "tight" movement vocabulary in Amy O'Neal's choreography last weekend.

I can talk about how "tight" means awesome rather than rigid.

I can talk about Gretchen Wegner's blog posting about "How to be a Sensuality Slut."

I can talk about wanting to learn to play mandolin.

I can talk about singing harmony with my husband in the car on our drive to Seattle.

I can talk about the difficulty of obtaining a Washington Driver's License and the ease of obtaining a Seattle business license.

I can talk about the creative and funny 10 and 12 year olds in the house where I am staying.

I can talk about planning my honeymoon.

I can talk about kayaking on Lake Washington on Sunday.

I can talk about the canoe that flipped over.

I can talk about people watching, laughing when I probably shouldn't.

I can talk about my epic quilt project.

I can talk about my trips to the hardware store.

I can talk about spilling coffee on my computer keyboard first thing Monday morning.

That's probably a good list for today! What are some topics you can talk about?