Following the Interesting Questions

There is a wonderful young woman, who I am mentoring, who continuously pushes me to reflect on my experiences and offer her advice. While I hope she knows advice is always subjective, the process of reflecting on the over-arching themes of my career has been really satisfying and its has prompted great conversations with like-minds who have experienced very different pathways.

Lately, I keep coming back to this:

My career has been about following the interesting questions and very few of them have turned out to be where I expected to find them. It turns out, I held a lot of myths about dance, education, and satisfying work.

Myth #1: Higher Education is where the thinking happens in dance.

Fact: Thinking can happen anywhere in dance and in life, if that is what you want.

I love intellectual stimulation and physical expression. The connection of those things is where I find my “flow” where I lose time and feel most alive. Working in higher ed has been where I felt this, actually, the least. Perhaps due to the programs I was teaching in, we were able to promote students taking their work outside the studio and stage contexts, but very little of that was in practice when it came to the work of the faculty. At several points of contract, when deciding to take a job or not, I found myself wondering if I wanted to teach about why should be done in non-traditional ways, or if I wanted to actually go do it.  As it turns out, I want to do it AND teach about the why.

Myth #2: K-12 Education is for the people who couldn’t cut it as dance majors.

Fact: I didn’t actually hold this myth myself, but I know plenty of others who do. I do think K-12 Dance Educators are robbed of the benefit of professional immersion into the creative process and performance opportunities often reserved for those planning on a performance career.

Myth #3: The “real job” is the one with bureaucracy, salary steps, and health insurance.

Fact: I now work for a non-profit. It is as glamorous as the reputation of non-profit work suggests, but I must admit, it is rewarding. My CEO has joked that in watching me in other postitions within “institutions”, she thought I had the real job, as if she was just playing house. Now here, I see this is where the “real work” is- the real questions, the real needs, the real problems in which we are able to develop creative solutions. We are able to do as we like, as we see it best, for those we serve.

Following where the most interesting questions are- has brought me to the people, in the community, and servicing the field.


The Water

A few weeks ago, a friend was describing a teaching residency themed about water dances in which she and a collaborator worked with three classes. Two of the three classes flowed through the project and the curriculum as planned. The third class resisted, wanting to return repeatedly to their personal (and social) definitions of dance with social dances I don’t know how to spell.

As she disclosed the turning point in which the adults eased into relaxation and allowed that class to function differently than the others, our conversation turned to the brilliance of the learning for the adults and the value of that brilliance for the students.

I said something along the lines of:

You became the water. Turn that into an intentional conversation with students about perspective, resistance, flow, obstruction, and all else- and you have still nailed your learning outcomes but in a more meaningful way.

Since that conversation, “become the water” has been a running mantra in my head. I have been teaching the difference between “flow” and “fluidity” in several of my classes. I am riding the waves of transition and taking note of movement (read: change, transition, growth, expansion…) being the only constant in life.

Just as I think I have a plan and a trajectory, a carved path- life seems to put me back into the water. Over the last 18 months, I have made several clear-ish decisions to move away from the path I have known. Interestingly, I find myself being brought back in. This time the known path is putting me closer to my goals outside the familiar landscape. That has been a surprise.

With it comes the usual vulnerabilities- am I selling out and choosing strengths out of safety, am I giving up, blah blah blah. I have to redirect my thinking- be the water. The path is shifting but the truths are not. My opportunities to do The Work I want are surfacing they just look different than I had predicted. That is not a surprise.

When I get anxious, I tell myself to become of the water.

Here’s to a return of documenting this dancer’s life in movement. Through text.


I am nearly 9 months into my career leap. Here’s what I am noticing:

1. Vision is sometimes clearer from a distance.

My leap was prompted by the desire to:

  • do meaningful work full-time, in environments which recognize and embrace the need I seek to fill; moving to improve the quality of one’s life.
  • strip away the pieces of my teaching that others can do well and to focus on what makes my teaching specialized.
  • engage with communities that could benefit more from my work because they are open and willing, and ready to immediately apply the work to their lives in real time- not down the road. It is the difference of working with people engaging in their lives versus those that expect life to start after college or expect that somehow learning is for future use and not the immediate present.

Up close, sometimes the minutiae of making the work possible can over-shadow the work inside the studio. Sometimes I wonder why I need to invent my own path and not merely complete the certifications that are close to the work I am developing but do not quite hold the whole picture.

I think this is partially the plight of the pioneer, as a mentor described it, in that getting the work off the ground and into the awareness of our community takes so much effort and can elicit so much groundlessness….

There are times I need to remove myself from the immediate proximity of the “job” in order to reconnect with the “work” and remind myself how other methods don’t quite fill the void I see. Taking the time to zoom out, reconnects me with why I chose to leap in the first place, then informs how/where to zoom-in again now.

2. Grounding is necessary.

My grounding has revolved around:

  • drinking from the well of others. For me, this has been monthly interactions with a cohort group at McEntire Pilates, deep conversations with my colleagues in regard to the philosophy of what we are doing and why- identifying the company we’d like to keep, and accessing professionals in other disciplines negotiating similar challenges.
  • saying “no” to the opportunities that do not add spark nor new experiences. My latest filter has been, “does this opportunity reflect where I have been or where I want to go.”
  • writing. I haven’t figured out how to make it happen consistently but I am acutely aware of how not writing makes me feel isolated and insular. Writing helps me organize my roles and identities- which sometimes feel inwardly conflicting and competing as I create new work locally but with a vision that could scale universally.

3. Starting over is humbling. And freeing.
It can be hard to shift from having a reputation/routine/role within one context to entering another with what feels like complete anonymity. The perk is that you are also allowed to reinvent yourself.

You have a chance to, as Seth Godin says, “Be personal. Be relevant. Be specific.” You don’t have the obstacle of preconceived notions about you or what you do, you can assert yourself with a relative freshness. You also have the opportunity to allow your new experiences to continue to reshape this new image. It is all fluid until it is not.

Mainly, I have experienced this:
When you are committed to a vision and open to possibility, people appear to help you along your way. Doors open where you never thought to look. And life is richer than you could have imagined.

How’s your leap going?

Mind=Fiction, Body=Fact

In my Creative Self-Care and Adult Modern classes, we have been moving in response to the notion that the mind creates fiction and the body is holder of the facts.

Our minds are a fertile ground for picking up stories and developing them into tales of twisted and contorted truth. We fill in gaps, as Pema Chödrön would suggest, to find a sense of grounding- attempting to pour anything we can think of into the holes of a story in order for it to make sense to ourselves.

Our bodies, on the other hand, are ever-present. Our bodies walk us into various scenes and scenarios; documenting place, person, and our perceptions of a situation. Our senses record the evidence of our interactions, positive and negative.

When we move in acknowledgement of the stories our bodies hold, rather than in refute, our movement authenticates. We move in acceptance of our histories, bringing them into each motion, meanwhile engaging in a practice of discovery- one that allows us to translate our experiences beyond language but into other forms of knowledge- we make sense to ourselves.

How are you engaging with your self-knowledge?

My Narrative Body

Our bodies hold our stories and in those stories are great clues to how we perceive our identities and our perspectives.

The narrative my body holds spans a vast plain of roles and circumstances including my movement signatures, my emotional responses, embodied values, and histories of action.

My movement tends to be smooth, forceful, and perpetually in rebound. These days it aches post-performance, making my desire to perform less appealing. There have been times that this has been true in teaching, too. I have been glad to give up teaching 6 hours a day.

My left big-toe joint hints of arthritis and my stress moves up my spine from the site of two lower-back injuries. I loved both experiences that produced the injuries- not the moment of injury itself- but the pieces I was rehearsing and the artists I was working with. It is too bad those don’t comfort me more when the discomfort appears.

As a mother, my body often feels as though it is not my own. Sometimes this feels intrusive.

My hands resemble those of my mother sometimes. My face shows evidence of Vaughans and Barkers. My mannerisms, cooking habits, hand-writing and knitting reflect the legacies of my families.

Heat and movement have been the sources of healing, as they were also included in the greater landscape when I incurred pain.

I process by placing myself within a context to directly interact with information or scenarios and I often do this physically.

And then there is the story I want my body to tell. To some extent, this is done with a simple change of perspective. To other extents, it involves a change of practice.

I am developing a new spine. Through my work with Trent McEntire in my pilates certification, I am at once challenged by and reinvented with movement outside of my current habits, resulting in new patterns. I feel interested and invested in ways I have not for years. I can help others do this, too.

By re-patterning my movement, I am feeling a re-patterning of emotional responses as well. The result is that the healed stays healed. More healing is invited.

I am changing my food story by paying attention to how my body feels in response to what I eat. I want the story to be healthful, socially and environmentally considerate. Mindful.

I invite stillness.

My body is the source of great affection and nurturing for the people living in my home. We are a cuddly group and I take pride in the source of comfort that I provide but also that which I accept. My daughter has a way of rubbing my back as she hugs me that elicits the same feeling as I had when my mother did the same thing. I realize she is mirroring me- this action has been passed down without words.

I am grateful for what my body is able to do, and for all it has done for me. There was a long stretch of time through which I pushed and pulled and expected my body to simply be there for me, because it could and it always had. Now, I seek to take care of my body.

That is the new narrative. One of care, gratitude, and history.

What is the narrative you embody?

How does it compare to the one you want to tell?



Tradition, Performance, and the Space In Between

In my teaching and in the philosophies that guide my work in healthcare, I have moved in thoughtful response to tradition, all the while heading in directions that deviate from the norm.

In my personal life, I find myself moving toward tradition in a familial way- in thoughtful, emotional response to the lands and people that make up my heritage. The holidays, and the stealing of time to acknowledge these practices, connect me to a community of people with whom I am related and yet didn’t necessarily know, along with those that are not family and yet have helped me reclaim my English roots by teaching me skills to better my practices.

I cook and I knit. There was a stretch of my life during which no one would have ever expected either of these things to be true. Ever.

Yet, here we are. At home on a Sunday, my greatest indulgences come in the form of walking the dog across any field I can find, cooking Sunday dinner, and knitting  while the kids do homework or play nearby. I find it funny that these tasks of necessity for the family members of yester-year are now the indulgences of my life. Practice becomes a performative habit rather than a mere act of practicality.

I enjoy the history and legacy involved in knitting just as I enjoy these aspects of yoga. The connection of breath to action is now a trend engaging all types of people from all types of professions and traditions. Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about what it is about yoga that has people flocking to studios.

I have been thinking about how the practice of yoga for some is the ritual and routine of movement, and yet for others it is about the execution of such feats- the performance based sensation that accompanies the unification of breath to action that results in a presence that transcends time and place.

I know the feeling well- I have spent my life chasing it as a dancer.

It is less about the audience of the public as it is the audience of the self- attending to one’s ability, skill, and self assertion into present time and place. It becomes meditative. It can become addicting.

It makes me wonder- is yoga the new dance? Or is yoga what dance could be, if dance were more socially-acceptable?

Is yoga the secret mainstream movement strategy that allows us to find the most sacred aspects of performance without the emotional and bodily damage of dance technique? (I know yoga can be pretty competitive and performance-type injuries are on the rise, but go with me here…..)

What can dance learn from yoga? What could happen if we teach the non-technical aspects of dance (improvisation, composition, theory) to the general public?

Would it result in the downfall of dance? I don’t think so. It might just be the key to developing practitioners and audiences alike.

Ask me how I am doing this and how I can help you.

Until then- I am making roast tonight and am on section II of Andrea Mowry’sBriochealicious“. Brioche has been a form of meditation, allowing me space to think and opportunities to decide if I shall quit or try again. As it turns out, I am addicted.


Leaping into Courage. And Community.

The holidays always inspire reflection. Often, it is the visiting of dear friends whom we only see a few times a year that has me gauging what has changed for us, or what has stayed the same.

Easily, 2015 has been filled with change. You know this, if you’ve been following my journey via this blog. The year has nearly left me speechless,  as I have commonly felt as though I am free-falling into new territory with new dimensions and new groups of people. I have traded authority and ownership for innovation and ingenuity. There has been, and continues to be, risk. There have been some sleepless nights, and earlier there was worry about whether or not this work could or would pay. I have been living trial and error. Regrouping and reasserting.

But you know what there hasn’t been? Regret.

Nor petty politics, seemingly pointless proving of worth, or fanning egos.

I have experienced more “yes” than ever in my career- both in the arts and in education. The sleepless nights have mostly been about solving creative problems and not rehashing scenarios of defense. The work has paid. There have been errors and some failures, but mostly there has been learning.

Overall, this year has taught me about trust.

Familiar faces from years past have resurfaced to play integral and interesting roles as I build a new line of work and shift the functionality of movement arts within a community. I am struck that without the trust established in years prior- and usually within a studio- the speed with which our relationships have deepened now would not be possible. Without those relationships, my new work certainly wouldn’t be building in the way it is nor with the same potential.

Those trusting relationships have brought forth new partnerships with new people who share some of my thinking and all of my commitment to doing meaningful work. We have met where we are and have helped each other fill in gaps.

For all the touting of community I have been doing over the years, I finally find myself within one that has exceeded all of my expectations.

I expected taking the leap to be….lonely.

Instead, I have found an entire community of people that are living just as courageously as I am attempting to do. They are reinventing their fields, taking risks to provide advantages for others, rethinking channels and pathways to  implement positive change. Now, we are doing it together.

I don’t offer this to brag. I offer it because if you find yourself pondering whether to leap yourself, it is helpful to know others who have. Different really can be better and it may not be as solitary as you expect.

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