Photo: Almudena Ortiz
February 11-17, 2017
My current artistic research has a lot to do with nature, so my rehearsals and performances often depend upon the weather and the seasons. When I am rehearsing and presenting work outdoors, I feel attuned to the larger world around me in such deep and satisfying ways. This also dictates when, where and how often I work.
This "dance week" is a window into how I germinate new work while maintaining my ongoing activities; I am in the early phase of three new projects while working on touring for two other works.
Ongoing, I balance directing Nina Haft & Company with a very full and rewarding teaching practice. My life as a maker and teacher involves training, rehearsing, producing and a wide range of administrative projects. I consider myself very fortunate that my income, employment and career are aligned with my drive to create and be in community. I would not be here without my peers and mentors, or without the circles of creativity and resistance that sustain me.
My professional commitments: Artistic and Administrative Director of Nina Haft & Company, Faculty and Company in Residence at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, and Associate Professor at Cal State University East Bay. Each one of these engagements brings a whole universe of making and producing into my life. I also participate in arts advocacy in each of these arenas, and see as much work (dance, theater, music, film, visual art and literary readings) as humanly possible. Composing my time, energy and attention within this kaleidoscopic field of engagement is a creative practice unto itself! I still have much to learn in this.
My personal life: I have a wonderful partner who also works in the arts, and agrees that dance is THAT IMPORTANT. I am increasingly involved in caring for elders in my birth family and chosen family, so I am just now learning how to leave room for the kind of unexpected and urgent challenges that my friends who are parents have already discovered. My personal goal is to work easier, not harder, and to do less with more meaning.
My current training involves walking – I find it rebalances my system whenever something is out of whack. I also do a rotating set of home exercises, typically at night before bed while watching TV, and I go to the gym, where I take yoga and an occasional hip hop dance class to keep me current and humble. I am a big fan of Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement lessons, which I do with a teacher (Mary Armentrout) or from recordings. I always want to take class more than I actually do.
What you will not necessarily see here in my dance week: fallow time. This is more a season than a slot in my week: a shifting to listening and observing after a protracted expansive phase of crafting and manifesting. I have learned to give myself this time without argument. I used to rush into making my next something so that I did not feel emptiness after a big project. For me, this rushing has not been fruitful.
A note on commuting: no two days are alike. I mostly drive, in order to line up the 2-5 places I need to be each day. I much prefer BART, which I take to SF to see shows. I love riding home while savoring a show and reading my program. But sometimes driving also allows my mind to roam and find unexpected solutions to things I have been wrestling with….
Saturday, February 11
6:30am Rise, shower, journal, make breakfast and pack snacks, clothes for the day.
8:00am – 5:00pm Bay Area Dance Exchange. Once a year I bring CSUEB dancers from Hayward to a local dance festival, organized by my friend and colleague Diane Frank at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. We spend the day feasting on a big community dance technique class, workshops and informal showings of choreography. It is one of the few opportunities I know of where master teachers and emerging dance artists participate equally in feedback and debate of cutting edge issues in our field. I typically take and teach one or more of these sessions, and/or facilitate the showings and feedback sessions. This is also a place where I get to talk with colleagues about our current creative projects, shows we’ve seen, issues we are tackling on our different campuses, and how we can support each other. There is always a college dance program under siege – these gatherings are places where we plot more advocacy and resistance!
6:30 – 7:30pm I meet my partner and a theater artist friend for a quick bite before heading over to see Jesse’s show. We all comment on the impact that gentrification in the Tenderloin is having (positive and negative) for artists and others in the neighborhood.
8:00 – 10:00pm CounterPulse/SF: Jesse Hewit’s Faith Materials Activism
Jesse is a friend and colleague, and our recent conversations about how we make work has me excited to see his latest. Jesse and his collaborators (especially Keyon Gaskin) leave us transfixed and full of questions. This is my favorite way to walk out of a theater.
Sunday, February 12
8:30am Rise, shower, journal, eat breakfast. This is my late day in bed. Le sigh.
9am – 12n Michael’s Blessing
One of my students is having a traditional Cambodian Buddhist blessing ceremony to mark his completion of his undergraduate degree. I am honored to be invited, and welcome this opportunity to step into a new experience that unfolds slowly.
12:30 – 2:00pm Elder care. Sundays are my day to visit an elder in my community who I am helping with health and home care needs. This is a particularly hard day for my friend, who just lost someone he was close to, and we spend more time than usual talking about life and death and dance.
2:30 – 5:00pm Nap, bath, putter. My three favorite ways to recharge my battery. If I do one of them each day I am doing well. Today I am a triple winner.
6:00 – 10:00pm Film & dinner with friends at Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.
Monday, February 13
6:00 – 8:00am Rise, journal, shower, breakfast, email. Most weekdays I do at least an hour of computer work (email, company admin, financial stuff for my parents on the east coast, other stuff).
8:15 – 9:00am Elder care planning meeting. Every other week I meet with a care manager who is coordinating my elderly friend’s home care. We discuss a range of issues, and I note that this is also my homework for thinking about what I will do when I grow old. Happy Monday.
10:00 – 11:30am CSUEB. Production Meeting for the evening-length faculty concert (“Bend the Arc”) I am choreographing and directing. I started last year developing animal studies for this show. Lately, I have been struggling to bring these ideas into context with what is happening politically right now. For the record, I am horrified by 45 and the people/policies he is ushering in. More than ever, I feel lucky to have creative resources to bring to the task at hand: wake up, speak up, stand up, love up and rest up for the long, long road ahead. As I talk with the scenic and costume designer, I realize that my disparate images for this piece (prisons, zoos, floods and Noah’s Arc) are all about colonization and freedom. Good start. We open in 2.5 months.
12:00 – 4:30pm Teach at CSUEB, student advising.
5:00 – 8:00pm Gym, grocery shopping, cook & eat dinner.
9:00 – 11:00pm Read email, bath. Pet the kitties!
Tuesday, February 14
6:00 – 9:00am Rise, journal, shower, breakfast. NH&Co admin work: email, meeting prep, rehearsal planning (I am starting a new piece today!)
9:30 – 11:30am NH&Co rehearsal at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center. I am excited to begin a new duet, the first section of a larger work. I have several quick conversations with SADC staff about a number of topics: shows we saw over the weekend, upcoming events at the studio, follow up on NH&Co company in residence stuff, recent passing of Victor Anderson, one of the studio’s founders. It’s been a very big week for all of us at the studio.
12:30 – 4:00 pm CSUEB President’s Lunch and Executive Committee Meeting. I am a member of the Executive Committee of the Academic Senate, which I just started this year after 3 years as a Senator. Faculty Governance is not always sexy, but it’s one arena where I am practicing my wake/speak/stand up more program. This is turning out to be a steep learning curve for me all year. Lunch with the president is once a quarter, ExCom and Senate meets every week.
4:00 – 6:00pm Teach at CSUEB.
7:00 – 10:00pm Cook, eat dinner, time with my partner. This typically happens on the couch, or while we do a little light housework, or over our calendars.
Wednesday, February 15
6:00 – 8:30am Rise, journal, shower, breakfast, email, rehearsal planning for faculty show.
9:00 – 10:00am Coffee with one of my Shawl students who wants input on how to plan her dance career. I typically have meetings like this about once a month.
10:00 – 11:30am Teach Advanced Technique at Shawl-Anderson. I teach 1-2x per week here, and it is the backbone of my art practice. Moving with advanced and professional dancers keeps me energized about where my choreographic work intersects with the appetites of today’s performers.
12:00 – 2:00pm Teach at CSUEB.
2:30 – 4:00pm Rehearse with students.
4:00 – 6:00pm Late lunch, school email, more rehearsal prep.
6:00 – 8:30pm Rehearse with more students.
9:30 – 11:00pm Late dinner, cozy home time, email.
Thursday, February 16
6:00 – 8:30am Rise, journal, breakfast, email, rehearsal planning, tour planning.
9:30 – 10:30am Coffee with an emerging choreographer to discuss touring experiences and resources. This leads to a more in-depth conversation about how to spend more time doing what replenishes us.
10:30 – 11:30am First meeting with grant writer to explore working together.
1:00 – 2:00pm Phone meeting with arts consultant on career and long-term NH&Co planning.
3:00 – 4:00pm CSUEB Faculty Affairs Subcommittee meeting.
4:00 – 6:00pm Teach at CSUEB.
6:00 – 7:30pm Rehearse with students.
8:30 – 11:00pm Late dinner, family time, email.
Friday, February 17
4:45am – 10:00am Rise, take partner to early medical appointment and then out to breakfast.
10:00 – 11:30am Work on NH&Co touring plans for 2017-18. Email community partners, fundraising and budget planning.
12:00 – 1:00pm Site visit and first production meeting for commissioned site-specific performance.
2:00 – 3:30pm CSUEB Department meeting.
3:30 – 5:00pm Gym.
5:00 – 6:00pm Quick pit stop at home – shower, snack, drive to BART.
7:00 – 9:30pm YBCA: Opposing Forces dance performance – mind-blowing!