Things I Learned This Year Part 2 (Ongoing Growth and Stuff)

I usually wrap up the arbitrary time interval of the Gregorian calendar with some “Things I Learned post(s) (like thisthisthis, or this). This is the second chunk of Things from this year (catch up on Part 1).

We all have thoughts in our head that we didn’t put there ourselves. But it’s our responsibility to decide which of those guide our actions.

Empty mandates to “love yourself” are pretty useless, especially when they don’t address the real world environments and systems that contribute to self-hate. You don’t need need to meta-berate yourself for having insecurities. While you’re working through them, you can have a healthy, functional (if not quite loving) working relationship with yourself that allows you to live and love your life.

Don’t assume you don’t have something to teach someone with more status than you. Don’t assume you don’t have something to learn from someone with less status than you.

I don’t need a clearly articulated “good reason” for leaving a situation I don’t feel good about (personally or professionally). The good reasons become clear with a little distance.

Originality isn’t everything. Some of the most potent ideas are the ones that lots of people are thinking and not enough people are saying out loud.

Don’t underestimate how far you can get by reaching out to people with genuine excitement.

The work-in-progress version of myself can be worth sharing. I can be performing professionally and also beginning new phases of training. I can write about topics as I continue to learn about them. I can offer help with personal problems I’m also still working through. You don’t have to stay silent until you’re “finished” growing, or become stagnant once you’ve started speaking.

When you start getting real, some people will get closer, and others will back away. I’ve been lucky this year to have some wonderful humans in the former category, whose presence more than outweighs any superficial relationships I’ve lost.

The competition of who has the most correct/radical sociopolitical opinions can be a trap. Being critical is important, but I’m more interested in supporting and joining people putting something positive (and inevitably imperfect) into practice.

Being late to the (metaphorical) party isn’t a reason not to show up. Chances are once you’re there, you’ll realize lots of people are still arriving.

Don’t put people on pedestals.
People who are experts in one area might be terribly ignorant in another. Artists who have made brilliant work can also make crap. People who have done important social justice work can also be assholes or abusers.

It’s not fair to demand infallibility from people we respect, or to dispose of them as soon as they slip up. It’s dangerous to unconditionally accept ideas coming from people we respect. And it’s ironically dehumanizing to see people we respect as superheroes, overlooking the possibility that they struggle or need support themselves.

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Things I Learned This Year Part 1 (Spaces)

I usually wrap up the arbitrary time interval of the Gregorian calendar with some “Things I Learned post(s) (like this, this, this, or this). This year, I’m feeling splainy, so I’m gonna break it into a few chunks. starting with some loosely tied reflections on spaces. 

The same work/idea can read tremendously differently in different contexts.
What is considered “funny,” “novel,” “intense,” or “radical,” is so defined by the venue and audience.

The environment and people I’m working with matter more to me than I previously thought.
This applies both to artistic and non-artistic work. But in particular, I expected that I would be so eager (and desperate) for dance jobs that I would tolerate any toxicity surrounding them. On the contrary, as I’ve gotten more professional experience, I’m realizing how much the people, practices, and values surrounding me influence both my happiness and quality of work, and this really affects how I choose projects.

Dance performances can be more fun, interesting, and effective outside of the usual dance concerts.
Many of the performances I’ve been doing lately have involved performing contemporary dance in non-dance venues, including art galleries, music concerts, theater festivals, and open mics. I’ve found refreshingly un-jaded audiences, taken feedback from new perspectives, absorbed some useful creative and business practices from different types of artists, and met lots of cool people outside the concert dance bubble.

Don’t mistake comfort for familiarity. Your comfort zone might be something you haven’t stepped into.
Turns out I enjoy acrobatics, drag, spoken word poetry, and talking on podcasts. I’ve also been reevaluating the social spaces I’ve been in for the last few years–which ones was I actually at home in and which ones was I just competent at navigating?

Identity-specific spaces can be freeing in ways I didn’t know I needed.
I didn’t use to seek out identity-specific spaces, with a variety of excuses: because I felt I didn’t “need” them, because I didn’t want to be exclusively defined by identity markers, or because I assumed I wasn’t the perfect prototype of someone who would belong in that community. I was wrong.

Some of my favorite experiences and relationships this year have come through identity-centric communities. Ironically, I suddenly felt less defined by those identities (since they were the least distinctive thing about me in context). However, I was also free to reflect on parts of my life I often censor, downplay, or have to over-explain and “represent positively.” With fewer walls up, I found myself becoming a more open, relaxed, creative version of myself, that I hope to bring into more aspects of my life.

 

Career Development With a Twist: How to Make the Most of A Cattle Call Audition

Hello misguided youths, and welcome back to Career Development With a Twist, the career development service that just wants to keep things business-casual.

This week’s edition is for dancers hoping to stand out in those jam-packed open-call auditions. Sure, the chances of being hired on the spot from cattle calls are slim. But can they be an opportunity to make an impression, build connections, and strengthen your audition skills for next time? Unclear. Try these tips anyway.

  • Don’t miss an opportunity to network! Start conversation by going up to someone who looks vaguely familiar and trying to figure out what you know each other from. Compare the auditions and workshops you’ve each attended recently and find no overlap. Agree that it was probably just some class at Peridance. Realize halfway through the audition that it was actually Tinder.
  • Practice spacial awareness in a crowded studio by pretending that you’re Frogger and all the other dancers are the cars. You’ve got three collisions before you loose.
  • Fake it till you make it! If you can’t really see the choreography demonstration, guess the missing moves by asking yourself  “What would Left Shark do?” 
  • When they say they want to “see more of your personality this time,” take the task seriously and whip out the John Mayer guitar faces you’ve been practicing in your spare time.
  • Really watch the dancers in the other groups. Not to compare or criticize, but to cast a sci-fi soap opera musical in your head. 
  • Notice which dancers are being asked to stay. Notice which numbers they are. Look for patterns and syncronicities. Decide that you need to aim for a 2-digit prime number next audition, and plan your arrival time accordingly.
  • Enjoy dancing or something. Maybe.

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For Words + Play

Said you’re all out of singles
I said try double-dipping
And you reached for a line
But hands were Freudian slipping

I tried playing it smart
But the dumbbells were wringing
With the wait of the time
Because my pendulum’s swinging

On your side for a second
In your way just to change it
Now I’m force to be reckoned
With a chemical agent

Sure you’ve seen and you’ve conquered
But now you’re dis-oriented
You hardly knew what was coming
But you softly relented

If we’re a joke where’s the punch
Line of kool-aide to inspire
These shits and gigs leave a byte
Like ha ha B B gun fire

Questions for Artists Rethinking What They’re Making and Why

(Including and not necessarily limited to me)

  • What art do you like?
  • What art do you like when no one’s watching?
  • What art has changed your mind?
  • What art has changed your life?
    • Yes, sitcoms count.
    • Yes, comic books count.
    • Yes, music videos count.
  • Do your answers have anything to do with art you make?
    • Why not?
  • Are you only making art for people exactly like you?
  • Are you only making art for people unlike you, selling them a caricature of your difference?
  • What if you didn’t care what critics think is “quality,” agents think is “marketable,” grants think is “important,” or your artist friends think is “cool?”
    • Of course you care, but just pretend for a second and see what still excites you.
  • Would you rather make art that everyone likes, or art that at some people need?
    • Keep in mind that the former is impossible.
    • Yes, you count as a person.
  • What do you wish existed?
    • Why not make it?

To Remind Myself in a Rut:

Remember:

That your turning points have never come from glowing revelations,

But from those yet-unworded fuzzy pangs of off-ness
you didn’t think would ever emerge from your background noise;
From the feelings that leaked out where they weren’t supposed to;
From the moments when your words stumbled upon the gaps in what they could say, into the wormholes of what you were missing. 

That you’ve come to feel amazing
about things that made you feel like shit a few years ago.
That you’ve come to feel nothing
about things that made you feel like shit a few years ago.
That you’ve come to feel powerfully enraged
about things that made you feel like shit a few years ago. 

That you’re feelings aren’t special.
And isn’t that great?