Things I’ve Been Doing

In the absence of more regular blog posting, I thought I’d share some links to things I’ve been up to lately.

I made this new solo:

This honestly started out from a desire to practice my emerging DJ skills in turning Janelle Monae bangers into ballads. It turned into an irreverent little ode to queer culture for showing me how to mix pleasure with politics, party with protest, laughter with disaster; how to keep dancing, loving, and fighting when the world is on fire.

I was also in this recent Dance Magazine Article, sharing some recent grad perspectives on how college dancers are (and aren’t taught to talk about money). This issue has several great articles related to financial transparency in the freelance dance world, so I would really recommend checking it out. Talking about money as artists is hard, but we can’t solve our problems in silence.

You’ll hear more from me soon!

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“Labor of Love”

On the Dance NYC Junior Committee blog, I’ve shared some of my thoughts on the use of the phrase “labor of love,” in preparation for our Long Table discussion next Tuesday on labor, artistic love, and monetary and social value in the dance field. Read the full post here, and check the blog for more JComm member’s thoughts!

“Labor of love” is a phrase brought up to justify not paying artists, with the assumption that we are so eager to practice and perform our craft for its own sake, we will be willing to do it for free. (In regard to myself, I can’t say this isn’t true.)

“Labor of love” is how I justified to my parents my desire to pursue a highly underpaid and unstable career in dance. They asked how health insurance fit into that. I didn’t know.

Throughout high school and college, I was told by some (overwhelmingly kind and supportive) teachers and advisors that “the most important thing in life is to do what you love.” In a sense, I am following that advice, but the reality is that not everyone has the privilege to view work as more than a means of survival. When we treat the choice to pursue our passions as a morally superior one, we can develop a disregard for work done “only” for money and the people who do it. (In other words, “labor of love” won’t really help you pay your rent, but it can help you feel superior to the people living next to you.)

Believing in the moral purity of “labor of love” means dismissing those lucky enough to get significantly payed for their art as “sellouts.” (I wouldn’t mind selling out one day.)

In addition to art, I have heard the term “labor of love” used to refer to to social justice-oriented work and childrearing.

A “labor of love” is usually supported by a labor of money (either yours or someone else’s).

Updates

Hey peeps! I’ve got some exciting updates on upcoming events I’m involved in (dancing, choreographing, or facilitating):

From the Horse’s Mouth
March 15 – 18 at the 14th St Y
Next weekend, I’ll be dancing alongside an amazing cast of speakers, movers, and musicians in this dance and storytelling event celebrating the work of Egyptian ballerina and dance scholar Dr. Magda Saleh. 

Labor of Love? A Long Table
Tuesday, April 17 6:30pm at Gibney 280
The Dance/NYC Junior Committee is hosting discussion around labor, artistic love, and monetary and social value in the dance field. Kim Savarino and I will be co-facilitating this event, with the presence of core participants Brinae Ali, Caroline Fermin, and Alexander Thomson.

Artists By Any Other Name: Her Favorite
April 21at South Oxford Space
I’m excited to begin working with the musician/dance collaborative Artists By Any Other Name. With director Aimee Niemann and co-choreographer Traci Finch, I’ll be choreographing a modern/feminist take on baroque court dance. Stay tuned for updates and additional performance times!

A Dance About Nothing

Once upon a time, there was a girl who wanted to make a dance about nothing. She had made dances before, about people and thoughts and pains and places and days and words and feelings. But now, she thought, would be her time to make a dance about nothing at all.

stick_figure_pushing

She decided to start off by making some shapes, as pure and plane as can be, unblemished by a reason. She was sure she could do it; there were infinite points for her to touch before needing touch upon why. But every triangle she made started to feel too much like love, every square too much like time–with a glacial rush though it–every pentagon too much like war. This was not a dance about nothing, she realized.

So she tried again to cut the dance off from her mind and its clutter, and directing it with a roll of dice. She tossed the dice in the air, pretending the motion didn’t ignite flickering wishes, prayers and fears over the landing. She ignored the way the clattering of dice on the table brought back backgammon games under little clouds of smoke and politics. She read the faces, noted the steps, and eagerly rolled again, as if she never knew of livelihoods consumed by addiction to chance procedures. She tried not to enjoy the strangely delicious sense of freedom that came in stripping herself of all agency. Maybe this wasn’t a dance about nothing, she admitted.

A dance truly about nothing, she decided, would not move: not a soul, not a heart, not a muscle, not an inch. So she didn’t. She stood still, silent, and centered in the empty room. She thought she might finally be on to nothing.

But in her stillness, the breeze from outside found space to creep in, stirring her bones from the inside. So she closed the windows. You need closed windows to make a dance about nothing.

But slivers of rogue air still slipped through the cracks and into her system. They tasted just a little smoky this time, like half-assed eyeshadow or fading cigarette butts. So she shut her eyes and mouth and ears and nose. You need a closed nose to make a dance about nothing.

The air outside grew hotter and thicker, but she remained uninterrupted in her pristine stillness. You need to not notice to make a dance about nothing.

Things I Learned As a Post-Grad Dancer (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1. Not real advice, just the best conclusions I can come up with so far.

I need to see more performances.

In a city with tons of incredible performances of all sorts, enough of them inexpensive and convenient, why am I not seeing them? Because I’m tired, dammit.

But I would really like to prioritize getting myself in the audience this year. Because I’m a hypocrite asking people to watch me without watching them. Because I need to learn and be inspired. Because I’m sick regretfully reading reviews of things I missed.

Maybe none of us were really prepared for this.

Having attended a liberal arts dance program that exposed us to some amazing faculty and guest choreographers, but did not emphasize producing professional dancers, I expected to be behind conservatory-grads in terms of training and career preparation.

However, it sounds like most conservatories are still preparing their students to enter full-time modern repertory companies, which is rare right now. So we’re all kind of floundering as we figure out how to keep dancing and hustling and navigating the freelance scene.

Given that this is the case, part of me still wishes I had the opportunity to really hone my skills in a distraction-free dance-bubble, before real life kicked in. On the other hand, my college experience offered practice in creating my own training schedule, fitting dance into my life around responsibilities, and creating and marketing my own work, all skills that have made it easier to build dance into my life post-grad.

Professionalism is about being able to work in non-ideal circumstances.

You didn’t have time to warm up. You’re tired from working a morning shift job before. The studio is small. The performance space is smaller than the studio you rehearsed in. The performance space is a concrete staircase and your knee hurts. etc. These are all real problems and bad excuses if you are being paid to perform. I’m finding that the most consistently-working artists have found ways to work safely, intelligently, and creatively around any physical or situational limitations.

And I’m challenging myself to use any given circumstance as an opportunity to practice creative problem-solving. Recently, little things like improv videos on my apartment staircase or coffee shop logbook poetry have helped maintain a thread of creativity in my life when I don’t have dedicated time and space to create.

The artist “lifestyle poverty” (which is to some extent a choice) is different from actual lifetime poverty (which is overwhelmingly not).

This is not exactly a new insight, but it does seem especially apparent and under-acknowledged among the “starving artist” class, as we gentrify working-class neighborhoods and dominate the better-payed service jobs. Expect a length post on this later.

I can’t take myself too seriously.

The world might be a an angry button-press away from annihilation, and I’m in a studio figuring out different ways to spin on my butt. And I would not be doing it if I didn’t deeply and wholeheartedly love finding different ways to spin on my butt. But how is that not hilariously absurd?

Besides, taking myself too seriously has never made me better at anything.